Saionji practices kendo, a Japanese form of fencing. When I first viewed the series, I was pretty curious about this whole kendo thing. So I did some research both online and from my library and came up with this information. No, I am not an expert on the kendo and am only posting this to inform other curious fans of my findings. This is the result of research, not first-hand experience. If you find any of this information erronous, please tell me!
Kendo is an ancient and well-developed martial art. The word kendo means "Way of the Sword." (ken=sword, do=way.) Kendo is still widely practiced today in Japan.
A typical kendo practice session is divided into two parts - the shinai kendo and the kendo kata. The shinai kendo is basically a fight between two opponents, done with bamboo swords called shinai. In these practice fights, striking blows are limited to four target areas:
Men: a cut to the head
Kote: a cut to the wrist
Do: a cut to the abdomen
Tare: a cut to the throat
These are, incidentally, also the names of the various parts of the kendoist garb. The Men is the face plate, the Kote are the gauntlets that protect the wrists, the Do is worn like a breastplate and the Tare protects the waist. There are certain fight drills that the opponents practice as well.
No complete kendoist can practice shinai kendo without some kendo kata as well. Every martial art has a set of kata: a sequence of motions that the practicioner repeats over and over again to build strength and focus. Kendo kata are practiced with a wooden sword called a bokken. There are ten kata recognized by the All Japan Kendo Federation. They are performed by two people: an Uchitachi and a Shidachi. The Uchidachi is usually the teacher, and the Shidachi is usually the student. The Uchidachi attacks the Shindachi, who responds with one of the ten kata.
In an official competition, fights are three-point matches (best two out of three) with a five minute time limit. Tournaments are usually held in a single-elimination form.
For more information, please visit the Shikodan Kendo Club homepage.
BTW, I've started to study the Japanese language since I first wrote this article, and I've learned that the proper romanization of this sport is actually "kendou." However, I think this is a kind of awkward spelling - I never really see it written that way on any of my resources. So I think I'll keep using "kendo."
10/16/00: Jessi (PaintedFirefly@aol.com) submitted this information:
Although I am an American, I currently live in Chiba, Japan (outside of Tokyo), and I am part of my school's kendo team. As for the spelling of 'kendo', you can also put a line over the o, making it a long sound. Commonly in romaji though, it's just dropped, as most people will understand what you mean by just saying 'kendo.' When you attack, you must yell out in 'big voice' where you are attacking (i.e. 'MEN!' if you are attacking the head), and before the match starts, you must say 'onegaishimasu', which, rougly, means 'let's start.' At the end of the match, you bow and thank your opponent by saying 'Arigatou goziamasu'. Also, at the beginning and end of every practice, kendoists sit in lines, according to rank, shinai always to the left. We mediate for a few moments, then bow, and thank each other. There is a lot of 'manners' in kendo such as these.