The British Kendo Association – A guide for Dojo Leaders and Examiners.

Grading requirements:- Showing what is required, with advice for the examination panel [the latter highlighted in Red].

Many dojo use the 6th –2nd Kyu grades for their students. This section of the guidelines may help, but should not be mistaken for a syllabus. Methodology and content are the prerogative of the dojo at this level.

6th kyu. At this stage beginners should know how to look after and maintain their Shinai, understand its structure and be able to name its parts. They should be aware of correct footwork, have an idea how to cut Men and be able to perform Kiri-kaeshi and the first form of the Kendo kata at an appropriate level.

5th kyu. They should be able to understand the Japanese terms for the basic cuts and foot work, know how to put on Bogu, participate in light ji-geiko, perform kote, men and do correctly as well as kendo kata 1 & 2.

4th kyu. They should show progress in Kiri-kaeshi and Kata 1 & 2 and perform Ji-geiko at an improved level using the techniques learned.

3rd kyu. They should be able to participate in Shiai-geiko with visible improvement in technique, understand the referee’s commands and perform Kendo kata 1, 2 & 3.

2nd kyu. They should understand and participate in uchikomi-geiko and be able to enter and leave the shiai-jo correctly. They should know the correct way to tie the do-himo and be aware of the proper length of the men himo. At this stage there should be a general understanding of what is expected of them at ikku level.

Please Note: As an examiner a certain amount of discretion should be given, NO one person can be 100% on all the items listed, but as examiners a percentage should be considered. What is listed gives the indication of the good points and the bad ones, discretion of the examiner is paramount with that of age and possibility in some cases disability but always be in full agreement with the entire panel.


Act correctly on the shiai-jo. Be tidily dressed. Show correct etiquette on and off court.

Initial rei should be with the left arm extended by the side; the rei should be at about 15degrees; after rei assume taito (Sword on hip) with the thumb on the tsuba. Three steps only should be used to reach sonkyo position. The clothing, should be clean and pressed and length of men himo around 40cm.

Show correct ashi sabaki and ki-ken-tai-ichi for ikku level.

Note how the examinee moves forward from sonkyo as if to make an attack, not in a crab like direction, look for an in line [parallel] raised left heel at all times, the right heel should be just touching but without pressure.

Show reasonable Kiri-kaeshi – attacking side only.

The examinee should show control and ki-ken-tai-ichi. Watch for bad footwork and poor swinging of the shinai around the head instead of cutting down to the left and right of the Men .The shinai should be aimed at the opponent’s head not the opponent’s shinai.

Hold the Shinai correctly, cut with control, cut on target.

Ensure that the hands are holding the Shinai in the correct position. Cutting should be controlled and from the centre, [for example kote cuts should not go down to knee level]. When cutting Men the right arm should push the cut rather than act like a club nor should the shinai just bounce off its target. After the cut proper zanshin should be shown, rather than the tendency to hold the shinai like a flagpole.

Be eager to initiate attacks.

Often beginners copy their instructors by inviting attacks. This can lead to depending on trickery, Hikiwaza and Nukiwaza leading to an inadequate understanding of these techniques at this level.

Show the appropriate kata level for ikku. Kendo kata no.1 – 3.

Correct cutting distance is required and an understanding of the correct kamae shapes.


Everything as in Ikkyu and in addition the following.

Examinee tidily dressed and wearing bogu correctly.

Look for baggy Keikogi [especially at the back], and uneven men himo, they should have no knots. Kote himo should be neatly tied and in good condition. Bogu may be old or even belong to the club but must be fit for purpose.

Correct chudan kamae and issoku itto maai

The shinai tip should be kept in the centre and not allowed to wander around, planned techniques should be made from toi maai and executed from issoku itto maai not from chika maai.

Correct cutting.

Check the position of the left hand (in centre) and the height of the right arm (extended from the shoulder) on men cuts; the left hand must be at eye level.

Good kiai, posture and ki-ken-tai-ichi.

Kiai should be heard when making a strike or in the building up of energy. Posture should be upright throughout with the correct footwork.

Show effective zanshin.

Indications of poor zanshin are: 1. Turning after a men attack with the arms already in chudan kamae. 2. Passing through to the left after kote attack- compounded by holding chudan kamae while doing so. There should be at least one good clear point in each shiai (not a 60/40 or worse)

Show the appropriate kata level for Shodan. Kendo kata No 1-5.

At this level a reason for attack and counter should be seen in the forms with good cutting distance.


All of the above and in addition. Show physical agility and balance with fluid footwork.

To make nidan waza effective the wrists, not the arms must be powerful. In the kote –men combination watch that the kensen is not pulled skywards with the right hand before the men is made, footwork needs to be well coordinated and the body balanced.

Kiri-kaeshi with proper rhythm, cutting and receiving correctly.

Both sides should be adequate for the grade. The receiver should control the maai so that the attacker can cut correctly at the right distance. Men cuts that beat the receiver’s parry is an embarrassment to the receiver and shows lack of maai control.

Execute an effective nidan waza.

It is reasonable to expect an attempt at one decent nidan attack in each shiai in addition to whatever else is happening.

Show the appropriate kata level for Nidan. Kendo kata no 1-7

The ability to maintain a central point at each form, and to maintain eye contact is expected.


As above and in addition. Attacks should be made with intention and never random.

Look for attacks that build from toi maai showing effective control of the centre. Multiple attacks should be attempted indicating the ability to link forward and backward attacks in one action.

Look for two successful strikes in each keiko. Show seme in attacks.

The use of the kensen should be shown in gaining the centre line as an attack is initiated as well as its use to unsettle the opponent’s composure.

Effective zanshin must be shown and acted upon

Look for some hikiwaza rather than a desire to go back into issoku itto maai every time. Good posture not posturing should be demonstrated.

Show appropriate kata for Sandan kendo kata no.1-7 & no 1–3 (Kodachi)

No mistakes in kata are acceptable at this level. ( There is always a second chance if the person acknowledges that he/she has made a mistake by holding up their hand)


As above ( less Kiri-Keashi) and in addition Show the self-confidence and mental attitude applicable to the grade in Ji-geiko.

Live kensen should force the opponent’s centre to deviate.

Control the opponent’s movement, control the shinai.

Look for men cuts made with no deviation from the centre line. Look for the ability to “refuse” the opponent’s attack and respond with an attack in turn. Attack and defence should be interchangeable.

Attacks made when opportune.

Look for missed or wasted chances, this is a good way to check on concentration and seme, attacks should only be made when an opportunity occurs or is created.

Show the appropriate kata level for yondan. Kendo kata no.1-7 & 1-3(Kodachi).

Show good posture and understanding of what kata means by the performance. There should be no break of concentration.


All the above with a strong mental attitude.

Determination to control the opponent should be exhibited.

Create the opening to strike.

There should be complete confidence in the self, showing presence, agility and posture.

Reaction cuts with no opportunity to score shows a lack of self confidence

Kendo kata no.1-7 & 1-3 (Kodachi)

Kata must be demonstrated to a high standard.


As above and in addition the potential to teach through overall knowledge, of style, posture and kendo ability, should be very apparent.

Demonstrate all forms of the kendo kata, showing a sound understanding of its meaning.


Demonstrate honesty of intent and self-understanding, show great strength of character in the ability to break the opponent’s posture and determine the outcome of your intent.

Feel and read the opponent’s intention and counteract it to advantage. Holding centre line with the correct tenouchi and strong movement is essential.

Demonstrate the Full Kendo No Kata with great understanding in style, posture, and character.

Written by:
John Howell
Mike Davis
Geoff Salmon
Jeff Humm