Tucson Kendo Kai

Kendo is a modern sword art (gendai budo) derived from traditional japanese sword dueling developed over the last few hundred years.

"The concept of Kendo is to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the Katana (sword)."

--All Japan Kendo Federation


About Us

We are an AUSKF/SWKF affiliated kendo dojo located in Tucson, Arizona. Our sensei is Paul Gattone, 4-dan.

Practice Times

Tue 7:30-9:00 pm Keiko

Thu 7:30-9:00 pm Kata+Keiko

Sat 2:30-4:00 pm Keiko



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4300 E Pima St

Tucson, AZ, 85712


My first visit: a quick & dirty primer


For all of us practicing kendo, it is a pursuit that is done for no financial gain - camaraderie, the love of Budō and self-development drive us. We will volunteer all the effort we can to help you on your way (dō). Just as you are starting off now, all of us depended on the selfless efforts of our sensei and senpai in the past to reach where we are today.


  • We highly recommend your first visit consist of just watching a class. We recommend contacting us first in case we aren't having a class or there is some special event. If you will drop by unannounced, please check the calendar first.

  • Be at class 10 minutes before start time so that you don't interrupt the session.

  • Take your shoes off by the door.

  • Please introduce yourself - we're a friendly sort.


  • We have some seating facing the dojo floor, please sit there.

  • Please wait until the end of class for questions.

  • Please refrain from talking loudly, whether on your phone or to someone else.


Ask questions!

So, I have decided to try this out (aka "My First Practice"):

Before practice:

  • Inform the instructor or one of the senior students if you have any serious medical issues.

  • Be at class 10 minutes before start time so that we don't interrupt the session.

  • Wear something comfortable that will allow you to move around.

  • No need to buy any equipment for your first class (think of it as an "arrive and drive" sort of thing).

  • If wearing something long, turn up your hems so you don't trip.

  • Make sure you don't get dehydrated (especially in the summer) so drink lots of water the day before and the day of.

  • No socks and shoes, no dangling jewellery.

During practice:

  • First sessions will be focused on getting a feel for the basics (kihon):

    • How to stand.

    • How to move.

    • Holding the shinai.

    • Some basic mechanics of swinging the sword.

    • Et cetera.

  • DO NOT OVER DO IT! Unless you have prior experience with Japanese sword arts, your body will find this completely unfamiliar. If you feel any sort of actual pain (as opposed to light soreness or tiredness), please raise your hand and inform us.

  • Going as fast as you can (unless it is requested of you) or as hard as you can may lead to injury. Kendo is not dependent on pure muscle power. Relax your body.

  • Be open minded and listen to the senior students. They will help you through as long as you have a good attitude and do what is asked. Speed comes from repetition of correct cutting, not ‘trying to cut fast’

  • If you cannot do something, that is all right. Do not offer excuses or reasons why, just ask a question.

  • Be patient. Kendo is Budō. Budō is a lifetime pursuit. It can take years to come close to understanding the fundamentals.

  • Reiho (manners/etiquette) is kendo. Frustration can occur but see prior point. This is a new pursuit so keep that in mind and take a deep breath.

After practice:

Please ask questions


Dojo Etiquette: Reiho & Reigi

Put in a simple way, reigi is the general concept of etiquette. Reiho are the physical actions of appropriate manners. Kendo is a martial art, not a sport. It is Budō - a martial way. Consequently, etiquette, respect and manners are critical. Discipline is part of the dō.



  • Bow towards the practice area every time you enter and leave the practice floor. This is a place of serious study and bowing shows our respect for it.

  • At the beginning of class we bow to the kamiza (place of honour) and each other.

  • Bowing has nothing to do with servitude. It is a mark of respect to our current and past teachers, the dojo and each other.

  • Address your senior (in rank/experience) fellow students as sempai.

  • On the other side of that, if you’re the sempai, show appropriate respect to the efforts of your kohai (junior student) and help as appropriate.

  • If we have a visiting sensei, it is of great importance to show appropriate respect (& address them as Sensei).

  • Follow the instructions of the sempai or sensei who is instructing you at any moment, even if it may seem on the surface to be contradictory to what you have been previously told. Ask your sempai after practice if you need clarifications.

  • When lining up, it is by rank and experience, descending from  right to left facing the kamiza.

  • When lining up, make sure your are in a straight line to the person to your right.



  • Argumentativeness. Respect what your sempai & sensei say. You may respectfully ask for clarification later. Say “Hai!” and do as instructed in the meantime.

  • Excuses if asked to do something. If you have an injury or actual physical limitation, please bring it to our attention.

  • Lack of effort. Give it all every time; tiredness, as opposed to a physical injury or problem is part of rigorous practice.

  • Walking off the training floor. If you need to urgently stop please raise your hand and ask for permission.

  • Bowing with your sword out in kamae (guard position). That should only occur while in sonkyo (seated bow).

  • Wasting training time. Time is limited and precious, please move briskly.

  • Eating on the dojo floor.

  • Talking while being instructed or the senior students are practicing. Watching is part of practice.

  • Using your cell phone during practice.


How to treat the shinai:

The shinai represents a Japanese blade (katana/nipponto/shinken). In the old days, it was of immense symbolic importance to the samurai caste (and a significant financial expenditure).

It is NOT a bamboo stick.

  • Always inspect your shinai for cracks and splinters before you arrive.

  • Do not step over a sword.

  • If you need to put your sword to the side against the wall, rest it tsuka (handle) down and tip upwards. You wouldn’t want to snap the sharp but fragile tip on the shinken.

  • The shinai is not a walking stick, a bat, laser-pointer substitute nor a convenient leaning prop.

  • When carrying it between exercises, keep it in the sheathed position.

  • In general, treat the shinai as you would a shinken (live sword)

    • If you are being instructed or waiting for your opponent after drawing your shinai, you may hold it with both hands, tip to the right pointing downwards.

    • You would not aimlessly wave about a live blade. Same with the shinai. See prior point for appropriate ways to handle.

    • When sitting in seiza, the sharp side should be towards you, not your fellow student.

    • If you must pass your sword to someone, hold it upright from the bottom of the handle, sharp side towards you just like you would a real blade. It is up to you to safely give it to the person.

    • Do not smack the sword against the floor, inanimate objects etc.

How a typical class will go:

When we start we will line up in order of seniority.

    With the command “seiza”, get down left-knee first into seiza, the sword to your left, tsuba in a straight line with your knee. The side opposite the string (tsuru) should be facing you.

    Next, there will be a command for “mokuso” - call to meditate.

    Close your eyes, take a deep breath from the nose, hold it then steadily and methodically exhale from the mouth while clearing everything from your mind. Repeat until the command “mokuso yame” - to stop.

    Then, there will be the command for “shomen ni” (turn to shomen) and then “rei” to bow to the shomen. We are showing our respect to our late teachers & the dojo. To bow, put the left hand down in front of you then the right hand (touch thumb to thumb and first finger to first finger forming a triangle). Bring your forehead close to the triangle formed between your hands (without raising your backside in the air) for a few moments then straighten back out.

    Following that, there will be a command “otagai ni, rei” where we are bowing to each other. Bow again in the same fashion. While we are bowed we say "Onegai shimasu" . By that we are saying “please do your best and practice with me”.

    We will then stand up, move our men and kote to the side and stretch together. See the section with the commands for more details.

    After we are done stretching (very important, never practice without stretching) usually a senior student will be assigned to start working with the beginners separately at the side while the rest of the class starts on suburi.

    With the call of “yame” we will all bow out and line up again. The students with bogu will then put on their men with a command of “Mentsuke” ( Men wo tsuke) and we will then stand up and start up again. You will be told at that point what you will do.

    At the end of practice, we will again line up. There will be a call for seiza, then a command “Men tore” for the students to take off the men. After that “mokuso”, then “shomen ni, rei” to bow to the shomen, followed by “otagai ni, rei” to bow to each other. This time we will say “onegai shimashita” which is the past tense of onegai shimasu”. Then a senior student will command “senpai ni, rei” where we will turn towards the sempai and bow.

    After that, dismissed (and ask questions).


Gear Guides

Part of kendo is taking care of your equipment and practicing dressed in a way the shows respect for yourself and the kendoka around you. The below guides should be enough for a start and are a good references - especially for remembering some of the knots.


Gi & Hakama:


Armour (bogu):


There are many gear suppliers for kendo, ask around the dojo for recommendations.

Tying/Folding Quick References:

Pay fees

  • Annual federation membership fees are not included may vary from year to year (as do the due dates), but are paid indirectly via the dojo. You will be informed when they are due by the dojo.
  • Monthly membership fee is $45 per calendar month.
    • You may pay now via paypal/credit card here.

  • Miscellaneous fees/dues can also be paid here.

Further Reading

Below are a collection of documents provided to us by Jeff Marsten Sensei supplementing the training he offers us when he visits.