The Kendo Kata

While the normal image of Kendo is one of two armoured practitioners engaged in furious combat with bamboo shinai, this is only part of the art.

The other aspect, and the aspect that for me marks Kendo as a 'do' or way, is embodied in the Kendo Kata. The ten Kendo Kata are carried out by two unarmoured exponents working together in harmony, the Shi-Dachi and the Uchi-Dachi, equiped with wooden boken (or in the case of high level practitioners with a metal blade).

Two Kata Practitioners in Sonkyu

The ten Kata act as a living library of the basic sword techniques and consist of seven carried out with katana opposed by katana, and three carried out with katana opposed by wakizashi (short sword). In each of the Kata Uchi-Dachi acts as the aggressor and strikes with the katana, to which Shi-Dachi respondes with whichever sword they are equipped with. These Kata were selected from the thousands of Kata developed by the various sword schools over the centuries.

The ten Kata demonstrate many of the various kamae (or combatative stance /guard position) including those that are not normally used in Kendo due to the constraints on target area and the uniformity of equipment. For example waki-no-kamae, where the sword is held down pointing behind the practitioner, is rarely used as regulations on shinai length force everyones' weapon to be approximately the same length, which makes concealing the length of the weapon of little value in Kendo, but the kamae is included in the Kata. Similarly the three Kata pitting wakizashi against katana are of historical interest and give a fuller understanding of the way of the sword, rather than being shinai Kendo techniques.

While grading for the lower levels in Kendo only require basic cuts, and shinai techniques, in Australia, once the level being tested for reaches first kyu (the level before Dan grade) the Kata are tested as well as shinai fighting ability.

The Furyu (the Budo Journal of Classical Japanese Martial Arts and Culture) website has excellent animated gifs of the first four Kendo Kata.

1996, 1997

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