“Regarding Kendo as Auxiliary training for Aikido,” by Nev Sagiba

Kendo sparring training provides an invaluable insight into metsuke, maai and deai, ki no musubi; and totally improves Aikido because it reveals insights into many attributes of combat that require speed and attrition to understand.

Some people have called Aikido the swordsman’s jujitsu as a result.

If you do decide to try kendo, be sure to begin slowly and softly and to escalate the intensity safely as you build up tolerances progressively. Otherwise, people won’t come back. The black and blue bruises are not as bad as they look and soon go away. Make sure to keep your elbows tucked in.

NEVER use tsuki in the beginning as it poses a very serious risk of grave injury and even death. (The shinai can shatter and penetrate the faceguard of the men with grave consequences) Use only proper shomenuchi and yokomenuchi cuts with men, kote and do frontal cuts as targets. (no wild sideswipes-they can be dangerous and leave you wide open to brutal counters)

Leave tsuki out of this training until you’ve been practicing for at least two years and have developed sensitivity, skill and clear understanding at high speed. Also, leave out leg strike for as long and if you intend to at some stage add them to the repertoire, get some suneatte, or knee and shin guard as used in Naginata.

This is not true armor combat where you look to penetrate the chinks. Rather, the armor in this case, in conjunction with the skillful Japanese design of the split bamboo shinai, is designed to minimize impact and the harm that would result if equivalent speed and power were used with a solid weapon and no armor. Bogu and shinai are training tools. Care for them well and yourself and all training partners. As with all armored training it can give you a false sense of security if approached with a wrong attitude. Conversely, it can also provide an appreciation of the dangers of such combat if it were real.

An experienced instructor is recommended, so you can get the basics in order first. If you’ve been practicing properly taught Aiki Ken and Jo, your Kendo will be strong. Sometimes too strong for practice. You will need to learn to tone it accordingly.

It is a good practice to use a heavy suburito to warm up solo, and to tire the shoulders first. Also, to build up a correct action. When you are physically tired your ki will flow better. Breathe. Suburito practice alone will correct and improve posture and stability and augment Aikido taijutsu exponentially. The Suburito is self explanatory, for practicing suburi.

Kendo training can also have high cardio value and is lots of fun. It can become addictive. Do not neglect your basic Aikido, Aiki Ken and Jo training as a result. Forget about “winning and losing” and train to learn and to improve, self correcting as you go. Then take it to the mat and do “jujutsu like a swordsman,” practicing Aikido basics.

It is also helpful to read the Book of Five Rings or Go Rin No Sho by Miyamoto Musashi when engaging in this practice. At first, it will seem cryptic, but particularly with swordwork of any kind it, will soon begin to reveal and unlock its “secrets” and you will gain remarkable insights.

When returning to Aiki Ken, be sure to slow down again, practice in a controlled manner, and of course not make human contact, as bokken and jo can be deadly and injurious weapons as shown by the aforementioned Mr. Musashi in his experiences in duels.

Nev Sagiba


  1. A heads up. re Kendo practice.
    To save years of stuffing around going astray playing fake stiksies and ending up in self deluded fairyland, a high risk in most “martial arts,” do this in practice:
    1/ Understand shomenuchi and yokomenuchi through practice before ever getting into bogu. This will enable both safety and also effectiveness.
    2/ Refrain from contacting or striking the other shinai unless there is a purpose related to immediate victory. In other words a shinai is harmless. No point beating it up. You are after its driver. The source of its ki. Just as with a real katana, you can damage the weapon by unnecessary clashing of weapons. (And they are not getting any cheaper.)
    3/ Aim for targets without getting struck; ie., kote, men and do. Clean cut (strike).
    4/ When struck ACKNOWLEDGE and pause. Regroup and restart practice as required.
    5/ Have a moderator or two present to bring honesty to the practice. Also take your turn as moderator to learn more visually, mitori geiko.
    6/ Use weapons as if you are unarmed and move as if armed when not.
    7/ Irimi, irimi, irimi!!! No back steps. For as long as you step back, you are just a beginner. And dead in a real situation. Mastering irimi will teach true tenkan.
    8/ You have 6 seconds to finish. This is not movie training for prolonged entertainment. It is for restoring kime survival instincts. Finish quickly. If you do go for a long time it’s the best cardio training. Don’t overdo it in the beginning. Build stamina gradually. Start slowly and build up speed and power progressively.
    9/ Away rei before and after and remember that you are practicing safely and respectfully to learn, not feed the ego.
    10/ Practice begins when you are exhausted. Before that it was merely play.

    Best wishes!

  2. Always rei..

  3. There is an distinct difference between two arts. I have trained in Aikido for twenty years, and always wanted to do Kendo.

    After a long layoff from Aikido, I have a great friend that trained in Kendo as long as I did Aikido. So I joined. Kendo you use the shinaI with your bogu [ protective gear]. One always start off basic footwork, much different from Aikido, ashI and rest of body square to your target.

    Always important your left foot remain square with hips and shoulders, unlike the oblique hanmI in Aikido. KenshI Sensei’s will correct you on the spot.

    Striking targets are kote, hand/wrists. men top of head and topside, do upper torso. Striking in that order when doing basic waza. Keeping your body square at all times, surI ashI [sliding feet] is the foot movement.

    When striking kote, men, do in succession kenshI stomps the forward right foot at each target. And with KIAI ! Your spirit shout !

    Understanding and studying how both arts are closely related. Why I took up trainng in Kendo was to feel what’s it like being stuck and striking back. Kendo training is very rigorous and a very good work out..

    Very important, there is also Kendo Kata, paired practice using wooden long sword [tachi] and wooden short sword [kodachi] The Kamaes and the Five Attitudes, I have found to be the essence of the spirit of Kendo.

    For those who want to train and practice Kendo, there is a lot of great Kendo Organizations throughout Japan, U.S. and as well International Organizations.. As with all Budo, ” the path to the top of the mountain, does not lead straight up “.

  4. The various specialisation modules and methods are all good for preserving basic techniques and strategies.
    After that they are all dispelled by a single and deadly strike in battle.
    Keep it simple and focus on the relevant and most effective and find your way.

Speak Your Mind