Kendo is Bullshido with its semantics and pedagogy, and I'll explain why

Ah, Kendo. The epitome of weeaboo skirt wearing, yelling, stomping - and even stick slapping, which other martial arts cannot claim to engage in! Not meant to simulate swordplay anymore, it is now a way to develop one’s character and mind, supposedly, and of course learn manners. Lots and lots of manners.

Like deferring to angry stubborn old Japanese men that argue semantics and spew utter bullshit out of their ass. And also only promoting men past a certain point. And only Japanese men past a yet higher point. The first and only person AFAIK who passed an 8th dan exam in Japan but was born out of Japan was Roberto Kishikawa, from Brazil.

OK Credulous, but why do we care about Japan being exclusionary and shitty?

Mental Bullshido is often some of the worst. Also, it’s fun to poke at, and it’s even a little unsafe! Like Kendo’s unsafe poking technique, Tsuki.

Starting with safety, we’ll address the Ago, the neck-flap part of the helmet (Men) that is really fucking unsafe but will never be changed BECAUSE TRADITION. But you can buy a bigger, safer flap to go under the Tsuki flap: image

To clarify, Tsuki is to thrust at the throat, but only the throat, not any other part of the body whatsoever. It is said one needs to have years of experience to “control the shinai”, because of safety. Because the recipient has to keep their head down for their shitty armor to protect them, unless they have the extra flap.

Meanwhile in HEMA fencing you wear a gorget from day one to protect your neck, and you can thrust anywhere you like as soon as you start sparring, since you wear good gear from the beginning. Same for Modern Olympic Fencing.

Huh.

So not only is it something held as a mystery to reveal after having multiple black belt ranks, there’s also un written rules about who can do it to whom, and when! If you earned the right to practice it, people who rank higher will state it is time to do so, and then promptly give you ‘controlled’ stabs to the neck that bend their shinai (bamboo training sword) that shove the recipient back. So much for control.

As far as rank goes, you don’t Tsuki people above you, or they literally yell and melt down. I’ll link and paste:

I recently attended a seminar with sumi sensei,a japanese 8th dan .In the final jigeko a girl(3rd dan) execute tsuki on sumi sensei and something very strange happend, he froze for a fraction o a second and then grabbed her shinai with both hands and screamed :’‘never do tsuki agani!!!’’.I know tsuki is an advance tecnique so I never attempt to execute one,the only exeception is when someone take a jodan stance and this does not happen very often. The girl who tried to tsuki sumi was third dan tought,can you do tsuki only with people that have your same grade?are there any unwritten rules on tsuki that I should know?

LOL.

If only there was a way to practice partial arts without having to deal with fragile egos. Oh, yeah, MMA. And apparently HEMA if you want to swing swords.

OK, so stick-slap-tag in hakama has a ton of rules on it, is that all?

No, I got this hilarious post here that archive.org saved for all posterity:

The magical thinking and argued semantics are what really got my goat. Kendo likes to say things like “we do not feint, we get in their heads!”

As this now deleted article on ‘Kizeme’ explains, in Kendo one does not fucking feint. Feinting is wrong. Instead you have to get in their head! To fully explain why there are such mental gymnastics, one has to look at the mindset of Kendo.

Kendo is aggressive - more aggressive than your martial art, of course! Kendo never blocks or merely defends, it attacks while defending. Or attacks first. Or counters. Also, of course, it never feints, it dominates your mind with spiritual pressure like Bleach or something? Huh.

Whatever, I’ll quote again.

At first I would like to quote Shimokawa Ushio sensei. He’s know as the writer of “The development of kendo” which has been used as a kind of kendo dictionary in the kendo community for years.

[blockquote align=“center”]Western (i.e European) fencing styles, be it in their kata or there competition, generally tend to rely on defensive techniques, with attacks (ripostes) coming out of defense. Even when on the attack, the tendency is to protect or escape from opponents attacks skilfully, taking the chance then to attack. In our (Japanese) fencing, the most — is to use “sen sen no sen”, the exact opposite of the general Western style, which we would call “go no sen.” In other words, their fencing places a heavy emphasis on protecting the body, and we could say its a negative style of fighting. In comparison, Japanese fencing is generally a positive attacking one, where we aim to strike first, disregarding even our body (sutemi).

Even if we are in the path of the opponents blade we chose to throw away our physical body for the purpose of cutting down the opponent in one strike. This attacking, selflessness style can be said to be the number 1 characteristic of Japanese fencing.[/blockquote]

The next is from the posthumous transcripts of someone that everyone knows: Takano Sasaburo sensei.

[blockquote align=“center”]Japanese fencing has no ‘blocking’ or ‘defending’ techniques. Against an enemies attack, we evade, cut through their blade (kiriotoshi), or deflect and strike (ukenagashi). These cannot be categorised as blocking as these actions are done with the objective of cutting or thrusting the enemy. All these techniques are used to place yourself in an advantageous position. For example, when you are doing kiriotoshi the goal should be to cut the enemies body, and the instant you perform ukenagashi you must turn your blade and strike him. While doing this you must not even allow the tiniest opportunity for the enemy to attack you.

Its useless simply to just stop or block the enemies attack. In deflecting or receiving a blade you must instantly turn it into an attack. Simply blocking/stopping the enemies attack is not beneficial (in defeating your enemy).

Therefore, the merit of kendo is using “sen sen no sen” to take the lead and attack with strong resolution and overwhelming power, all the time without leaving any opening for the enemy to attack you. This will lead to a superb victory.

If you stop to think for a while, this method is not simply about flying blindly into an attack; rather its about spending a long time working out when the right time is to attack, learning about what works when and what doesn’t (the principles)… only after you do this can you gain (true) victory.[/blockquote]

See, I’d give Kendo a bit of a pass if not for being so blatantly shitty, xenophobic and just haughty. HEMA sources (from 500 fucking years ago) regularly feature someone of a given nationality poo-pooing rival nationalities; Germans vs Italians is common. Everyone mocking Spain for it’s inscrutable Destreza fencing that made a few masters and many fools is also found in these old texts.

But for Kendo to just stand there and say “we’re so great and you’re so bad and dumb” and clearly spend literally zero effort to cross train with western fencing traditions is just too much. And as a westerner, I’ll do what westerners do: call it out and shit on it and let defensive people have a fun meltdown over it.

If you were wondering, no, HEMA is not defensive. HEMA coaches make a point of making sure people learn how to be aggressive; even if people specialize in ‘counterstriking’, which is perfectly valid here as it is in other martial arts, they still have to learn how to make openings.

“But at the time HEMA didn’t exist.”

Fair. But MOF exists, and to say that’s not aggressive is fucking hilarious. It’s hyper aggressive. It’s so fast given the light weight of the swords defending is almost pointless.

In conclusion, Kendo is hilarious, and to think that stick wiggling beats actually making plays, and having everything come down to who attacks first with a little bit of not-feinting that’s actually feinting get over yourself is hilarious.

If you’d like to look at what Kendo considers good vs HEMA considers good, well, watch:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA3nv5GpkcU&t=14s 7th Dan Kendo sparring. I would hope they were skilled, given their rank.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3A-Od7dfp0 Martin Fabian with no rank and a lot less wiggling and a lot more actual exchanging.

Decide for yourselves, wear a mask, stop the virus, and be excellent to one another.

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(post withdrawn by author, will be automatically deleted in 24 hours unless flagged)

You had me at tsuki.

Seriously, do any of these older Japanese gentlemen know non-Japanese can learn their language and immediately call out their bullshit?

I get this all the time with kung fu students who don’t bother to learn any Chinese. OK, it’s not totally required, but then don’t get into arguments with me over what something is called, but don’t know the hanzi for it.

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Hi, W.Rabbit, long time no see. Is it necro if the last post came out 8 days ago? Whatever
How come every single time you guys discuss/diss/talk about Kendo I’m never around?

Anyway, yeah, overwhelming mental bullshido in Kendo in a lot of dojos. I can’t deny that, as much as I fight against that crap with all I have. Lots of stepping on eggs while fighting/dealing with high-ranking sensei too.

About the hilarity of Kendo, yeah, I get it, and I agree. I still do Kendo, though, as well as other martial arts. Past the samurai bullshit there’s some stuff worth getting into. Wish I could say most kenshi think like me - they often don’t, but f*ck those guys.

The tsuki thing, though, meh… getting hit with tsuki sucks. If it hits nice, it messes your head a bit, but it’s fine. It if hits bad, hurts like hell, scrapes your throat, screws your neck, you feel the taste blood for a couple of hours/days - good times. It’s kinda bad manners doing it to sensei, especially if they’re old. We’re not short of stories of 2-dans getting their asses handed to them after attempting tsuki while fighting a 6 or 7-dan. Also, in that reddit quote, OP stated a 3-dan GIRL tried tsuki, huh? What usually happens is that the tsuki’d sensei proceeds to beat the adversary to a pulp, often hitting them with no pause, sometimes with multiple tsuki in a row. It’s still part of practice, though. What he did was… different. Yeeeah… holding a student’s shinai with both hands and screaming. Needless to say it must have been VERY frustrating for that san-dan, humiliating maybe. We’re also not short of stories of good kenshi who stop training because of that kind of thing. And girls, A LOT OF GIRLS give up on Kendo.

You know what, screw it, I call bullshit on it. That was a shitty way of said sensei dealing with the situation, and MANY kenshi will probably say: “oh, but did you know that in Japan they teach kids Kendo to strenghten their character? It’s not a hobby, it’s serious! The 3-dan girl shouldn’t have hit sensei with tsuki uwu”. We’ve got too many people obsessed with the “wise man from the east” crap. We’re not in Japan, stop sucking up to bad teachers because they come from there, goddamn weebs.

Same goes to any martial art, really. Call out bad coaches. Don’t give the wankers rest

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Congrats, OP. You convinced me to give HEMA fencing a try. I took Kendo for a little while, and definitely took notice of the culture you’re describing. I don’t think ti was quite as bad, but maybe I was just too young to pick up on all the nonsense. Found out there’s a HEMA club just under 30 mins from me.

It’s funny how much Japanese and Chinese MA is focused on destroying the trachea. You’ll find it in Kendo and the Tiger Crane Paired Fist.

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Kendo and the culture around it always reminded me of suburban lacrosse. Most of the folks with exposure to the art have probably alread read it but Donn Draeger’s scathing chapter on Kendo in Modern Budo and Bujutsu is worth a read if you haven’t.

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I’m wondering if Credulous_Rex has ever practiced kendo?

Regarding tsuki: most clubs these days start practicing it straight from the start. It’s part of our regular practice, and other than dividing between those wearing armour and those not, we don’t make a distinction in what we practice. So if you’re in the armoured practice and we’re practicing tsuki, that’s what you’re doing regardless if you’ve got 3 months experience or 3 decades.

As far as not doing tsuki on senior sensei: as in anything in life, there is a lot of variation. The general wisdom is that if you want to practice tsuki against a senior sensei, you ask first. Some sensei are OK with it, some feel you should be practicing other things. By asking, you are saying “as a student, I would like to practice this technique against you, so please help me improve.”

If you choose to bust out tsuki without asking, you can expect one of three reactions. Younger sensei, or sensei from the west, are probably cool with it. Other sensei are of the opinion that if you use tsuki, you are telling them “I’m good enough that we can fight even-up. I don’t want your teaching kendo, show me what you’ve got.” Still other sensei will be insulted. It’s hard to tell the difference between the last two reactions as it will result in a beat-down regardless. In the story provided, the girl was 3 dan. That might be high level in other martial arts, but in kendo particularly in the West that’s just an intermediate at best, typically 5 years of recreational training. That person is in no way ready to handle someone 7 dan going hard. On the other hand, a Japanese kid who is 3 dan and attending one of the strong kendo high schools is used to getting rough treatment routinely. Western recreational players and serious Japanese or Korean competitors are two different kettles of fish.

Regarding kendo “looking down” on other forms of fencing: we don’t look down on them, we just regard them as irrelevant to what we do. We’re not interested in getting better at sword fighting in general, we’re interested in getting better at kendo. Yes, we’ve got restrictive targets and very specific ideas about what constitutes the proper way to attack, we’re looking for a certain aesthetic, etc etc. It’s all part of kendo. Asking us to cross-train in HEMA is like asking soccer players to cross train in rugby. There’s similarities in that you’re both trying to get a ball across the goal-line but ultimately they are different things. There are skills that are applicable across either. Lots of kendo players are interested in HEMA, but not to add it to their kendo, as its own thing. I know I’d love to give it a shot if I had the time.

Regarding feinting and blocking in kendo: of course we do it, it happens all the time. Watch any competition, even to the highest levels, and you will see it. It’s just not the ideal we strive for. The thing we are looking to do, at least those of us who have been doing it for a while, is “win, then cut”. We use physical and mental pressure to get the opponent to give us an opening. We try to explore one of the four sicknesses: fear, doubt, surprise and confusion.

If a young strong player fights an old sensei, it is interesting to see how he approaches it depending on circumstance. If it is in shiai, all bets are off. The sensei has, by entering the competition, agreed that whatever techniques are employed are OK. Go ahead and knock him to the floor and hit him while he is down, no hard feelings. If you can get a tsuki in there, go right ahead. He will bow at the end and go have a beer with you that night.

However if you are having a practice with him, then your goal is not to beat him. Your goal is to improve. Knocking him down doesn’t make you any better at kendo. Tagging his kote (wrist) might be possible, you are probably much faster than he is. But if you can get him to open up and hit his men (head) straight down the middle, you will have accomplished something. And that is the only thing he cares about. He’ll ignore that kote, it just proves you were faster. He’ll be pissed if you try to knock him down, you’re just showing disrespect in a learning situation. He’ll be pleased as hell if you manage to legitimately hit his men.

FWIW if you don’t know me around here, I have been doing kendo for 37 years so I have some direct experience with this stuff.

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I like Draeger’s books. I’ll definitely check it out

Didn’t remember you practiced Kendo too, @NeilG. Would’ve mentioned you here if I did. I didn’t even talk about HEMA in my post because I feel the same as you. I do like HEMA, but I’m not really interested in practicing it, and I can confirm many kenshi that practice with me are also not really into it. Same goes for HEMA guys who don’t dig Kendo or olympic fencing etc. But, of course, it’s not written in stone, you go towards whatever fits your aesthetic taste.

Anyway, I still believe there’s some bullshit to be fought in Kendo (like sexism, I’m not taking that back). I’m far from being an expert - it’s been only six years I got back to it after a four year pause - so I’m not the best one to talk, but, since OP mentioned MMA, I think I need to address this now: people who practice Kendo in my area don’t talk shit about other martial arts, yet we’ve been dissed by people who practice Judo, Karate, MMA, TKD, Kungfu. What gives? I’m not generalizing - I know many locals who train those MA who know us and don’t talk shit. But, yeah, as much as I need to admit kenshi have an overall problem with haugthiness, that’s not the case in a lot of dojos out there. You have to go out there and check it out. There might be some shitty people (often young dudes) who are too much into bushido or some other samurai-wanking bullshit, but you’ll find nice people too.

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Kendo is my main gig. In addition to running the dojo and teaching I’m on the BOD for the Canadian Kendo Federation with a bunch of stuff on my plate there.

Now that my son is out of judo I’m not really practicing it anymore. Besides, my hip is fucked. It’s ok for kendo but judo is iffy.

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Awesome. My left knee is kinda screwed too - only figured it out this year. Bad for kungfu, but fine for Kendo.
Back in 2015, when brazilian economy was kinda OK, I was really thinking about going over to Canada and apply for a PhD at McGill University. I’ve heard they have a nice Philosophy program and a good Kendo club as well. Besides, I enjoy watching some Habs games every now and then, so it would’ve been perfect. But 2015 was also a pretty bad year for myself, and finances didn’t get better for my family OR my country, so… Looking forward to some keiko with you guys in the future

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Yo Neil!
Its me, Kenzan!
Long time no see!

This is a must to spice up your thread.

(2:47 gets Qui Gon killed in his kilt)

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I think it’s cute that the commentator thinks either of those guys are fast.

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As a Kendoka… Who gives a shit?

  1. Personal choice
  2. It’s not self defence
  3. Unless a teacher is a fake or is harming others, theres no BS factor associated with Shinai Kendo.
  4. There’s no LARPING involved
  5. Its full contact and therefore easy to test skill sets against other Kendoka
  6. The cultural faff is present in Gendai & Koyru systems and not unique to Kendo so just accept it or move on (See Point 1)

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You could also equally apply your argument against Iaido or Kenjutsu, and many other indiginous systems of Japan, but providing no one is faking something, harming others in the process of teaching, or claiming it to be something it’s not, your argumant is old and moot.

PS “Magic Pants” for the win.

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We have the coolest gear, no doubt.

I was watching some world kendo championships, japan vs korea. Now those were some fast guys.

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This is a couple friends of mine. Kyle Lee is the Canadian national team captain. Dave Westhead is at least 10 years older, not a national level player but still pretty good. Kyle crushes me and I’ve beaten Dave every time we’ve met in shiai so I think Kyle was dialing it back here a bit. At any rate, not the same speed as the top Japanese or Korean guys but still considerably quicker than the guy in the video. You can also note the better posture and crisper action of both guys. I’d be surprised if the guy in the HEMA video was any higher than 2 dan, which in kendo is usually 3 or 4 years’ experience.

The real experts don’t bother with the style vs style stuff?

I saw another video a long time ago. Guy with a bokken vs some sort of Hema dude.

That was a bit more interesting.