The Bogu, or Kendo armor, is originally called the Kendogu which means kendo tool or equipment; it is specifically created as a training armor that is utilized primarily for the traditional Japanese martial art called Kendo, and at times, the Kendo Bogu is also used for other martial arts such as Tankendo, Naginata, and Jukendo.
History of the Bogu
During Japans warring period, the use of swords and other types of bladed weapons were prevalent since samurai warriors defended and protected their land from oppressors as well as enemies from other lands. Yet during the years 1603 to 1868 in the Edo period, making use of real swords for practice or training was highly discouraged due to the large number of injuries that were acquired by those who practiced various traditional martial arts; to avoid such accidents and injuries, the bokutos, bokkens or shinais wooden practice swords were mostly utilized instead.
However, it was preferred that practitioners would receive lesser injuries during training, and to achieve this, the practice armor was created which was based on the traditional Japanese samurai armor. From then, the armor was continuously developed and eventually became the basis for the modern-day Kendo armor.
Parts and Uses of the Kendo Bogu
Bogu technically has two parts: Bo which means defend or protect, while Gu means tool or equipment; for a set of Kendo Bogu, there are four components to this:
This is the combination of the shoulder protectors and the face mask; its primary function is to safeguard ones neck, face, and shoulders. It is made up of a face mask that features a few even metal bars that cover the faces entire width: from the chin, all the way to the top of an individuals head. These metal bars are attached to a long, thick, and rectangular-shaped cloth pad that perfectly curves right at the top of ones head; it extends throughout the shoulders to protect and safeguard the area during practice, plus there is also a throat protector that is secured to the facemasks bottom portion.
The Men of the Kendo Bogu is firmly held and positioned in place with the help of a pair of finely-woven cords that bind securely around the individuals head then are tied firmly at the back. The back portion of the Men is always left open for proper ventilation yet this portion is left unprotected; and since this is the case, the target spots along the Men include the center top portion while cutting moves target the upper right or left side. The center part of the throat protector is aimed for thrusts.
This part of the Bogu is the thick cloth belt that encloses around the waist which is also tied beneath the frontal flap that is located right in front of the groin. There are also durable cloth-covered flaps that dangle from the belt which mainly protects the users upper leg and their groin. Also, the flaps can be found on almost half of the belts length and it should be placed right over the frontal half of the individuals body. The center flap is generally capped with a zekken / nafuda (name tag) to identify the person wearing the Kendo armor, as well as the dojo or country that the individual is representing. Unlike the Men, there is no target area on the tare since it is made to protect off-target or accidental strikes.
These are gloves that appear like mittens and were designed primarily for Kendo. It may seem quite bulky but it has enough mobility that allows an individual to properly grip the shinai with ease and enough power; compared to the Kote of the Kendo Bogu, the Naginata Kote features lesser padding which makes it less bulky in appearance. In the past, these were made with completely articulated fingers while today, it is rarely seen since snagged fingers can be a common concern. The target area for both Kote is the wrist areas.
The primary element of the Bogus Do is its subtle curved stomach and chest protection; its modern design has a more distinct bulge which helps deflect the force of attacks or strikes away from the gentle areas along the middle portion of the torso. The most common and traditionally utilized material for the Do is lacquered bamboo, but since this is quite costly, molded plastic or lacquered paper fiber is utilized instead for a much cheaper Do. This part of the Bogu is supported by two diagonal ties from the shoulders and is bound right at the small of the back with an additional set of ties. The target points of the Do include the two lower portions of the stomach for a slashing attack, while the top half of it is a possible target for a naginata thrust in. In the past, this was also considered as a valid target for thrust attacks in Kendo.