Kendo is a Japanese martial art which means "way of the sword." Although several different martial arts utilized swordsmanship, this unique style of fencing made an appearance in the 20th century. It was recognized after the introduction of shina (bamboo swords) and bogu (body armor) created by Japanese master Naganuma Sirozaemon Kunisato. Kendo has adopted a concept of disciplining an individualís character through the principles of Katana, which is a sword.
The history of Kendo is very much associated with samurai during the Kamakura period (1185-1233). This period also marked the strong influence of Zen Buddhism on the development of Kendo.
Those who practice Kendo are called kendoka or kenshi, which means swordsman. Kendoka practice the martial art with loud shouts, or kiai, which are said to express the spirit of fighting. In Kendo, strikes are only allowed to be made to seven target areas of the human body. All of these body parts are covered by armor, to protect the opponent from severe injuries. These target areas are the top of the head, left and right side of the head, both wrists (while they are held in different positions), the torso, and the throat. Because many attacks against these targets can result in fatality, certain body parts are off-limits to practitioners who are not senior experts.
In competitions, points are only awarded to Kendo practitioners who earn them. Attacks must be performed firmly and adequately and must hit a specified target with precise accuracy. During a tournament, a referee will hold up a flag to announce when points are awarded. The flag's color will correspond to the color ribbon worn by the practitioner awarded the point. The first competitor to achieve a total of two points is considered to be the winner.
Since the founding of the International Kendo Federation (IKF) in 1970, approximately 8 million people worldwide practice Kendo. Its popularity is widespread throughout North America, Europe, South America, Asia and Africa.