Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohon: Pre-War Kendo Waza


The following is a translation of waza descriptions from Takano Sasaburo sensei’s book Kendo Kyohon, published in 1930. The translations were done by Kent Enfield and serialised here on kenshi 24/7 back in 2009.

During the end of year article clean-up that I usually do, I temporarily archived the series (6 posts) with the aim of bringing it all together and presenting it as a single article on the site at some point. Since the last post on the site was replete with pre-war kendo video, and because some people commented about the techniques used on the kenshi 24/7 facebook page, I thought it was about time I made an effort to repackage and re-present Kent’s amazing work. Here it is.

(Please note that the picture at the top and the video below have nothing to do with the Kendo Kyohon itself, they are just for illustration purposes.)


Discussions of pre-war kendo pop up from time to time with people proposing what it was like.  It seems that those proposals are often supposition based on what someone wishes or imagines it was like instead of the sources that are available.  To that end, I’m translating portions of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohon into English.

Kendo Kyohon was originally published in 1930, and much of it is repetition from his prior work, Kendo, published in 1915.

This post is split into six sections. The first four will be his “fifty varieties of technique” broken into four sections: men, tsuki, kote, and do. The fifth will be tsubazeriai and taiatari, and the sixth kumiuchi (grappling, and throwing). The curriculum of 50 techniques is a reduction and reworking of a curriculum of 68 techniques described by Chiba Shusaku. The 50-technique version also appears Kendo, with the only differences being slight differences in phrasing and more old-fashioned grammar.

I’d like to make one note on the translation. Takano sensei describes the two participants as “I” [我] and “the enemy” [敵]. I have switched first-person declaratives to second-person imperatives, as that is much more natural in modern English.



Fifty Varieties of Technique

In kendo, having a certain one or two favorite techniques at which you are proficient is advantageous, but it is not good to be biased toward your favorite techniques, without any variety or being skilled at other techniques.  You must master many techniques, so that they can be used skillfully to respond to the situation.  The 50 most basic yet typically easy to use techniques are listed below.  You should gradually try these techniques and work to master them.

其の一 面十八種
Section 1 Eighteen for Men


Semekomi Men
While attacking the enemy from gedan, chudan, or jodan, see an opening and strike men.


Degashira Men
While facing each other in gedan or chudan, strike men when the enemy begins to try to advance.


Shogeki Men
When the enemy is in chudan, strike shomen the moment the enemy moves to gedan.

NOTE: I am unsure of the pronunciation of 正撃.


Hanmigeki Men
You are in jodan, and the enemy is in gedan etc.  As the enemy thrusts, open to either the enemy’s left or right and take hanmi, avoiding the enemy’s sword.  Strike the enemy’s yokomen with one hand, either left or right.


Morote Shomen
When facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., as the enemy tries to strike your right kote, open your body to the left of the enemy, removing your kote.  Assume hanmi and strike the enemy’s shomen.


Nuki Men
Facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., when the enemy strikes at your right kote, take one step backward from the left foot and dodge without blocking.  From there, swing your sword halfway up with both hands and strike.


Morote Jodan Men
When the enemy is defending in gedan or chudan, etc., from jodan, when you see an opening, strike men. Depending on the situation, you can also strike the enemy’s kote. The correct striking method for this is to strike the enemy the moment they begin to move.


Katate Jodan Men
When the enemy is defending in jodan or chudan, etc., from left or right katate jodan, strike men. Depending on the time, you can also strike kote.


Hidari Ai Jodan Men
When both parties are facing each other in hidari jodan, strike men from jodan. Depending on the time, you can also strike kote.  Wait for the opportunity to develop.  The correct time to strike is when the enemy comes to strike.


Migi Ai Jodan Men
When both you and he are facing each other in migi ai jodan, strike men from jodan.  Depending on the time, you can also strike kote.  Other than this, it is in accordance with the previous paragraph.


Suriage Men
When facing each other in gedan or chudan, as the enemy comes to strike your own men, slide up [suriage] to jodan and strike men.


Ojikaeshi Men
When both parties are in the same kamae as above, as the enemy comes to strike your men, perform ukenagashi and from there strike men in response.  Depending on the time, you strike kote.


Makiotoshi Men
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above, as the enemy comes to strike your men, perform makiotoshi to either the left or the right and strike men.

NOTE: This makiotoshi waza is an oji waza in response to men, so it is clearly not the same technique as the modern shikake waza with the same name.  As it can also be followed by tsuki (listed in the next section) instead of men I believe it is probably similar to the makiotoshi of Shinto Muso Ryu.


Hari Men
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above, slap the middle portion of the enemy’s sword and from there strike men.


Osae Kote Men
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above, as the enemy comes to strike your men, press his right kote and, from there, step in one step, stretch out your arms, and strike men.



Seme Kote Men
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above, threaten to strike the enemy’s right kote.  When the enemy protects his kote, without a moment’s delay, fly in and strike men.


Shinai Osae Men
When facing each other, the enemy in chudan and you in gedan, as the enemy comes to strike your men, press down on the middle of their tsuka.  At the same time as the enemey’s kamae crumbles, swing up halfway with both hands and strike men.

NOTE: If this is the technique I think it is, it appears in the Nihon no Kobudo video of Ono-ha Itto Ryu.  As the enemy cuts, you catch the tsuka with your monouchi, move it down to the back and side, then cut.


Sutemi Men
When the enemy is in chudan and you are in gedan, from there attack the enemy’s right kote.
When the enemy defends by changing from chudan to gedan, without a moment’s delay, fly in with abandon and, adequately stretching out your arms, strike men.

In part one I translated the section of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohon describing 18 techniques for striking men. Part two is 13 techniques for thrusting.  One important point not included in this section is that Takano sensei considers tsuki to contain three distinct techniques: mae zuki, omote zuki, and ura zuki—in the same way that men is divided into shomen, hidari men, and migi men.  Because of this, I will include his section on how to thrust [突方] from the early chapter on basic practice [基本練習] that describes these three variations.


Mae Zuki
Thrust at the enemy’s throat, wringing both hands equally and stretching out your arms at the same time you move your body forward.


Omote Zuki
Wring both your hands, and turn the edge slightly to the right.  At the same time, stretch out your arms, and thrust to the throat while advancing your body towards the enemy’s omote (left side).  It is essential to advance your right foot slightly diagonally to the right and to accompany it with the left.


Ura Zuki
Wring your hands, and turn the edge slightly to the left.  Stretch out your arms, and thrust to the throat at the same time as you advance your body a little bit diagonally to the left, to the enemy’s ura (right side).

Now, on to the section describing techniques that result in a thrust.

其の二 突十三種
Section 2 Thirteen for Tsuki


Mae Zuki
Using both hands, thrust to the enemy from the front.


Katate Zuki
Using one hand, thrust to the enemy from either omote or ura.


Nidan Tsuki
When facing each other in either gedan or chudan, threaten to strike the enemy’s right wrist.  When the enemy changes to gedan to defend, thrust from the ura side.


Kiriotoshi Zuki
When facing each other in chudan, as the enemy comes to thrust or strike, cut down the attack [kiriotoshi] and thrust with both hands.


Omote Katate Zuki
When you both are in the same kamae as above, when you see the enemy lower his sword to gedan, thrust from the omote side with one hand.


Ura Zuki
When you are both in the same kamae as above, press the enemy’s sword from the right and thrust with both hands.


Ire Zuki
When you are facing each other in gedan, as the enemy comes to thrust, turn over your hands, pull in, and counter the thrust with a thrust.

NOTE:  This is the name Takano sensei uses for the main technique of tachi no kata no sambonme.



Kote Osae Mae Zuki
When the enemy is in chudan and you are in gedan, strike the enemy’s right kote, press on the tsubamoto of the enemy’s sword from omote, and from there thrust in.


Degashira Tsuki

Facing each other, the enemy in gedan and you in chudan, as the first enemy advances, if you extend the sword directly forward with both hands, the enemy will naturally run into your thrust.


Jodan Henka Tsuki
As the enemy is in gedan and you are in hidari jodan, as the enemy first begins to advance, from jodan match up with their sword, pull it in, and thrust.

NOTES: The action of pulling in is described using the same language as is used in irezuki, 引入れ–hikiire, suggesting the two use similar mechanics.  Also, while in current Japanese 誘う means “invite”, “lure”, “induce”, the character has an archaic reading いざなう as well as an slightly different meaning along the lines of “go along together with”.  Chiba Shusaku describes the analogous technique in his curriculum,  jodan hikiire zuki, against the enemy’s katatezuki using the phrase “此の方上段より其の太刀に添ひ、引き入れて突く”–”you meet their sword from jodan, pull in, and thrust”.  The pertinant verb in this description is 添ふ (そう) which means “go along with” or “suit”.  It’s the intransitive partner to 添える, the soeru that give the soe in soete tsuki in seitei iai.


Makiotoshi Zuki
While facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., when the enemy strikes at your men, perform makiotoshi to the left or to the right and thrust.

NOTE: As previously noted for makiotoshi men in Part 1, this makiotoshi is clearly not the same technique as the shikake waza that is more commonly known these days.  It may be similar to the makiotoshi of Shinto Muso Ryu.


Nuke Zuki
When you are facing each other in the same kamae as above, as the enemy strikes at your men, move your body diagonally to the left or right, escape from underneath the enemy’s sword, and thrust to the enemy’s throat.


Tsuki Kaeshi Zuki
When you are facing each other in the same kamae as above, as the enemy thrusts at you,  turn the blade to the enemy’s left turning over your hands and counter the thrust with a thrust.

In parts one and two of this series I translated the sections of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohan describing techniques for men and tsuki.  In this part, I translate the section for kote techniques.

As in part two, I have included the section on how to strike kote [籠手の撃方] from the chapter on basic practice [基本練習].


Kote Uchi
Swing up until you can see the enemy’s kote between your arms, and strike kote from the front.  Advance from the right foot, and follow it with the left, but the feeling of advancing with your abdomen is essential.  This is because in the case of kote uchi it is easy to strike as if using just your fingers.


Maki Kote Uchi
With the feeling of drawing a small circle, spiral in with your sword tip and strike the enemy’s right kote.   The footwork is the same as above.


Nuki Kote Uchi
Step to the left with the left foot.  Accompany it with the right foot, and advance the right foot in front of the left.  Describe a half circle under the enemy’s sword with your sword tip.  During the first step make a large evasion, then strike the enemy’s right kote.

Now the section on kote techniques.

其の三 籠手十二種
Twelve for Kote


Oyo Kote
When you are facing each other, the enemy in chudan and you in gedan, press the middle of the enemy’s sword.  As the enemy pushes back in order to not be pushed, make use of this and avoid his sword, wrap around under it, and strike makikote.


Katsugi Kote
When facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., bring your sword to your left shoulder and strike the enemy’s right kote on an angle from the side.


Age Kote
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above,  when the enemy raises up to assume jodan, strike without a moment’s delay.


Degashira Kote
When both parties are facing each other in gedan, strike kote the moment the enemy initiates striking your men or kote.


Suriage Kote
When you are facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., as the enemy comes to strike at your men, bring the sword to your right shoulder to perform suriage and strike the enemy’s right kote.


Tsuki Barai Kote
When both are in the same kamae as above, as the enemy thrusts at you left handed, sweep it away to the left and strike the enemy’s right kote.


Jodan Kote
When the enemy is in gedan or chudan and you are in jodan, if you show signs of striking men, the enemy will certainly try to defend against this, so strike his right kote.  If in this case the enemy lowers the tip of his sword, strike the inside kote.


Migi Jodan Kote
When the enemy tries to strike your kote or men from chudan or gedan while you are in migi jodan, take one step backward from the left foot, making a large evasion and avoid the enemy’s sword, then step in one step and strike the right kote.


Sasoi Kote
When facing each other in gedan or chudan, if you show signs of attacking the enemy’s right kote, the enemy will certainly try to attack your own kote.  Block, parry, etc. this and strike the enemy’s right kote.


Tome Kote
In the same kamae as above, as the enemy tries to strike your right kote or men, block with the tsuba moto and from there strike the enemy’s right kote with a small motion.  Depending on the distance, you can also perform suriage with the shinogi of the monouchi then strike.


Orishiki Kote
In the same kamae as above, as the enemy comes to strike your men, put your the left knee down on the floor and strike, kneeling.


Maki Kote
With both in the same kamae as above, as the enemy tries to strike your kote, wrap around underneath and strike kote with a small motion.

In the first three parts of this series I translated the sections of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohan describing techniques for men, tsuki, and kote.  In this part, I translate the section for do techniques.

As in part two, I have included the section on how to strike do [胴の撃方] from the chapter on basic practice [基本練習].  Note that for basic migi do, Takano sensei uses ayumi ashi, striking with the left foot forward.


Migi Do
Swing up until you can see the enemy’s do between your arms.  Advance slightly diagonally left with the left foot, and accompany it with the right foot.  Stretching out both arms, strike the enemy’s right do diagonally from the upper left.  In this case, the crossing of your arms comes directly in front of your body, but bear in mind not to let your sword stray, holding it between your arms.  Turn the edge to the right.


Hidari Do
Swing up until you can see the enemy’s do between your arms.  Advance diagonally to the right with the right foot, and accompany it with the left foot.  Stretching out both arms, strike the enemy’s left do diagonally from the upper right.  Turn the edge to the left.

Now the section on do techniques.

其の四 胴七種
Seven for Do


Suriage Do
When you are facing each other with the enemy in jodan or chudan, etc., and you in chudan or gedan, as the enemy tries to strike your men, perform suriage, and strike do while kneeling.


Orishiki Do
When facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., the enemy will come to strike your men.  Quickly kneel and strike do, paying no heed to his sword as it passes by.

NOTE: 摺れ違ふ (surechigau–usually written 擦れ違う or すれ違う) means for two things to miss or pass by each other, but I felt that if I translated it as such, people would read it as either both missing or running past each other, neither of which is the case.


Tachi Do
In the same kamae as above, as the enemy strikes at your men, flying in and stretching out his arms, pay no heed to his sword and quickly indeed dodge and strike do.  Strike while standing and not kneeling.


Katate Men Do
In the same kamae as above, as the enemy come to thrust, open your body to the enemy’s left and strike the enemy’s left men with one hand.  Then turning over your hands and strike the enemy’s right do.

NOTE: The 又は was a source of trouble in translating this technique. , without , is often used similarly to “moreover,” “furthermore,” “then,” or “and” in English, but 又は is, to my knowledge, exclusively used in listing alternatives.  That is, it means “or” in English.  However, translating it as such would make this into two separate techniques, katete men or do.  That doesn’t make sense given that it appears in the section on do techniques, and that katete men against tsuki was already described under hanmiuchimen.  Thus, I believe that the in the original is a mistake and have translated the sentence as if it weren’t there.  Thanks to Josh Reyer for providing a second opinion regarding this.


Men Kote Do
When facing each other in chudan no kamae, the moment the enemy tries to lower his sword to gedan, step in one step and strike shomen, take one step back and strike kote, then, stepping forward with the left foot and turning over your hands, strike the enemy’s right do.


Tsuba Zeri Do
When together in tsubazeriai, upon seeing an opening, strike do while standing.  When you push the enemy, the enemy will push back.  Strike from under the enemy’s extended hands.  This is a method for striking using the enemy’s power.


Kote Kakari Do
With the enemy in jodan and you in chudan, gedan, etc., if you show signs of attacking the enemy’s kote, the enemy will try to avoid your sword.  The moment he does, fly in and strike.

In the first four parts of this series I translated the sections of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohan concerning techniques for men, tsuki, kote, and do. Part five will cover tsubazeriai and taiatari.

Tsubazeriai, taiatari, and kumiuchi are sections three through five of the chapter titled “Information about Shiai” [仕合心得].  Sections one and two of that chapter are “Normal Information” [一般の心得], which covers things like reigi and the notion of fighting fair and square, and “Preparations at Tachiai” [立合の支度].



(1) How to Separate
When you have come to tsubazeriai, coming close to the enemy, separate quickly. The moment of separation is worthy of attention, so separate pull back quickly, either striking where the enemy is unprepared or suppressing his sword so that the enemy cannot extend his hands.  If you don’t know this and pull back ineffectively, you will be defeated by the enemy.


(2) Information About Tsubazeriai
When you have come to tsubazeriai, extend your legs and waist so that your body doesn’t shrink, lift up your face, and even compete in height lining up your face even with that of the enemy.  Make yourself tall to the point of feeling that you will defeat the enemy, and enter strongly into the space in front of the enemy (futokoro).  By doing this, you will reveal the strength and valor in your heart and make the enemy cower.  If you have this knowledge and enter quite deeply into the enemy’s space, your body will be at ease, and your movements will become free and nimble.  This isn’t just a physical matter.  You must suppress the enemy with your spirit.



(1) How to do Taiatari
Taiatari is colliding your body with the enemy’s, knocking them back or knocking them down and preventing them from striking after you do (ato uchi).  At the same time as you strike, turn your face slightly to the left, put your right shoulder forward, and strike the enemy in the chest in a strong, bouncing manner.  At the same time, scoop up with both hands towards the enemy’s chin and knock them down.  If you are proficient, you can knock the enemy back two or three ken [about 3.5 to 5.5 meters] when you knock them down.  If you do taiatari, the enemy will try to not be knocked down, so you can make an opening somewhere.  Don’t miss this chance to strike.


(2) How to Receive Taiatari
When the enemy comes to collide, shift your body and avoid it, or in what is called “ireatari“, momentarily shrink down then stretch out again to strike the enemy.  Even if the enemy comes in strongly and furiously, you can receive it easily or avoid it.  You should train until you can calmly dodge or push back even when someone of incredible strength comes at you.  When the enemy pushes strongly, if you receive by turning your body slightly diagonally to either the right or the left, it is easy to stave him off.  You should practice taiatari regularly and often.

In the first four parts of this series, I translated the sections of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohan concerning waza for men, tsuki, kote, and do.  In part five I translated the sections about tsubazeriai and taiatari.  In this section, I translate the section on grappling (kumiuchi).



(1) Striking Down the Enemy’s Sword and When Your Sword is Struck Down
Grappling is something that happens when the enemy closes to wrestle or when your sword is struck out of your hands.  In the case of knocking the sword out of the enemy’s hands, take advantage of the opportunity and strike directly.  If you delay in striking, even though you don’t draw close to the enemy, he may be pressured into grappling.  In the case where your sword is knocked out of your hands, fly in straight away to wrestle before the enemy can perform another technique.  In the case where you can’t do that, jump back for a moment.  When you see an opening, fly in.



(2) How to Grapple

In the battles of the past, they would fight from a distance with bows and arrows.  Coming close, they would struggle using striking weapons like spears, naginata, swords, etc.  When they couldn’t achieve victory that way, they would hold down the enemy, pin him, draw a dagger, stick it into the gaps in the armor, and cut off the enemy’s head.  Emulating that, in a grappling situation hold down the enemy, twist his arm, twist his men so that he cannot move, or twist his men completely off.

Because in kendo the techniques are concerned with the sword, outside of situations when it can’t be helped, you should avoid grappling.  If you have great strength, challenging people to grapple or wrestling with those who are weak is incorrect.

When the enemy has knocked your sword out of your hands, if he can’t immediately strike, pressure the enemy with all of your spirit and he will let you escape.  In the past when they couldn’t fight with striking weapons or one person had broken their sword and they reached out their arms to grapple, even though it was clear they would be at a disadvantage on closing, they would accept this knowing they would die in battle.  This was something that was revered in the minds of warriors who valued their reputations and had a sense of shame.  In the case when you knock the sword out of the enemy’s hands, striking immediately without any loss of spirit or letting up is the way of kendo, but taking advantage of the being able to disarm the enemy and striking anywhere, impatiently trying to achieve victory, is unseemly.


(3) Kendo and Judo
However, it is still necessary to practice grappling constantly.  When the enemy’s sword is knocked away and he comes to wrestle, if you don’t have knowledge about grappling, it will probably be an ungainly defeat for you even if you are skilled with the sword.  Also, if you have an encounter with thugs and can’t avoid fighting, this knowledge will often be of use.  Kendo and judo aren’t entirely distinct things.  These two are, for example, like a mino [straw rain cloak] and kasa [conical rain hat].  You can’t say either is sufficient by itself.  Therefore, in addition to studying kendo, you should study judo as well if you have the opportunity.

NOTE: Takano sensei uses kendo as a general term for sword arts.  Elsewhere he refers to Itto Ryu kendo, Katori Shinto Ryu kendo, Kurama Ryu kendo, etc.  Thus it is quite possible that he uses judo in the same way, as a general term.

尚こゝに足搦の法に就いて述べて置き度い。足搦の技に熟して居る時は、敵の氣を奪ひ、擔を寒からしむることが出來る。此の技を行ふには、敵に接近して、彼我の身體が相接觸する程にならなければ、十分に効を奏しない。其の方法は、我が左足を敵の右足の外踝に掛け、敵の脚を强く拂ふと同時に、我が太刀を敵の左頸筋に當てて强く押すのである。此の外、種々の方法がある。敵から足搦を掛けられた時は、敵の中柄、或は襦袢を捉へて立直るのである。又敵から掛けられた時も、前に突進すれば却つて敵を倒すことが出來る。決して後へは引かぬことである。又敵が足搦を掛けようとするのを察知した時には、却つて此方から掛けるやうにする。すべて足搦を行ふ時には、敵の身體が浮付いて、所謂死腰になつた時を見て掛くべきである。無理に試みる時は我が體勢を亂し、敵に乗ぜられのである。足に十分力を入れ、强く敵の脚に掛けなければならぬが、同時に腕で押す力が入らなければ役に立たぬ。 腕と脚と相伴つて掛くから、敵を顚倒させ、我が體勢も崩れることなく泰然たるを得るのである。

(4) Ashigarami
Still, I would like to write about how to do ashigarami here.  When you make use of ashigarami, you can rob the enemy of his spirit [ki] and chill his courage.  When performing this technique, if you don’t draw close enough to the enemy that your bodies are touching, it won’t have a sufficient effect.  To do this, hook your left leg around the outside of the enemy’s right ankle, and at the same time as you sweep the enemy’s leg strongly, put your sword on the enemy’s neck and push strongly.  There are many other ways besides this one.

When the enemy tries to do ashigarami on you, stay standing up by grabbing the middle of his hilt or his juban.  Moreover, when reaped by the enemy, you can knock him down instead by rushing forward.  By no means retreat backwards.  Also, when you sense the enemy is going to try ashigarami, try to reap him instead.  When performing ashigarami, you should watch for what’s called “dead hips” (shinigoshi) when the enemy’s body begins to float.

If you try it when you shouldn’t, your own posture will be broken, and you will be ridden by the enemy.  You have to reap the enemy’s leg strongly with sufficient power in your foot, but if you don’t use enough force in your push, it won’t succeed.  If you use your arms and legs together, the enemy will fall, and you will be stable without your posture being broken.

British Pathé – kendo !


British Pathé have finally released their archive on youtube including some kendo videos for us enthusiasts to wonder at (they had been available on their own website and in lower quality for a few years now). The vids span the years from WW1 up until 1974 and are an extremely valuable source for those interested in the historical development of kendo.

The post-war vids in particular show just how ad-hoc kendo was in the UK during the ’60s and ’70s (or even – dare I say it – how made-up it all was). This is valuable in many respects, not in the least because Britain was one of the earliest European countries to adopt kendo. Of course, I’d love to compare these videos to kendo from other countries around the same time frame.

(Actually, did you know that the first ever kendo manual in English was published in 1964? The book was called “An Introduction to Kendo” and it was written by R.A. Lidstone, an early British kendo pioneer. He passed away in 1969 but must have been at least partly responsible for the teaching and dissemination of kendo to the people in these videos.)

Anyway, my favourite vid from the Pathé bunch is the 1932 “Big Hits” one… mainly because the gentlemen in the video looks like he is having a great time !!

“Interesting Wrestling” 1914-18 (Kendo aboard a navy ship during WW1)

“Big hits” 1932

“Japs On The Jump” 1932 (sorry, thats the original title)

“Judo and Kendo” 1936

“England Expects Every Man To Do His Judo” 1937 (kendo demonstration at the end)

“Biff!” 1937

“Kendo Beware” 1962

“Kendo Beware” 1966

“Kendo Beware” 1966 OUT TAKES (no sound)

“Karate Championships” 1969 (kendo starts at the 40 second mark)

“Kendo in London” 1974 (no sound, film reversed)

The stream of tradition


The building my main dojo is based in is undergoing renovation. Part of the work involved includes increasing the size of an already existing office at the back of the dojo and to so were told that we would lose a little bit of the space in our changing room (luckily the dojo will remain as is). Due to this we had to completely clean out the changing room, which meant disposing of unneeded bogu and contacting those that didn’t come to keiko often to come and pick their stuff up. Hidden in the back of the changing room, in amongst all the kote and keikogi, was a large horizontal picture frame with some beautiful calligraphy. Quite unexpectedly one of the head sensei turned round to me and said “Do you want it?” A bit surprised I said “Are you sure?” and – after some persuasion (light I must admit!) it was a done deal.

Mori Torao (l) vs Noda Ko (r) in Los Angeles, 1959.

Mori Torao (l) vs Noda Ko (r) in Los Angeles, 1959.

The calligrapher

The kanji is the hand of Noda Ko sensei (1901-1984). Noda sensei became the CEO of Hankyu department store (based in Osaka) in the late 50s and was extremely influential in the resurgence and development of post-war kendo.

After the war he worked with Sasamori Junzo sensei in Tokyo to establish a softer, westernized version of kendo called shinai-kyogi – something more palatable to the occupying Americans. This served its purpose as a Trojan horse and eventually kendo was reborn and shinai-kyogi subsumed within the new kendo federation.

In those early years Noda sensei held various executive positions in the fledgling kendo associations: e.g. vice-president of the All Japan Kendo Federation (ZNKR), president of the Osaka prefectural school kendo association, president of the Kansai universities kendo association, etc. He also served as the honourary president of the Osaka kendo association from it’s foundation in 1954 until his death 30 years later.

A member of the Butokukai before the war, when kendo was finally rebooted and the Kyoto Taikai began again, he would invite such kendo legends as Saimura Goro, Ogawa Kinnosuke, Miyazaki Mosaburo, and Mochida Seiji, to his Hankyu dojo in Osaka (the 1st dojo was built in 1958, a 2nd in a new location in 1978), thus helping to promote and spread traditional kendo in the Kansai area. Included in these keikokai’s would be future leaders of kendo in the area, such as Ikeda Yuji sensei and Matsumoto Junpei sensei.

Not only this, but Noda sensei travelled abroad a bit and had a an interest the development of kendo in America, particularly on the west coast. He practised with Mori Torao in L.A. in the 1950s, attended the 1st and 2nd American Kendo Championships, and invited the American team to Osaka and his dojo after the Sapporo WKC (1979).

Iaido hanshi 9dan, kendo hanshi 8dan, he worked as passionate about expanding the success of his business as he was the promotion of kendo.

Obviously there’s a lot more to the man himself, but I have focused on giving a very brief outline of his kendo background here.


The meaning (流河一)

It reads IKKARYU or maybe ICHIGA-NO-NAGARE (theres a few ways you could pronounce it). The literal Japanese meaning is “one stream” but the image is more likely a large, single, slow-moving river (in classical Chinese the 河 kanji means a large river, but in modern Japanese it’s more likely to be a small stream). Researching the meaning more we can find references to the karmic cycle, of birth and rebirth, but – after discussion with a professional teacher of Chinese classics (who is also an Aikido instructor) and some advice from an extremely knowledgeable iaido teacher, I came to the conclusion that the meaning of the kanji probably refers to tradition.

Imagine that tradition is a large, slow moving river. It exists, always moving forward yet almost unchanging, as a single, branchless, entity. Today we, as those that lived before us did, sit at the bank of the river, cup our hands, and drink from it. In a (roundabout) way, the karmic cycle exists within this tradition, in that what you are taught you pass on to your students ensuring that – even after your are physically no longer on earth – a part of you continues on through them. I guess, in a way, the “stream” flows through people, from one to another, and this is “tradition.”

Like most serious budo practitioners, I believe it’s my duty to pass on what I have been taught in some way. Although it will probably never happen, it’s my dream to build my own dojo one day and to teach both kendo and classical swordsmanship to a younger generation. When the time comes, I will hang this in my dojo to remind myself that I must respect what I have learned from my teachers and – for myself and my students – to point out that although our length of experience may be different, we are drinking from the same river (師弟同行).

For the time being the frame will be cleaned and polished, wrapped up, and placed somewhere safe out of harms way. Before then, I thought I’d share it here on kenshi 24/7. Hopefully I’ll be able to unwrap it and hang it somewhere soon.

Takano Shigeyoshi hanshi’s 50 pointers for kendo keiko


The following is a translation of a collection of things to be careful about during keiko by Takano Shigeyoshi entitled “Keiko kokoro tokushu.” It is a mostly random collection of kendo hints – things to be careful of, things to do, things not to do, comments about waza, etc. Some of the content is a bit dated but thats fine – it serves to illustrate both how kendo has and has not changed over the years as well as being a useful list of pointers.

I found the Japanese text online (see here) where it states that it was a document handed down to the owner of the homepage. Takano Shigeyoshi wrote only one book to my knowledge (and then it was published way after his death) and the list is not in there. I have no reason to doubt that it’s not Shigeyoshi’s work as it’s highly possible it was a not-for-sale publication (it’s reasonably common to privately record renowned sensei’s teachings in books like this after their death – I have 2 myself) or perhaps even from some private correspondence… it could even be taken from a students notes, I don’t know. Anyway, I believe Takano Shigeyoshi to be one of those highly influential pre-WW2 kenshi who’s impact is relatively unknown today – inside or outside of Japan -possibly due to his long spell in Manchuria but more probably because of his lack of written output. It’s for this reason that I am presenting it now.

The picture at the top shows Takano Sasaburo (left) and Shigeyoshi (right) performing kendo no kata in Saitama circa 1934.

Collection of pointers for keiko

1. Beginners practise should be short, use large movements, and be with full spirit.

2. You should always aim to have a correct posture and manner at all times.

3. In kendo, posture is of utmost importance. If you have a bad posture then you are not doing kendo.

4. In chudan no kamae your right foot must not face outwards. People with posture like this will never improve no matter how much keiko they do.

5. Be sure to point your left thumb down when gripping the shinai.

6. In chudan no kamae the left hand should be held at the height of the belly button and a little bit forward from it and the right should be placed lightly on the shinai. Although the left hands grip should never be relaxed, only at the moment of impact should you squeeze with the right hand and put power into it. If you constantly put power into your right hand then you will be unable to execute a good strike.

7. There are people who, immediately after standing up from sonkyo, move to the right – this is bad (your kensen becomes weaker). It’s important to move forward at this time, even if it’s only the big toe of your right foot.

8. When you move your front foot out the back foot must follow. In the same way, when you move back on your back foot then the front foot must follow.

9. It’s not good to fight from close distance.

10. You should aim to strike from as far a distance as possible.

11. If beginners concentrate on learning men and kote then they will naturally be able to do tsuki and dou.

12. You must defeat your enemy first by seme then striking, not simply striking (with no seme).

13. Leading with your right foot strike the enemy. At this time be sure that your right foot doesn’t land before the strike,

14. It’s not good to raise your front foot up too much when stamping. Aim for your foot to skim across the floor.

15. Try to remove the enemies kensen from aiming in your direction before striking.

16. There are no chance to strike other than when your opponent attempts to strike you or when he moves back (even a light debana kote is still ippon).

17. After you acquire kendo to a certain extent, then you should make an effort to research/study body movement / footwork. When the front foot moves the back foot must follow.

18. If you see an opening in your enemies kamae lower your kensen and pressure their right fist. While they are protecting this area you can cut or thrust them.

19. When moving your kensen down to pressure your enemy be wary of moving your hips down at the same time – in fact, it would be better if you actually went forward half a step with the feeling of overpowering them. If they attempt to retreat at this time immediately strike men (alternatively seme their right fist then thrust).

20. Kirikaeshi is for the benefit of removing unneeded power from the shoulders. Without moving your shoulders up bring both hands above your head (high enough so that you can see the enemy) and from here cut either side of the head to around about the 3rd bar on the mengane. Be careful of not striking flatly (horizontally) and ensure that your kensen touches your back. But this is only half of the story. The receivers job is to pull out the best from their partner so they should receive with the a light feeling, never a hard “striking” one. Also, receivers should always encourage attackers to strike whilst moving forwards, so they should move back, and even move circular if need be. When the attacker seems to have spent their energy then allow them to strike a final men. Be sure that the attackers last men is done from the correct distance so to strike with the monouchi (itto-issoku). You can allow them a little pause for a breath if need be. This last men is very important as it’s the type of men that is likely to be executed during a shiai.

21. Do keiko as if you were in danger of being cut or thrust.

22. Be constantly careful of distance during keiko. It’s important to try and always have the feeling of striking first: when you think you see a chance, even if you think you won’t execute a successful strike, you should step forward and attack.

23. Try to strike the enemies intention to attack with as small a strike as possible.

24. If you think about striking then it’s already too late. When the thought occurs you should already have struck.

25. When striking ensure that your right hand is fully stretched and that your footwork, stomach, and arms are acting in unison.

26. When you perform taiatari do so with the feeling of pushing the enemies arms upward.

27. In chudan no kamae, if the enemy comes forwards and attacks then you should use their strike and turn it back on them. Your feeling should always be “sen-sen-no-sen” and, no matter how difficult the situation may be, you should always be ready to respond to their attack, even if it is bad.

28. When the enemy comes forwards and strikes step forward without breaking your kamae and keep your kensen in the centre line. You should display the feeling neither that you have been cut or not cut.

29. After striking men don’t lift your hands above your head, instead you must express zanshin.

30. If the enemy attacks you, don’t step to the side and strike their shinai away, instead execute suriage and strike.

31. When you strike hikimen, don’t lift your hands above your head immediately after striking.

32. When striking kote, don’t move your body to the left or the right, instead strike straight forward.

33. Block with the monouchi when your right kote is attacked. Block with the middle of the shinai when your left kote is attacked. When your men is attacked block by lifting straight up, don’t hit to the side.

34. If you don’t have power in your stomach when moving back after a hikigote, then it won’t be considered ippon.

35. If the enemy attempts to tsuki you don’t move back but forwards.

36. After striking right-dou you must express zanshin and carefully look at your opponent.

37. Pushing down on the enemies kensen – if they don’t respond then simply strike men. If they push back, then go underneath their shinai and strike from the other side (ura).

38. When the enemy attacks men wait until the last second – until their arms are at full stretch – and hit their dou (kaeshi or nuki). Kote (debana) is executed in the same manner.

39. When you want to hit the enemies men slightly press down on their kensen and, moving yourself out of the centre line slightly and without lifting the shinai/arms up, strike men in a small motion. (editor: this description is a little bit hard to understand)

40. It’s not good to strongly hit the enemies sword from the ura side. Rather, you should lightly press down on their shinai’s omote side and always keep yourself on the centre line.

41. When you are pressuring the enemy by circling your sword under theirs and attacking their men and they decide to strike kote, simply stretch your hands forward (it won’t become an ippon).

42. In jodan no kamae don’t grip the shinai tightly – do so only at the moment you strike.

43. If the enemy is in jodan and you are in chudan protect yourself with the feeling that your left kote is your tsuba. If you step forward with this feeling you cannot be struck.

44. Lifting your hands up when being attacked from jodan means you will be struck. Instead, protect your right kote using your kensen.

45. In jodan no kamae, if you move back or become passive, then you have been defeated.

46. When you are in ai-jodan and the enemy goes to strike your kote don’t twist your upper body or pull your hands back, instead move out of the way using footwork then immediately launch a counter attack.

47. When tired everyone tends to breathe through their mouths using up all their energy reserves. Instead, keep the mouth closed and breathe through the nose.

48. Don’t do keiko only for your own benefit. Be prepared to keiko for your partners benefit as well.

49. There are two ways to see. One is to use your eyes, the other to use your heart (spirit). Seeing with the eyes only is small and is apt to error whereas seeing with the heart is vast and allows you to perceive not only the the state of the enemy, but to predict things before they happen. In fact, perceiving in this manner is a great benefit to your life as a whole, above and beyond kendo.

50. In the beginning use a long shinai (4 shaku 5 sun) then, as your grit and determination is tempered through hard training, move to a shorter shinai. Yamaoka Tesshu began with a long shinai then shortened it more and more. Finally he reached a point where a shinai was no longer needed.

(Editor: At the end there is simple list of terms: these show the flow from pre-attack to post-attack. I’ve put the terms in bold then – in my own words – described what they refer to.)

Wazamae – Preparedness. This term refers to what you do before you attack in particular the semeai. In other words, how the kensen is used to feel out the opponent, tapping, hitting, slapping, pushing, wrapping, etc their shinai, your footwork, use of the voice, etc.

Semete (Kuraiseme) – Pressure (presence). This is the pressure applied to the opponent. Sometimes this is done by movement, sometimes by spirit alone.

Gamanshite – Endurance. Don’t be rash – take your time, don’t be in a hurry.

Yudansezu – Carefulness. Often people are struck because they make a mistake.

Handanyoku – Careful judgement. You must be able to read the situation, to understand when to do what and how to react to unexpected situations.

Ketsudanshite – Decisiveness. Once a decision is made then you need to act on it without hesitation.

Suteminite – Attack. When attacking do so with no regard to success or failure. Throw your whole spirit and body into the cut.

Uchikiru – Finalization. Be sure and finish the cutting or thrusting action, don’t stop half way.

Zanshin – Awareness. After the strike keep calm and be ready to respond to any counter attack.



Bogu review: All Japan Budogu’s Guardian


I very rarely do reviews of equipment on this site… and, in fact, this is actually the first bogu review I’ve ever done. The reason why I’m doing one now is pretty simple: my friend Andy* asked me!! Since Andy has come to Japan I’ve helped support his forays into the kendo equipment business (through posting a link here and there as well as banner placement on this site and an odd advert in my publications), and he has reciprocated by giving me equipment now and then. Last December Andy asked me to write a review for it a new bogu (actually, a re-working of an older model) here on kenshi 24/7, and at the end of February it arrived.

Although Andy is a good friend of mine it’s important to me that information on this site is presented as accurately as possible… and that extends to reviews like this. What you are reading here is my honest opinion.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s move on.

* Andy is the boss of the international sales division of All Japan Budogu

What I look for in a bogu set

I’m a simple guy and not into colourful set’s of armour with flash designs or with diamond encrusting. I’m not interested in sticking out. I believe that bogu is a tool and has a job, and as such my basic needs are these:

1. Does it fit me?
2. Will it deal with the daily wear and tear of hard keiko?
3. Do I look like a serious kendo practitioner?

Other things I pay attention to (but are secondary to the above) are:

4. Is it worth the money?
5. Is it overly heavy?

Thats basically it. As you can see, I am more concerned with the utility of bogu rather than the specifics of the materials used, and I prefer a subdued look rather than a flash design. Bearing these things in mind, let me discuss the bogu.

All Japan Pitch® – GUARDIAN (2014 version)

So the armour I received was the renewed version of the All Japan Pitch® – GUARDIAN bogu set. The link above has the full product description from which the following sections caught my attention:

“as well as featuring all of the same lightweight, quick-drying and comfortable features of our All Japan Pitch series, GUARDIAN has been especially designed to given an extra element of protection… we have increased the padding in the areas that are frequently stricken with the Shinai, which gives the Bogu set an added appeal to those who often act as Motodachi…”


“In addition… GUARDIAN is light, flexible and comfortable, making it perfect not only for daily practice, but well suited to travel… Designed with keeping a traditional, dignified appearance in mind…”

So, lightweight and flexible yet protective with a dignified appearance? Sounds good. I’ve used the set for over a month now in a few different settings – the following is a quick discussion of the individual parts followed by a summary at the end.

Men 面

First of all, the men that I received fitted perfectly – having someone take your specifications and hand you a men to those exact standards is 1/2 of the battle.

As the description states, the men is extremely light and dries very quickly (I put outside in direct sunlight). The men is so light, in fact, that before I wore it I worried whether it would stand up to sessions where I was mostly motodachi. After going through a few keiko’s of this type, however, I’m happy to say that it did a good job – better, in fact, than my old expensive men with a thick padded insert in the top.

I have to mention the lightness again: there have been times during keiko I’ve almost forgot I was wearing it. Compared to my other men (I have 4 or 5 others) it’s a different beast – in a good way.

My only concern was an aesthetic one: the mendare are a little shorter than I prefer. However, a shorter style is common nowadays in Japan – and some other men have even shorter mendare – so it could just me being an old man!

Bonus: the subdued menchichigawa are excellent! I didn’t specify anything particular for the menchigawa, Andy just stuck something in that was my style… and I like them.

Kote 小手

The kote, like the men, are light and dry quickly. They are flexible yet protective. When I first tried them on I immediately thought that they were too big, but after only 10 minutes of keiko they seemed to mould to my hands. No complaints here – I’d easily spend my own money for another pair of these (in fact, I will).

Again, I have a minor – easily solved – aesthetic concern: my name tag on the kote is massive!!! I don’t mind the “All Japan” branding on the kote at all, but a giant “MCCALL” is a little bit distracting. Next time I get some of these kote I will either a) get my name embroidered in more subdued colour, b) simply get my initials embroidered; or c) have no embroidery on the kote at all. Well, at least no one will steal them!!

Dou 胴

The dou is a standard Yamato dou and I don’t think is particular to this set. I almost always get my dou in ISHIME or pebble-dash style because it’s less shiny and doesn’t stick out so much.

Tare 垂れ

Again, like the men and kote, the tare is soft, flexible, fast drying, and protective. Looks good, fits well, and does its job = happy George.

In conclusion

Basically, the set does what it states in the description: its very light, flexible, and it offers good protection; it dries fast, and looks subdued. Thats 1, 2, 3, and 5 of my list right there.

Number 4, is it worth the money? The set retails for $695, which is about 70,000 yen – would I pay that for this set of armour? Yeah, I would. The most expensive bogu set I have bought thus far was 250,000 – over 3 times as much – but I think that this Guardian set does the same job and, in fact, is better in many ways.

This summer I am returning home to the UK to see family and friends. Of course, I’m planning to do kendo as well. I usually borrow armour when I go home because its too much hassle to lug heavy equipment from Japan 1/2 way across the world – this time, however, because the bogu is so light, I am taking it with me. Instead of struggling uncomfortably in another persons bad-fitting armour I’ll at last be able to do my normal kendo at home.

The only dissenting thing I can say about the set are the minor aesthetic points I raised above (these are just my personal preferences). However, neither of these will stop me from using the set nor recommending it for others.

Lastly, I’ve added in a couple of pictures of yours truly in action wearing the set so that you can get a better ‘feel’ for it. The pic at the top of the page and the 2 below are from a large godogeiko session at Osaka university during March. I don’t particularly like posting pictures of myself, but this time it can’t be helped!

For more information check out the information page or visit All Japan Budogu’s facebook page.


Lastly, here is Andy’s overview video of the bogu.