Kendo vs. Judo: Key Differences

Kendo vs Judo lg

Kendo and Judo are both highly popular Japanese martial arts. But what sets them apart? What are the similarities and the key differences between Kendo vs. Judo?

Here’s what I think:

Both Kendo and Judo are hard martial arts. But Judo is a complete fighting system that is ideal for self-defense and as a sport, while Kendo is great as a sport but practically useless for self-defense purposes. It’s essentially a Japanese form of fencing and not sword fighting.

But there’s a lot more to know.

In the article, we’ll check out whether Kendo was banned and whether Judo is better than Jiu-Jitsu. But we’ll also find out if Judo is harder to learn than Kendo.

Let the fun begin.

Why was Kendo banned?

Kendo and all other martial arts were banned by the Allied forces that occupied Japan following WWII because they were powerful symbols of Japanese nationalism, and Japan had militarized martial arts during the war. 

The ban was put in place in 1946 and then lifted 4 years later in 1950.

At the time, you didn’t see martial arts in movies and TV shows, so it was still very mysterious and mystical. And since Japan was using martial arts in their military, Kendo and other arts were seen very fearfully.

So, the occupying powers decided to be proactive because they probably thought that the trend could eventually morph into a threat that may consequently harm them.

Ironically, Kendo is Japanese fencing and not really great for taking out enemies.

You’ve probably wondered about how it differs from Western fencing. A recent article of mine is an exploration of the crucial differences between Kendo and fencing.

In it, I looked at whether fencing is like sword fighting and if Kendo is good for self-defense. I even offered advice on whether to choose fencing or Kendo.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Judo better than Jiu-Jitsu?

Judo is not better than Jiu-Jitsu. Judo is, in fact, an offshoot of Jiu-Jitsu. But Jiu-Jitsu has fewer restrictions and limitations and can be more effective for smaller or weaker practitioners. 

Judo tends to start more often in standing and then focuses on takedowns to take the fight to the ground. Jiu-Jitsu, on the other hand, is mostly fought on the ground, and it’s not as restrictive as Judo.

Both martial arts have a common origin.

As I mentioned, Judo is an offshoot of traditional Jiu-Jitsu. Then we have Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), which is an offshoot of both Jiu-Jitsu and Judo.

I actually prefer BJJ out of all 3 of them.

It’s like a full-blown and evolved Judo newaza (ground fighting). Judo, on the other hand, is more focused on takedowns. Both are effective martial arts, but BJJ is better if self-defense is the focus.

Judokas are being conditioned by all the rules they have to abide by.

On a psychological level, they may not be as daring and inventive in a fight because they have learned not to do certain things that can cause harm to their opponent.

Even after they’ve thrown an opponent in a real fight, they might not be able to take the fight to the “next level.” We know from experience that most fights ultimately go to the ground.

Even if two people were punching and striking each other, both or at least one party would be making an effort to get the other on their back because it’s easier to subdue and give people a brutal beatdown if they are lying on their back.

And, truth be told, the person on top often has an edge. 

But in BJJ, this is actually like adding fuel to the fire. BJJ fighters are in their element when they are on the ground. Even when they are on their backs. BJJ is about smarts. In fact, master BJJ fighters use almost every position to their advantage.

They are at home on the ground, and can quickly exploit a position, and are not hampered by many rules.

While someone is trying to subdue a BJJ fighter, they could easily and craftily detach the opponent’s grip and change the game. They are hip to different kinds of grips and holds that enable them to control their opponents.

But can you use Judo in a real fight? 

Check out a recent article of mine where I showed whether it’s good for self-defense and whether it’s better than karate. But I also revealed which fighting style is best for street fights. Be sure to check it out.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Judo harder to learn than Kendo?

Judo is much harder to learn than Kendo. Judo is more physically and more mentally demanding because it involves real-life drills with others. There’s always the risk of being injured. Kendo, on the other hand, is mock fighting, and the injury rate is incredibly low.

Judo is ideal for self-defense, while Kendo is not.

After all, you can’t be walking down the street with real or fake swords. The fact that one equips the practitioner with real-life skills that could end up saving their life says a lot about which one is harder to learn.

Kendo involves learning how to effectively wield the bokken (a wooden sword) in strikes and thrusts directed at parts of the opponent’s body.

It’s a simple, delicate skill to master, and it requires the ability to have sharp reflexes. There are a few techniques that take a long time to master.

Judo is not simple.

It’s a complex martial art where the main goal is to throw or pin an opponent in a manner designed to cause them harm.

The idea is to subdue them, even as they’re resisting!

Consider that in 2.5 years, one could learn Kendo well enough. But to learn Judo would take up to 6-8 years. There are at least 100 core techniques to be mastered.

Say you’re wondering if Judo can help you build strength.

Check out a recent article of mine where I explored the theme in some depth. I revealed whether Judo is good for fitness and the muscles of the body it works on. But I also shared the kind of training required for Judo.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Did the Samurai use Kendo?

The Samurai did not use Kendo, as Kendo was established in 1920, and the Samurai were abolished in 1876. But Kendo is rooted in the art of Kenjutsu, which was practiced by samurai warriors. 

They were an actual warrior class who were banned as modern Japan began to evolve. They think this would constitute a danger to the civilian populace to have warriors walking around with spears and swords. In Kendo, fake or mock swords are employed.

Kendo is a gendai budo (a modern martial art), and it arose after the Meiji revolution.

Around this time, the Samurai was already a relic of the past. But it is believed that the techniques in budo are based on the training methods employed by the Samurai.

As I mentioned, what the Samurai employed was known as Kenjutsu, kind of like hard-core sword fighting. Kendo, on the other hand, is fencing (mock sword fighting), a modern sport.

How long does it take to master Judo compared to Kendo?

Mastering Judo and achieving a black belt can take 8 to 10 years, while Kendo can be mastered in 2.5 to 4 years. But Kendo does not utilize a belt system, although there are ranks.

You might think that 8-10 years is simply too long a time.

It is indeed long. But true martial artists focus more on the journey rather than a destination. In fact, a black belt is in no way an indication that the holder is now a master, but rather that they are on the path to mastery.

The best martial artist I know personally, a friend named Sensei Gene Smithson, was amazing when I first met him in 2013. But he only gets better and better, and the journey of mastery never ends.

And then consider that Judo has at least 100 techniques to be learned.

One doesn’t proceed to the next set until one has mastered the prerequisites. In fact, at the beginner phase, a good deal of time is spent simply on learning how to break falls, seeing as this is an integral and vital component of being an adept Judoka.

Fortunately, Judo has a structured ranking system and a developed curriculum since it is a sport and martial art that has been around for a little over a century.

So, a serious student can gradually proceed from one level, represented by different color belts, to the next.

Why the Japanese Police trains Kendo and Judo 剣道 柔道


In the article, we checked out whether Kendo was banned and whether Judo is better than Jiu-Jitsu.

But we also found out if Judo is harder to learn than Kendo.

Then, we explored whether the samurai did employ Kendo. Lastly, we wrapped things up by looking at how long it takes to master Judo relative to Kendo.

Photo which requires attribution:

Gara kendo by Luca Mascaro is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, merged, and had a text overlay added.

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