history kendo kenshi

Takizawa Kozo hanshi

“Commencing in a moment, the final of the 70th imperial guards competition. The competitors: Takizawa Kozo kyoshi, Abe Saburo kyoshi; the shinpan: omote shinpan Mochida Seiji, ura shinpan Saimura Goro and Ogawa Kinnosuke.”

At the same time that the announcers voice rang out in the packed Saineikan dojo, the two competitors and the three shinpan faced the throne and bowed deeply to the emperor and empress.


Both competitors stand up and kiai with all their might. The small Takizawa adjusts his kensen slightly up to make up for the difference in height between him and the taller Abe, who lowers his for the same reason. With their kensen moving rhythmically, they slowly close distance. You can feel the pressure radiate out from both mens shinai, like electricity.

Takizawa brothers in Barcelona

Over a few years, Takizawa Kenji sensei (kyoshi, 8dan) has been making trips to Europe, and has met a few of my friends (and probably lots of kenshi247 readers) while abroad. Although I don’t know him personally (yet), I have been training with his younger brother (Takizawa Masaya sensei, kyoshi, 7dan) for the past few years. Recently both brothers went to Barcelona for a kendo seminar and this inspired me to introduce something about their highly influential father to readers.

Please note that I got Takizawa Kenji and Masaya sensei’s permission to write this article, including translation and use of published as well as private material.

Takizawa Kozo: a short biography

Takizawa Kozo was born as the third son into a farming family on the 20th of October, Meiji 43 (1910), in Atsugi city, Kanagawa prefecture. He started kendo with a local group whilst still in primary school. Despite his short stature, from a young age he began to be noticed for his kendo ability (he was only 160cm’s as an adult). At the age of 19, he was taking part in a competition and defeated 14 opponents one after another (kachinuki shiai were commonplace at that time). This caught the eye of one of the shinpan – Wada Yoshiharu. Wada was a student of Takano Sasaburo’s at Shudogakuin and – impressed by the young mans ability – asked him whether he would like to take up kendo seriously at Shudogakuin. Kozo immediately replied “onegaishimasu!”

Although he started travelling back-and-forward to Shudogakuin at 19, he was forced to suspend this for 2 years, so it wasn’t until he was 21 when he entered the dojo officially as a live-in-student. For 4 years he lived in the dojo (cleaning, washing, and cooking as well as practising) and studied kendo and itto-ryu under Takano Sasaburo. Keiko at the dojo was rough, with people being routinely shoved to the floor violently and water thrown over them to be revived. Many kenshi that came from the outside to practise (i.e. not full-time, live in students) were shocked at the roughness of the dojo and fled.

In 1936 (presumably due to Takano’s efforts) Kozo entered the Imperial guards and his main place of practise became Saineikan in the imperial grounds. This time in the imperial guards kendo history is referred to as its renaissance period, as they had a group of strong kenshi and had lots of shiai success. Although he now practised at a different dojo he would remark years later that it was his years at Shudogakuin that he forged his basics.

After many years of working as an imperial guard, he was transferred in 1953 to Police HQ with the job of re-formulating police kendo for the new period.

Just prior to being transferred out of the imperial guards, he had his three sons start kendo at Saineikan. At that time they were 9yrs old (Takizawa Kenji, now kyoshi 8dan), 6yrs old (Takizawa Masaya, now kyoshi 7dan), and the third was still in kindergarden. His sons continued practising at Saineikan almost daily up to and through junior high school (15 years old).

In 1956, he took part in the 70th Imperial Guards shiai, which was marked as being the first tenran-shiai after the war. This story – which opened this article – continues below in the next section.

Around these years he took part in two consecutive olympics as coach of the Japanese marksmanship team. A member of his team would get a medal in both competitions (more on this below).

From the mid-60s Kozo became a highly sought after teacher, and took up kendo teaching posts at Tokyo University, Kanagawa prefecture kendo association, and the police academy, as well as other places.

In 1969 he was appointed the leader of a group of sensei that travelled to Europe in order to popularise and spread kendo. He was influential in starting the European Kendo Federation and served as the vice president of the British Kendo Association for a time, and influenced a generation of Europe-based kenshi, not in the least France’s Yoshimura sensei.

In 1970 he built and opened his own dojo in his home town of Atsugi city called Shiseikan Takizawa dojo (思斉館滝澤道場). The name “Shisei” was given to Kozo sensei by the first president of the All Japan Kendo Federation, Kimura. The meaning comes from a phrase found in the Analects of Confucius – 見賢思斉 (けんけんしせい) – “if you see something/someone good or wise, you should strive to do or to become the same way.”

In May 1987 Kozo sensei was awarded his 9dan at the Kyoto Taikai and exclaimed:

“ok, now its time for real kendo to begin…”

In July of the same year, just 2 months after receiving 9dan, he died of cancer.

“I only graduated primary school and look how far I’ve come. Its been an enjoyable life!”

70th Imperial Guards shiai, Showa 31 (1956). The first post-war tenran-shiai.

(Continued from the introduction, this is a liberal translation of an account of the final by the chronicler Tanabe)

As the final was happing I was speaking to Takizawa’s defeated partner from the prior round: “What about this Takizawa, he seems to have enough ability, but he’s unlucky in shiai and sometimes loses to people he’s stronger than?” He replied “If he thinks about that he’s done for.” Actually, looking at his kendo today there seems to be something different than usual.

After the shiai I spoke to Takizawa about it and he said: “Actually, I’ve been training athletes for the pistol event in the olympics and of course attending gasshuku with them. I do the same warmups as the guys, and so I’ve become a lot more flexible than I have ever been. This made me think “I can do it.”

Watching the shiai now, you can see that this new flexibility has given him confidence… but we can’t forget the youthful vigour that makes Abe as strong as he is.

Both competitors are out on the dojo floor exchanging men attacks. Suddenly, Takizawa feints a men attack and changes to dou… at what looks at the exact same time Abe strikes a large men… “DOU!” “MEN!”

“MEN-ARI” calls Mochida sensei; its Abe’s ippon.

With Mochida sensei’s call of “NIHON-ME!” both kenshi press forward. Takizawa’s kiai is as load and strong as ever. The atmosphere in Saineikan is electric and you can see both competitors faces are red with concentration, almost as if they are on fire.

As the match continues you can see that – whilst Takizawa remains concentrated – Abe’s tiredness shows through. Takizawa’s concentration is great. However, if things are left as they are, time will run out and he will lose. He pushes forward, advancing, pressuring Abe, who has now resorted to protecting himself more and more.

3 minutes… 4 minutes…
30 seconds left… 20 seconds left…

With Abe only having to last a few more seconds Takizawa drives in and attacks… MEN…

“MEN-ARI” shouts Mochida sensei; with only seconds away from defeat Takizawa takes an ippon back to equalise the score.

The shiai goes into encho, but Takizawa has already climbed over a difficult mountain to get this far, and is now going down the other side. Tired, Abe is continually on the defensive. Where did such energy come from such a short kenshi? Takizawa presses on his attack and attacks… KOTE!

“KOTE-ARI” shouts Mochida sensei, and the winner is decided.

Today was Takizawa’s victory. As everyone stood up for applause the kenshi bowed to each other then faced the emperor and empress. As they bowed low to them, the emperor and empress stand up to offer their appreciation.

The time was 3:06pm, on 12th of May 1956.

Tenran shiai: epilogue

(the following are Kozo sensei’s own words, translated liberally by myself)

For two days and nights after winning the competition my sempai and my friends celebrated with me, and everything was like a dream. On the evening of the third day after the shiai, I got a call from the Police Medical Clinic asking me to come down immediately for a consultation. They didn’t say anything about holding any celebration for me, so I found myself standing in front of the doctor with a dubious look upon my face. A few days earlier had been our annual medical checkup and they had found something strange in the results. They showed me the x-ray from the day and tried to explain what they found: tuberculosis. I didn’t shrug off their explanations but I wondered if someone with such a disease could win a tenran shiai. I was shocked at what he was trying to tell me, but I didn’t say anything.

The next day the clinic called again: “since it seems that you don’t believe what we told you yesterday, come down today and we will do another x-ray. The results of this 2nd test we will report to the police hospital.”

6 days after I won the tenran shiai I found myself in the main police hospital facing a doctor holding my x-ray and explaining. Even though my body was rigid, I found myself shaking: “We have found an erosion/cavity of about 1 centimetre, we need to take care of it” was the sentence handed down. Against the weight of evidence that the doctors gave, even though being stubborn and strong willed, I had nothing to do but hang my head. The light feet I walked on until recently suddenly became heavy, and I trod home wearily. There I faced my wife and told her about the diagnosis. She was surprised and sad, and kept quiet for a while. Finally she said:

“Humans can only be what they are…. lets look after your health”

With these words it was decided.

Here was I, still drunk on the win of the tenran shiai a few days earlier suddenly yanked into a different world. I started thinking about my recuperation, my family, my job, etc and I realised I was buried in troubles.

Four days before I had been called to the police bureau director’s office and was given a monetary gift for winning the tenran shiai. Now I went to the same bureau, and from the same director was ordered to take medical and recuperation leave.

(Kozo sensei underwent an operation and was in recuperation for a year before re-starting work – and kendo – with the police)

Olympic sports pistol and kendo

Most people who seriously study kendo have no interest in seeing the art as part of the modern olympics. Its surprising then to find that a hanshi 9dan like Takizawa Kozo sensei could be said to be the first – and possibly the only – person who coached someone using kendo pedagogy into getting an olympic medal.

Only a week after winning the tenran shiai mentioned above, Kozo sensei came down with tuberculosis. After undergoing serious surgery and a year of rest, he restarted his work in the police as a teacher in the Education branch. Here they taught kendo, judo, taihojutsu, pistol, etc. Around that time the olympic rifle association of Japan contacted the police and asked them if they would be willing to train athletes for the pistol event of the olympics (pistols can only legally held by police in Japan). Despite there being no current programme for this in Japan, the police readily took up the task, and Kozo sensei was tasked with the job.

From this time, Kozo sensei could be spotted every morning reading and studying foreign language pistol manuals (there were none available in Japanese at the time). He also collected policemen from around the country who were said to be good with a pistol and organised gasshuku’s. It was here that the 21yr old policeman from Fukuoka, Yoshikawa, was discovered. At one time, the young Takizawa Kenji sensei was told this from Yoshikawa:

“(At training camps) your dad keeps talking about kendo and Miyamoto Musashi etc… ask him to teach us how to shoot!!”

Kozo sensei would give his “shooting” advice like this:

“Its not about just pulling the trigger and hitting the target.”

“What happens before you pull the trigger is the most important thing.”

“You must have a good kamae”

During training Kozo sensei would ofter remark:

“That was Musashi thinking”

Yoshikawa was selected for the Rome olympics in 1960. The pistol discipline requires athletes to shoot their 60 shots within 3 hours. After taking time and shooting about 30 shots, Yoshikawa wasn’t on good form. At that time an official slipped him a note: it was from Kozo sensei. Opening it, it read: “That was Musashi thinking.” With this one note from his coach, Yoshikawa took 4 or 5 breathes, relaxed himself, and re-focused. He came away with the silver medal in the event (it was the first time a Japanese person was awarded a medal in the event).

In the 1964 olympics, the emperor came to watch the pistol event. Under pressure to perform Yoshikawa’s timing went astray. At that time the official slipped him a note: “That was Musashi thinking.” He imagined Kozo sensei berating him strongly: “Give up trying to get a medal? What the hell have you been trying so hard this last 4 years for anyway? You have 30 shots left; show them your true self.” Furukawa reports that he couldn’t remember anything about his last 30 shots. It was almost as if he were a robot. In what he claims is a miracle, he was awarded a bronze medal.

Yoshikawa still has the note(s) that Kozo sensei passed to him.

Kozo sensei said this on pistol-kendo connection:


“It’s not just about hitting. If you don’t prepare your spirit and a good a kamae before, you will never hit your target. In this way, there is not a single difference between shooting and kendo. This is why I taught marksmanship using kendo pedagogy. “

A couple of teaching anecdotes

The young Takizawa brothers were taught this from their father as children:


“When attacking a castle you shouldn’t attack only the main gate. If the main gate is strong you should go round to the rear and attack there, then you will gain victory easily. Thus its said that the rear-attack is the window to victory.”

Since the young brothers practised kendo in the grounds of Edo castle (or what remained of it) it was easy for them to imagine the scenario. Put in kendo terms it means rather than relying on strength alone to attack your opponent straight on, you could seme kote and attack men, or seme men and attack dou, use small movements to seme but attack big, seme to the omote but attack to the right, etc. In other words, allow your body and spirit to move freely and at will.

When Takizawa Kenji sensei was compiling Sheiseikan’s 30th anniversary book he stumbled on the following teaching of this fathers:


1. Don’t think about winning, just fight with mushin.
2. Whatever happens don’t retreat. Look for the chance and attack.
3. Don’t even be defeated by your kiai, always have a loud shout.
4. If a shiai/fight is long and drawn out then attack with abandon (sutemi).

A finally interesting anecdote comes from Takizawa Kenji sensei after he passed his 6dan. He approached his father to ask for advice: what books should he read to advance his understanding of kendo? Kozo sensei read a lot of books and pulled a pile out to give to his son. At that time he gave this advice:

“Rather than read books, you’ll understand (kendo) better if you you just practise. First is keiko !”

Takizawa Kozo sensei timeline

Meiji 43 (1910) – Born in Atsugi city, Kanagawa prefecture;
Showa 7 (1932) – entered Shudogakuin and Takano Sasaburo became his sensei;
Showa 11 (1936) – awarded 4dan at Shidogakuin (July); entered the imperial guards and started practising at Saineikan (November);
Showa 12 (1937): awarded renshi;
Showa 15 (1940) – became the dept. head of the imperial guards;
Showa 18 (1943) – awarded kyoshi;
Showa 28 (1953) – transferred to the police with the mission to
re-formulate police kendo;
Showa 29 (1954) – he started an olympic marksmanship speciality course and
trained its athletes. From his work here he was selected at the
Japanese team marksmanship coach for two olympics – Rome and Tokyo. In
both of these Olympics one of his athletes got a bronze medal in the
free pistol event;
Showa 31 (1956) – awarded 7dan; won the 70th imperial guards shiai held
in front of the emperor;
Showa 42 (1967): awarded 8dan; became shihan for Tokyo University’s athletic dept. (later, its honourary shihan), as well as becoming a lecturer at the police academy, Kanagawa prefecture police shihan etc;
Showa 44 (1969) – awarded hanshi; he was leader of a group sent by the ZNKR to Europe
in order to introduce and popularise kendo there (he was to be
influential in the founding of the EKF, and served as the first vice
president of the BKA)
Showa 45 (1970) – he opened up his own dojo called Shiseikan in his home town;
Showa 62 (1987) – awarded 9dan (May); he died of cancer at the age of 76 (July). He was hanshi, kyudan.


思斉館滝澤道場 創立30周年記念誌。平成12年発行。非売品。 初代館長藩士九段瀧澤光三。
Permission was granted from Kozo sensei’s sons, Takizawa Kenji and Masaya sensei to write this article.
Contents used with permission of Takizawa Kenji sensei.

By George

George is the founder and chief editor of
For more information check out the About page.

13 replies on “Takizawa Kozo hanshi”

gracias, me ha encantado leer este articulo tan interesante sobre alguien a quien apreciamos tanto
Un saludo

superb article George!
Having trained with Takizawa Sensei, who actually came to Edinburgh Kendo Club, this has a lasting effect on me about this gentle and gracious man. Thank you for posting.

Great Article George

Coincidentally I was recently flicking through a copy of Mr Lidstone’s Introduction to Kendo and there are several pictures of and credits to Takizawa Kozo sensei. I knew about his influence on British and European kendo but was unaware of his track record in Japan until I read your post.

Cheers! I think there are a few sensei who have been to or been involved with foreign kendo without their full resume being known.

I have a digital copy of that book and have been thinking about providing it online for download. Maybe sometime in the future.

Thank you very much George. Takizawa Kenji sensei recently visited Melbourne, Australia and I had not idea of the history behind this humble and skilled sensei. I find it amazing how even a 9th dan sensei has applied kendo principles to a different sport. Much food for thought indeed. Thank you very much again!!!

“Rather than read books, you’ll understand (kendo) better if you you just practise. First is keiko !”
Absolutely fantastic quote. I want this on a tenagui!!!!!
The quote is so true. As my sempei says “Whoever said “Practice makes perfect, was an idiot – Perfect Practice makes perfect.”
Constant practice will benefit both Kendo and Iaido. Kendo Kata = repetition, repetition, and more repetition with an eye on perfect practice


George, just got around to reading through this old article. Great piece. I will soon hope to practice with Takizawa Kenji sensei as I have been invited to the Atsugi International Kendo Festival by my good friend Fujiwara Masaru sensei at the end of October (2014). Thanks for the insight into Takizawa Kozo and the roots of Takizawa Kenji’s lineage.

Hey Mike,

Yeah, Takizawa sensei himself said the article was useful as he could just direct people to it and it would explain some of his background!!!

The Atsugi thing was kind of mentioned to me, but it’s not really my scene. I hope you are planning to pop over to the more interesting part of the country while you are here as well.

Takizawa Kozo Sensei was the group leader for Team Japan at one of the early World Kendo Championships. I met him at that time and remember that he was a very nice person.

Lately I’ve come across a lot about him incidentally … anecdotes from Shidogakuin plus Ogawa Chutaro sensei mentions him in passing now and then. His son has been one of my teachers for almost a decade now.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.