Kendo Ranking

We would point out that the British Kendo Renmei is independent of the International Kendo Renmei (Kokusai Kendo Renmei) as that organisation is chiefly concerned with promoting Kendo as a competitive sport and, therefore, in its present aims has little relevance to the older traditions. On the other hand, we have always taken the advice of the Japanese Kendo authorities and in our own sphere exercise the right to make promotions into and within the dan degrees. Such examinations are held in the main twice each year (Spring and Autumn) and strictly adhere to the examination standards of the All Japan Kendo Renmei (Zen-Ken-Ren).

No ranking examinations or advancements are made in Iai within this Renmei. The Iai styles instructed are classical entities where levels of attainment were never marked by any ranking structure other than mudansha (unranked) and yudansha (ranked). The upper levels of student’s abilities may be rewarded with menkyo or menkyo-kaiden ‘licences to teach’ but are not done so by this Renmei as we consider this would be presumptive and bordering on arrogance. Rank in traditional Iai is simply not important, carries no kudos, and has no material significance; often its sole purpose seems to be to massage a student’s ego.

At the present time the leading exponents of Kendo and Iai within the British Kendo Renmei have at least twenty-five years experience or much more each but none of them would make the slightest claim to mastery, only to having, perhaps, a greater degree of experience relative to those who have more recently started on the ‘long road’ towards understanding. We would emphasise that from our point of view Kendo and Iai are NOT sports and the former is only superficially sports-like. We do not deny that there are many perspectives in all the Budo traditions and from the more specific aspect of Kendo and Iai-do it is perfectly feasible that those who see these entities in terms of sport are quite correct and that little from the old tradition has much relevance to-day. Maybe we have evolved and changed these particular Budo to something better, more modern, more up-to-date, more applicable to our undeniably more comfortable lifestyles? This Renmei’s aim is to offer those who are interested an opportunity to probe beneath the modern surface and find out something for themselves of the extraordinarily rich areas that underpin proper swordsmanship.