Kendo Techniques

Hidari-uchi (striking to the left)

A single blow to the left temple is regarded as sufficient practice to this side, which is

the easy side. In normal practice the Hidari-do (left Do) plate 123, and the Hidari-gote (left

Kote) plate 124, are out of play. These come into play if the opponent adopts an initial variation

Kamae (posture) and thus conceals or restricts the targets. This does not apply to actual processes

of attack.

The above attacks are known as Men, Hidari-men, Migi-men, Kote, Do, Hidari-do and

Hidari-gote in their shortened form.

Tsuki (the thrust)

The only thrust in Kendo is to the throat guard or Kubi-tare, the stiff pad at the lower

bottom of the grill. The Tsuki is very dangerous since the Shinai is a rigid weapon and this thrust

is forbidden below the rank of 3rd Kyu. At all times the Tsuki should be performed with caution.

A wild jab can easily damage the neck, or slip under the pad and cause permanent damage to the

throat. The Tsuki should only be employed when it has been properly taught and practised. This

is shown in plate 125 and it is not possible to pass so a step backwards follows the thrust.

The deliveries are as follows:

Jodan-uchi – Blows delivered from the high position.

Dai-jodan-uchi – Blows delivered with the widest possible action, touching the back each

time when lifting the blade. For exercise and development of technique.

Tenno-uchi – Blows delivered with the hands where instead of lifting to the Jodan position

as usual, the blade lifts in a limited action and both hands perform a ‘levering’ action which

results in a short sharp blow suitable for free practice or contest. Tenno-uchi should not be

confused with ‘inside palm’ and when striking the Kote the blade merely passes over the

opponent’s point and when striking the Do it is canted back to the attacker’s left should, much

as when passing after cutting.

Sashigari – thrusting cut. This is often termed Oshigari (thrusting cut). The blade is not

lifted above the target level but thrusts straight forward and a sharp crisp blow results in positive

footwork with well-timed Shibori (wringing action) as well as complete suppleness during the

delivery. In normal cases the Kote must be attacked by passing over the opponent’s point to the

other side but with this technique the attacker can drop his own point and pass straight in. This

is sometimes termed Maki-gote (winding in).

The Tenno-uchi and especially Sashigari cannot be understood unless correct action has

been learned by constant Jodan-uchi in the initial stages. The normal idea is for students of 3rd

Kyu status to begin a study of Tenno-uchi and 1st Kyu students to begin Sashigari. This does not

mean that such techniques may not be experimented with but if allowed to form the basis of

technique too early, the technique and style cannot develop.

Hiki-waza (reversed techniques)

Although students below the Dan grades have little chance of scoring with a backward

cut these are practised, especially when the first attack may be blocked. In this case the student,

instead of passing, steps quickly backwards and cuts to another undefended point. Hiki means

‘pulling’ although the student should not be mislead by this. The action of Hiki-giri is exactly the

same as a forward stroke, except that the body is moved backwards. The actual pulling action

is achieved by the left hand pulling back with the Shibori (wringing) and the arms remain


With a forward stroke the point passes over the target whilst in a backward stroke the

blade is passing the other way. Sashigiri cannot be made backwards and neither can the thrust.

The important factor of Hiki-waza is footwork and timing.

Hiki-waza comes under the definition of Nidan-waxa (two step techniques) since either

an initial attack, or a defensive action will occur prior to a backward cut. The method of delivery

looks exactly the same and the difference is only felt. For general classification Zenshin means

attacking forwards and Kotai attacking backwards.

Nuki-waza (drawing techniques)

Nuki means a drawing action, such as pulling a cork from a bottle and can refer to

drawing the opponent forward to take an advantage. Nuki-waza are also the types of strokes in

which the blade is drawn back, very similar to Hiki-waza but more deeply on the blade, from

Chu O to Dage-kibu (centre to striking base). Whereas the Hikigiri slides backwards the Nukigiri

drags backwards a little more deeply.

In actual fact Nukigiri is rather more an old fashioned sword technique and is modified

for practice today. The main technique which will concern the student is the Nuki-do in which

the breastplate is struck simultaneously with a side-step to the attacker’s right. The blade is drawn

obliquely across the opponent’s body as the left hand crosses underneath the right and draws

downwards towards the right knee.

Nuki-do can be performed when close to the opponent or in the face of an attack and to

avoid the downcoming blade, is normally performed directly from the shouldering position. The

blade follows the right foot in this case and whilst the step is normally fairly wide the Shisei

(posture) and head remain upright. Nuki-do cannot be easily performed against a static target.

Naname-waza (oblique techniques)

Naname-waza are not illustrated but consist of blows delivered obliquely, by entirely

changing the body-line. Naname attacks can be performed to any point but are easiest against Do

or Kote targets. Naname-waza are employed in contests since the side-step takes the body out of

the attack line and the return cut is made without swinging the body inwards.

Katate-waza (single hand techniques)

Single hand techniques are valid if correctly performed but should not be studied until the

Dan ranks are reached. The main difficulty is achieving the effect of Shibori (wringing) by

snapping the wrist inwards as the cut is made. Either hand may be used and the body is turned

sideways to the appropriate side. The left hand is much easier to perform and gives greater

control, besides adding some eighteen inches to the reach.

Katate-waza from Seigan (natural posture) consists of circling the blade backwards and

sweeping it up over the head and throwing forward. This is normally used merely as a ‘trick’ or

‘surprise’ attack and is rather dangerous unless controlled.

The simplest Katate-dzuki (single hand thrust) in which the left hand throws the blade

forward into the neck; this can also be the means of simultaneously escaping a Kote attack. The

Do and Kote are rather unlikely targets in this style.

The main use of Katate-waza are from Jodan (high posture) and the blade is thrown

forward just as the opponent attacks. The main defence against Jodan is to raise the Shinai point

to cover the high attack line, in a rather high Chudan (middle posture). The easiest targets are

the Tsuki or the Kote, both Kote and Do are in play if the opponent adopts Jodan. In this case

the man in Jodan will sometimes use the Katate cut to simultaneously avoid a Kote attack,

drawing the hand back as he cuts.

Bogyo (defence)

Bogyo is not really bothered with in Kendo other than as a means to create an opening

for a counter-technique but certain methods do exist.

Uke-dome (defence stop) is described later and is more or less the direct parry. There are

other methods of deflection or blocking and all avoid direct clashing with the opponent’s Shinai

and normally attack the downcoming Tsuba-moto (guard base) which is moving relatively slowly.

The easiest method of defence is Hiraku or ‘turning open’ in which, for example, as the

attacking blade cuts down to the Kote the defender slips his own point to the right and the

attacking blade slides down the inside. This can be applied in other cases. The attack to Do is

almost impossible to defend against efficiently and will often be simply blocked with the hilt

section, between the hands. It should be remembered that in the cutting position the opponent’s

guard will always return to the centre-line so that it is important to cover this line.

Renzoku-waza (combination technique)

Combination attacks are one or two attacks used to create an opening at another point.

It is impossible to simultaneously cover all points at once and if the defender’s mind stops on

parrying, or he can be tricked to move in one direction, a clear chance is gained to attack.

The first style of Renzoku-waza is to make positive attacks which the opponent will parry

and thus expose another point. This idea can be extended by circling around so that the point

circles over the opponent’s blade, as though to attack the Kote, then continues underneath, up to

its original position and thence to a Men attack. Meanwhile the opponent swings to the right to

protect the Kote. Later still just the merest gesture can cause a reaction or in the extreme a

strongly projected idea of attack in a master’s mind can cause the opponent to react. Whilst we

must always call the attacks correctly, we can think strongly about another target and if we lift

the Shinai and think strongly about the Do the opponent will often catch this thought and defend

whilst we attack the Men.

Renzoku practice is extremely good for judging timing and distance as well as developing

speed of thought but all Renzoku-waza are restricted to Sandan-waza or three step techniques,

after which the match must be restarted. This is merely to eliminate scrappy play and the factor

of luck rather than correct application of technique.

There are many variations, many of which depend upon the individual opponent’s reaction

against certain attacks. This is a matter of practising the basic forms, which can be easily worked

out and adapted to circumstances at the time.

Shikake-waza (initial opening techniques)

When practising, the teacher will open his attack line to allow the student to cut but this

will not hold true in practice. The opponent may not respond to Renzoku-waza and so another

method of removing the point is necessary. The majority of these actions are employed in counter

techniques as parries and are important movements of the Shinai.

Harai (sweeping)

Harai is performed with a semi-circular sweeping action, which spirals forward to turn

the opposing blade aside. On an advancing step the attacker’s blade is circled to the right,

downwards then upwards to the left, striking the opponent’s blade sharply to his own right and

opening the inside attack line. The action is made by turning the blade with the left hand, Harai-men is shown in plates 126 and 127 and can also allow for Tsuki. The outside

attack line is opened by circling over, or under, and snapping the opposing blade to the attacker’s

right. This exposes the Men, Kote and Tsuki, and if taken correctly will also open the Do line.

A very wide sweep is classified as Nage-barai, or long sweep, whilst a sharp sweep caused

mainly by Shibori (wringing) is termed Hari-barai.

Osai (pressing)

A stiff opponent will instinctively swing his point back to the centre, so that in this case

the blade is pressed aside by turning the attacker’s edge to his right and running down the

opposing blade, pressing the point off and controlling until the point is cleared. Rather than

pressing directly to the side, we thrust obliquely across the blade and Osai-men . Osai-dzuki is more awkward and so this technique is normally followed by a Men


Uchi-otoshi (striking down)

This is not illustrated, but will appear very like plate 128 and is employed when the

opponent adopts a low Chudan (middle posture) or Gedan (low posture). The angle of approach

is as for Osai but instead of pressing, the blade is smacked sharply downwards with the side of

the attacker’s blade. A powerful form of Uchi-otoshi is often employed to disarm.

Hajiki (springing)

This is best employed against a very stiff opponent and in pressing slightly to one side

the opponent will react by pressing back and by sliding our blade off the point the opponent is

caused to swing to the reverse side.  this opens the outside line and instead of Hajiki-gote as shown the attack could as well have

been Hajiki-men. Hajiki-dzuki can be made by slipping the point underneath the opposing blade.

The inside line is opened by pushing from the opposite side but only opens the Men

attack line. By pressing downwards the opponent can be made to spring upwards to his left side

and expose his Do. The Hajiki principle is very useful at very close range, which we term Irimi,

or Tsubazeri-ai. The pressure should not be too obvious or the opponent will realise what is


Mawashi (wheeling)

This is best performed against a limp opponent and in this case the opposing Shinai is

wheeled off with a spiral action, as shown in Mawashi-gote in plates 133, 134 and 135. Although

the opposing blade is more or less ‘scooped’ aside the factor to concentrate upon is maintaining

the point of contact as the blades twist about each other.

These are the more important Shikake-waza and as a rule the following stroke is short and

sharp rather than wide. The actual Shikake action may at first be made with a half step forward,

then later included in the initial development of the cut. Another name for Shikake-waza is Sakiwaza

or point techniques since the control the point of the blade.

Receiving Techniques

Kaeshi-waza means ‘returning techniques’ although the currently favoured term Oji-waza,

or ‘replying techniques’ is less confusing since one of the categories is known as Kaeshi. Ojiwaza

are methods of deflecting the attack, or avoiding, in such a way as to allow a counter blow.

Uke-dome (defence stop)

This is the straight ‘parry and riposte’, plates 136 and 137. The attacking blade is caught

and held in the Hidari-men-uke-dome (left mask parry) position and the counter attack stroke

made before he can react. In this action the blade is canted forward and across the body, whilst

being snapped backwards so that strength enters the blade by the linear motion applied along its

length. The point of the defending blade remains along the centre-line to aid in delivering the

counter-blow and strikes against the opposing blade’s Tsuba-moto. Instead of a clumsy side

movement this snapping backwards keeps the blade perfectly under control. This position is in

itself too weak to parry the attack so it must be ensured that the blade is actually snapping

backwards as the attack strikes.

As a general rule, the Hidari-men defence will allow a Men or Do attack whilst the

reverse Migi-men defence will allow all three attacks in reply. The Kote-uke-dome is performed

lower at the hip and can be followed by Kote or Men and the same applies to Do. They are

signified as Men-uke-dome-men or the attack, the action, and the reply, whichever may be


Harai (sweeping)

This is the same action as in Shikake-waza but instead of a full circle only a semi-circle

is necessary, to sweep aside the down-coming blade. Men-barai-men is shown in plates 138 and

139. The action of Harai is to thrust the defence spiral, or cone obliquely into the attack arc, so

as to cant it over and tilt the axis off,  Strong Shibori (wringing) action is made

when sweeping and the hands and palms should relax again prior to the actual cut.

Harai give the greatest variety since they can be performed to both sides and against any

attack. The effect of Harai is a sharp clash which knocks the attack aside.

Uchi-otoshi (striking down)

This is in effect the reverse of Harai, in that in this instance the semi-circle strikes

downwards instead of upwards. As with Harai the defending blade clashes against the Tsuba Moto (guard base) of the

attacking blade but is normally less efficient since it is necessary to lift the blade again to make

the reply cut, and time is lost unless the attacker is striking to either the Kote or Do. In the case

of Do, which approaches at a very oblique angle the action is very similar to that in the Uchi

Otoshi of Shikake-waza, except that the defending blade points towards the opponent’s right

shoulder and hip.

Suriage (brushing upwards)

Suriage is an action peculiar to counter techniques and is shown as Men-suriage-men in

plates 140 and 141. The defending blade thrusts forward and slides up the attacking blade, from

Tsuba-moto to Dage-kibu. Whereas the Harai is a clash, the Suriage is a soft, sliding action,

particularly useful against a thrust, or thrusting cut. After brushing the attack aside the defending

blade will be close to the Jodan position and a reply stroke is easily made.

Plates 142 and 143 show a variation of Men-suriage-do in which the blade is drawn back

to the defender’s left shoulder to facilitate a reply to the Do, in this case Nuki-do.

Kaeshi (reversing)

As in plates 144, 145 and 146 the defending blade thrusts forward into the attack, then

suddenly reverses so that the opposing blade slides away and from there is swung up into the

Jodan (high posture) position to strike. Great suppleness is necessary and the twisting off action

should be smooth. This can be very easily performed against Tsuki and can be performed to

either side. It is normally necessary to step further out to the side with Kaeshi-waza, so as to

allow more room for the reply.

Hazushi-waza (avoiding techniques)

These are not illustrated but consist in allowing the attacker to almost complete his stroke,

then suddenly avoid the cut and reply before he can recover. It is not considered good form to

‘dodge’ about or ‘duck’ and Hazushi-waza are performed in correct posture, normally raising the

blade at the same time.

Hazushi-waza can be performed by stepping backwards or to the side and also by

releasing the right hand and cutting or thrusting with the left, as described before. If we move

too soon the opponent will merely follow and if cutting against a real Master one normally thinks

the blow has landed and in this moment the reply suddenly snaps in as a complete surprise. This

precise timing is not a matter of judgement but a certain feeling or sense that develops with

training, an intuitive feeling for the correct time to move which can only be discussed in the

vaguest of terms.

These are the more common counter-techniques and in any case where the blade is to be

swept aside or touched, the defending blade should have the cutting edge turned away to follow

the spirit of the old sword techniques.