As every kendoka knows, Busen (Budo Senmon Gakko) was – along with Tokyo Koto Shihan Gakko – the premier place for training kendoka before the war. It was run by the Butokukai and was based in the legendary Butokuden in Kyoto. People who graduated from here went on to train kenshi all over the country. The schools impact on modern kendo cannot be underestimated. During the post WW2 occupation the school was renamed and its martial arts practice banned.
The first teacher and most senior instructor at Busen was the legendary Naito Takaharu. When he passed away suddenly in 1929 the reigns were taken over by Ogawa Kinnosuke who continued to lead the school until it was closed down after the war. The amount of famous and influential kenshi that were involved in Busen in one way or another are too numerous to list, but include Monna Tadashi and Saimura Goro.
The subject of this article is about the person who was said to be the last graduate from Busen – Furuya Fukunosuke hanshi. Furuya sensei was well known in the Kansai area and taught at a few different dojo, including my own one in central Osaka – Yoseikai. I managed to do keiko with him only a few times before his health deteriorated to the point where he could not practice. Even after that point he still came to the dojo and attended a couple of gasshuku, thus I luckily had the chance to learn something from him. unfortunately, at the relatively young age of 81, Furuya sensei died last December.
My sempai and sensei reacted sadly at his death – not only because of his young age nor due to his impact in the kendo of the area – but his passing is also hard evidence that the kendo world is changing for ever. Gone and going are the sensei who learned kendo at legendary places such as Busen. Can we live up to their legacy? Well, only time will tell.
My ardour, posture, and sword were cultivated by breaking through the opponents kamae during keiko (相手の剣を割っていく稽古で気勢、体勢、剣勢が養えた)
I am the last graduate from Busen. This was a special school aimed for people who wished to pursue kendo as a professional career. At that time, training there was completely different from normal dojo. First of all, everyone was treated as a beginner, and kendo was taught to you from the start, no matter if you were experienced or not.
At the beginning – as is well known – all we did was kirikaeshi and uchikomigeiko. Many people, however, talk as if all we did was keiko all day long – that wasn’t the case. We studied things such as Japanese, Kanbun (Chinese Classics), Budo history, and we only did keiko for only 1.5 hours a day (editors note: I assume that this changed depending on the season/school year).
At Busen, footwork was deemed as the most important skill to learn. However, nobody taught anything in detail, the teachers always shouted “go forward, go forward, more, more!” as you were attacking them. I have no idea how much uchikomigeiko we did everyday, but I know it was a lot. We attacked straight and big, but the mododachi never once let you hit them by opening up their kamae. This meant that you would run into their kensaki. Knowing this we had no choice but to overcome your fear and drive in with force anyway. Keiko was continually like this.
“Why did we have to do this?” you may ask. At the beginning it was very scary and difficult, and your body would have no force behind it. But if you continued if for a while, bit by bit the fear disappeared and your srikes became bolder, straighter, and you went forward with vigour, until it became almost natural. By learning kendo in this difficult situation we got not only the shape of kendo, but we learned what “uchikomigeiko” really is by training our body and mind.
By learning this way, in jigeiko we were able to attack with the feeling of abandon and react to our opponents actions immediately without thought. In otherwords, we trained to attack without hesitation and with force. If you have this spirit and power then your body will follow. This was the point of Busen’s uchikomigeiko.
This is not the style of kendo where you move into your opponent, see how he reacts, then hit him, but one where you simply aim to break their kamae and hit him on the shomen. Of course during jigeiko or shiai there are other waza such as harai, suriage, etc, but these waza are often used with the object of attempting to “win” which is different that what we learned at Busen.
In recent times the aim of kendo for the majority of people has become shiai. The ZNKR realizing this has tried to make amends by creating and revising shiai rules continually, and also with the publication of the Concept of Kendo in 1975. However, its hard to go back and grasp kendo’s original spirt. My feeling is that the way to do this is to abandon all thoughts of winning and losing, and concentrate on “correct” kendo. Don’t be afraid of being hit, just concentrate on hitting correctly and straightly, and from this you will polish your ardour, posture, and sword.
My 3 ideals of kendo (三つの剣道の理想の姿)
真 (truth) : learn and think about kendo in a logical manner;
正 (honesty/correct) : do keiko with the correct approach, this includes not only your heat, but your body and sword as well;
情 (emotion/passion) : even in the most difficult and hard keiko you must not lose your feeling towards your opponent.
The last one – 情 – is the part that I want to keep/protect in kendo the most. You must never do keiko with someone with the feeling of wanting to beat them but with “lets have a fair and correct keiko” and you must have thanks after, despite the result/content of the keiko.
Recently I have seen teams who, having won a particular fight, raise their arms in celebration in front of the losing team. Being happy about a win is fine, but celebrating without considering the feelings of the other team is bad for us as people, and the concept of kendo will slowly disappear.
After the war: Yoseikai (戦後：養正会)
I wrote at the beginning that I was the last graduate of Busen. However, when the school was shut down I was still a 2nd year student. Getting into Busen was quite hard – there were Japanese, Kanbun, and a physical kendo test as well. Out of 500 applicants only 40 of us were selected to enter the 1st year. I studied in Busen as detailed above for 2 years, then Busen was shut down, kendo removed from the curriculum, and reopened with a new name. I continued to study Japanese and Kanbun (no kendo) in the new school and eventually graduated from there However, we were adamant that we were Busen Graduates and petitioned for the right to be seen as so. 5 years after graduating we received an official Busen graduation diploma. This is why we are deemed to be the final graduates of the school.
Even though my time at Busen was short, other graduates, sensei, and sempai continued to practice in the Busen manner after the war, even while kendo was still banned. We started a dojo called the Nankai Dojo (it was under Nankai Railway) in 1949 and all the sensei from the area came to practice here. In 1955 the dojo was moved, Ikeda sensei (also a Busen graduate) became the shihan, and it was renamed to Yoseikai. When Ikeda sensei passed away, I became the 2nd shihan of Yoseikai and continue to teach kendo in the Busen manner as I was taught.
Furuya sensei passed away in December 2008.