These are some arbitrarily chosen (and subjectively answered) common questions, so please contact us if you have an unanswered question and we’ll add it to the list for future would-be askers, or if you can improve the existing answers.
- Is kendo the best and most enjoyable, worthwhile, and awesome thing I can do in my life?
- Can I do kendo even though . . .?
Yes. Kendo is a fast and athletic activity but any type of person can enjoy it and develop into a great kendoka, no matter what level they start from. Certain injuries can make kendo difficult, and it’s probably possible to imagine something that could prevent you from practising. However, on our links page you can see people doing kendo who are aged 8 or 80, have mental disabilities, or have lost both their legs.
- What do I bring to my first session?
Yourself, in flexible clothing. Kendo is done barefoot so don’t wear long trousers that you could trip over. It’s also always good to bring a bottle of water. All the usual health and safety rules apply, such as no jewellery or watches.
We have spare equipment you can borrow to start with.
- What do the sessions cost?
£0. We can use the university rooms for free and there is no charge for the teaching – we all improve together. There is a £5 annual fee to help us buy new equipment, organise social events, and so on. This can only be paid via the DSU’s website.
- Is kendo painful?
No. Everyone must learn to strike and wear the protection correctly. You will then be able to strike and be struck with full intensity without being hurt. If someone is managing to hit too hard, then tell them and/or a senior so they can improve their technique and keep kendo enjoyable and safe.
- Is kendo expensive?
Not to try, a bit more later. The sessions are free and you can borrow the club’s equipment to start with. Once you decide to keep going with kendo, you will need to join the British Kendo Association (BKA) to go to seminars, competitions, and gradings, and for insurance. They have an annual fee (with a student discount). You are encouraged to buy your own equipment as soon as you want to and can – we can get club discounts for most things so contact us if you’re thinking of getting anything!
- How do I get to the sessions?
We train in the Durham Students Union, Dunelm House, New Elvet, Durham, DH1 3AN. Go down the stairs to either the Fonteyn Ballroom or occasionally the smaller Vane Tempest room on the left. There is street-side parking on many of the nearby roads, and it is a short walk from the bus and train stations.
- What if I am late for a session?
Let us know if possible, but that’s okay, it’s better to show up late than never. Come in, get ready quickly, and join the session without interrupting everybody – but do make sure that a senior knows you’ve arrived. Try to arrive early so that you are ready to start as soon as the session begins.
- What if I am ill or injured?
Just be sensible. Don’t make yourself worse by practising if you should be in bed, and please don’t infect all of us if you’re contagious. The general and highly medical advice  is that exercise is good or irrelevant for you if your symptoms are localised above your chest, less so if it’s a chest- or stomach-related issue.
Same goes for injuries. The obvious priority is to recover enough to do kendo properly again, so don’t risk it.
If you are injured but can confidently avoid making it worse then let the sensei know and adjust how you practise appropriately. If you feel ill or are injured during a session, stop and tell the sensei.
- What if I have been away for a long time?
Please come back! Every year someone quietly disappears from the club; we always notice and miss you and will welcome you back no matter how long it’s been. You’ll be surprised how quickly you re-improve, even if you only started for a short while the first time.
- What is kendo like worldwide?
Kendo is remarkably unified across the world. Most large cities and universities in the UK have a club, as is mostly the case across Europe and America (I don’t know as much about elsewhere). Kendo is very popular in Japan and Korea (kumdo), and senior sensei travel all over the world to teach and continue building the great international community we share. Especially since we are a university club with many members regularly graduating and leaving, you have a very good chance of finding kendo wherever you end up.
- How do matches work in kendo?
A standard match is first to score 2 points by striking the opponent correctly on one of the four targets: the head, wrist, torso, or throat. As is often the case in kendo, this sounds deceptively simple. For a strike to be valid (ippon; yuko datotsu) the technique must be correct and executed deliberately with control over the situation. Judging kendo is extremely difficult and requires three senior referees at normal competitions. Penalties are awarded for things like stepping out of the court or dropping your shinai — two penalties is a point to the opponent.
- How do gradings work in kendo?
Kendo uses the same system as many other martial arts and other disciplines, but while other arts might assign coloured belts with those grades, in kendo we all look the same. The first and lowest grade is 6-kyu. From 6-kyu to 2-kyu gradings are done internally to the dojo and grades can be skipped. 1-kyu is the first grading that must be taken at an official BKA event, and can often be achieved well within the first year of regular practice. The next grade is 1-dan (‘black belt’, which in most martial arts means mastering the basics rather than the popular idea of mastering much more) and the highest grade is 8-dan. After each dan grade you must wait the same number of years (e.g. 3 years after 3-dan) before being eligible for the next grading. The ability level required increases dramatically, so people will rarely be ready before being eligible. For more about the 8-dan grading, see the documentary on our links page. Guidelines and details can be found on the BKA website. Gradings below 5-dan are held fairly frequently around the UK, more so for 1-kyu and 1-dan.
- Is this just a placeholder question for developing the site?
Of course not.