Kenchikai accepts new members on a rolling basis. If you are interested in starting kendo, please read the rest of this page and then email with information about yourself and why you'd like to start learning kendo. Then, we'll arrange a start date.

How our beginner program works

Our beginners join the regular practice from day one (though there may be times when we break out into groups of different levels). Although this is an atypical approach in the world of kendo, doing it this way makes your practice highly contextual and quickly applicable.

Although you may find this way of learning more difficult early on, within three months we find students are much more skilled and comfortable overall. And, their "basics" and "fundamentals" are better, too, even though we didn't spend three months focusing on them. Instead, we develop them within the context of what it is you're doing.

Plus, learning this way is a lot more fast paced, and fun. Less time swinging at the air. More time dealing with opponents and striking real targets, all within actual context. (I should note that beginners do not receive any strikes—you're just learning how to attack at this point).

What you'll learn

Although there is no specific timeline—each of us are unique and different in our progress, and that's okay—we tend to think of the first two-to-three months as the "beginner period." Most people will graduate to the next stage at or after this time period. In the first around three months, students will be expected to learn:

  • Some of the basic vocabulary used in kendo
  • To do our regular warm ups and drills.
  • Reigi (manners / etiquette)
  • Basic footwork
  • The four cuts/strikes: men, kote, dou, & tsuki
  • The ability to strike those targets on a partner correctly.

How much it costs

The fee for the beginner class is $199. This includes:

  • Six months of membership: a $180 value
  • A shinai: bamboo practice sword — $30 value
  • A bokuto: wooden kata sword — $30 value
  • A sword bag: to hold your shinai and bokuto — $15 value

Members also get access to reference materials that go over some of the things we go over in practice, so that you can study and practice at home between practice sessions.

What do I need?

You can mostly just bring yourself, in something that is comfortable to move around in (shorts, sweats, t-shirt, etc). When you receive your equipment, you should bring that, too. That's about it!

If you have any questions, please just email


What Covid-related protocols do you have?

We no longer have Covid related requirements, though we encourage all members to get vaccinated. If any member has any cold symptoms, we also ask that they stay home. Covid or not, nobody wants to get whatever it is you have.

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. We do not have a kids program at this time, so any minors who do sign up are expected to be able to focus well enough to participate with everyone else. If you have a kid who is younger but will be able to keep up, please get in touch—there's some flexibility on the age.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is no maximum age to participate. Kendo has many very strong sensei in their seventies, eighties, and beyond! And, as a club we are good at tailoring intensity to the individual's constraints.

What do I 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 (i.e. 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 make progress, you will need to attend a majority of the practices. Especially for beginners it's very important to practice more frequently. You're learning a lot, and keeping up the momentum helps a lot. It's possible to join and only come once a week, but you'll progress slowly.

How much is regular membership after completing the course?

Your first six months of membership are covered by joining the Kendo Basics program. After that, membership costs $30/month.

At a certain point, you'll also need to join the regional (PNKF) and national (AUSKF) kendo federation. When you do this, you will be able to participate in events, such as tournaments, examinations, and seminars. You will also be able to join any practice in the US (including other clubs in Portland), as well as many parts of the world! It is also a requirement of the regional/national federations. We usually ask you join these when you start wearing a uniform.

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 $30 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). You also get this with the beginner class fee. The bokuto should last you a long time.

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 around 5 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 $400-$600 for the whole thing. We have some extra bogu sets, and these can be rented ($10/month) 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). Combined, this is currently an annual fee of $110 for adults and $55 for children and students, plus a $50 one-time, initial membership fee. 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.

Examination is another cost, though compared to other martial arts it is quite low. Examinations can be done at most once every six months, with the wait time between the higher "dan" ranks being 1-7 years. Each of "kyuu" ranks cost $35 for juniors and $50 for adults (typically there are three kyuu rank tests people take), which will take most people several years. Compare that to some martial arts that do frequent examinations and charge huge amounts, sometimes in the thousands, to take a test.

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 very low compared to other martial arts because of the comparatively low membership, seminar, and examination fees.

Do I need to speak Japanese to do kendo?

You don't need to speak Japanese. That said, learning a lot of the kendo-related vocabulary in Japanese is important! But, you will learn things like the commands, counting, technique names, and so on—all in Japanese—whether you want to or not. You have to! The Japanese language is the technical language of kendo.

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.

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 value the friendships we can develop with each other.

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

Anyone, no matter your physical shape, can start kendo. Everybody is different, and our practice is designed to allow for different fitness levels, injuries, ages, and so on. Everybody moves at their own pace.

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 tend to emphasize doing taikai in order to figure out what needs to be fixed (rather than to win, win, win). We like to say that 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