The first half of this article is a short translation. Enjoy!
Up until I was a third year junior high school student (14/15yrs old) I lived in Tottori prefecture. I started kendo in first year but was very weak and lost many competitions. I was so weak that sometimes people would even taiatari me out of the shiai area.
After graduating junior high school I moved to Osaka and naturally joined the kendo club of the senior high school I started going to. However, of course, as I was so weak at kendo, I was treated as nothing more than a burden, and my sempai often got angry at me.
In my second year of high school (16/17yrs) I started attending keiko at Shudokan, the dojo inside Osaka castle park (pictured top). One day a small statured gentlemen walked into the dojo and it was obvious that he was someone of importance by the way he was treated. When keiko started all the Shudokan teachers – those of 6dan and 7dan level – lined up to keiko with the small statured sensei and I was amazed to see that none of them could even touch him. He destroyed them all.
Steeling myself, I joined the sensei’s line for keiko. When it was my turn I stood up from sonkyo and, all of a sudden, I froze: “What should I do?” My breathing became laboured and I felt as if my legs and feet were bound, as if I were paralysed. The atmosphere had suddenly turned severe, making me both scared to strike or be struck. The pressure was intense.
“This is kendo!”
I remember feeling both physically paralysis and mental fear in that instant. “From today I’m going to make kendo my life” I thought, and spent that entire night sleeplessly thinking about nothing other than kendo. This was the first time I met Ikeda Yuji sensei.
From that day on I started attending those dojo that Ikeda sensei taught at: “Strike large with a vigorous spirit!” – this is what Ikeda sensei told me every-time I had a chance to keiko with him. The majority of the instruction I received from Ikeda sensei was uchikomi and kirikaeshi, on which he forged my kendo.
Fast forward to 3rd of November 1984: I was standing calmly in the middle of the Nippon Budokan – it was the final of the All Japan Kendo Championships. “Hajime!” I stood up and almost immediately – and unconsciously – struck a large men. I fought at my own pace and managed to win the competition. After the award ceremony was over, with the certificate in one hand and the Emperor’s cup in the other, I sought out Ikeda sensei to say thank you. He said in a quiet tone: “Harada-kun, congratulations!” At that time I recalled clearly that first keiko I had with Ikeda sensei in Shudokan all those years ago …..
– Harada Tetsuo, Kyoto Police Dept., 1993.
In 1984, at the age of 29, Harada sensei won the All Japan Championships and was a member of the winning Japanese team at the World Kendo Championships. He is now kyoshi 8dan. Check out his tachiai at the 2011 Kyoto Taikai. It starts 3 minutes into this video, Harada sensei is facing the camera:
Ikeda sensei mini gallery
Ikeda sensei died in 1991, before I even started kendo, so of course I never had the chance to meet him, but – in a way – I could be described as what’s termed his mago-deshi, that is, his “grand-student” (the same grand as in grandchild). Although a seemingly vague relationship, it exists because I have spent over 10 years practising at the dojo he was mostly associated with in Osaka – Yoseikai – and have studied kendo under some of his direct students. It’s impossible to know how much of Ikeda sensei’s kendo exists within mine (perhaps/probably little) but I’d like to think that it might, if even a little.
For a more complete bio on Ikeda sensei please read this article.
btw, the article’s title – Even if you are wearing steel sandals, find a good teacher – emphasises the importance of studying under a good teacher. No matter how long you walk, no matter how long you search, if your sandals are made from steel (rather than straw or cloth) they won’t wear out. Keep going and going until you arrive at the thing you seek… which is, in our situation here, a good sensei.