When the Tokugawa-Bakufu was dismantled in 1867/68 budo education was thrown into turmoil: gone were the domain schools as well as the short-lived Kobusho, and with that budo instructors suddenly lost their profession. Many (now ex-) samurai were suddenly jobless and facing destitution. One person that stepped up to help these people was the ex-samurai, Kobusho kenjutsu instructor, and Jikishinkage-ryu kenshi Sakakibara Kenkichi. He instituted what was called “Gekken-kogyo” – the highly popular public budo shows. “Gekken” refers to the nascent form of what we now call kendo. Although mainly sword-based shows, bouts with other weapons also occurred, and women and even foreigners are also recorded to have taken part.
Gekken Kogyo, July 2013
As I mentioned in my last post, I spent some time in the beautiful Scottish capital city of Edinburgh earlier this summer teaching a two-day kendo seminar (plus one regular keiko session). It was the fourth time I have been invited by my home dojo, Edinburgh Kendo Club, to teach there.
I’m glad to announce that a project that I worked on with the Japanese kendo magazine “Kendo Jidai” has finally made it to daylight. This is their first ever product aimed specifically at the non-Japanese market, and if everything goes well (i.e. good sales) then hopefully they will go on to produce more English language products (DVDs and hopefully books) in the future.
Check out the introduction, front and back covers, as well as a biography of Kamei sensei below.
You can buy the DVD from the Japanese Amazon site here (you can change the language to English).
KAMEI TORU SENSEI’S KENDO LECTURE
Kamei sensei discusses some of his ideas about how to acquire good kendo.
This DVD includes the English subtitles of “Kamei Toru sensei’s kendo lecture.” The Japanese only version was originally included with the March 2015 issue of Kendo Jidai magazine.
Lesson 1 THE BASICS OF SEME
Lesson 2 HOW TO STRENGTHEN THE LEFT FOOT
Lesson 3 MEN WAZA
Lesson 4 KOTE WAZA
Lesson 5 TSUKI WAZA
Lesson 6 KEIKO METHOD
Name: Kamei Toru
Rank: hanshi hachidan
Kamei sensei graduated from Kyushu Gakuin High School before moving to Meiji University. After graduating university he returned back to his hometown of Kumamoto and joined the Kumamoto Police Department. At the time of recording he is currently the top police kendo teacher in the prefecture.
Past competition experience includes:
All Japan Kendo Championships (runner-up)
All Japan Inter-prefectural Championships
World Kendo Championships
All Japan East-West Championships
National Athletic Championships
(first place team competition)
All Japan Police Championships
(first place individuals)
All Japan Hachidan Championships (runner up)
Kamei sensei passed hachidan in November 2000
and was awarded Hanshi on May 2009.
Please note that I receive no payment or percentage of any sales on the DVD, I am promoting it because not only do I think it is a good DVD, but also because I hope that it will inspire Kendo Jidai to produce more English language material in the future.
Whew, another Kyoto Taikai done!
Again this year, I’ve tried to add some bonus historical information/insights to my usual Kyoto Taikai rundown, so I hope you enjoy this part as well as the photography.
Naito Takaharu sensei’s grave
The person I consider to be the most important in the history of modern kendo, Naito Takaharu, passed away in his house on the 29th of April 1929, and was laid to rest in Kurodani-yama, just to the north-east of the Butokuden. There are about 10 temples and scores and scores of graves on the mountain side, so I knew that actually finding Naito’s grave would be a bit of a struggle. The temple associated with Naito and his family is Eisho-in, a Pure-Land buddhist temple, so starting from there I walked around the adjacent cemetery area in search of Naito.
There were so many gravestones that I ended up walking around-and-around for about one and a half hours before finally giving up. I couldn’t find it. I was even armed with a picture of the grave, but the pic must be about 40-50 years old, so it’s possible the grave isn’t in the same place or even the same shape. Anyway, although I gave up this time, I will go back!
Myodenji: the birthplace of kendo kata
About a 7 minute walk south-west from the Butokuden there is a seemingly unremarkable Nichiren buddhist temple that originally dates back to 1477 (the current building dates from the early 1700s) called Myodenji. I say unremarkable because Kyoto is littered with thousands of temples, most far larger and more well-known than this one.
However, for kendo people this holds an important part in our history: it was here, starting in the summer of 1911, where 25 of the top kenshi in the country debated, discussed, and fine-tuned what were to become the Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kendo Kata (“Kendo kata of Imperial Japan”). The kata were presented to the public in October 1912.
Kyoto taikai 2017
The first day of the Kyoto taikai there is no kendo, instead we are able to watch various koryu ryu-ha (mainly kenjutsu, but also yari, naginata etc, arts not under the ZNKR umbrella), after which the rest of the day is filled with jodo and iaido demonstrations.
Unfortunately the 2nd of May is not a national holiday, so I was unable to either take part or watch properly this year. I popped into the Butokuden for about 10 minutes en-route to somewhere else, and managed to take a handful of naginata pictures. Hopefully next year I can re-organise my work schedule and attend properly.
The 3rd-5th is Golden Week proper, so the place gets jam-packed. This year I attended only the 3rd and 4th, taking time off on the 5th to sleep and relax. I spent the two days doing keiko, taking pictures, and drinking the odd beer. There were over 1,400 tachiai over the three days, which means over 2,800 people took part in the taikai.
Here’s a gallery showing some of my favourite pics.
One great part about the taikai is the sheer amount of keiko that is happening before, during, and after the event. Again this year I was invited to loads of different sessions but, as I was already run-off my feet, I decided to only attend a couple: one in Kyoto University, and another in the Budo Centre.
This years tenugui design was awesome, probably my favourite so far. It shows the gate to Busen (that I discussed last year) opened and the Butokuden in the distance.
A new book of kendo photos taken at the Kyoto Taikai was also published entitled “Kendo: densetsu no Kyoto Taikai (Showa).” The pics span from 1969 until the end of the Showa period in 1988. The book includes not only kendo pictures, but koryu ryuha, jodo, iaido, opening/closing ceremonies, as well as various pictures from around the precincts and other miscellany.
Unfortunately, the pictures themselves are not great quality, some even look like the editors didn’t have access to the original film negatives and just badly scanned some photos. All the photos were the work of a single gentleman, which I think was a bad idea as I am sure there are older photos out there by other people, and perhaps many better ones.
People shown in the pictures include Ogawa Kinnosuke’s son, Busen teacher Kurozumi, Ozawa Hiroshi and his father, famed naginata exponents Mitamura and Sonobe, Tobukan’s Kozawa Takeshi, Donn Draeger, jodo’s Shimizu Takaji, Asagawa Haruo, Nakakura Kiyoshi, Ogawa Chutaro, Ueda Hajime, Takizawa Kozo, Okada Morihiro, Matsumoto Junpei, Nakano Yasoji, Okuyama Kyosuke, Ikeda Yuji, Nakajima Gorozo, Chiba Masashi (and wife!), Gordon Warner, Morishima Tateo, Iho Kyotsugu, etc etc., too many people to mention!
Even though the pictures might not be of the best quality, as a historical record the book itself is invaluable. For me, the most interesting part were the undated pictures of the precincts showing the second dojo on the site (originally built in the 30s) as well as the office building. I had seen pictures of these buildings before, but I had assumed they were knocked down in the 40s during the American occupation (or when it was in possession of other groups). It seems, however, that these buildings may have survived much longer, perhaps until the renovation of the Butokuden in 1981. There was also a separate building space for the sensei, and the original kyudo-jo was on the opposite side it stands in now. I need to do more research on the matter!
Aaaaand, that’s that! This years taikai is finished but I am already looking forward to next years.
I’ll update this section as new video becomes available.