Which muscles are used primarily in kendo, and can they be trained through isolation exercises in a gym?

I noticed a trend of muscle pain in my shoulders, upper pectorials, and calves after my first 6 sessions at my dojo. That got me wondering what are all the muscles that are used in kendo and which rely on endurance over strength, and vice versa.

I have a membership at a gym and I lift weights 2-3 times a week in addition to doing kendo twice a week, so I was also wondering if there is anything I could do in the gym that would help with my performance in kendo.

I understand that a lot of the fundamentals of kendo come from the brain, but your body does still have to keep up with the brain after all.


Answer: Thanks for your post. It is always a good idea to train your muscles or stamina for kendo. However, I am not an expert in those area, so I would like to wait for some answers from experts.

Now there is a Q&A about kendo and stamina if you are interested.

Comments for Which muscles are used primarily in kendo, and can they be trained through isolation exercises in a gym?

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Aug 22, 2010
supplementary training/conditioning
by: Dr John Glover PT, ScD, COMT

The comment about tendon and ligament training is excellent. So much of kendo is explosive, plyometric type exercise that the tendons and ligaments take a great deal of force with each session.

The thing is, kendo would be the best way to train those structures. This is true for all sporting endeavors and is called training specificity, meaning the actual sport is its best conditioning (in a nut shell).

If you have soreness related to training, make sure that you are pursuing a good physiological warm up prior to each training. You should have a little bit of sweat going before you begin full throttle training.

Most kendo I have seen is well paced so that you start slow and gradually increase intensity, which would take good care of you.

You also need a good cool down. Most people neglect stretching AFTER training which is the best time to make improvements in tissue extensibility. Sounds like the person who posted this question needed to do some general stretching.

If your stamina is low, you might supplement with jump rope as it is close in mechanics to kendo foot work.

Swimming is also a great endurance builder that also stretches the upper extremities and increase Latissimus Dorsi strength, which improves the power of a down stroke with the shinai.

Strength training should be done in a balanced way if you have never trained before. Get on a good overall strengthening program where you train opposing muscle groups equally. This is what most athletic trainers at a gym will get you started on.

A lot of athletes are moving away from typical powerlifting/bodybuilding type free-weight exercises and incorporating bodyweight exercises like the 1000 push-up variations that are out there, pull ups, squats with dumbbells.

As I said before though, kendo is the best training for kendo. You can tweak you at home training prescriptively to target different results. Find where you are weak and pursue it. Hope this is helpful.

Domo arigatou gozaimasu!

Kendo-Guide.Com: Thank you for your comment! Very helpful for many of us indeed!

Jun 11, 2010
Forget your arms!
by: Markus

My experience is that you don't need force in Kendo at all.

Suburi (empty cut) is all enough exercises for the arms and shoulders. Just stay relaxed and try 1000 suburi at once. You can only succeed them when you are absolutely relaxed. When you get tense after a few hundred and your muscles hurt you are doing something wrong.

But back to your question, instead of training your arms I propose you to concentrate on your lower body parts.

For a good kamae (stance) and balance do a lot of abs and back exercises and work on your smooth but sharp footwork.

"Just forget your arms and strike with the foot, then forget your foot and strike with the hips. Then forget the hips and strike with your Heart."

That?s what a hachidan (8th dan) sensei told me when I asked him about how to improve myself.

Kendo-Guide.Com: Thanks for your comment. It is so true about suburi and the words from the 8th dan sensei.

Through my over 30 years of kendo experience and injuries from it, I think (this is only my opinion) we should train tendons and ligaments not muscles.

Again I do not know if that is true of not but that?s how I feel now.

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