Kendo, the art of Japanese Fencing, envolved from a martial heritage reaching back over a thousand years to the time of the early sword-bearing classical warriors who came to known as bushi or samurai .These warriors were in the main disciplined, moral men whose conduct was governed by a strict code and whose function was to maintain social order. After some 800 years, political changes eliminated the need for the samurai class and their power diminished. Gradually, the sword fell into disuse as a military weapon and sword training began to be practiced by some as a sport, by others as a means of character development of spiritual refinement. To reduce serious injuries, a safe practice weapon made of bamboo and lightweight armor were devised. By the 19th century, Kendo, utilizing this equipment, had largely supplanted the earlier, more dangerous methods of training.Modern Kendo is both physically and mentally demanding. A Kendo bout with a skilled opponent is an intense experience. For a moment in time concentration is absolute, concious thought is suppressed, action is instinctive. Such training develops in the serious student powers of resolution and endurance under pressure which frequently affect his or her life beyond the confines of the training hall.
"The concept of Kendo is to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the KATANA." From the beginning one must practice hard physical and develop mental control to master simple techniques. Kendo practice may be started at any age, young and old, and even with severe physical handicaps. The will to continue regular training is the essential element in learning Kendo. Kendo is practiced for character building through the manipulation of the sword calmly under great pressure. Physical prowess is less important than doing everything with full spirit even when there is no hope of winning. The essence of Kendo is attending mental, sptritual, and physical calm with balance,"ki-ken-tai no itti".
The History and Background of Japanese Kendo Kata
By Honda Tasuke
In the early history of Japanese swordsmanship dogu 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.
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
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.