Hasegawa hanshi’s tai-atari and kakarigeiko 長谷川壽範士の体当たり・掛かり稽古

Recently I was handed a condensed paper booklet of the kendo teachings of Hasegawa sensei, hanshi kyudan. The contents seemed to be a republishing of some earlier material (originally from perhaps the 50s or 60s?) on the 13th anniversary of his death. Leafing through the material I decided to translate a couple of small portions of the text, mainly as a pretext to introduce, via short bio, this forgotten kenshi to everyone.

Sadly, there are many many many sensei with similar backgrounds that have already faded from memory.

Hasegawa hanshi

A short bio of Hasegawa Hisashi sensei

Born in Niigata prefecture in 1906, Hasegawa sensei’s first introduction to kendo was as part of P.E. class in school (he was a member of the track and field club, not the kendo one). Upon graduating from school in 1925, under the influence of his big brother (and against his fathers wishes), he planned to study kendo seriously at the Butokukai’s teacher training facility in Kyoto, Busen. However, before going there it was decided that he should spend a year training under Nakayama Hakudo at Yushinkan. After the year was up Nakayama tried to dissuade him from going to Busen (i.e. for him to stay at Yushinkan), but he went anyway, again at the insistence of his brother.

Hasegawa sensei spent the next six years at Busen, four years as part of the normal course, and the last two years on the research course. Here he studied kendo under such people as Naito Takaharu, Monna Tadashi, Ogawa Kinnosuke, Yano Katsujiro, Miyazaki Mosaburo, Tsuzaki Kanejiro, and Sato Chuzo, amongst others. The highlight of his six years in Kyoto was representing the prefecture at the 1929 Tenran-jiai, which took place in Saineikan, the budojo in the imperial palace.

Upon finishing at Busen he was invited to go to Noma dojo by Noma Hisashi and Masuda Shunsuke, but he declined and became a school teacher instead. He taught kendo in Hikone city, right next to the famed castle, between 1932-9. To further his personal study in kendo he took up an offer to join Osaka police dept. where he remained (surviving the turmoil of the war and post-war years) until retiring in 1967.

He was awarded hanshi in 1963, and became kyudan in 1977. Hasegawa sensei passed away on the 10th February 1986.

The following is the liberal translation of two short passages of Hasegawa sensei’s own words.

hikoneHikone castle by Aki Sasaki on flickr


Tai-atari

Although kendo is an activity whereby you discipline the mind and the body and achieve victory through the use of the sword, there are many times when this victory can be achieved with the aid of tai-atari. For example, you can use tai-atari to break your opponents stability when they are slight off-balance, when they have just finished a technique, or in the very instant they have lost concentration, etc. By doing this you can place them in a disadvantageous position, both posture wise and through loss of nerve.

But tai-atari is not just useful in those situations. If you practise it in your daily keiko it will help train the spirit and body. It is especially important to tai-atari during kirikaeshi.

When executing tai-atari ensure that you pull both your arms back to your body, push out your abdomen, and make sure that your shinai’s tsuka is at a diagonal. During kirikaeshi don’t strike men and go straight into left and right cutting, do tai-atari first. Remember to launch the sho-men strike from a far distance with full vigour and from there tai-atari strongly.

Point 1: smash into your opponents chest not only powerfully, but “flexibly.” At the same time, ensure that your hands push up into the opponents face so that you can scoop them up and force them back (Editor’s note: this is not recommended nowadays…).

Point 2: if the opponent is strong and cannot be forced back easily, try pushing them back a little bit diagonally.

Kakarigeiko

Note that the term “kakarigeiko” and “uchikomi” are sometimes used to mean the same thing. What is being described here is what we would refer to as “uchikomi” today.

The job of the motodachi during kakarigeiko is to make random openings for the kakarite to strike. The motodachi should be able to differentiate between well executed and poorly executed attacks, receiving the former and blocking or executing oji-waza against the latter. The motodachi must also pay careful attention at all times, and work hard to teach (show) the kakari-te the difference between the correct and in-correct way of striking so that the kakari-te can improve.

The kakari-te should throw away any personal ideas they may have and aim to execute attacks exactly as they have been taught them during basic training. Attacks should be executed largely, from a far distance, and with a loud voice. Kakarigeiko should be done this way repeatedly with a full spirit.

Point 1: Kakarigeiko is practise of basic strikes in a free manner.

Point 2: You cannot become victorious without have a correct posture and deliberate striking (as we learn in basics). Practising kakari-geiko with these points in mind at full power and intention is essential to becoming victorious.

Note that I used “kakari-te” in this translation but the term used in the text is actually “shugi-sha” (習技者).


Bonus: Hasegawa sensei’s last quote

“After 60 years of age you should keiko more with your spirit than with technique. If your opponent steps forward and pressures you allow yourself to move freely. Pressure them physically from your waist and spiritually with your presence (kurai). When you pressure them never wait. If you wait your presence will disappear. If you pressure with your spirit in this way the opponent will be unable to stand it and attempt to strike you. Strike them at that instant (debana). We are only human so of-course sometimes our strikes are unsuccessful, but if you are patient and stop yourself from striking randomly, and you practise like this again and again, eventually you will develop a strong presence. I tried keiko-ing like this for two or three years but couldn’t master it. Please, try it yourself.”

54 days after he said this, Hasegawa sensei passed away.

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Yours truly doing keiko with one of Hasegawa sensei’s kendo students in 2006, himself also kyudan.

Sources

私の剣道修行第1巻。体育とスポーツ出版社。1985発行。剣道時代編集部編。
剣道手引き。非売品。発行不明。長谷川壽

(Special thanks to Jean-Christophe Helary for some extra research help!)

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George

I'm the founder and chief editor of kenshi247.net. Amongst other things I am a high school kendo club coach, an avid practitioner of classical swordsmanship, a history student, and a vegetarian.

14 thoughts on “Hasegawa hanshi’s tai-atari and kakarigeiko 長谷川壽範士の体当たり・掛かり稽古

  1. Kendo only really became a singe style in the last 40 or so years. Before then there were lots of different stylistic differences and factions. Nakayama sensei’s Yushinkan, Takano sensei’s Shidogakuin/Meishinkan (and Tokyo Shihan Gakko), and Naito Takaharu’s Busen were all doing different things before the war (and students of these dojo lived long after the war). In the end, the kendo that we do nowadays is most heavily influenced by Busen. The fact that Hasegawa sensei’s articles from the 50s/60s are easily understood by today’s kenshi is testament to that fact.

    Glad you liked the article !

  2. Interesting to see that the recommended way of doing tai-atari in kirikaeshi was with tsuka held diagonally. As far as I see the tendency nowadays is to hold it exactly vertically and pushing more with fists rather than shinai? The former makes more sense to me to be honest!:)

  3. Thanks for translating these rare gems. Somehow the teachings you translated are the same teachings that we get from other Sensei who apparently are also influenced by eventually Hasegawa Sensei. Never knew that.

  4. Far from the spirit of the article, I wonder about the definition of kakarigeiko and uchikomi. I encountered first the meaning of kakarigeiko as used by the Hasegawa sensei and uchikomi was something different (types of attacks defined before the start of the exercise). I remember my shock when I learned about the different definition. Then I accepted that in different dojos there are different definitions and just try to guess or ask what they mean. However, from the comment in this article it seems that there is one definition now. Is that so?

  5. I like the picture of Hasegawa sensei. He and his kamae look so relaxed yet impregnable. And I somehow feel his seme to my left eye. Spooky :).

  6. @Szymon: I think tai-atari with the tsuka in a diagonal position is still a commonly taught method.

    @Fonsz: your average kenshi, whether living in Japan or abroad, wouldn’t have to go far back in their lineage to find influence from the kendo greats. Assuming they are part of the tradition that is (i.e. that they actually have a teacher). There used to be only a handful of kendo centres, and anybody that was anybody went through them.

    @Lech: kendo has become a single style over the last few decades but before then there were a few centres of practise and as many different stylistic methods. With those came differing definitions and terms. Nowadays there is a single “approved” description of uchikomi and kakarigeiko, but if you look at the writings of sensei from only a few years ago you will spot inconsistencies. What we call kirikaeshi was called uchikomi in the Meiji period for example (and many people still call kirikaeshi “uchigaeshi”). It’s also important to work out what the Japanese terms actually mean, in simplistic terms “uchikomi” just means “striking” and “kakari” to “attack.”

    Today’s definitions are as follows:

    Uchikomigeiko: motodachi opens area to attack, kakari-te attacks open area in large motion from a far distance. Speed is irrelevant.

    Kakarigeiko: motodachi doesn’t make any opening, kakari-te has to somehow break the motodachis kamae and/or posture and strike. Attacks are at the discretion of the kakari-te and are generally small and executed rapidly.

    @Stefan: agreed!

  7. Very good article ! This made me understand better on the mechanics and purpose of tai-atari 😀 And of course how I can improve my kirikaeshi even further!

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