Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-Waza Keiko-Ho (木刀による剣道基本技稽古法) – Tips to Help Memorize Their Order, Notes and Resources

I wrote this article as an aid for me to learn the “Practice Methods of Basic Kendo Techniques with a bokuto (wooden sword)” (木刀による剣道基本技稽古法) developed by the All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF).  For brevity, this is referred to as keiho-ho (Practice Method) or kihon kata (Basic Forms).  The article contains some tips to aid in memorizing their order, notes from a recent seminar and some resources in terms of Videos, Books and Articles.

Our dojo recently started learning and practicing this keiko-ho consisting of nine forms – prompted by new guidelines published in April 2019 by the All United States Kendo Federation (AUSKF) [AUSKF_Bokuto].  Starting in 2020, 3rd kyu candidates will be required to perform kihon kata 1 to 4 and 2nd kyu candidates, the complete set from 1 to 9.

Updates:  Oct 20, 2021 – Added a link to PDF of detailed notes courtesy of Angel.  Oct 17, 2021 – Added notes from an SCKF Seminar on this keiko-ho plus more details on kihon kata #7 ( de-kote) which is classified as a Shikake-Waza based on the seminar.

Tips to Help Memorize Their Order

Part of the challenge for me is in memorizing the sequence of the Keiko-ho.  Here’s some insights that may help:

  • As explained in [Quinlan_KataBokutoWaza, p. 49] [TriangleKendo_Bokuto], the first four are classified as shikake-waza (techniques to initiate an attack) and the last five as ouji-waza (techniques to counter an attack).  This provides a convenient partition of the Kihon Kata into two groups.  However, it should be pointed out that one of the last five (#7 with de-kote) is considered shikake-waza according to [AJKF_GuideBook].* 
    • The first group of four shikake-waza consist of:  1) Single-strikes: men, kote, do and tsuki, 2) an example of multiple-strikes:  kote-men, 3) an example of sweeping the opponent’s (motodachi‘s) sword aside before striking: harai-men and 4) an example of striking while moving away from the opponent:  hiki-men.
      • This seems to be in order of increasing difficulty and a natural order of teaching them to a beginner.
    • The second group of four ouji-waza and one shikake-waza consist of: 1) an example of nuki-waza (a dodging-technqiue):  men nuki-do, 2) an example of suriage-waza (a parrying technique of re-directing the opponent’s shinai as it comes in):  kote suriage-men, 3) an example of debana-waza* (a pre-emptive technique): debana kote, 4) a kaeshi-waza (receiving and countering strike): men kaeshi-do and, finally, 5) an example of uchi-otoshi-waza (striking-down technique):  do uchi-otoshi-men.
      • For this group, I’d roughly categorize the first three as techniques with little to no blocking and the last two with full blocking.
      • For the first three, the techniques seem to be increasingly more pre-emptive in nature where the kakarite‘s** strike is closer and closer to the launching point of the motodachi‘s attack***:
        • The first where the kakarite strikes the motodachi‘s do when the motodachi is close to completing a men-strike (one of the furthest targets for the motodachi).
        • The second where the kakarite strikes the motodachi when the motodachi is close to completing a kote-strike (the closest target for the motodachi).  This technique includes a re-directing of the motodachi‘s shinai.
        • And the third where the kakarite strikes the motodachi when the motodachi is about to launch a men-strike and has hardly budged before getting struck.

* Kihon kata #7 exemplifies the debana-waza – a technique of striking the opponent just as he or she is about to attack.  Debana-waza is classified as a shikake-waza according to:  [SCKF_Debana], [Kendo-Guide_Techniques] (which cites the “Kendo-Physical Education Textbook” by AJKF) and the definition of “shikake-waza” on p. 180 of [AJKF_KendoGuide]:  “Examples of this type of waza include: … debana-waza …”

** Kakarite (掛手) refers to the person demonstrating the various shikake and ouji waza (techniques).

*** And more indicative of the ability for the kakarite to take more quickly the sen (先), i.e. the initiative [Noma, Sec. 24 “Sen (the initiative”), p. 53] and the rather impressive ability “to anticipate what your opponent will do”  [Kendo-Guide_Sen].

Notes from a Recent Kihon Kata Seminar

I attended the Oct 2021 SCKF Seminar on Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-Waza Keiko-Ho.   It was incredibly helpful and insightful.  I learned the following from the instructors Kaneshiro Sensei and Kodama Sensei (who, in turn, learned the Kihon Kata from Ota Sensei, one of its principal developers).  Here’s my notes below and more detailed notes from and courtesy of Angel (PDF, 2 pages) :

  • Some important things to keep in mind:
    • Metsuke  (目付) – keeping the eyes on the other
    • En (縁) – “connection, link, relationship”[]
    • Ma-ai (間合い) – “The spatial distance between one’s self and the opponent.” p. 177 of [AJKF_KendoGuide].
    • The importance of performing the waza with the sword in mind:
      • Hasuji (刃筋) – “To have the direction of the swing of the shinai or sword lined up with the direction of the sword edge.”
      • Ota sensei would some times note how certain strikes in a shiai would not be possible with a sword.
    • The importance of the grip:
      • Making sure the wrist is over the bokuto rather than rotated angle-wise off to the side (kiri-te)
  • For each of the shikake-waza (1 to 4 and 7 for the debana kote), while the kakari-te makes the first move after the strike (to demonstrate zanshin), the moto-dachi stays still.
    • For each of the ouji-waza (5, 6, 8, 9), the kakari-te and moto-dachi move together after the strike.
  • As also stated in [Mushinkan_KeikoHou]
    • When executing strikes, the feeling should be as if the right foot advances first, before the upward swing of the arms.
    • A strike should not be thought of as individual components “1” and then “2” with a pause in-between.  Rather, they should be considered as one element – performed in one heart beat (ichi-byoushi).
      • For example, in #3 (harai-men), rather than a harai and then a men-strike, perform the two as one where the right foot leads.
  • In contrast to the Kendo Kata where “Ya” and “Tou” are voiced, in Kihon Kata, the point struck is voiced e.g. “Men”, “Kote”, “Dou”, “Tsuki”.
  • For the nuki-dou (#5) and kaeshi-dou (#8), the kakari-te:
    • Has the front of the body not facing the moto-dachi but rather facing the direction of motion
    • Has the head facing the moto-dachi, See the eyes of the moto-dachi and
    • Has the left shoulder lined up with the right shoulder of the moto-dachi.
  • Ota sensei would run a seminar where students go through a sequence of three parts:
    • First learning/practicing the kihon kata with the bokuto.
    • Repeating the kihon kata but with bogu and a shinai and
    • Repeating the kihon kata but with fumikomi added.
  • Things to keep in mind:
    • After receiving a kote strike in #1, the moto-dachi should just let the bokuto drop down only.
      • There is a tendency for the moto-dachi after receiving kote to drop the bokuto and loop back upwards (as in a “backwards J”) to go underneath the bokuto of the kakari-te.
    • Slide the feet rather than raising the feet.
      • Beginners tend to raise the right foot for a fumikomi..
    • The strike starts with one foot advancing and ends with the other foot coming back into position (hikitsuke).
      • For example, the movement of the front foot may start the waza and the hikitsuke with the backwards foot coming back to position ends the waza.
    • When striking kote with a big swing (in #1 as the kakari-te and #6 as the moto-dachi), raise the hands up only to the point where they clear the eyes so that the opponent can be seen.  They need not go up high as in a men-strike.
      • The de-kote in #7 is a small kote.
    • When in tsubazeri-ai during #4 (before the hiki-dou), the tsuba of the kakari-te should be above that of the moto-dachi‘s.
    • Kiri-otoshi and uchi-otoshi waza are equivalent.  However, the former has a connotation of violence where as the latter, more with the way of the sword – Kendo.


There are many resources available on-line.  Here’s some samples that I have found helpful.


[AJKF_KendoGuide] All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF), The Official Guide for Kendo Instruction, 1st Ed., 2011.

[AUSKF_Bokuto] “Bokuto ni yoru kihon keiko ho requirements,” AUSKF, April 15, 2019.

[Kendo-Guide_Techniques] Mashiro Imafuji, “Kendo Techniques Guide,”

[Kendo-Guide_Sen] “Kendo Terminology: Sen ‘Sen no sen’ ‘Sen sen no sen’ ‘Go no sen’,”

[Mushinkan_KeikoHou] Mark Uchida, “Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon-waza Keiko-ho (Bokuto Application for Kendo Fundamental Technique Practice),” Mushinkan Kendo, 2003.

[Noma] Noma Hisashi (1910-1939), The Kendo Reader (PDF, 55 pages).

[Quinlan_KataBokutoWaza] Stephen D. Quilan, Nihon Kendo no Kata & Kihon Bokuto Waza, 4th ed., Kingston Kendo Club, May 19, 2014.

[SCKF_Debana] SCKF, “Advanced Concepts – Waza”

[TriangleKendo_Bokuto] “Bokuto Ni Yoru Kendo Kihon Waza Keiko Ho, Basic Kendo Practice Methods Using a Bokuto,”, (PDF, 10 pages).  (The website seems to be no longer in operation).

Keywords:  Shinsa, Remember, Memory, How to, Kata

Copyright 2019

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s