Kendo is the art of Japanese fencing. The character "Ken" means sword.
The character "Do" means way or path. Kendo thus translates to
"the way of the sword," a path in life which is followed through the
training of kendo.
The story of modern Kendo begins with the samurai and extends over the
culture of many centuries. The code of Bushido, "the way of the
warrior," stressed the virtues of bravery, loyalty, honor, self
discipline and stoical acceptance of death. The influence of Bushido
has extended to modern Japanese society, and Kendo was also
greatly influenced by this thinking.
Kenjutsu, "the art of swordsmanship," had been recorded since
the 8th century, and it gradually took on more religious and cultural
aspects. Sword making became a revered art. Zen and other sects of
Buddhism developed and the samurai often devoted time to fine
calligraphy or poetry.
By the late Muromachi period (1336-1568), many schools of Kenjutsu were
established. Each was taught by a famous swordsman whose techniques
earned him honor in battle. These schools continued to flourish through
the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), with the Ittoryu, or "one sword school,"
having the greatest influence on modern Kendo.
Real blades or hardwood swords were used in
training without protective equipment, resulting in many injuries.
Kendo began to take on its modern appearance during the late 18th century
with the introduction of protective amor: the men, kote and do and
the use of the bamboo sword, the shinai.
These made possible the full delivery of blows without injury.
It also forced the establishment of new regulations and practice formats
which set the foundation of modern Kendo.
After World War II, Kendo was outlawed because of its nationalistic
and militaristic associations. However, by 1952 supporters
successfully reintroduced a "pure sport" form of Kendo called Shinai
Kyogi, which excluded the militaristic attitudes and some of the rougher
aspects of practice characteristic of prewar Kendo, into the public
schools. Today, Kendo continues to grow under the auspices of the All
Japan Kendo Federation, the International Kendo Federation, and
federations all over the world.
Although the outward appearance and some of the ideals have changed
with the changing needs of the people, Kendo continues to build
character, self-discipline and respect. Despite a sport-like atmosphere,
Kendo remains steeped in tradition which must never be forgotten.
Herein lies the strength of Kendo, which has carried it throughout history
and will carry it far into the future.
The above is an abridged version of text which appears many places
online (author unknown).