The Kumo and Matsu That Protect Kenshi

The Kendo Mune has some decorations around the chest other than the beam of light. It is woven around the beam in a Kumo pattern (cloud), Matsu pattern (pine tree), or a combination of the two. The Kumo pattern has two lines meeting together from left and right before creating a whirlwind shape after the cross. This is the traditional Kumo pattern, a design of nature cherished by the Japanese from long ago. The Matsu pattern is also a design passed on through the generations, characterized by its idiosyncratic shape like a slightly-crushed UFO. The most popular Matsu shape for the vest is called sangai-Matsui (three-story pine), a pattern with…

Tokuren Z: A Kendo Bogu made for winners

The Jutsuka Tokubetsu Kunren (術科特別訓練; Special Technique Training Department) or for short, the “Tokuren”, is a special Japanese police squad whose purpose is to promote and reinforce technical training within subjects such as Judo, Kendo, Taihojutsu, marksmanship, etc. to raise the overall level of physical and mental health among police officers. It’s well known in the Kendo community that some of the strongest Kendo players originates from the Kendo Tokuren police squad, and their long and harsh daily training routines makes them fearsome powerhouses that can be considered to be the true Kendo professionals, many of who are or have been ranked in the top in the All Japan Kendo Championships…

Buying your first set of kendo-gu?

Written by Alex Bennett, Kendo Kyoshi 7-dan You’ve been to the local dojo for a look. You liked what you saw. Throngs of frenzied jedis duelling with bamboo sabres. Could this be the martial art that will change your life? There is only one way to find out. You join the local dojo Progress in kendo is typically not that fast. It takes a long time to get used to the Japanese words, master the awkward fighting stance, and swing the shinai in unison with body and spirit. Depending on the dojo, the first few months will be spent learning footwork and suburi. Gradually you will move on to striking…

Most frequently asked questions about Kendo Kote Part 2

I want to buy a new Kote, could you please give me some advice? Like with the Menfuton, it’s good to get a Kote that is properly padded, where the padding is adequately thick and properly dispersed throughout the Futon and has good moisture absorption. Such a Kote will properly absorb any impact from hits and provide ample protection. We often hear people tell us that “machine-stitched Kote hurts”, however, it’s not the problem of whether it was machine-stitched or not, but rather that it wasn’t adequately padded from the beginning, and without enough thickness and elasticity in the padding, it will hurt when you are hit. Since the Kote…

Most frequently asked questions about Kendo Kote Part 1

Can you repair a Kote by yourself? Generally speaking in terms of Bogu, it’s said that by the time your Do has reached the end of its life-time, you will have gone through two Men, and three pairs of Kote. That shows how fast a pair of Kote can be expended and thus has to be repaired or exchanged much more often compared to other parts of your Bogu. The part of the Kote that most often need to be repaired is the palm leather, since small and large holes tend to open up rather often. If the hole is small, and you have the right tools, you can probably…

Indigo-dye: Because the “Japan Blue” has a scent of Wabi-sabi

Why are Bogu dyed with Indigo-dye?  Bogu are traditionally dyed using Aizome (indigo-dye) and in the past Aizome was something that the Japanese people could find all around them, the indigo-dyed color being a natural part of their everyday life. The famous Edo period Ukiyo-e master Andō Hiroshige, best known for his landscapes, made great use of the different shades of indigo to vividly depict the scenery of Japan. Also Lafcadio Hearn after coming to Japan, famously wrote “…the little houses under their blue roofs, the little shop-fronts hung with blue, and the smiling little people in their blue costumes…”, the indigo color making a profound impression in his description…

3 points to look out for when choosing your Kendo Men

Written by Akira Onishi, Kendo Bogu craftsman(Tozando) First of all, the point most people would prioritize would be to choose a Men that doesn’t hurt too much when you are hit. However, this is hard to know, so let me explain from the beginning. The Men Futon is usually stuffed with varying layers of cotton and felt, thanks to these, when you are hit by a Shinai the padding absorbs the impact. In a good Men, the padding will not only be soft, but also highly elastic, which means that the padding after being compressed by the impact of the Shinai, will strive to return to its original state, dispersing…

Kozakura and Shobu: Patterns that typify Samurai’s spirit

In the last article about Shokko, we spoke about the Shokko patterns on the Mune and Ago on the Bogu. This time we are going to take a closer look at the patterns which most Kendo practitioners are familiar with, such as “Kozakura” (Cherry blossom) and “Shobu” (Japanese Iris) patterns. You might think, “Where do you use Shobu patterns in Kendo?”  Please think about your Shinai Bag, some people in your Dojo might have a Shinai bag with a green color and white patterns. In that pattern, there should be a white cross visible in the center, with three thin lines on each side of the cross. It’s a pattern that…

It’s only Shokko but surely Shokko.

When looking at Kendo Bogu, whether it is online or in catalogs, you often see the word “Shokko” in the description of the Bogu. Shokko is part of the Kazari decoration on the Ago and on the Mune, and in general, most people thinks that it’s a name of the decorative patterns used for Bogu, although the concept of the word “Shokko” itself is rather vague. This time we will take a closer look at “Shokko”.  “Shokko” is originally the name of brocades from the state of Shu during the three kingdoms era in China. In Japan, we have many traditional patterns that have been passed down through the ages….

How safe is Tsukidare (Ago) actually against Tsuki?

Tsukidare (Ago) is a part that we pay much attention to as craftsmen, since any strike to this part comes with a lot of danger. When wearing the Men, many people tend to grab it by the Ago and wear the Men, however, it’s not good to do so, as if you handle it roughly, the Ago might come loose or even get ripped off. Especially when it’s wet with sweat after a Keiko, the part that where we attach the Ago also becomes weaker because of the moisture, so it’s especially dangerous to hold the Men by grabbing the Ago in that situation. In very cheap quality Bogu, we…