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Kendo vs. Fencing (What’s the Difference?)

Kendo vs. Fencing (What’s the Difference?)

The use of swords actually dates back to prehistoric times and ancient civilizations. However, it’s still alive today in the form of an organized sport. The sport was established at the end of the 19 century and it determines the skill of a swordsman.

Sword fighting has also been a part of martial arts, where one must master this weapon. The three main regions in which contemporary martial arts involves swordplay are China, Japan, and Europe.

Each of these regions uses different types of swords and has a unique style associated with sword fighting. They also refer to sword fighting in different ways. In Japan, it’s known as kendo, whereas, in Europe, it’s referred to as fencing.

Therefore, the difference between kendo and fencing is simply related to their respective regions. If you’re interested to know more about each of them, then you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, I’ll be diving deep into all the differences you need to know between kendo and fencing, which are both different sports styles of sword fighting.

So let’s get right to it!

Are Kendo and Fencing the Same?

Sword fighting has developed into a popular style of sport. Almost every part of the world today has some sort of sport related to sword fighting. However, different regions refer to it in different ways.

Therefore, one can say that kendo and fencing are technically the same. This is because they’re both referring to a similar style of sport.

Initially, fencing was established by the military for the purpose of self-defense as well as for dueling. It’s believed that it originated from Spain. The fencing sword has also evolved through many stages.

It started from a double-edged blade that was used for cutting and slashing to a pointed sword which is ideal for thrusting into an opponent’s body. The pointed sword is a much more effective and deadlier weapon than a double-edged one.

The art of fencing grew along with the Spanish empire and it made its way to southern Italy.

It’s from Italy where modern fencing stems from. It was established in the Italian School of fencing during the 1700s. The techniques of fencing were then refined by the French schools of fencing.

Since then fencing became more sports-oriented and moved away from only being used in the military. It also made its way into tournaments and competitions between army officers. Later it became a part of the Olympic Games, where it managed to gain recognition as an official sport.

On the other hand, kendo evolved from samurai sword fighting. Between the 1400s and 1600s, Japan was part of a civil war in which samurai warriors fought each other. Each of these clans had its own style of sword fighting.

Then later on as Japan moved into a more peaceful state, they started practicing the techniques in a safer manner. They did so by using bamboo swords and padded armor.

This all occurred around the same time as the renaissance in Europe, which is when fencing was recognized there.

Originally, it was known as Kenjutsu. As its techniques became standardized, it was renamed kendo. The All Japan Kendo Federation was also founded and through it, the sport gained popularity worldwide.

So basically, kendo and fencing were established in different countries around the same time which is the 1700s. They’re associated with the same sport, yet have many differences between them.

Keep on reading further to find out more about these differences!

What is the Difference Between Kendo and Fencing?

There are many differences between kendo and fencing. The main one is that kendo originated from Japan, whereas fencing originated from Europe.

A major difference between the two is the type of swords they use. The sport of kendo was established in order to replicate the fighting style of a samurai sword. However, these swords don’t use an actual metal blade. Instead, kendo practitioners, known as “Kendoka”, use bamboo swords which are called Shinai.

They also use a wooden sword known as Bokuto. The shinai swords have a maximum length of 120 cm.

Whereas, the Bokuto sword is shorter compared to the shinai. It’s more of a wooden version of a samurai sword.

On the other hand, fencing makes use of three types of swords. Each of these has a different set of rules and is also used in different competitions. The three swords are epee, foil, and saber.

Moreover, both kendo and fencing also differ in the armor they use. Kendo makes use of the Kendoka to wear protective clothing. This armor is designed to replicate that of a samurai.

This clothing includes a “Hemet” which is used for protecting the head, neck, and shoulders. It also has a metal grill that covers the entire face.

Then there are the gloves, known as Kote. They’re heavily padded and resemble mittens. They help make the sword more effective by allowing it to be gripped properly.

There’s also a chest protector known as Dō, which covers the torso. Traditionally, it was made out of lacquered bamboo but today it’s available in modern plastic. Lastly, there is a belt known as Tare, it has wide straps which are used to cover the groin and upper legs.

In contrast, the armor in fencing is made using tough cotton or nylon. It can also have Kevlar or Dyneema, which helps make the clothing even more protective.

There’s a jacket that covers the chest and arms. It also has a collar that helps stop the opponent’s sword from puncturing the neck.

Under the jacket, fencers wear a plastron. This is like an added layer of protection for the upper arm.

Then they wear a glove on the arm which carries the sword. It helps improve the grip. The most important part of the armor is the mask which has a metal mesh covering the face.

Apart from the armor and swords, both the sports also differ in their styles of fighting. In kendo, the sword is held in both hands. The body remains upright and the feet are close together.

Comparatively, in fencing, the sword is only held in one hand. This allows the body to stretch out when striking.

Fencing places greater emphasis on thrusting using the pointed blade. Whereas, kendo is more used for slashing and swiping.

Hemet that covers face of Kendoka
A Hemet with a grill that covers the face of a Kendoka.

Which is Harder Kendo or Fencing?

Besides all of the above differences, both the sports also differ in their rules. Kendo’s rules are much more complex than that of fencing, which is why it’s considered to be harder.

Fencing rules are very straightforward and limited. They’re not as involved and are relatively easier to understand as well as achieve. Whereas, kendo has so many rules which define what is appropriate in what cases.

For instance, kendo matches are based on three points. The first person who achieves two points is the one who wins. However, it’s not that easy!

This is because in kendo it’s not enough to just touch your opponent in an approved target area, unlike fencing.

You must also call out the name of that part of the body that is stuck in a sharp voice. Additionally, a kendo match is also overseen by three referees. Therefore, all these features make kendo much harder than fencing.

Here’s a table summarizing the main difference between kendo and fencing:

KendoFencing
Japanese martial artsThe sport of dueling with swords
Swords made out of split bambooSwords made out of metal blades
Emphasis on slashingEmphasis on thrusting
I hope this helps!

Should I Do Kendo or Fencing?

When it comes to choosing between the two, it’s suggested that kendo is a better choice than fencing. This is because it can be incorporated into a whole lifestyle.

Kendo focuses on budō. The ultimate goal of the sport is to achieve spiritual as well as ethical development.

On the other hand, fencing is just a competitive sport. This is why kendo is preferred to be better than fencing because it leads a person to attain growth.

With fencing, there aren’t any higher aspirations associated with it and it involves more intense as well as real techniques. In kendo, a Japanese martial art devotes their life in order to achieving spiritual discipline. It involves honor and promotes peace and prosperity amongst people.

However, if you’re simply looking for a sport that is engaging, then fencing might be a better choice for you as it’s not too involved.

Here’s a video guide to learning kendo:

You need to know this!

Is Learning Kendo Worth It?

Many people who have been practicing this art for a long time, believe that learning kendo is worth it! The reason is that kendo has many benefits associated with it. It teaches one to have patience as well as coordination.

This sport is a very vigorous martial art that will help develop strong cardio. This will provide one with the strength needed. It also helps burn calories.

As it is associated with spiritual development, kendo will also help strengthen your mental health. It helps you become more mentally resilient and also allows you to perform better in stressful situations.

Moreover, it’ll also help you progress. This is because once you get into it, you start to self-criticize and try to improve yourself.

Many people actually believe that it’s an amazing hobby cum lifestyle. So, you’ll also enjoy it a lot!

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the main takeaways from this article are:

  • Kendo and fencing are both different styles of sword fighting. The main difference between them is that kendo originates from Japan. Whereas, fencing originates in Europe.
  • They both have differences related to swords and armor used as well as the style of fighting. Kendo is used for slashing and fencing is used for thrusting.
  • They both differ in rules with kendo having more complex ones. This is why it’s considered to be tougher.
  • Kendo helps one achieve mental peace and prosperity. It promotes a spiritual and disciplined lifestyle. Whereas, fencing is simply a competitive sport.

I hope this article helps you differentiate between Kendo and Fencing with their own styles of sword fighting.

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