What equipment do I need as a beginner?
As a beginner, the only piece you will need is the bamboo sword, called the shinai. For your first few practice sessions, you may be able to borrow one from your sensei. After that, you should purchase your own.
Where can I buy a shinai?
Option 1: Check with your sensei first
The kendo club buys practice shinai in bulk, which is less expensive than ordering individually. I recommend asking your sensei first, because this will be faster, cheaper, and easier than the other options.
Option 2: Order from online store
You can get 20-30% discounts on seasonal sales during holidays, including Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, etc. The most convenient stores are:
All Japan Budogu (Kumamoto, Japan) High-quality, made in Japan, so their items tends to more expensive. They have rotating sales almost all the time, because they celebrate both Japanese and Western holidays. Free International Shipping on all products.
e-BOGU.com (Irvine, California) A lot of Burlington Kendo Club members purchased from e-BOGU, so it’s a very reliable store. $USD. Free Shipping > $200.
Bogushop (Vancouver, British Columbia) V
ery good prices, and it’s listed in $CDN. Free Shipping > $200.
Aoi Budogu (Burnaby, British Columbia) More expensive than e-BOGU and Bogushop, possibly higher quality. $CDN. Free Shipping > $180.
Option 3: Buy used from Kijiji or eBay
You might get a good deal off of lightly used equipment. This could be more time-consuming, but if you enjoy bargain-hunting, you can find pretty good deals.
How do I maintain my shinai?
This is just my own opinion:
- Periodically rotate the tsuru (string) position to an adjacent bamboo slat, so that you are not striking with the same bamboo slat all the time (and risk breaking it).
- Sand the edges of each bamboo slat, to prevent splinters from forming.
- During the cold and dry winter months, store your shinai in a more humid room (such as your bedroom or bathroom), so that it doesn’t become dry and brittle.
- Oil the inner surface with light mineral oil, also to prevent the bamboo from becoming too dry.
That being said, I’ve heard from more experienced kendo practitioners that they skip maintenance altogether, because it doesn’t seem to help with prolonging the life of the shinai!
When do I purchase the other equipment?
Short answer = wait until your sensei gives you permission.
To give you an estimate, if you are consistently coming to class:
3-6 months: The uniform, or kendōgi, consists of a woven cotton top called a keikogi and pleated skirt-like trousers called a hakama.
9-18 months: The armour, or bogu, consists of four pieces: the helmet (men), the body protector (do), the gloves (kote), and the hip and groin protector (tare). There is also a head cloth (tenugui) worn under the men.
1+ year: The bokken or bokuto is a solid wooden sword used for forms practice (kata) and demonstrations.
You want to make sure kendo is right for you before spending $100+ for a uniform or $400+ for an entry-level armor.