Is Kendo Easy to Learn?


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Kendo looks a lot like sword fighting, or at least fencing. But between learning the footwork and how to yield the wooden stick, is Kendo easy to learn?

Here’s what I found out:

Kendo is not difficult to learn. It’s not as physically demanding or as complex as some other popular martial arts. But it does take at least 3-5 years to master as it’s a strategic art that’s about learning how to execute “the perfect strike.”

The above is just the tip of the iceberg.

In this article, we’ll learn a lot more. We’ll explore how long it takes to learn and what age one should get started learning. But we’ll also look at the muscles of the body that are employed when Kendo is practiced.

Let the fun begin.

How long does it take to learn Kendo?

A serious Kendo student can become proficient in 3 to 4 years. Kendo, like most martial arts, is a life-long pursuit. As such, serious practitioners do not think of “graduation day.” Since it’s about how to improve oneself, there’s no end to the process of learning. 

But mastery is a different ball game.

This is why even the best never stop training. “The journey is the destination.” To put the time required in perspective, there are 6 Kyu grades and 8 Dan levels. That’s 14 steps, as it were.

The Kyu grades are preparatory, and that’s the gradation for unranked students.

The real beginner phase starts at the Dan level 1 and proceeds to the 3rd level. The 4th Dan level is the intermediate stage, and after this stage, a devoted student has acquired enough training to become an instructor.

A lot of practitioners reach the 5th or 6th level.

But the higher levels are often reserved for those who evince uncommon devotion to the art and have probably started it when they were very young.

At what age should you start Kendo?

The ideal time to start Kendo is the age of 7 because, at this age, the child has some level of maturity that allows them to understand instructions and take steps that can prevent them and their partners from injuries and fatalities.

At 7, a child may not yet be able to properly articulate its value or why a particular technique is done the way it is done, but they would know if they were having fun.

So, good instructors employ a mix of games and skills in teaching children.

The games are vital because it’s a good way to ensure that children, especially at a young age, are motivated to continue learning. As they grow older, they would most likely be more inclined to continue.

So, it’s ideal to start learning as early as possible.

That said, some folks start learning at 27 or 57, and even at a later age. Unless one has some serious illness that impairs one’s ability to move, one can start learning Kendo even as an adult.

How does Kendo differ from fencing?

In a recent article of mine, I looked at the crucial differences between Kendo and fencing. I explored Kendo in relation to sword fighting and whether it’s ideal for self-defense. But I also covered the 1 way the two are completely different.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What muscles does Kendo use?

Kendo uses the muscles in the back, shoulders, forearm, upper pectorals, latissimus dorsi, wrists, quads, hamstrings, and calves. These are the muscles that are directly and indirectly in motion when the shinai (bamboo sword) is being used.

So, we can see that a lot is going on when you do Kendo. Adept Kendokas merely make it look easy.

On a lighter note, after an intense session, it would probably feel as if you’ve used all the muscles in your body. Let’s find out a bit about the role of some of these muscles.

You need to be able to move swiftly and smoothly, lunge at your opponent, or carefully deflect their strikes and thrusts. For this, the hamstrings and calves are the muscles that are triggered.

The thigh muscle (quadriceps femoris) is also critical in this respect.

The latissimus dorsi and the triceps brachii are needed to grip the shinai and swing it with relative ease. But to strike or thrust well, the muscles of the back, shoulders, and forearms are indispensable.

The more supple they are, the easier it is to execute captivating and efficient cuts!

But I’d be remiss if I fail to add that even though these muscles are activated, Kendo is not about an excessive focus on strength. So, there’s no need for aggression. It’s more about strategy.

You’ve probably wondered how Kendo compares to Kempo. 

In a recent article of mine, I explored both. I looked at the difference and whether Kendo is a fighting style. While the names may be similar, the styles are very different. But there is 1 huge way the 2 are similar.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How can Kendo improve a person?

Kendo can improve a person in three major ways: mental, physical, and spiritual. It helps practitioners become fit physically as it makes them nimbler, and it builds strength and endurance. Mentally, practitioners learn how to focus and be calm in the face of stress. 

It will help you in developing the muscles that are in motion when you employ Kendo.

We looked at these muscles in the section above. Of course, not the way a bodybuilder’s body is developed. But it’ll make you more supple, swift, and alert. You’ll also improve your reflexes and burn about 700 calories per hour.

Just like other popular Eastern martial arts, the training is not merely physical. 

Spiritually, it imbues you with the ability to evince enthusiasm even in battle. A skill that translates into other facets of life. Because Kendo can be traced back to Samurai culture, some lessons help in personal development and refining one’s character.

It’s not simply about fencing and hitting others, but also about being conscious of one’s weaknesses and working continuously to overcome them.

As such, it can be highly humbling. There’s also the joy of contending with difficulties and gradually learning how to deal with them. It’s also great for reducing stress.

But if you’ve got to choose between HEMA and Kendo, which one’s better? 

In a recent article, I explained what HEMA entails and why it’s better. I spoke about whether Kendo truly counts as a martial art, and I revealed whether HEMA is good for self-defense.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Can you teach yourself Kendo?

The basic footwork and sword movements of Kendo can be learned by oneself. But Kendo is the art of Japanese fencing. As such, it involves two people contesting with each other. Naturally, it’s ideal to learn it in a setting where there are seasoned instructors and partners to train with. 

So it is possible to teach yourself the basics by watching videos and practicing the techniques being employed as a fundamental step in your learning.

The truth is that you can teach yourself a lot by following the instructions of an adept Kendoka. There are online courses you can employ. The key is to set up a conducive environment where you can move with ease and where there’s no possibility of injuring yourself.

You’ll need a full-length mirror and, of course, a laptop through which you’ll watch the instructional video. The mirror is for you to be able to gauge whether you’re able to replicate the moves as faithfully as possible.

Before starting your “classes”, ensure you do some basic stretches and push-ups to get your body ready.

You can also sit on the floor and turn around a few times. Raise your hands and swing them sideways a few times. The idea is to get your body warmed up.

Watch what the instructor is doing and copy it over and over again.

Gauge how close you are to what you’re seeing. Depending on your schedule, try and practice three times each week. The idea is to get some of the fundamentals down cold so that when you eventually start going to a dojo for formal training, you’d have covered some ground.

Conclusion

In the article, we looked at how long it takes to learn Kendo and the ideal age to start learning it.

We also looked at the muscles that are used in Kendo. Then, we explored some of the benefits of learning it. Finally, we wrapped things up by checking out if it’s feasible to teach oneself.


Photo that requires attribution:

Kendo by Vincent Diamante is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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