Kendo Terminology

When you first start Kendo you may be a bit daunted by all the Japanese commands or names for things. Below are a list of commonly used word you will hear in the Dojo along with a brief explanation.

The Basics

Sensei – Teacher.
Senpai – Senior Student.
Dojo – The practice hall.
Shinai – Bamboo sword.
Bokken / Bokuto – Wooden sword used for Kendo-no-Kata.
Kihon – Basics cutting techniques
Kendo-no-Kata – Pre-arranged fighting sequences used to teach the basics of Kendo.
Uchidachi – The teacher or Senior partner in Kendo-no-Kata.
Shidachi – The junior partner in Kendo-no-Kata.
Bogu – Kendo armour.
Hakama – Traditional pleated trousers worn in Kendo.
Keiko-Gi – Heavy duty training jacket.
Men – The head and the name of the helmet.
Kote – The wrist.
Do – The body (breast plate).
Tsuki – The throat.
Ki-Ken-Tai Ichi – The harmony of the three crucial elements to a Kendo cut or strike.

Ki = the spirit (Shout).
Ken = the sword (Strike).
Tai = the body (Stamp).
All of these elements must be executed at once in order for a strike to be valid. Literally the Spirit, the Sword, the Body as one.

Ashi Sabaki – Footwork.
Fumikomi – The stamp on the floor at the moment of a strike.
Keiko – Practice.

Before and after the Practice.

Seiza – Traditional kneeling, the form of sitting in Kendo.
Mokuso – The call for meditation before and after practice.
Mokuso yamae – The call for the end of meditation before and after practice.
Rei – A bow, this can be performed standing or sitting.
Shinzeni rei – Turning and bowing to the teacher (Sensei).
Kamazani rei – Turning and bowing to the Kendo shrine at the end of the hall.
Sonkyo – Traditional start to a fight or drill, kneeling or more commonly squatting.
Osame toh – Putting away of the sword after a practice or drill, performed whilst in Sonkyo position.

During the practice (Drills and Exercises)

Suburi – literally to swing, practise cuts done in the air against an invisible opponent.
Men Uchi – Strikes to the partners head.
Kote Uchi – Strikes to the partners wrist.
Do Uchi – Strikes to the partners body.
Tsuki Uchi – Thrusts to the partners throat (advanced levels only).
Kiri-kaeshi – A continuous cutting exercise. Consisting of one straight cut to the middle of the head, followed by a body check (Taiatari), finished with a pattern of four forward cuts to the left and right sides of the head and five backward cuts to the left and right sides of the head. Repeated twice, then finished by a single strike to the middle of the head. This is a major exercise in Kendo as it teaches all the basics.
Uchikomi Geiko – A drill where a senior grade stands and receives cuts from an attacking junior grade. The senior presents openings and targets clearly for the junior to hit.
Kakari Geiko – A drill where a senior grade stands and receives attacks from an attacking junior grade. Similar to Uchikomi Geiko, however in this drill the senior does not present targets. The junior must make their own openings and strikes unassisted.
Jigeiko – Free practice, fencing held between two fighters.
Waza Geiko – technique practice, techniques (waza) are dictated by the Sensei.

Advanced terms and names of equipment parts.

Kensen – The tip of the sword.
Monouchi – The cutting edge of a sword.
Tsuba – The thumb guard of the sword.
Tsuka – The handle of the Sword.
Tsuru – The string that holds the Shinai together.
Mengane – the metal face grate of the protective helmet (Men)
San bon shobu – Three point match.
Ippon gachi – One more point.
Arigato Gozaimashita – Thank you very much (polite way to finish a drill or practice).
Onegai Shimasu – Please teach me, or please practice with me (polite way to start a drill or practice).
Gomen nasai – Sorry.
Sumimasen – Excuse me.

This list is not exhaustive, but is intended to give the beginner a reference for the most important terms used during Kendo. These terms will of course be explained to you during a practice, so don’t worry if you can’t remember them all by heart straight away.