Kendo Terms

Kendo Terminology


Aite- Opponent or training partner

Ashi-sabaki- Footwork to attack smoothly or avoid a swiftly striking opponent.

Ayumi ashi- A type of ashi-sabaki. This footwork is basically normal walking step. Should be performed using suriashi.


Bokuto- wooden sword used for kendo kata

Bogu- armor worn in kendo also known as kendogu.

Budo- Martial arts.


Chakuso-  The putting on of dogi, hakama, kendogu, etc. and the appearance created by putting them on.

Chigiri- Small metal plate inside shinai to hold pieces in alignment.

Chikai ma ai- (chikama) A distance closer than issoko itto no maai.

Choyaku suburi- A way of practicing swinging the shinai that involves continuously jumping forward and backward.

Chudan no kamae- One of the postures. Standing upright, the right foot is slightly forward and front of left foot is placed in line with right heel. The shinai is held with the right hand just below the tsuba, the left hand is at the tsuka-gashira, which is positioned in the center of the body with the tsuka-gashira pointed just below the navel. The extension of the kensen should point at the level of the opponents eyes.

Chushin- The center, in kendo the centerline of the opponent. Also refers to the x that marks the middle of the shiai-jo.


Daito- longer of two shinai used in nito kendo.

Datotsu- A strike.

Datotsu bu- The striking part of the shinai.

Datotsu bui- Striking target of kendo (Do, Men, Kote, Tsuki).

Debana waza- Waza where one strikes the moment the opponent is about to strike.

Degeiko- Going to other dojos for practice outside your home dojo.

Dô- Piece of bogu that protects the torso. Also the name of a strike target in kendo (dô-bui).

Dôgi- top part of kendo uniform that is typically made of thick quilted cotton.

Dô uchi- The act of striking the Dô.


En- The relationship between a player and their opponent in keiko or shiai. It is important not to sever this connection.

Enbu- A public demonstration of kendo.

Enzan no metsuke- To take in your opponent in their entirety  and not focus on a single point as if looking at a far mountain.


Fudô-shin- A state of mind which is not distracted or fixed upon anything and is able to respond to changing situations.

Fumi-kiru- To kick forcefully off the floor so that the body moves quickly. In kendo the foot which kicks off the floor when moving the body is called the fumi-kiri-ashi. The motion of kicking forcefully off the floor with the fumi-kiri-ashi is called the fumi-kiri-dôsa. Fumi-kiri is the noun form.

Fumi-komu- To stamp on the floor with the front foot so as to move the body stably when striking. The foot which stamps the floor with the entire sole is called the fumi-komi-ashi. Fumi-komi is the noun form.

Fukushin- associate referees in a match

Fukushō- second to last player in a team match

Furi-kaburi- big movement swing of the shinai above one’s head


Gōgi- referee’s conference during a match, held in the center of the court


Hachimaki- thin cotton towel worn on the head under the men (see tenugui)

Hai- “yes” (used to answer when called)

Hajime- “begin”

Hakama- kendo clothing worn on the lower part of the body, a long divided skirt-like trousers

Hansoku- match foul, results in one half-point against the offending player

Hansoku ikkai- “first hansoku”

Hansoku nikai, ippon ari- “second hansoku, one point” (awarded to the opponent of the offending player)

Hantei- referees’ decision of the winner of a match

Hasuji- cutting path of the sword (angle of cut)

Haya suburi- fast suburi, one count per backward step plus foward strike

Hikiwake- match draw

Hiraki-ashi- footwork used when the body is moving diagonally (front foot is same side as forward shoulder)


Igi- formal protest in a match, registered by a team manager

Ippon gachi- a match decided by one point, due to time running out in sanbon-shobu

Ippon shōbu- one point match (first person to score wins)

Issoku-ittō-no-maai- distance from which one can strike in one step


Jihō- second player in a team match

Ji-keiko- free practice

Jodan-no-kamae- kamae with the shinai above the head, with the left hand above the forehead

Jōgai- stepping out of bounds (this is a hansoku)


Kachinuki- a method of conducting matches in which the winner remains and keeps fighting until defeated

Kaishi-sen- starting line in the court

Kakari-geiko- attack practice

Kamae- basic stance; ready position

Kamae-te- command to assume kamae

Kantoku- team manager

Keiko- practice, training

Keiko-gi- kendo clothing worn on the upper part of the body, traditionally cotton woven material. Also referred to as kendogi or dogi

Kensen- the tip of the shinai or sword

Kenshi- kendoist

Ki-o-tsuke- “attention”

Kiai- a shout or yell to show spirit

Kigurai- confidence, presence, bearing

Kihon- basics

Kihon-dōsa- basic exercises, including uchi-kata and suburi

Kiri-kaeshi- basic exercise in which the sides of the men are struck repeatedly, typically in sets of a straight men followed by 4 strikes forward and 5 strikes backward

Kiritsu- “stand up”

Kōdansha- one with a high dan rank, typically 5th dan (godan) or higher

Kokyū- breathing

Kōtai- change places, alternate

Kote- kendo armor used to protect the hand, wrist, and forearm

Kote ari- awarding of the kote point in a match

Kyū- ranking system for pre-Dan levels


Ma-ai- distance between opponents

Massugu- straight, linear

Mawari-geiko- rotation keiko

Mejirushi- red or white tag tied to the crossed do strings on the back, used to distinguish the players in a match (also referred to as tasuki)

Men- kendo armor to protect the face, head, and shoulders

Men ari- awarding of the men point in a match

Men-no-uchi, sankyodo- “basic men strike, three count movements” (1=raise shinai, 2=strike, moving forward, 3=step back)

Men-o-tore- “take off the men”

Men-o-tsuke- “put on the men”

Metsuke- use of the eyes to see the opponent, see basic concepts

Mokusō- meditation performed in the seiza position, see basic concepts

Monouchi- the region of the shinai most effective for striking, located between the tip and the nakayui

Motodachi- person being struck to provide instruction


Nakayui- thin strip of leather tied around the shinai about one third down from the tip

Nafuda- name tag worn on the center of the tare (sometimes called a zekken)

Nihon me- “Second point” (continues sanbon-shobu after one player has scored the first point of the match)

Nuke-tō- draw the sword (shinai)


Okuri-ashi- the most basic footwork used in kendo, where the feet start and end in the basic kamae position with the right foot in front and the toes of the left foot even with the line of the right heel

Onegai shimasu- I request the favor (of a practice)” (said when beginning keiko with a more senior kenshi)

Osame-tō- return the sword (shinai)


Rei- bow

Rei-gi- matters of etiquette

Rei-hō- doctrines of etiquette, see basic concepts and shiai

Ritsu-rei- standing bow


Sanbon shōbu three point match (first person to score two points wins)

Sage-tō the posture taken when performing ritsu-rei, with the shinai held in the left hand with the arm hanging naturally at the side. The tsuru faces downward and the hand next to the tsuba.

Sakigawa- leather covering tip of shinai

Sayū-men- the right and left striking zones of the men

Seiretsu- “make a line”

Seiza- seated attention position

Seme- pressure applied to one’s opponent

Senpō- first player in a team match

Sensei- instructor, usually with rank 4th dan (yondan) or higher

Shiai- match

Shiai-geiko- match practice

Shiai-jikan- match time limit

Shiai-jō- court, typically about 11 meters square

Shinai- bamboo sword used in kendo

Shinai-otoshi- losing control of the shinai (this is a hansoku)

Shin-kokyū- deep breathing exercise

Shinpan- judge; referee

Shinpan-chō- head judge

Shinpan-shunin- court judge

Shinsa- promotional examination

Shisei- posture

Shizentai- natural standing position

Shōbu- “Match” (continues sanbon shobu after each player has one point)

Shōbu ari- “Match done” (announces the end of the match)

Shōmen- the side of the dojo or hall farthest from the main entrance, the side having the highest place of honor

Shōmen-uchi- a strike to the center of the men

Shūgō- gathering, meeting

Shushin- chief referee (makes the match pronouncements)

Sonkyo- the crouching position in which begins and ends each bout

Suburi- basic exercise which simulates striking the men repeatedly, performed without an opponent

Suburi-ikkyodo- one-count suburi (alternate striking forward and backward on each count)

Suburi-nikyodo- two-count suburi (raise the shinai on the odd count; strike on the even count, alternating the going forward and backward and each strike)

Suigetsu- solar plexus

Suriage- deflecting the opponent’s shinai using a circular, sliding motion

Suri-ashi- footwork in which the feet do not lose contact with the floor


Taiatari- hitting with the body

Taikai- tournament

Taishō- last player in a team match (captain)

Taito- holding the shinai at the left hip, ready to draw. The tsuka-gashira should be in front of the center of the body.

Tanden- a point located slightly below the navel in the center of the lower abdomen, considered to be the body’s center of mass

Tare- kendo armor to protect the waist, groin, and upper legs

Te-no-uchi- the usage of the hands to tighten/loosen the grip on the shinai or adjusting the balance between the hands when striking or responding

Tenugui- same as hachimaki

Tsuba- circular guard on the shinai

Tsuba-zeriai- the position in which the opponents are close to each other with tsuba or fists together

Tsuka- the handle of the shinai

Tsuka-gashira- the very end (bottom) of the tsuka

Tsukidare- flap on the men which protects the throat

Tsuki ari- “tsuki” (awarding of the tsuki point)

Tsuru- the string which runs along the top of the shinai and connects the tsuka, nakayui, and sakigawa


Uchikomi-geiko- practice striking the basic points on the motodachi


Wakare-during keiko- command during during shiai meaning for opponents to separate (timer does not stop)

Waza- technique


Yame- “stop”

Yudansha- kendoist with a rank of 1st dan (shodan) or higher

Yūkō datotsu-  valid point


Zanshin-  mental and physical presence of spirit, especially after completing an attack