Mini update

At the start of 2014 I renewed the website, changing the theme (simplifying) and archiving post of the pre-2013 articles. However, quite a few people got in touch with me (in public and private) to bemoan the loss of those older articles.

Bending to this pressure I have re-categorised, reformatted, and re-instated almost all of the older articles in the 2008-2012 range.

If you are looking for a particular article and can’t find it, the reason is one of the following:

  • The article wasn’t very good and has been permanently deleted.
  • It is being revised and re-formatted for future publication.
  • I’m lazy and haven’t gotten around to it (least likely)!

I’m not 100% satisfied with the new theme so may experiment more with it during the year.

Cheers for reading kenshi 24/7. If you enjoy the content please share with your friends. Cheers!

MEI-SHOBU: the ki of Naito vs the waza of Takano 名勝負:内藤高治vs高野佐三郎

Kyoto Butokuden, late Meiji period*. It’s the last tachiai of a long day but the hall is packed. The yobidashi (announcer) steps forward:

East side. Tokyo. Takano sensei !

West side. Kyoto. Naito sensei !


With the call the packed audience suddenly goes quiet and an palpable feel of excitement (or perhaps expectation?) fills the air. Facing each other on the dojo floor are the two most famous swordsmen in Japan: on the east side Tokyo Koto Shihan Gakko’s Takano Sasaburo; and on the west side Busen’s Naito Takaharu. In between them moderating the tachiai stands Monna Tadashi.

The spectators sit nervously in silence wondering what kind of contest will unfold before them. Will it be an equal fight? What kind of techniques will be used? Who will be triumphant? But despite this nervousness there was no fighting mood in the air. Rather, the two sensei seemed detached.

The swordsmen bowed to each other and moved slowly into the center of the hall. Sonkyo. Finally, in the instant that they stood up, the tension between them radiated out into the audience.

Naito and Takano were born in 1862, just 4 months apart. Both were born into budo families and lived through a period of turmoil in Japan as it went through monumental cultural changes. While young they both studied kenjutsu (Hokushin Itto-ryu and Ona-ha Itto-ryu respectively) eventually heading to Tokyo to seek further instruction from the top instructors in the country – Naito under Sakakibara Kenkichi (Jikishinkage-ryu) and Takano under Yamaoka Tesshu (Muto-ryu).

In 1887, after an extended Musha-shugyo, Naito finally entered the employ as a kendo instructor in the kendo mecca that was Keishicho (the fledgling Tokyo Metropolitan police force). Takano had already entered it a year earlier in 1886. It’s almost as if they were destined to cross paths.

Their first shiai would have to wait until 1890. The event was a keishicho sponsored tournament (gekkiken-kai). At this time Takano had already moved out of his position at keishicho and was working as a kendo instructor for the Saitama police. During the competition Takano was matched up with a keishicho kenshi famed for his high-speed waza, Saruda Tosuke. However, Takano’s waza was renowned for being fast as well, and he overpowered and defeated Saruda.

As keishicho sponsored the tournament it wouldn’t be seemly for them to lose to someone working in a rival police force, even if they had once worked with them. Keishicho management’s response was to issue a command:

“Naito, take care of it.”

And with that, the future leaders of the kendo community (and creators of the modern kendo style) faced each other for the first time.

Even though they both employed their strongest techniques neither could best the other. Eventually, as time wore on and on, the shiai was called to a halt and a draw declared. Thus ended the first of many duels the pair were to have.

30 years after their first match in Tokyo they again found themselves facing off at each other, but this time they were both older, wiser, and had far more experience. In the intervening years both men had forged careers as professional kendo instructors – Takano at Tokyo koto shihan gakko and Naito at the Butokukai’s training facility Busen – and had become the top instructors in the country. Now they faced each other in the middle of the Butokuden in unmistakable seriousness as if it was a fight to the death.

During the fight the spectators felt an oppressive pressure from the shiai-jo, almost turning their blood to ice. Some people thought “I want this to finish quickly!” and others “I want this to keep going on and on!”

Just as it started softly, suddenly on Monna’s “SORE MADE” (thats enough) the shiai was over. The spectators that had been holding their breathe in excitement let out an audible sigh of relief. Even after the sensei had bowed and left the area the sense of tension remained and, for a little bit, the audience sat in stunned silence.



This account is based on multiple first-hand accounts of shiai between Naito and Takano found in 3 books:


Comic pics from the manga 龍-RON-


* A precise date is not given : “The time when the Emperor or the Crown-Prince was in attendance” is the only information.
UPDATE: based on a new source, I discovered that Naito and Takaharu fought each other in 1901, 1907, and 1916 in the Butokuden (and again in 1920 at the opening of Meiji Jingu). Only scores were kept for the 1901 tachiai – it was a hikiwake. The other bouts were mohangeiko.

Osaka Tokuren demonstration(s) 大阪特練模範演武

This morning I took part in godogeiko session in the suburbs of Osaka city. This is a yearly event and includes a demonstration session plus godogeiko with some of the local kenshi (from children-adults) and a few members of the elite Osaka tokuren police squad.

Last year I had the flu so video-ed and uploaded the kihon session (see below) but this year I was fighting fit so took part as normal.

As a special present to kenshi 24/7 readers, I took and uploaded the light demonstration session between Kiwada Daiki and Teramoto Shoji, both past All Japan Kendo Championship (and WKC) winners.

Below are a couple of other video’s featuring the Osaka tokuren’s kihon geiko… enjoy!

12th January 2014 (jigeiko):

September 2013 (kihon demonstration):

January 2013 (kihon demonstration):

March 2008 (kihon and jigeiko):

Saimura Goro


The words above are attributed to Saimura Goro, one of the the most influential kenshi in the pre-WW2 period, and one of only 5 sensei that were awarded 10 dan after the war. A liberal translation in English reads:

* The aim of kendo is to improve the spirit. The means of achieving this is through the polishing of technique.

* It’s important to think of and use the shinai as a real sword and to cultivate a positive style of kendo with no holding back (sutemi).

* During keiko you must never relax your guard whatever distance you find yourself in.

Pretty easy advice on the face of it, but the more I read it, the more difficult it seems to be.

Saimura Goro: a very brief bio

In 1906, Saimura Goro was in the first group of students that entered the Butokukai’s Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseisho (‘martial art teachers training school’ – this was later renamed to the Budo Senmon Gakko, or ‘Busen’ for short). At 18, he was the by far the youngest student in the first group. Here he studied kendo under Naito Takaharu. Naito’s kirikashi and kakarigeiko-centric keiko regime would shape not only Saimura’s physical kendo, but his attitude towards kendo itself.

(The first batch included Nakano Sosuke (20), and the next year Mochida Seiji (Moriji) would join (21). All 3 would become kendo leaders in the future, and all were awarded 10th dan. Although Mochida was older than Saimura, he was the kohai in the relationship as he entered the Yoseijo later.)

During his time in Kyoto he was infamous for his short temper and always getting into arguments. Eventually he was banished from the school and sent to Kyushu as a kendo teacher for 3 years (he was, essentially, exiled for his attitude). After this, however, he was invited back to the Yoseijo by Naito, and become a kendo instructor there.

In 1917 he retired his teaching position and moved to Tokyo in search of work. Here he lived with his wife and small children close to the breadline for many years while he built up his career. It took time, but eventually he would land teaching positions in Keishicho, the imperial police, Toyama Gakko (military), Waseda university (and accompanying schools), and the new Kokushikan senmon gakko (later, university). His influence, therefore, was large.

Saimura was the first of the Butokukai (i.e. Naito-trained) kenshi to become employed as a kendo teacher in Tokyo. At the time the style in Tokyo was said to be different:

1. As the dojo were small everyone fought at close distance;
2. Takano Sasaburo’s style of using a variety of techniques from different angles was the standard.

Saimura learnt his kendo in the bigger dojo found in Kansai and would launch attacks from a far distance. He also favoured a simpler, cleaner style of kendo, focusing mainly on men and tsuki. Saimura also taught differently – he basically brought Naito’s kirikaeshi/kakarigeiko-centric style to Tokyo (Mochida would arrive later at Noma dojo). It was due to these 2 factors that Saimura became as renowned as he did, leading him to be sought after and employed as a kendo teacher in the establishments listed above.

By the way, it’s worth noting that when Saimura first arrived in Tokyo he was surprised to find many dojo didn’t focus on kihon and had a lackadaisical approach to keiko. He was to be a leading figure in changing this attitude.

In the years leading up to WW2 Saimura would continue rotating around various dojo teaching kendo. He would also appear in all of the tenranjiai, as competitor, demonstrator, and judge.

After the reestablishment of kendo after the war Saimura became an honorary shihan to both Keishicho and Kokushikan, was awarded 10dan, and performed – with Mochida as his shidachi – kendo kata at the Tokyo Olympic Games.


Saimura Goro vs Ogawa Kinnosuke (Tenranjiai, 1940):

Saimura Goro (uchidachi) and Mochida Seiji (date and location unknown, but presumably in the 1960s):


The ultranationalistic general Anami Korechika was appointed War Minister to a desperate Japan in April 1945. Five months later and Japan was finished. The cabinet met on the 14th of August and signed the surrender document. It just so happened that there was keiko at the army ministry dojo that very day. Anami, who has signed the surrender document earlier that day, turned up to do keiko with his sensei, Saimura. The next morning, he committed seppuku.



Correct, enjoyable, and friendly

Last year I posted a short article introducing the artistic work of the oldest sensei I study under. Be sure and check out the post above even if you have done so before.

This year – as always – I was happy to go into the dojo and discover a beautifully painting waiting for me. Being the year of the horse, there were of course horses in the picture, and above them the words 正しく、楽しく、仲良く = correct, enjoyable, and friendly. Although a relatively simple theme for this years keiko, I think they are words to remember.

This edited iPhone snap doesn’t really give the picture credit, but I think it doesn’t hurt to share anyway. Enjoy!