Modern Kendo is far removed from Kenjutsu and its feudal origins of samurai wielding swords. Literally translated, Kendo means "the way of the sword," and is practiced in two distict forms in modern times. Iaido is the practice of drawing, cutting and re-sheathing the sword and is practiced with live blades. Kendo is usually the practice of actually fencing with a partner but using full padding and bamboo practice swords.
At end of the 12th century, the authority of the Japanese central government was in decline and bands of warriors grouped together for protection and in doing so formed local aristocracies. Thus, Feudalism came of age, and was to dominate Japan culture and life for several centuries.
With the establishment of the Shogun in Kamakura and military rule being the controlling factor in Japanese life, a new military class and their lifestyle called Bushido, "the way of the warrior," rose to preimminense. Bushido was founded on the virtues of bravery, loyalty, honor, self-discipline and resolute acceptance of death. Certainly, the influence of Bushido extends to modern Japanese society and Kendo is also influenced by this train of thought.
During these times Kenjutsu, "the art of swordsmanship," gained new prominence and took on significant religious and cultural aspects as well. Sword making became a highly respected and revered art. Zen and various other sects of Buddhism developed, often the samurai would devote time to fine arts such as calligraphy or poetry.
The next great advance in the martial arts occurred during the late Muromachi period (1336-1568) often referred to as the "age of Warring Provinces" because of the many internal conflicts which developed among the various warlords. This period brought an increased demand and respect for men trained in the martial arts, especially Kenjutsu.
Consequently, many schools of Kenjutsu sprang up, eventually numbering approximately two hundred. Each was founded and taught by famous swordsman whose techniques and feats had earned him honor in battle. Real blades or hardwood swords were used without protective equipment were used in training which resulted in frequent injuries. These schools continued to flourish through the Tokugawa period.
Kendo took its modern shape during the late 18th century with the introduction of protective equipment. The use of the shinai, bamboo swords and protective armor made possible the full delivery of blows without injury.
The main benefit from studying Kendo and Kenjutsu is the strategic edge they give to their students way of thinking, which is why they are incorporated into our training at Martial Arts Charleston.