"Kendo", as it is played today, was developed about two hundred years ago, when the "shinai", a bamboo sword, was devised to enable the safe and free practice of the ancient military art of sword.
During the 16th century, when Japan was in the period of successive and nation-wide civil wars, the techniques of sword manipulation were studied as a matter of life and death. Warriors were trained to brandish a sword as though it had been an extended part of their arms. Wooden swords were used more freely to study and practice the art of sword fighting. Eventually basic ways were selected for manipulating a sword to be called "kata", fundamental forms of "Kendo".
Under the warring environments there were many expert swordsmen, claiming originality in one way or the other to establish schools of their own, counting in number as many as 600 in history.
In the warring days it was, of course, their immediate object to kill their opponents. In doing so, "Bushi" warriors were taught to cause instant death without unnecessary agony to the slain. It was an etiquette in sword fighting
. "Kata" forms have continued to be most important in "Kendo" to master. But mere combinations of "kata" forms are not sufficient to cover techniques required to meet all happenings in sword fighting. The free practice was then in need to encourage the development of "shinai" bamboo swords and protective gears for safeguard.
Today "Kendo" followers train themselves primarily by using bamboo swords and learn "kata" forms by using real or wooden swords.
In Kendo you are trained to see things with your eyes, react instantly to happenings and make moment judgments with your mind. In a Kendo match you watch your opponent with you eyes, react quickly to his moves and grab chances for attack, as seen through your mind. The mind's eye is opened only by and through hard and long training, as in case of the Zen practice of austerities.
It is an important objective in the practice of Kendo never to be off guard
mentally in a Kendo match or whatever circumstances one may be placed in.
©David Deer 2002