Budo World

Kenjutsu with Shinai

Until the middle of the Edo period, kenjutsu training was centred on pre-arranged forms named kata. However, training in kata led to a move away from actual combat and practical techniques, and some martial artists started to question this method. This provided the impetus for the development of bōgu (or kendōgu) and shinai. With this new equipment it was possible to spar freely in bouts in a method called “shinai-uchikomi-keiko”. At the beginning, the shinai was called fukuro-jinai, and was made of a bamboo rod finely split at its point, and covered by a leather pouch. Concerning the history of kendōgu, many aspects remain unclear, but it is said that around the Enpō period (1673‒81) various ryūha were already using some pieces of protective equipment. Furthermore, around the Shōtoku period (1711‒16), Naganuma Shirōzaemon Kunisato of the Jikishinkage-ryū used a set made up of men, kote, and tare; and during the Hōreki period (1751‒64), Nakanishi Chūzō Tsugutake started using such equipment in the Ittō-ryū. The use of bōgu started to spread rapidly. Kendō-gu as we know it now was completed around the Tenpō period (1830‒44) after several improvements.