Beginner’s Guide to Kendo Practice

Expectations, Basics and Beginning Terminology

Getting Started

We are always accepting new members and encourage newcomers to watch a practice and ask questions afterwards before they participate. We accept all students ages 8 and up. We limit new students to Saturday classes until they have an understanding of the basics so that they are able to learn at their own pace. Please see our practice schedule for our practice time and location.

Kendo bogu do

On your first day practicing with us you should wear comfortable gym shorts and a t-shirt. We can provide a shinai (bamboo sword) for you to borrow as you start. We do have new shinai available for purchase for $30. That is all that is required to start practicing with us.

Beginners will learn the very basics of kendo that will build the foundation for everything that is taught afterwards. You will focus on:

  • Etiquette
  • Footwork
  • Posture and stance
  • Basic strikes
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Repetitive drills
Kendo bogu do

Kendo sparring match, jigeiko

What You Can Expect

Months 1-3: Entirely focused on the basics mentioned above.

Months 4-6: Participate in the regular practice where you will learn from other members in full armor. You will use what you learned previously and build on that with more advanced drills.

Months 6 and onward: Put on your armor! Participate in regular practice wearing bogu. Again, you will use what you have learned and slowly build on that by participating in all the drills that the rest of the dojo practices. You will also get to start sparring and when doing so with other advanced members you will be encouraged to attack often and use all the techniques you’ve previously worked on.

It is important to note that everyone learns at a different pace and that is ok. The timeline above is a rough estimate. How often you attend practice will have a significant impact on this timeline and the pace at which you learn.

Kendo sparring match, jigeiko

Common Kendo Terminology

This is a list of some of the basic terminology that you will hear as you begin kendo practice. As you contiue through your study, you are encouraged to seek additional sources for further terms and information.


Rei is a bow. It is also etiquette and gratitude. When you get in to the dojo, you bow in and when you get out of the dojo, you bow out.
Matters of etiquette.
The crouching position which begins and ends each bout.
A sitting position on one’s knees with your butt resting on your heels.


Protective armor consisting of the men (helmut), kote (gauntlets), do (chest protector), and tare (waste protector).
Bamboo sword consisting of 4 bamboo staves. Men’s shinai is 39 inches while women’s shinai is 38 inches in length.
Also called hachimaki. A light cotton towel worn on the head under the men.
Practice clothing worn like a jacket.
A long divided skirt-like trousers.


A shout expressing one’s spirit.
A basic stance
Repeated strikes of various kinds against no opponent.
Mental and physical readiness. Particularly after completing an attack.