The language of Kendo

Being of Japanese origin, most if not all the terms used in kendo are Japanese. Here is an introduction to some of these terms and the English meaning

Equipment A more detailed description of the equipment is found on the equipment page

Bogu :- Kendo armour, consists of men, kote, do and tare

Men:- Protective head guard/mask, also the call (kiai) for a strike to the head

Kote:- Protective gloves, also the call (kiai) for a wrist strike

Do:- Torso protector, also the call (kiai) for a strike to the torso

Tare:- Protective apron [not a scoring area]

Shinai:- Bamboo foil

Bokuto (or bokken):- Wooden sword [usually in pairs: Odachi- long sword. Kodachi- short sword]

Tsuba:- Hand guard on a sword, shinai or bokuto

Tenugui:- Cotton towel worn on the head underneath the Men.

Kendo-i:- Practice jacket, also known as a kendo gi

Hakama:- Traditional japanese loose pleated trousers


People, Names These words are used to describe people or roles in the dojo

Sensei:- refers to a Teacher or Teachers

Senpai:- Senior students of the Dojo

Uchidachi:- ‘Striking Sword’ leading or the teaching role in kata

Shidachi:- ‘Responding Sword’ following or the learning role in kata

Motodachi:- The one who takes the role of instructor for the trainee practising kihon-geiko, kakari-geiko and ji-geiko (like Uchidachi in Kata)

Kakarite:- The opposite to motodachi in shinai kendo ( like shidachi in Kata)

Aite:- An opponent, or a person (partner) who helps one’s training


Explanation of the Ranking sytem – Kyu, Dan & Shogo

Kyu (Beginner): A grading system before Shodan (First Degree)

Dan (Degree): This indicates over-all kendo abilities including techniques and mentalities (attitudes).

Shogo (Title):  This indicates the degree of completion as a Kendoist. In addition to the conditions of Dan, one must have instructional abilities and knowledge of Kendo.

Renshi: Those who have practiced and succeeded to show the principle of the sword and have good knowledge of Kendo – Must have 6th Dan.

Kyoshi: Those who have mastered the principle of the sword and have excellent knowledge of Kendo – Must have 7th Dan.

Hanshi: The highest of all. Those who have mastered and completed the principle of the sword, have outstanding knowledge of kendo together with an excellent and virtuous personality – Must have 8th Dan.

Techniques, Stances etc.These are words that describe ways of standing, moving or doing things. They often get shouted out in the dojo with little explaination so this should help those people who haven’t learnt them yet.

Kata:- Pre-determined forms using bokuto, used as a basic training method for sword techniques.

Keiko:- Practice, originally to study (kei) ancient times (ko) this term is used for the practice of bugei(martial arts) and gei-goto (arts). This word doesn’t simply mean repeating the practice, it also includes the importance of one’s attitude to the art being studied. The process is also connected to the everyday life and the endeavours of creating a new self through the unification of these two elements (art and life).

Keiko-ho:- A method to aquire skills

Kihon-geiko:- The act of practicing to acquire the basic movements(also known as kihon-renshu)

kata-geiko:- The practice of kata

Kakari-geiko:- The keiko method of striking the motodachi in an all out attack, using all of the waza learned, without thought of being counter cut or blocked (the motodachi will receive without hindrance), should be carried out in short physical bursts only, with a good recovery time allowed between each burst

Ji-geiko:- The general method of practice in which the trainee attempts to practice freely, refining technique, disciplining the mind and trying to overcome their weakness points

Uchikomi-geiko:- A method to learn basic techniques of striking by responding to opportunities (openings) given by the motodachi

Gokaku-geiko:- Keiko practiced by persons who are almost equal in skills. This term also applies for keiko where the participants treat each other with equal respect, even if there is a difference in their skills

Kiri-kaeshi:- A comprehensive way to practice basic movements, by striking men continously (front, left and right), whilst maintaining good posture with full body/mind co-ordination and utilising the kiai to assist the breathing pattern. This is an important practice method for both beginners and the experienced. The word kiri-kaeshi also refers to a counterstrike in which the direction of the strike changes

Waza:- Technique, skill

Ki-ai:- Spirit, Shout. More fully the state of mind where one is fully focused on the opponent’s move and one’s planned moves. It also refers to the vocalizations one produces when in this state of mind

Kamae:- Stance of readiness [fighting position]

Chudan Kamae:- Middle level stance [sword held at chest height]

Jodan Kamae:- High level stance [sword held raised above the head]

Gedan Kamae:- Low level stance [sword held pointing at the ground]

Rei:- Bow of respect [Ritsu-rei- while standing. Za-re- while sitting]

Sensei ni rei:- Bow to the teacher

Sensei gata ni rei:- Bow to the teachers (more than one)

Ota-gai-ni-rei:- Mutal bow to each other

Sei-re-tsu:- Stand in a line

Sei-za:- a way of sitting on your knees [position], also the call to sit down (in seiza) when standing in a line

Kio-tsuke:- sit up straight

Ki-ri-tsu:- Stand up

Haji-me:- Start or begin

Yame:- Stop or finish

Sonkyo:- Traditional crouch like stance/position for starting and finishing

Osa-me-to:- Put your sword away [sheath it] also called –Osameru

Tai-to:- Sword held at waist height, as if in your belt or sash [obi]

Sage-to (also known as Tei-to):- Sword in a hanging position at your side

Ma or Maai:- Distance

Mae:- Forward

Ato:- Backward

Migi:- Right

Hidari:- Left

Suburi:- Cutting movements

Te-no-uchi:- The tightening/loosening of the hands when striking or responding. An adjustment of balance between the two hands when gripping the shinai

Men tsuke:- Call to put on your Men

Men to-re:- Call to take off your Men

Rei-ho:- Courtesy in Kendo (etiquette)

Moku-so :- the act of composing your mind body and spirit through breathing, whilst in the seiza position

Ashi Sabaki: – Footwork

Suri-ashi:- Sliding footwork

Okuri-ashi:- Step forward or backward by using suri-ashi

Ayumi-ashi:- a usual walking Step

Hiraki-ashi:- Stepping diagonally or sideways

Tsugi-ashi:- Drawing left foot up to your right and then stepping forward again on your right foot

Fumi-Komu:- To stamp the floor with the front foot

Fumi-komi ashi:- The foot which stamps the floor with the entire sole of the foot

Fumi-komi-dosa:- The movements performed by fumi-komu


Ichi – one

Ni – two

San – three

Shi – four

Go – five

Roku – six

Shichi – seven

Hachi – eight

Ku – Nine

Ju – ten

Ju-Ichi – eleven,

Ju-Ni– twelve etc.

Ni-ju – twenty