Kendo FAQs

What costs are associated with Kendo? Is it expensive? Do I need a uniform?

Class Costs
Since almost all the Kendo clubs of the Pacific Northwest Kendo Federation (a non-profit organization) are run through local city Parks and Recreation departments, the costs of joining a Kendo class is relatively inexpensive, particularly when compared to other private martial arts. On average the cost for 3 months of class instruction . Averages about $25 per month and in many cases the registration is done through the Parks and Recreation department.

In addition to the basic class fee, some clubs may charge an annual club fee. These fees are relatively nominal and are normally used for club activities or fees that occur outside of basic facility use and benefit all members.

PNKF and the All United States Kendo Federation annual membership fees are currently $70 for adults and $40 for children. Both memberships provide a variety of benefits and are required for promotional exams and tournament participation. For example, AUSKF membership includes a 1 million dollar liability insurance plan and the power to practice at any associated club across the entire United States. PNKF membership provide access to a variety of seminars held throughout the year as well as the opportunity to practice at other PNKF member clubs.

Equipment Costs
The initial equipment costs of Kendo may appear substantial at first. However if you compare it with some other activities such as skiing or golf the overall costs are low. In additions some of the Kendo clubs provide rental programs to offset the initial costs and if well maintained, many of the equipment investments can last many years.

To begin with most students will require a simple wooden sword, known as a bokken or bokuto. This wooden sword can normally be bought from your local club for a minimal cost, ranging normally between $15 to $25. Most mindful students should only need to purchase a single bokken throughout their entire Kendo career.

After some time of basic instruction, a student will then move to a bamboo sword, known as a shinai. The prices for shinai’s are similar to that of bokken. Students should take care to buy officially certified Kendo shinai as there are both size and weight requirements based on age. During this time, before the student has started full contact Kendo, a shinai should last many months. Good maintenance and proper form can significantly improve the life of a shinai. Of all Kendo equipment, a shinai is probably the most transient.

A uniform, which consists of a blue or white kendogi and hakama (skirt-like trousers) are not necessary until the student is ready to move into armor and begun practicing full contact Kendo. The enthusiastic student should consider purchasing a kendogi and hakama sooner. The average combined price for an adult gi and hakama is approximately $100. Again, like most Kendo equipment, if well maintained, a kendogi and hakama should provide many years of use before needing replacement. Your local club should be able to either provide you with a kendogi and hakama directly or point you to a on-line vendor. Often the club has a discount and can save you money in the purchase of uniforms and equipment.

The primary cost of Kendo is associated with the armor, known as bogu or dogu. Basic kendo armor consists of a helmet, pair of padded gloves, chest plate, and a belt piece. Kendo bogu can range in cost from $350 all the way to several thousand dollars. Some of the clubs will offer access to Kendo rental armor, which can be used on a temporary basis until a personal set of armor can be purchased. As long as it is well maintained, a decent set of bogu should last many years before ever needing replacement.

Do I need to speak Japanese to do Kendo?

Not at all. Many of the terms, equipment names, and commands used in Kendo are Japanese, but being able to speak or understand Japanese as a complete language is not required. Due to basic repetition, most students will find a fast familiarity with the words and phrases that are used, for example counting from one to ten.

Does Kendo hurt?

In Kendo, there are only four valid places upon the body in which a point can be scored. All Kenshi, or students of Kendo, are trained to make specific hits that only attack these points. The armor of Kendo is designed specifically to protect these areas, avoiding serious injuries one might assume of a full contact sport. Furthermore, any good sparring partner knows not to hit in a way in which they wouldn’t like to be hit themselves. From behind the extruded steel grill of a Kendo face plate, a strike to the head can seem startling at worst, but there is no direct pain associated with it. In Kendo, blisters to the feet and hands are a much more common ailment than the bruises found in many other full contact sports.

Why does Kendo only have specific targets?

It is very difficult to hit a specific target rather than just to strike anywhere especially when the target is trying to hit you. This limiting forces the Kendo practicioner to learn both accuracy and control. It also is the reason why Kendo is so safe since the attack points are the ones covered by protective armor and padding.

Can Kids do Kendo? What about Seniors?

Absolutely! Kendo can be taken on by anyone of any age. Whether young or old, Kendo can provide valuable life strategies while improving health and mental concentration. Students have started as early as three years old or as late as 65 years old and everywhere in between. Both very young and “senior” beginners should modify their expectations to the reality of their individual ability.

For Kendo Parents

Before enrolling your child in a kendo class there are some things to consider. Is the child mentally and physically ready to take the class. Is it the child that wants to do Kendo or is it the parent that wants the child to do Kendo? Only children who want to do kendo should be enrolled. Take your child to observe practice more than once before enrolling them. Both you and your child should plan on a minimum of at least one year participation to avoid wasting everyone’s time, effort and your money. Most Kendo Instructors receive no monetary compensation for teaching kendo. It is part of the Kendo culture to give back to Kendo the knowledge you received from your teachers. This is a primary reason the class fees are so low compared to other martial arts.

How long will I have to do Kendo before I’m good? How long until I become a black belt?

One can practice Kendo a life time and still never master it. In Kendo, there is no set timeline for progression or rank. How quickly you advance at Kendo is primarily up to yourself and how much you put into Kendo. How often you practice, the intensity of your practice, and the proper form of your practice all play factors in the rate of your own personal progression, as do many other factors. There are set minimum time limits required between the rank tests to insure a chance at success. In general a person progresses to the beginning dan rank (blackbelt) in about 3-5 years.

Is Kendo a Self-Defense Martial Art?

No. Kendo, at its most philosophical summit, teaches life-strategies, self-discipline, and cultivation of mind and body. At it’s most base physical valley it teaches you how to score points in sport.

What type of physical shape do I need to be in to do Kendo?

Anyone, no matter what your current physical shape can start Kendo. Most Kendo programs of the PNKF are designed to ease a student into the full practice of Kendo through basic conditioning exercises. In the long run as one progresses through their Kendo career there tends to be a declining emphasis upon physical stamina while the emphasis upon the mental aspects increase. The classic example of this is that of the eighty year old sensei, or teacher, who can easily defeat the student who is in their physical prime. Those looking to compete at the national or international level should consider some form of additional cross training.

Are there competitions or tournaments for Kendo?

Absolutely! Every year there are approximately 5-7 tournaments, also known as taikai, in the Pacific Northwest area. The largest, held in British Columbia, normally is host to hundreds of competitors. Taikais are great fun and provide an opportunity to meet and practice Kendo with other kenshi from all over the region, and in some cases from other states or even countries. At the national level, the best competitors from each regional federation gather every three years for the US Kendo Championships, hosted by the AUSKF. International competition is hosted by the International Kendo Federation (FIK) at the World Kendo Championships, which is also held every three years.

Is Kendo hard?

Kendo is a challenge. Like anything of value though, the reward of Kendo is as great as the challenge. No where is the affirmation “You get what you give” more true than with Kendo. For most it does not come easily and requires much effort and devotion. At the same time, Kendo can be very exciting and insightful. As one sensei is fond of stating, “If Kendo were easy, it wouldn’t be any fun!”

If you’re interested in trying kendo, try our dojo locator to find the club nearest to you.