What Makes a Kendo Uniform?

Sword sports are not new to the world. There are variants of all kinds of sword sports being practised throughout the world. Every country had its own variant of sword fighting, which is to be expected, given that most countries of this world waged war at some point.

Sword fighting was normal and was a part of military training, but at some point, it became a combat sport. In Japan, kendo, a part of kenjutsu, has been around since at least the beginning of the 18th century and even before that, but as a martial art where actual swords were used. 

They switched to bamboo swords in the beginning of the 18th century, for obvious safety concerns. Protective gear still had to be worn and kendo practitioners wore it ever since. 

A kendo uniform is called a bogu or a kendogu, and it consists of the following items.

Men – Face and Shoulder Protection

Face and shoulder protection is necessary in kendo, mostly because the bamboo swords, known as shinai, hurt a lot. The mask is called men, and even though it seems like it means something else, it doesn’t. It is a Japanese word for face. The men consists of a face mask that has several metal bars. It goes all the way from the chin to the top of the head. Squarish pads are attached to the face mask and they wrap around the top of the head and are on the shoulders, as well, protecting the shoulders.

A throat guard is attached below the face mask. The back of the head is not protected and is ventilated. You can attack the centre, throat and upper left and right part of the mask. 

Kote – Hand and Forearm Protection

Kote are gauntlets that are like mittens. They are designed specifically for kendo and are comfortable, even though they are mittens. Single finger designs were used for a period of time, but it became problematic after there were many snagged finger injuries. The mittens extend upwards and protect the forearms as well.

Do – Chest Protection

The do is a breastplate, used to protect the chest from thrust and slashes. The do is often made out of lacquered bamboo or paper fibre, mistaken for fibreglass. The breastplate is angled outwards, so that the strikes bounce off and slide off areas of the torso that are weaker and more vital. It is supported by two diagonal ties around the shoulders and another one in the back. 

Tare – Groin and Leg Protectors

The tare protects the legs and groin by being tied around the waist and extending down towards the groin and legs. The belt is made out of thick cloth and flaps extend down, to protect the legs.

Sune-ate – Greaves

Naginatajutsu is a form of kendo that allows attacking the shins, so they need their own protection, which are the sune-ate or greaves.

Kendo is a tough martial art that needs a uniform if you want to keep your body from being bruised or injured. These parts make up the kendo uniform, bogu or kendogu.

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