I often get potential new students who ask about Kendo. I explain that we do Kenjutsu, not Kendo, but that often is very confusing to people who are not familiar with the differences in various martial arts. I will attempt to explain some simple differences between the two. Kendo mean "path of the sword" but today it typically refers to Japanese fencing. Originally Kendo was used to describe any sword style, and Gekiken "hitting sword" was used to describe the sport of fencing. Nowadays, Kendo refers primarily to fencing. Kenjutsu means "art of the sword" and refers to a martial art that predates the 1800s and teaches how to use the Japanese Samurai sword, either Tachi or Katana or both (our dojo learns both).
Fencing is not actual sword fighting. There are many things that morph from the original styles when they are adapted to sport fighting. One is the striking of the Shinai (bamboo stick sword) against the opponent. The method of swinging is different from how a katana or tachi is actually swung, and the striking targets certain parts of the armor worn. In Kenjutsu the goal is to defeat the armor by cutting where the joints are, not hitting the armor itself as is done in Kendo. Also, a Kendo practitioner may never pick up an actual sword, whereas in Kenjutsu the shape, weight, and balance of the sword are very important so metal or solid hardwood swords are primarily used.
So, depending on your interest, you would search out the style that matches your interest. If you want to do the sport of Japanese fencing, then Kendo is the style you are looking for and we do have Kendo clubs in the Treasure Valley area. If you are looking for training with an actual sword and to learn how to properly handle and use a Japanese sword and how it is used to get around armor (the curved shape of the Japanese sword is very important for this, a straight stick can't replicate it), then you are searching for Kenjutsu. In the Treasure Valley, our dojo is the only one teaching Kenjutsu in the old style as part of an actual Samurai heritage passed on to today through direct transmission for 1,000 years.
Shane Sensei is a licensed Shidoshi in the Bujinkan and member of the Shidoshi-Kai. He has trained in the Bujinkan since 1998 and regularly travels to Japan for training.