Kendo is one of the Japanese martial arts dealing with the use of the sword. In kendo there are two types of practice, kata and full contact. In the kata a wooden sword (bokuto) is used by two kenshi facing off together as uchitachi and shitachi. No contact is made with each others bodies as they perform a series of movements and waza (techniques) that cover kendo basics. There are 7 kata where each participant uses a long sword (tachi) and another three kata where the uchitach has a tachi and the shitachi uses a kotachi (short sword).
The main goal of kendo however is not to learn how to hit each other but is to have students increase their spirit and self confidence and respect for themselves and others. It is said that kendo begins and ends with rei (bow, respect). Reiho (etiquette) is extremely important in kendo and there are a myriad ways this can be expressed.
In the full contact aspect of kendo participants wear armor (bogu) to protect against injury. The swords are made of four staves of bamboo lashed together with leather (shinai).
Beginners are not allowed to wear armor until they have learned basics of how to move, how to strike, and how to receive strikes. Typically this will take anywhere from 3-9 months depending on how often they practice and other measures. The instructor (sensei) will determine when students will be allowed to practice in bogu.
When first starting out students need only to wear comfortable clothing that they can exercise in and allows freedom of motion. We usually recommend that students wait to purchase a shinai and bokuto until after their first month of practice. This is for two reasons… 1) Kendo is a activity that has a high attrition rate. For this reason we believe it is best for potential students to come and try it out before making purchases.; 2) There are shinai, bokuto and uniforms (kendogi and hakama) that are not of high enough quality to be used in actual kendo available on the internet. We prefer to have students be educated as to what is needed before making a purchase so they do not needlessly spend money and for the protection of themselves and their practice partners.
Once a student has decided to continue to learn kendo they will need to officially join the club and the national organization (AUSKF) in order to be allowed to take promotion exams (shinsa).