Kendō Terminology

As an American learning kendō I have had to learn a lot of Japanese words, pronunciations and customs.  Below is a sample of various kendō-related terms that new kenshi may find helpful.  Please let me know if there are other terms I have missed or which you have heard and don't understand.

For more information on kendo in general and for more in-depth explanation of terms I highly recommend  This site has many helpful articles and the owner is very open to answering emails and questions.

General terms

Term Definition
Kendō Literally "The way of the sword."
Kendoka / Kenshi Terms for a person who practices kendō.  Kenshi is literally "swordsman."  Kendoka is "expert in kendō" but often used for anyone who practices.  Kenshi seems to be more accepted.
Kamai Stance or ready state.
Chudan no kamai (also just "chudan") The standard kendo stance. Sword is held in front with both hands pointing towards the opponent's neck. Chudan is a very versatile stance is is by far the most common.
Jodan no kamai (also just "jodan") Stance in kendo where sword is held above the head ready to strike. A very aggressive stance.
Geidan no kamai (also just "geidan") Stance in kendo where sword is held in front pointing towards the opponent's knees. Often a defensive stance.
Hasso no kamai (also just "hasso") Stance in kendo where sword is held to the side of one's cheek. Only used in kata.
Waki gamai Stance in kendo where sword is held behind with blade pointed down or up ready to strike forward. Only used in kata.


More info here but here are the basics for counting. Some numbers have multiple pronunciations in Japanese since certain sounds (e.g. "Shi") sound like other words in Japanese which have bad meanings (e.g. "Death"). But for just counting during suburi or warmups "Shi" and "Shichi" are often used for 4 and 7.

1 - Ichi 6 - Roku
2 - Ni 7 - Shichi / nana
3 - San 8 - Hachi
4 - Shi / Yon 9 - Kyu / ku
5 - Go 10 - Ju

Class commands / instructions

Term Definition
Seiza Sitting with your knees on the floor with your behind on your calves.  
Kiotsuke lit. attention.  When in seiza correct your posture, face forward, hands in lap.
Mukso While in Seiza meditate.

To practice.  Keiko can mean "practice in general" but is often used to mean ji-keiko.  There are many types of this keiko.  

  • Ji-geiko is standard sparring with others where both students fight each other. 
  • Motodachi-keiko is practicing with sensei who are lined up and practice with students lined up before them.  
  • Kakari-keiko is practicing where one student constantly attacks while the other receives.





Term Definition

The armor we wear.


The "helmet" we wear.


The front-grid portion of our Men.  This is the bit you look through.


The glove and wrist protectors we wear.

The abdomen protectors we wear.


The long bamboo sword used in practice.  


The hand-guard on the shinai.


The rubber ring which holds the tsuba in place.


Long thin cord which runs along the back of the shinai from the tsuka to the sakigawa


Leather "handle" portion of the shinai.


Leather cap at the tip of the shinai.


Small strip of leather which wraps around the shinai towards the end about 1/3 of the way from the tip.  This holds the staves of the shinai in place and also provides an indication of where the monouchi section of the shinai begins/ends.

Bokuto / Bokken

A wooden sword used when practicing nihon kendō kata.  Both terms are similar but "bokuto" is often preferred in kendō.  Note that other martial arts use bokken as well yet may be slightly different from those used in kendō.  

Nihon Kendo Kata

Kata are kendo forms. There are 10 forms in all (7 with long swords, 3 with a short sword). All kata are done with two people playing different roles.

Uchidachi The "striking" or "attacking" role. This role often initiates hostility and always "loses" the kata.
Shidachi The "reciever" role. This role always "wins."
Bokken / Bokuto Wooden sword used for kata practice. Bokkuto is more often used in kendo while bokken is a term used more in other martial arts for a similar instrument.
Tachi Long sword.
Kodachi Short sword.
Ippon-me First kata (either with long sword or short sword)
Nihon-me Second kata (either with long sword or short sword)
Sanbon-me Third kata (either with long sword or short sword)
Yonhon-me Fourth kata
Gohon-me Fifth kata
Roppon-me Sixth kata
Nanahon-me Seventh kata