The Kenchikai Kendo Club periodically holds in-person beginning kendo classes throughout the year in our Central Eastside Industrial District practice space in Portland, Oregon. Each class is run as a cohort (a small group of new beginners who join and finish the class together) that lasts approximately 8 weeks. Our beginner class is a one-time fee of $199, which includes:

  • The Kendo Basics course: ~8 weeks and ~15-16 classes
  • Access to out members zone, which includes reference materials, video, and more.
  • A shinai (bamboo practice sword) — $30 value
  • A shinai bag — $15 value
  • The first three months of club membership* — $90 value

*After three months, club membership is $30/month.

Upcoming Kendo Beginner Classes

Please see below for upcoming Kendo Basics cohorts, their schedules, and information on how to register. Keep scrolling for more information about the class itself.

🗓️
January 9, 2023 – March 2, 2023

When: Mondays and Thursdays from 7pm-7:45pm
Where: New Expressive Works
Address: 810 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97214
No. of Classes: 16
Class Size: Maximum 6 participants
Cost: $199

Registration is Closed!
🗓️
April 3, 2023 – May 25, 2023

When: Mondays and Thursdays from 7:00pm-7:45pm
Where: New Expressive Works
Address: 810 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97214
Class Size: Maximum 6 participants
Cost: $199

Registration is open!

➡️ Register For This Class ⬅️
🗓️
July 10, 2023 – Aug 30, 2023

When: Mondays and Thursdays from 7:00pm-7:45pm
Where: New Expressive Works
Address: 810 SE Belmont St, Portland, OR 97214
Class Size: Maximum 6 participants
Cost: $199

These are tentative dates and registration is not yet open. To be notified when registration does open, please 📧 share your email with us.

What is Kendo?

Originally derived from kenjutsu (an umbrella term for “Japanese swordsmanship”), kendo (剣道) translates to “way of the sword,” and is a modern Japanese martial art that uses shinai (bamboo swords) and bogu (armor) in order to practice with others.

Although kendo is a martial art, it was not developed for the purpose of self-defense. Kendo focuses more on self-discipline, becoming a better person, and cultivating your mind and body. In addition, Kenchikai values developing the community that is our club, creating close ties and friendships through our practice of kendo with each other.

About the Kendo Basics Class

Our Kendo Basics class goes over the basics of kendo, starting from zero. We cover everything you need to know to join the main practice.

Beginners do not wear a uniform or armor, and do not receive strikes. Even after joining the main practice (after the Kendo Basics course), you will spend most of your time attacking before learning to receive. In other words, you won't get hit for a while.

At the end of the ~8 weeks you'll know and/or be able to do:

  • Basic vocabulary used in kendo
  • Reigi (manners / etiquette)
  • Footwork
  • The four cuts/strikes: men, kote, dou, & tsuki
  • Kendo-focused conditioning drills
  • Drills to practice with a partner

Students will also gain access to our Online Members Area, which includes written and video explanation of a large number of concepts, drills, and the like. You will also get access to a syllabus for your cohort.

A screenshot of a previous beginner class' syllabus

Before each class, you will be able to read and preview video of what you'll be learning next. After each class, you will be able to read and watch additional explanations of the concepts covered in class so you can practice more effectively at home.

Example of an explanation page that goes over the shinai grip in a variety of ways

With this mix of at-home study and in-person application, students can develop a deeper understanding of the concepts they're learning. Additionally, individuals may study and practice ahead if they'd like, or catch up if they have to miss a practice.

Join a Kendo Basics Class

Upcoming Kendo Basics course are listed at the top of this page.

If you would like to be notified of open beginner classes, please 📧 share your email with us. We will only send you emails about upcoming beginner classes, which comes out to around 4-5 emails a year.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to send us a message!

FAQ

What Covid-related protocols do you have?

All in-person participants must agree to and follow our in-person keiko Covid-19 protocols. That includes wearing a mask while inside the practice building as well as being fully vaccinated and boosted, if available for the age group. Our protocols are stricter than Oregon and Portland’s current baseline, because we want to make sure as many people as possible are able to come to our practice. Plus, they follow our national and regional kendo federation recommendations.

If the linked protocols are not something you will be able to do, hopefully you will be able to register for a future Kendo Basics cohort, when our protocols are less strict.

How old / How young do I need to be to participate in this class?

We ask that all participants be at least 13 years or older. Unfortunately, we do not have a kids program at this time.

That said, all ages 13 and above are welcome! Kendo is a martial art that can be done whether you’re a teenager, or you’re someone with a few extra years under your belt. You see people in their seventies and eighties doing kendo fairly often. Our practice does a good job allowing people to work at their own individual paces, too.

What do we wear?

For the Kendo Basics class, and for a little while after, you can wear any athletic clothing, such as a t-shirt and shorts. Just make sure you're able to move around (tight jeans are not recommended!). When it comes to your feet, kendo is done barefoot. There is some specialized kendo footwear you could wear if you have issues with your feet, but most people will need to go without footwear to practice kendo.

What if I can’t make it to every class?

To successfully complete the class, we expect students to attend a majority of the Kendo Basics classes. But, life happens, and if you miss a few classes there will be ways to catch up.

First, you will receive text and video each week, going over what we did—and what we will be doing next. You can use these at home to learn and review what we did in class, then catch up the next time you come to in-person.

Second, there may be some optional Zoom classes, depending on the progress of the entire class.

Either way, there will be some ways to catch up, though you will still need to make it to most classes to learn (and practice) everything we have on our schedule before the end. If you have any questions or concerns about your schedule, please email jaered@kenchikai.com with more details.

How much is regular membership after completing the course?

Your first three months of membership are covered by joining the Kendo Basics course. After that, membership costs $30/month. Membership gives you (continued) access to our online members area, as well as any and all of our practices. At a certain point, after you’ve joined the regional (PNKF) and national (AUSKF) kendo federation, you will be able to join any practice in the US, and many parts of the world! More practically speaking, you can join the kendo practices of other clubs in Portland.

What are the other costs of kendo?

When compared to other activities or martial arts, membership at a kendo club tends to be much less expensive. Still, besides membership there are others costs to consider that we want to be upfront about.

Shinai (bamboo practice swords) start at around $25 each, and you’ll likely need to buy two or three a year, depending on how much you practice (your first shinai is included in the Kendo Basics class fee). You will also need to purchase a bokuto, which is a wooden sword used in kata (forms). This costs around $30 and will likely last you your entire kendo career.

Upon completing the Kendo Basics course, you will also be able to buy a uniform. A uniform will run you around $100 for a regular quality hakama and gi set, but you should be able to use it for 5-10 years.

Finally, after around 6+ months you will be able to wear bogu (armor). This is the largest cost in kendo, though a decent set of bogu should last you around ten years if you take care of it. Bogu varies wildly in price, but a decent starter set will cost $350-$500 for the whole thing. We have some extra bogu sets, and these can be rented or borrowed if available, though it’s hard to have a fit for everyone. Sometimes you can find used sets on e-bay and other similar websites, too.

In addition to club membership and kendo equipment, there are some other costs as well. After completing the basics course, you will need to join the local and national kendo federation (PNKF and AUSKF). Currently, this is an annual fee of $70 for adults and $40 for children, and this covers insurance for our practice, and allows you to participate in local and US events (examinations, seminars, etc) and join the practices of other dojos. There may be additional fees for seminars as well, and vary on a case by case basis.

These are the main costs of kendo. Although things like the uniform and bogu may seem like a lot, over the long term kendo costs are fairly minimal.

Do I need to speak Japanese to do kendo?

No you do not. Things like commands, counting, technique names, and the like may be in Japanese, but you do not need to be able to speak the language as a whole. You will learn many of the most common terms in the Kendo Basics course, and continue to learn vocabulary over time as you learn more and practice more.

How long until I’m good at kendo?

Kendo is one of those things that one can never master, no matter how good you get.

But, that’s what makes it so interesting!

You’ll always have something to work and improve on.

Making progress in rank also has no set timeline, and depends on how often you practice as well as one’s own personal progression. To reach the first dan level in kendo, for example, it takes most people around 3-5 years.

The highest rank possible is 8-dan. Each year, fewer than 1% of people who take the test are able to pass, making it one of the hardest tests in the world. Rather than letting that be a discouragement, be excited to know that you’ll never get bored with kendo, especially as you gain more and more experience.

Does kendo hurt?

In kendo, there are four valid targets participants can strike.

We train to hit only those specific spots, which are protected by the bogu (armor). This helps to avoid a lot of the injuries that are common in other full contact sports. When done right, there should be no direct pain from getting hit. That said, if someone misses the target, people can get bruises, or worse, from getting hit in the wrong spot.

But like any martial art or sport, there is potential for injury, though we practice in ways that help to mitigate this risk.

As a beginner, though, the most likely injury you’ll get is going to be blisters on your hands and feet from swinging the sword and doing footwork.

Is Kendo a martial art that is good for self-defense?

Not really!

Instead of fighting and self defense, kendo is really more about cultivating yourself. Kendo is about self-discipline, becoming a better person, and cultivating your mind and body. At Kenchikai, we also cherish our community of members, and become close friends through our practice with each other.

Do I need to be in amazing shape to do kendo?

Anyone, no matter your physical shape, can start kendo. We ease students into the full practice by taking them through the Kendo Basics course first before letting them join the full practice. Even then, it takes a few months before you’re ready to wear bogu (armor). In the long term as one progresses, kendo becomes less and less physical as it becomes more about efficiency of movement, not to mention the mental side of things.

In our practice, too, we emphasize everyone going at their 100% (for one’s own age and condition). One person’s 100% is different from another’s, and our practice format allows for people to move at different speeds and intensities while still pushing themselves enough individually.

That said, if you are planning to compete nationally or at a high level, being in top physical condition does help, though this type of person is the exception and certainly not the rule.

Are there tournaments in kendo?

There are tournaments (called taikai) for kendo. In the Pacific Northwest, there are around 7-8 that you may be able to participate in each year. Although we do also enjoy the competitive aspect of taikai at Kenchikai, we emphasize doing taikai in order to figure out what needs to be fixed (rather than to win, win, win). At practice, you’re writing the code for your kendo program. At taikai, you’re compiling and running the program, which brings all the bugs and errors to the surface. After a taikai is finished, you can go back to practice, fixing your code and squashing all the bugs you came across.

Kenchikai participates in most of the local (PNW) taikai, as well as some others outside our area. We also support our members to practice for and join the national team(s), should they want to do so. That said, participation in taikai areoptional, though we do highly encourage those who are able to try and participate as it’s a way to learn about shortcomings and improve more quickly.

I have another question, though!

If you have any other questions, please email jaered@kenchikai.com.