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The History and Background of Japanese Kendo Kata

By Honda Tasuke
Translated and added to by Robert Stroud

 

In the early history of Japanese swordsmanship bogu or kendo armor had not yet been developed. Kenjutsu matches of that time were with real swords or bokutoh. Because of this a swordsman had to risk his life for each match. Everytime a swordsman entered a match he either lived or died.

The early methods of kendo practice consisted only of kata. Therefore each kenjutsu school or ryu-ha created a unique set of kata that distinquished it from other ryu. Every ryu-ha was proud of their particular kata's creator. The core or main sword techniques (toh ho) were kept extremely secret. Each ryu-ha did not allow outsiders to observe these core techniques. Also a ryu-ha's own students were not taught these secret techniques until they had reached a high enough level of skill.

Gradually shinai and dogu were developed so that kenshi (swordsmen) could use them for uchi tachi or attacking practice. But even then kata mastery was still considered to be the first step of kendo training. Students needed to develop their techniques with kata practice first. And only then could they enter shiai geiko or free fighting match practice.

Up until the end of the Edo era (the reign of the Tokugawa Shogunate) many outstanding experts or genius swordsmen mastered kendo through their kata training.

The Creation of Modern Kendo Kata:

The Japanese police force first established a unified system of kendo kata by combining various traditional sword schools or Sho Ryu Ha. This was referred to as Keishicho Gekken Kata or Police Department Attacking Motion Kendo Kata.

Kenjutsu Era:

Meiji 13, 1880 Outstanding kenshi, from different ryu ha were hired by the police in order to standardize the instruction of kata and develop a new kata system. By 1886 ten Kata had been created based on different kata of traditional ryu ha.

Meiji 28, 1895 Dai Nihon Butokukai (Great Japan Martial Virtues Association) established.

Meiji 32, 1899 Butokuden (Kyoto, Okazaki area) built.

Meiji 39, 1906 Butokukai unified kenjutsu ryu ha because kendo had been introduced as a subject for the public school system. Dai Nihon Butokukai Kendo Kata. At that time three kamae were established, Gedan no kamae (person), Chudan no kamae (earth) and Jodan no kamae (sky).

Ryu Ha Major Sensei

Shinto Munen Ryu Watanabe, Noboru

Shinto Munen Ryu Shibae, Umpachiro

Musashi Ryu Mihashi, Kanichiro

Jikishin Kage Ryu Tokuno, Kanshiro

Kyoshin Mechi Ryu Sakabe, Daisaku

Shinto Munen Ryu Negishi, Shigoro

Jikishin Kage Ryu Abe, Morie

Kendo Era:

Meiji 44, 1911 Kendo became a junior high school subject. Dai Nihon Butokukai started the Butoku Gakkou school. This helped increase the growth of kendo. Therefore a standard kata set which did not favot any one particular ryu was needed for kendo instruction. The Mombusho, the Japanese Ministry of Education, requested to be part of the committee to establish kata through out Japan. Butokukai established a kendo kata research committee, to draft a standard, at the same time. It was composed of 23 experts from various ryu-ha.

Taisho 1, 1912 Dai Nihon Teikoku Kendo Kata or Great Imperial Japan Kendo Kata October completed. It consisted of 7 tachi long sword forms and 3 kotachi short sword forms.

Taisho 16, 1917 Additional kendo kata material added to standard by Naito, Takaji; Takano Sasaburo; Kadona, Tadashi; Nakayama, Hakudo and Minatobe, Kuniharu. Showa 8, 1933 With more additions to the original standard the material was finalized.

 

Nihon Kendo Kata

Modern

Historic

Ipponme

 

AJKF Basic Kendo Waza practice with Bokuto
(Kendo Kihon Waza Keikoho CHART)

 

AJKF Basic Kendo Waza explained

Video Guide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVzHMNJ6NKg(Approved by the All-Japan Kendo Federation and International Kendo Federation)
Basic techniques 1 to 4 – Shikake waza (techniques to initiate attacks)Basic techniques 5 to 9 – Oji waza (techniques to counterattack)

 

#

Kata

Strikes Used

1

Ippon-uchi no waza

Men, Kote, Dou, Tsuki

2

Ni/Sandan no waza

Kote, Men

3

Harai waza

Harai Men

4

Hiki waza

Tsubazeriai, Hiki Dou

5

Nuki waza

Men, Nuki Dou

6

Suriage waza

Kote, Suriage Men

7

Debana waza

Debanagote

8

Kaeshi waza

Men, Kaeshi Dou

9

Uchiotoshi waza

Dou Uchiotoshi Men

 

KAKARITE (pressuring/initiating side)

#

Kata

Instructions

1

Ippon-uchi no waza

1. Zarei (optional), bow to shomen and to opponent; 3 big steps forward, sonkyo, draw bokuto, stand up in kamae, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

2. Three large steps forward, seme, Men, zanshin, 2-steps back in kamae

3. Three large steps forward, seme, Kote, zanshin, 2-steps back in kamae

4. Three large steps forward, seme, Dou, zanshin, 2-steps back in kamae

5. Seme, Tsuki, zanshin, 2-steps back in kamae, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

2

Ni/Sandan no waza

1. Three large steps forward in kamae, seme, Kote, 1-step forward, Men

2. zanshin, 3-steps back in kamae, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

3

Harai waza

1. Three large steps forward in kamae, seme, hit left side of the Motodachi bokuto outward, Men

2. zanshin, 2-steps back in kamae, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

4

Hiki waza

1. Three large steps forward in kamae, seme, Men *(Motodachi will block)*

2. Tsubazeriai (half step forward, push down, both tsuba at the waist)

3. 1-step back/simultaneous Dou, zanshin, 2-steps back in kamae, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

5

Nuki waza

*(Seme to make Motodachi come for Men)*

1. Three large steps forward in kamae, 1-step forward diagonally to the right/ simultaneous Dou

2. zanshin, 2-steps to left in kamae back to start position, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

6

Suriage waza

*(Seme to make Motodachi come for Kote)*

1. Three large steps forward in kamae, 1-step straight back with simultaneous “rub up” with bokuto on right side of Motodachi bokuto, 1-step forward with simultaneous Men

2. zanshin,1-step backward in kamae, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

7

Debana waza

*(Seme to make Motodachi start moving forward and raise bokuto for a strike)*

1. Three large steps forward in kamae, small Kote

2. zanshin, 2 small steps backward in kamae, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

8

Kaeshiwaza

*(Seme to make Motodachi come for Men)*

1. Three large steps forward in kamae, parry with simultaneous forward diagonal step to the right, Dou

2. zanshin, 2 small steps to the left in kamae back to start position, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

9

Uchiotoshi waza

*(Seme to make Motodachi come for Dou)*

1. Three large steps forward in kamae, hit Motodachi’s bokuto downward from the top while simultaneously taking 1-step diagonally backward to the left, Men

2. zanshin, 2 small steps to right back to start position in kamae

3. sonkyo, sheathe bokuto, stand up, bow to opponent and to shomen, zarei (optional)

MOTODACHI (Side forced to move due to threatening pressure from seme)

#

Kata

Instructions

1

Ippon-uchi no waza

1. Zarei (optional), bow to shomen and to opponent; 3 big steps forward, sonkyo, draw bokuto, stand up in kamae, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

2. Three large steps forward in kamae; under seme, open for Men (point bokuto tip somewhat to the right)

3. Under seme, open for Kote (point bokuto tip upward and to the left)

4. Under seme, open for Dou (raise arms up)

5. **1-STEP BACK** in response to Tsuki, 1-step forward with Kakarite’s second step backward, release kame, 5 small steps backward

2

Ni/Sandan no waza

1. Three large steps forward in kamae; under seme, open for Kote, 1-step back, open for Men with bokuto upward and to the right

2. 1-step forward with Kakarite’s second step backward, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

3

Harai waza

1. Three large steps forward in kamae; under seme, allow Kakarite to hit left side of the bokuto to break down kamae and hit Men

2. Wait for Kakarite to return to starting position in kamae, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

4

Hikiwaza

1. Three large steps forward in kamae; under seme, block Kakarite’s Men strike

2. Take half-step forward into tsubazeriai (both tsuba at the waist)

3. Raise arms up to open for Dou, small step back with Kakarite’s second step backward

4. Release kamae, 5 small steps backward

5

Nuki waza

1. Three large steps forward in kamae; under seme, 1-step forward and go for Men

2. Line up with Kakarite and take 1-step diagonally backward to the right

3. Two steps leftward back to starting position in kamae, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

6

Suriage waza

1. Three large steps forward in kamae; under seme, 1-step forward and go for Kote

2. One small step diagonally backward to the left

3. Two small steps rightward to starting position in kamae, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

7

Debana waza

1. Three large steps forward in kamae; under seme, raise bokuto to begin a strike while moving right foot slightly forward, thus opening Kote

2. Move right foot back to start position, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

8

Kaeshi waza

1. Three large steps forward in kamae; under seme, 1-step forward and go for Men

2. Line up with Kakarite, take 2 steps diagonally backward and to the right

3. Two small steps leftward to the start position in kamae, release kamae, 5 small steps backward

9

Uchiotoshi waza

1. Three large steps forward in kamae; under seme, 1-step forward and go for Dou

2. Line up with Kakarite, 2 small steps diagonally forward to the right

3. Two small steps leftward to the start position in kamae

4. sonkyo, sheathe bokuto, stand up, 5 small steps backward

5. Bow to opponent and to shomen, zarei (optional)