West LA Kendo Dojo

I want to do kendo, but am afraid of getting injured. Is kendo right for me?

Despite being an aggressive, combat-oriented activity, the potential for real injury is very low given that the kenshi follows good judgment and correct teaching. This is because of the protective armor that a kenshi wears during practice and the low impact nature of the shinai, but mainly because proper kendo emphasizes correct form and technique, not brute force. The most common injuries in kendo (foot and heel sprains) can be easily prevented by properly stretching in the beginning of practice. Getting hit by a shinai in a location that is not protected by armor (such as the arms) will never cause more than a light bruise at the most. If additional protection is desired, various padded protectors (heel, knee, elbow, wrist, etc) can be purchased.

How do I join the dojo?

Everybody is welcome to take classes. If you would like to come in and observe class, either contact an instructor ahead of time or simply show up. Look at the schedule for a convenient time and arrive early, so that you may ask the sensei for permission to sit in and to ask any other questions you may have. If you come during practice, wait until the end of practice to talk with a sensei or instructor. Whenever you want to begin your first day of training simply wear comfortable workout clothes (gym shorts/sweats, t-shirt), the rest will be provided for you.

Am I too _________ to do kendo? Can I do kendo if I'm _________?

Anyone can do kendo. If you think you're too old, realize there are kenshi in their 80's who still compete and win in tournaments. Kids also do kendo at West LA, and often start as early as 6 or 7. There are kendo practitioners who defeat people nearly twice their weight, or who have great height or strength advantages over them. Kendo does not rely on physical advantages and disadvantages, and instead rewards those who practice diligently and seriously and learn the proper philosophy and technique of the art. In fact, there is one kenshi who competes and wins despite having lost both legs! Kendo is for everybody.

How much does all this equipment cost? When and where do I need to buy it?

You may borrow a shinai to use for the first few days, but you'll need to eventually buy your own ($25-30). If you decide to keep doing kendo, you will need to buy a hakama and keikogi after a few weeks ($80-200 for both, depending on quality). From then on, you can borrow the dojo's bogu sets, but you will eventually need to purchase your own set in about 3-6 months. Kendo bogu range in price from $350 to $3,000 and more, but a good starting set should cost you $350-$800, depending on how much you want to spend. Go to the links section for kendo equipment suppliers.

This may seem like a lot of money, but keep in mind that a set of boguł hakamał and keikogi will last a lifetime of practice if maintained properly, and that, in the long run, the high price of bogu evens out with the relatively low dojo tuition.

I don't want to get hurt! Will more expensive bogu give better protection?

No. Please don't go out and spend $1,000+ on your first set. All bogu provides more or less the same functionality, and therefore will protect you all the same. High priced bogu usually means that it has higher-quality/hand stitching and will last longer. Otherwise, the differences are usually purely aesthetic -fancier embroideries, exotic do materials, etc. These bogu are a sign of prestige, experience, or status, and should be respectfully reserved for higher ranks and sensei. More traditional kenshi will look down upon those who wear bogu that is too good for their skill level. A solid set of bogu for $350 should last several years and protect as well as any set of bogu will.

I don't speak Japanese, what are you guys talking about?

Here's a quick glossary:
Kendo - Way of the sword
Shinai - Kendo sword made of bamboo.
Bogu - Kendo armor
Kote - Fencing gloves, or strike to the wrist.
Men - Fencing mask, or strike to the head.
Do - Chest and abdomen protector, or strike to the side of the body.
Dojo - Training hall
Hakama - Baggy, skirt-like trousers, part of the uniform.
Keikogi - Cloth jacket, part of the uniform.
Kenshi - Practitioner of kendo
Dan - Advanced, or black belt rank in kendo. Dan counts up from 1 to 8.
Kyu - Beginner's rank in kendo. Kyu counts down from 6-1 and proceeds to 1st Dan.
Sensei - Teacher, title given when reaching the rank 4th Dan.
Kenjutsu - Art of the sword

Here are some frequently asked questions for beginners. If you have more questions, please e-mail us.
  > West LA Kendo Dojo is a non-profit organization founded in 1952.