Born in Tokyo in 1883, Hotta Sutejiro (Ono-ha itto-ryu) began kendo at around the age of 10, under the famed Shinto munen-ryu kenshi Watanabe Noboru. Where he worked and when is a little bit tricky to pin down, but we know he was employed as a budo instructor at Keishicho from 1905. At some point he quit the position and worked teaching kendo at various places through Japan, eventually returning to Keishicho in 1922 where he continued to teach until at least WW2. He took part in the 1929 Tenran-jiai in the kendo professional section, and did a demonstration match with Oasa Yuji in the 1940 one (he had obviously become hanshi in the meantime). What happened to him during and after the war is a mystery.
Although the details of Hotta Sutejiro’s kendo life are kind of vague, he left quite a large legacy in the shape of a number of publications. Doing research you can find quite a few titles that he authored, but it turns out that some of them are just re-prints of earlier books with a different title. In fact, I recently just bought a book by Hotta entitled “Kendo Kowa” (kendo lectures) that ended up being exactly the same as a book called “Kendo Kyohan” (kendo instruction) that I already had!!!
Below I will feature some pictures from Kendo Kyohan, plus a short translation. I hope you enjoy it.
Kendo Kyohan (1934) (Kendo Kowa)
As I noted above, Hotta authored many books, some of which were simply re-branded or evolved versions of earlier ones. The 1934 edition of Kendo Kyohan which I own was followed up by what seems like a final book in 1939 that (confusingly) had the exact same name though the content differs greatly. Anyway, what both books – in fact all of Hotta’s books – have in common is that they are generally very well illustrated. In particular, his books have some very unique and at times intriguing diagrams showing shinai-movement and seme patterns. I have never come across any other author who explains kendo in this manner.
Let’s have a look at two such diagrams and translate the associated text. Note that the opponent is on the left in both cases.
At the instant the enemy steps in and closes distance:
Start by facing off in seigan (position 1). As the enemy steps in and attempts to execute a technique stop him from doing so by pushing down on the middle of his shinai either to the left or right and step in as if to threaten to tsuki him. Strike any openings that appear or, if he attempts to try something else, destroy his technique again and strike.
If the enemy pressures your from gedan:
If the enemy attempts to step in and pressure you from below then, whilst threatening to tsuki him from seigan, push his shinai down from above to stop him moving his hands freely, then decisively strike.
As you might have noticed when comparing the translation to the pictures, it’s not particularly clear as to what he meant. I could’ve translated what I think he meant, but instead I left the English as opaque as the Japanese is. At any rate, the book is jam-packed with these type of diagrams.
Apart from the diagrams, the book also has extensive sections on kihon, shiai, coaching, manners, and the more deeper aspects of kendo as well. If you are interested you can pick up a modern re-print of this book (it’s called “Kendo Kowa” but is in fact exactly the same as this 1934 “Kendo Kyohan”) on amazon.jp.
Here are a couple of more illustrations from the same book. I will leave them untranslated so you can ponder what’s happening!
Here are some bonus pictures from some of Hotta’s earlier kendo manuals. Like I said above, they are wonderfully illustrated… too good not to share!