Peak Sports Mailbag: Week 9

Ask and answer both SFU and non-SFU related sports questions. This week: kendo.

Photo credit / San Diego Kendo

By: Nicole Magas, Opinions Editor

Hello readers of The Peak sports section,

Welcome to the Peak Sports Mailbag. This week’s host is Nicole Magas. Our topic this week is kendo. Nicole lived in Japan for six years, and practiced Kendo for three. 

Thanks so much to all of our readers for submitting their kendo-related questions, and my apologies if your question didn’t make it into this week’s edition. Usually, the Mailbag host will only answer three questions. Don’t worry though, as all questions submitted count for an entry into the raffle draw whether or not they are addressed in the Mailbag. Now, onto the questions!

Question 1: How are points awarded in a kendo competition? – Jay

Generally, points are awarded based on correct contact between a competitor’s bamboo sword (shinai), and one of five legitimate targets on the opponent’s body: head (men), throat (tsuki), abdomen (do), and left and right wrist (hidari kote, migi kote). However, just landing a hit is not enough to take a point. A competitor’s spirit/mind, sword, and body must be working together in unison, and in a way that the judges can validate. This usually comes together in the correct posture and movement of the body, a correct strike from the sword, and a loud shout that announces a competitor’s resolute intent to strike — all at the same time. Points may be deducted from a competitor for actions that are illegal, or that create unnecessary risk of injury to an opponent.

Competitors are marked with either a red or a white ribbon before the match begins. Three judges form a rotating triangle around the two competitors. When a competitor strikes, a judge may raise a red or white flag signalling who they believe has scored a point with their strike. The other judges may agree or disagree based on what they have witnessed from their angle. At times of disagreement, the match may be paused while the judges confer. Matches are decided on a best two out of three design.

Question 2: What equipment do I need to participate in kendo? – Heather 

When starting out in kendo, the equipment you’ll need depends on the requirements and expectations of the club you’re joining. Some clubs only require beginners to practice in comfortable clothes that don’t restrict movement. Others require the full uniform (hakama and gi) right from the start. 

If you have decided that kendo is something you really want to devote yourself to for more than a few months, you will eventually need a bamboo sword (shinai), hakama and gi, and a set of bogu, which consists of a helmet (men), a chest protector (do), gauntlets (kote), and a groin protector (tare). Depending on the size of the club, you may be able to borrow shinai, or even a full set of bogu, but the longer you practice, the wiser it is to have equipment that is tailored for you. Shinai, for example, come in many different lengths and grip shapes that can significantly alter how the shinai swings and, in some cases, may cause injury to a practitioner in the form of muscle or tendon strain if it is not comfortable to swing repeatedly. 

Other equipment that you’ll pick up along your kendo journey include a name tag (zekken) wooden swords (bokken), equipment bags, a shinai maintenance kit, sports tape, drying racks, and various first-aid implements common for any sport.

Question 3: What’s the best and easiest way to give kendo a try around Burnaby campus? – Dylan 

SFU actually has a very active and well-established kendo club right on the mountain. Practices are held twice a week: Mondays and Wednesdays 7:30–9:30 p.m. in Central Gym East. The best time to go and give it a try is during the free trial weeks at the beginning of each semester.

And, if that’s still not enough kendo for you, the Lower Mainland has a vibrant kendo community, with several schools located across Vancouver. There’s enough kendo for every day of the week, if you’re interested! 

If you would like to participate in future editions of the Peak Sports Mailbag and be entered in a raffle for an end-of-semester prize, here’s what you can send to

  • Sports-related questions that our weekly host will answer
  • Weekly theme ideas to guide our questions

Or: sign up to host the Mailbag (and get paid)!

Thanks to all of you SFU sports fans for blowing up my inbox!

Next week’s theme is: Tennis

Next week’s host is: Bhalinder Oberoi 

Send in your questions to