Halifax Kendo Club

Ki Ken Tai no Ichi

 This is quite possibly the most well known bit of Kendo philosophy in existence. It embodies all of the information needed to perform a strike in Kendo correctly. The hard part is that it will take you a life time (or more) to honestly be able to implement it! I will give my description of its meaning below. Comments are always welcome!

The literal meaning of "Ki-Ken-Tai no Ichi " is Mind, Sword, and Body as One. In order to perform a strike in Kendo properly, you must demonstrate Ki-Ken-Tai no Ichi, otherwise your strike is flawed in some manner. The most basic interpretation of this told to all Kendoka is that, "in order to score a point, you have to call (ie: Yell) the name of the target, have your shinai land cleanly on the target with the proper portion of the shinai making the contact, and your foot has to hit the ground all simultaneously." But lets look at each of these terms in more detail.

1. Ki. This word literally translated to "Spirit" or "Mind". Ki embodies the idea of a movement outward from the inner spirit, projecting itself in the form of a powerful energy. Physically, this energy is expressed through the "shout" that is so prevalent in Kendo. But, "Ki" also refers to your mind. More specifically I think in how you use your mind. Developing the proper state of mind in which to perform a strike in Kendo is quite possibly the most difficult aspect of your training. Your goal is to achieve a mindset demonstrating a "fearless determination" when facing an opponent. No hesitation or fear of attacking your opponent or of being attacked in return.

2. Ken. This word means "Sword". However, in this context (Kendo) it means a lot more than that. The sword, to a Kendoka, is their entire source of physical offense as well as defense both through striking techniques ( Waza ), and through your stance ( Kamae ) respectively. Why is both offense and defense important to performing a correct strike against your opponent? Why not just offense? If you have a weak Kamae (defense), you don't pose a threat to your opponent and vice versa. Without the mutual "tension" between opponents, techniques will not be executed sincerely. A strike without sincere intent is no longer a correct or an effective strike, and hence is no longer even Kendo.

3. Tai. This word translates to "Body". However, this doesn't just refer to your physical body in general. Instead, it refers to your posture, your balance, your footwork, maai (distance between you and your opponent), and your grip on the shinai to name just a few. "Tai", in this context, is referring to the host of things that a proper Kendo strike requires your body to do.


When you combine all of the things listed above, a Kendoka will have a "presence" about them. One that, through body language and their spirit, shows both pride and strength both mentally and physically.

"Ki-Ken-Tai no Ichi" embodies so much more than its literal translation, and if one can honestly say they've mastered "Ki-Ken-Tai no Ichi", then they will have also mastered Kendo.