Bogu (a protector) (Japanese art of fencing) (防具 (剣道))

Bogu is protective gear to protect players' body in the Japanese art of fencing, naginata (a long pole with a sharp curving sword), and jukendo (the martial art using the bayonet). It is also used in Nippon Kenpo (Japanese martial art) where players practice to give and receive direct blows (exchange blows, wearing protectors). In the Japanese art of fencing, the formal name of this protective gear is called kendo implements.

It protects players' head and chest from a thrust with a bamboo sword or a naginata in the naginata jutsu (art of Japanese halberd).

It has became the present design through various improvements in shape and materials after carefully examining portability and mobility of a wearer based on an amour and a kabuto (helmet). The original model of the kendo implements existed in one of the schools of swordplay such as Jikishinkage-ryu (Jikishinkage school, a school of kendo, the Japanese traditional martial art of swordmanship), from around the middle of the 17th century but it was in the Meiji Period when the bogu was used in the Japanese art of fencing and the design similar to the present one was completed.

Type and structure

The kendo implements consist of four parts: the Men (面), the Kote (籠手, also written as 小手 and 甲手 in Chinese characters), the Do (胴), and the Tare (垂). The protective gear for naginata has the fifth part, the shin guard, and its Kote design is slightly different from the one for Japanese art of fencing.

Each structure and feature are shown below:
Boldface means the formal names of each part.

Men

It is a protective gear to protect the head and the throat. The face part is protected with metal grids (mengane (a metallic part of kendo-swordmanship's mask)) so that a bamboo sword will not strike in the face. The portion from shoulder to the top of the head is covered with sashiko (an old needlework technology) (menbuton (a cloth hook in the back side of men-mask of kendo swordmanship)). The part to protect the throat is called Tsukidare (a throat cover of men-mask of kendo swordmanship) and made especially robust as it is where a tsuki (thrust) is received.

As the Men alone cannot protect the back of the head and the part where it touches head hair is deteriorated with sweat and grease, a tenugui cotton towel (also called as menshita or men taoru) is also used in combination with the Men to compensate for the weakness.

The space between the 6th and the 7th from the top of the mengane (yokogane (a horizontally-set metallic bar of kendo-swordmanship's mask)) (Men for a boy is between the 5th and 6th) is called Monomi and the space of yokogane is slightly wider than others. In addition, inside of the Men, there is a bank-like part (uchiwa) that surrounds around the mengane. When wearing the Men, players put their lower jaws on the lower part of the uchiwa and adjust their eye level to the monomi.

When wearing the Men, players fix it with a men himo string. There are two ways to tie this men himo string: one from the both sides and the other is from the top of the head. How to tie the men himo string depends on players of Japanese art of fencing and the latter is popular among players in the Kansai and Kyushu areas. The latter way to tie the men himo string is also used in the naginata.

Iron or German silver (nickel silver) were once used for the primary materials of the mengane, but light alloy such as duralumin has been started to be used from the point of view of lighter weight. However, the light alloy Men is not strong enough, so the titanium alloy Men that has comparatively lower specific gravity and is excel in all aspects such as strength, corrosion resistance, and aesthetic sense has been used for the protective gear for general adults who need higher impact resistance.

In 1997, a new-type of Men of which several mengame (yokogane) nearby monomi are removed and the part is covered with a transparent polycarbonate resin board (product name: Mujumen) was commercially manufactured by Hasegawa Chemical Industry Co., Ltd. This gear has features that it can ensure a wider visual field and the face of the player can be seen from the outside and it has now been officially-recognized for matches.

Kote

This protective gear is to protect the parts from hands to arms (from elbow joints to forearms) and is left-and-right-pair. It has a structure that consists of a main part of a kotebuton (an arm cover of glove for kendo swordmanship) made of sashiko and a kotegashira (a fist cover of glove for kendo swordsmanship) made of moccasin or artificial leather and a strong connecting portion called Tsutsu (a wrist cover of glove used for kendo swordsmanship).

The palm side (te-no-uchi) of the kotegashira is made of thin leather so that a player can hold a bamboo sword or a naginata. The portion to put in a thumb is independently separated from other parts at the top of the kotegashira (For a naginata kote, the index finger portion is also separated).

Except for the kote for boys, the namako (a connection between a fist cover and a wrist cover of glove used for kendo swordsmanship) or a portion called kera is added to protect the wrist. There are two types of kote with one tier of namako or two tiers of namako but it is said there is little difference in functions between them.

There are also a kote of which finger portion is divided into five like a glove, or a kote that can be washed with water from the aspect of good hygiene.

Do

It is a protective gear to protect from chest to abdomen, and axillary. The chest cover part (domune) has a structure that a hard core material covered with leather, and the abdomen and axillary parts (dodai) where players receive strikes to the Do is made of very strong materials such as plastic, bamboo, or vulcanized fiber (layers of paper board compressed with special method. Simply it is called fiber).

The bamboo dodai is generally made by putting cow skin or sharkskin on the surface and coating layers of urushi (Japanese lacquer) to look beautiful. The surface coating of the dodai has a wide variety in both the color tone and the finishing method and many are painted in black (roiro: black japan) or dark brown (tameiro) and given a luster by brushing it up. In addition, there are also other dodais such as the one with no urushi coating on the leather (kijido) and the one with urushi coated directly on the bamboo surface. The plastic dodai or the fiber dodai are copy models of leather and urushi finished dodais.

The Dodai also has traditional embroidered patterns called kumogata (cloud form) or shokko (lattice pattern with rectangles or octangles, it is sometimes written as 曙光 in Chinese character) (Shokko is also embroidered on the Tsukidare of the Men). Recent years, 'tensashi' (also called 'betasashi') that avoid eye-catching patterns or color, are preferred.

Tare

This protective gear is to protect the waist and lower abdomen. It consists of one Tareobi at the top, three pieces of Odare, and two pieces of Kotare. This protective gear, different form other gear, does not receive direct strokes so the entire portion is made of sashiko and cloth knit from strong materials (leather is also used for decoration materials). In the Odare at the center, a name tag called a Tare name, namely a square piece of cloth with the name of the group a player belongs to it is inserted.

Shin guard

It is a protective gear specific to the naginata where the attack on shin is a valid-strike (yuko). Left-and-right-pair. It has a structure where several bamboo sticks are connected with a string, and is used to twist around the shin of both legs.

Order in which the protective gear is worn

The kendo implements are worn in order of the Tare, the Do, (tenugui), the Men, the left Kote, and the right Kote. To take them off, follow the opposite order.

In the practice for beginners, sometimes only the Tare and the Do are worn and the Men and the Kote are not worn. In the practice or examination for rank of Nihon Kendo Kata, only the Tare is worn.

In the naginata, the Shin guard is worn after the Do is worn.