Copying

Due to an injury, I’ve been spending a lot of time sitting down and watching keiko a lot recently. This is usually termed KENGAKU (見学) or MITORI-GEIKO (見取り稽古) in Japanese. The former uses the kanji 見 for “look” and 学 for “study” thus means “study through observation.” The latter has a slightly different literal translation but in effect the meaning is identical. Basically, through watching people do kendo you yourself can perceive something or reach some sort of (sometimes new) understanding.

Even when I am not sidelined due to injury, I routinely find myself queueing up to face senior sensei. At this time I find myself watching the pair in front of me, not just the teacher him or herself, but their opponent as well. This is a chance not just to learn the mechanics of kendo, but the strategies that come into play between two opponents. A pet peeve of mine is when people line up for a sensei but don’t study their kendo… they are looking elsewhere or even, god forbid, chatting. But I digress.

I also routinely instruct my students to watch other students shiai: I think it is vitally important that they have a strong image of the type of kendo that can be done at their own age and gender… an image that a nearly-40-year-old bearded Scotsman can’t project!!!

Thinking about this over the last few days I remembered something I read a few years ago in regard to copying the kendo of those whose who went before you, that is, your sempai and sensei. I present a translation of this piece below. It was originally written by Sakuma Saburo hanshi, and was published in 1997, the year of his death.

When people call themselves “unskilled” or “clumsy” we can say as a general rule the problem is not lack of skill, but inability to copy or mimic others. As long as a someone is normal bodied (head, neck, chest, arms and legs) then they should really have no problem doing this. The practise of budo, sport, the arts, and academic study all begin by copying those that went before you (sempai/sensei). A person who can’t copy or mimic others often fall into these categories:

– they are self-important and can’t find the value in others: bias and preconception;

– they imagine that they are not good enough to mimic whats being done: timidity;

– they don’t even want to try to copy others: laziness;

– they think copying others is somehow bad: misunderstanding.

Of course there are people who are good and bad (at some things), but most people can expect to become generally decent at most things outside of their particular strong areas.

Kendo shugyo is pursued with the aid of a shinai and falls within a defined range. Thus, depending on the methodology used, we can expect anyone to become proficient in its practise. If you watch a skilled sempai in front of you and constantly strive to do your best, you will definitely be able to arrive at or even surpass their ability. Improvement after this is down to your own research. Try your best.

If you think that you are already skilfull, then you are a Tengu, and a way forward for you does not exist.

Thus, kendo is learned essentially through the copying of models and mitorigeiko is the conscientious process whereby you choose what to (or not to) mimic. Depending on your current kendo goals, there’s almost certainly some filtering going on as well.

Afterthought

Recently I’ve seen the odd blatantly commercial website selling lots of learning-kendo dvd’s (for a pretty-penny I might add). It strikes me that if there was one thing that you couldn’t learn from a dvd then it would be kendo. Sure, it’s possible a dvd could give rise to new ideas about training to those already experienced, but theres zero chance a dvd can replace a teacher or a dojo – who, after all, is there to watch and copy? A 2D image on a screen? I have a strong feeling that those that buy these expensive dvd sets live in areas where these is no kendo infrastructure. I feel sorry for people in this situation who pay a lot of money for these essentially useless dvd’s.

My message to those of you reading this that don’t have someone in front of you to model yourself on is simple: rather than waste your time with dvd’s and backyard-budo fantasy, consider doing a different martial art – one where you have access to a proper teacher. At the end of the day, whether you study kendo or judo, shorinji-kempo or aikido, the end goal is the same… and the guide towards that goal is a teacher.

Source

平成・剣道 地木水火風空 読本(下)。佐久間三郎。平成9年発行。

16th World Kendo Championships

So, at the 2012 World Kendo Championships in Italy there was a presentation and vote to decide where the next championships would be held. There were two countries in contention: Japan and Korea.

A few weeks before the event I was contacted by a rep of the ZNKR and asked to give my opinion on how to grab the interest of non-Japanese kenshi (I assumed, and still assume now that they asked quite a few people the same questions). i.e. they wanted something that would appeal to the FIK board members to choose Japan over Korea.

One of my ideas was to interview famous kenshi and have them talk about why the Budokan is THE place to take part in shiai… about their experiences there, and about how its often seen as the pinnacle of every (Japanese) kenshi’s dream to compete there.

I was told that this idea was used, but I never saw the result of it until today – here it is (or at least a re-edit). I’m sure other people had the same or similar ideas, but it’s a thrill to see it nonetheless !!!

SEME #5: Arimitsu Masaaki

The following is a short translation of a famous sensei’s description of SEME.

Seme #5: SEME #5: Arimitsu Masaaki

“Kamae with the centre line (the extension of your shinai) being around the area between your opponents chest and throat, all the while energetically pressuring your opponent. However, don’t intentional show this spirit at the end of your shinai; as much as you can, keep your outward composure at all times. For example, if the opponent does something like strikes down your shinai etc, quietly and unhurriedly allow your shinai to go back to the centre line.

However, at the instant when your partner threatens to step in and strike, without a moments delay face them enthusiastically and ensure that your pressure is projected out through the tip of your shinai towards your opponent with the feeling of “If you are going to attack, come on then!!!”

To do this, you must relax your shoulders, soften your hands, and kamae in the centre utilising your spirit to face the oncoming attack. In order to achieve this you must always sink your spirit into your lower abdomen (tanden)…. so much so that your abdomen feels tight against your obi and tare.

Depending on your ability to do this, your shoulders will become relaxed, your hands soft and flexible, and your kamae will look bigger and more impressive.

If you can achieve this then during a fierce bout then you will be able to read even the smallest behavior in the disposition or movement of your opponent, and you will be able to strike wholeheartedly with abandon using all the resources available to you. This ability to read your opponent is connected to one’s belief and therefore ability to throw themselves into an attack wholeheartedly (sutemi).

During keiko, especially of your partner is more senior to you, its common that you find yourself being constantly pressured strongly by the tip of their shinai. At this time its important that you fight with the feeling of receiving that shinai on your throat, and that when you step in and attack, to do so with the aim of getting past that shinai tip. This is the first stage in the study of true kendo.”

Arima sensei was the winner of the All Japan police individual championship 3 times and the team championships once (2nd place once as well). He has also taken part and placed highly in the All Japan Championships, Kokutai, and the Meiji mura taikai amongst other competitions. At the time of writing this piece he was a police kendo teacher in Kagoshima police HQ and kyoshi 8dan. He is currently the vice-director of Kagoshima kendo renmei and a director of the All Japan kendo association. He is now hanshi 8dan.

Source

This small section is part of a much larger series of interviews called “Mei senshu, renma no hibi” (famous competitors and their day-to-day practise) published by Kendo Jidai between 1983-84. The series was compiled into 2 books and published as “Renma no hibi” in 1989. Most of the interviewed sensei were only 7dan at the time and are now renowned 8dan sensei.

剣道時代の「名選手、錬磨の日々」(1983ー84)からの抜粋です。「錬磨の日々」の本は1989発行。

Thanks! (Kendo Reader)

This is just a quick post to say thanks to everyone for help making our latest publication – Noma Hisashi’s THE KENDO READER – a great success… ALREADY!!

It was only released on Wednesday night (it’s Sunday night as I write this) and multiple print editions have already gone out to the following locations:

The UK, America (at least 8 states), Hong Kong, Japan, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, Holland, Brazil, Switzerland, Finland, Canada, Singapore, Chile, Australia, Portugal, Ukraine, France, and Spain.

Of-course, digital copies have also been downloaded in various locations around the world as well (I don’t have precise location information on them though).

Not bad for the first 4 days!

So…. a big big THANK YOU to everyone who picked up a copy, whether it was digital or print.

I believe that this book book is a true kendo classic, and I am sure (nay, positive!) that it is the not only the most comprehensive kendo book available in English now, but that it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

I hope that everyone that reads the book gets as much out of it as I did working on it. And please remember and share it with your friends and dojo mates.

Again, thanks!

More information / Get it

Deluxe print edition with free digital:
*** Get it on magcloud.com

Download the digital edition:
*** Get it on gumroad.com

Blog post:
Read about it on kenshi247.net/

Dedicated page:
http://kendo-book.com/kendo-reader/

KENDO READER 剣道読本

After over 2 years of editing, translating, reading, more editing, double-checking, re-reading, etc, I’m finally proud to announce the release of my latest book: Noma Hisashi’s KENDO READER.

The original book was published posthumously almost 75 years ago in 1939 (pre World War 2) yet has barely aged a day – it’s jam-packed full of information that is as relevant to the kenshi of the past as it is to us today. Not only that, but as far as kendo information goes, the book is exhaustive. In my opinion (and I’ve read many Japanese kendo books) the Kendo Reader is a true kendo classic.

Background

Some people reading this might say “Hang on, you can find that online!” but I’m afraid to say that the version you can find online is over 30% incomplete with full of transcription errors as well as lots of omissions. i.e. it’s no longer the book as Noma wrote it. Realising the state of the situation, and with an original 1939 copy of the book in hand, I wondered what I could do to make this gem available in its original form to the kendo community.

After some investigation, I got in touch with the initial translator of the version that was floating on the net, and he gave me all his remaining paperwork, as well as his blessings to re-edit, re-translate, and generally complete the project.

What I did

Over the past 2 years I’ve gone through the original Japanese and meticulously re-edited the initial translation into a 100% complete English language version. This included translating large sections (including forewords and whole chapters), discovering and fixing omissions, re-wording sections, etc, as well as all the usual design issues taken on when self-publishing.

I also scanned in all the original inlays and provided translations and background notes on them – something the original Japanese doesn’t have.

What the initial translator started in 1979 I have now – with the release of this new version – brought to a close…. almost 35 years later!

What you get

This new version of the book is – and I don’t say this lightly – almost certainly the most comprehensive kendo book available in the English language.

There are two versions available:

  1. A deluxe print edition (with free digital)
  2. A standard digital edition

For more information on the book, including pictures and differences between the editions, please visit the books dedicated page:

http://kendo-book.com/kendo-reader/

Enough chat, get it!

Preview and purchase the stunning deluxe print version here (with free digital).

Purchase and download the digital version right now here.

Pictures

See kendo-book.com.

Comments and/or questions?

Please feel free to ask any questions or leave comments about the book on this site or on facebook. Cheers!!!