Posts Tagged ‘Washing kendo clothing’

TAK-KEN-KEI-SK-WHITE-ALL-2In the early days of British kendo the washing of kendo equipment appeared to be frowned upon. Bogu was left to ripen without the benefit of drying or disinfecting and hakama and keikogi were hardly ever washed. Even in hygiene conscious Japan, people spoke about the 3 k’s of kendo – kitsui, kurushii and kusaii, (hard, painful and smelly).

My own realisation that the contents of my bogu bag did not smell like the perfume counter at Harrods came when I was entrusted to help a young female model wear my equipment for a photo-shoot. As this was back in the days when I was also young and single, it seemed like a fairly good gig. Unfortunately I had neglected to take my stuff out of the boot of the car where it had sat for a few days since my last keiko. Her shudder and look of sheer disgust as I wrapped my rancid, wet keikogi around her shoulders will stay with me for ever.

Fortunately things have changed over the past few years. Most people are aware of their obligation to themselves and their dojo mates to keep their hakama and keikogi laundered and their bogu aired. Indirect sunlight is a great way of deodorising bogu. If you leave it out in sunlight or in front any other source of direct radiant heat, the chances are that it will dry and crack the leather. So it is best to keep it under cover in warm weather.   We don’t see much sunshine in the winter months in the UK but I have reached a stand-off with my wife where my kit goes outside to air and then into a cupboard housing a hot water tank.

I wrote some-time ago about the use of child labour in the care of kendo clothing http://wp.me/ptBQt-sx .  This is not compulsory and you are at liberty to wash your own kit, but I would suggest that you use cold water in a container that won’t hold the stain of indigo and then let the garments drip dry, so that they don’t shrink or lose too much colour.

More recently a number of boguya have come up with methods for washing kendo armour and there are a number of links on the internet, including this one from Andy Fisher of All Japan Budogu www.youtube.com/watch?v=eh8tmi2Zv5s.

I have personally never been brave enough to immerse my men in a bucket of water, but I have had men and kote professionally washed in Japan and the results are tangible. As well as getting rid of the smell, washing makes them lighter and restores their original texture.

Had I known then what I know now, the poor lady would have had a far less unpleasant experience.


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I have been asked for advice on a number of occasions about the best way to wash hakama and keikogi.

If you wash them too often they lose colour, if you don’t wash them often enough they become smelly and crusty. Putting both kendogi and bogu out to dry in the sunshine has a deodorising effect, but as we have had so little summer sun in the UK this year, washing has become a necessity.

Kendo clothing should ideally be washed by hand in cold water without soap powder , so to do this to  best effect and to find my grandson a useful occupation in the school holidays, I have developed the” Small-boy Kendo Washing Machine” or “Shonen Kendo Sentakuki”. The key components are a small boy, a bucket and a hosepipe.

To avoid blue dye in the house and the resultant discussions with non-kendoka partners or housemates, the garments to be washed, the boy, bucket and hosepipe should be taken somewhere in the garden where they can be hung out to dry (the keikogi that is, not the boy).

The keikogi and boy are placed in the bucket and he is given the hosepipe and instructions to half fill the bucket whilst jogging on the spot and to keep going for 20 minutes and a number of water changes. He may need some help on this one and have to be lifted out at each water change.

Once the boy has done his bit, you need to ensure that you rinse the blue dye off his feet before you hand him back. To dry hakama it is best to use a clip type hanger and turn the koshiita down in line with the front waistband. You can then pull the pleats in place before it dries, minimising or avoiding the need for ironing. Keikogi should be turned inside out and dried on a pole that passes through both sleeves. Special keikogi hangers that extend to the correct shape are available from most budo stores. My favourite method is to take a slat from a carbon fibre shinai, drill two holes in the centre and attach a hook through a string. Come to think of it this is to my mind, the best use of a carbon fibre shinai.

I am sure that these revelations will cause concern amongst right thinking people who shun the exploitation of minors, but rest assured I make the task less intimidating with a plentiful supply of ice lollies, Jaffa Cakes and Fizzy Fangs. 

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