Naito Takaharu (1862-1929) was one of the most influential kenshi to pick up a shinai. Born as as Ichige Takaharu in Mito in 1862, his Samurai parents were of budo stock: his father an archery instructor for the domain and his mother the daugher of the Hokushin Itto-ryu shihan Watanabe.
At the age of 7 he began the tradition study of Japanese as well as kenjutsu and swimming. At the age of 12 – in 1874, just 3 years after the end of the more traditional domain system – Takaharu joined what was to become one of the most renowned dojo in Japan: the newly constructed Mito Tobukan. There he learned shinai kendo and Hokushin Itto-ryu kenjutsu. Tobukan had been built by the head kenjutsu instructor of Kodokan (the domain school) Kozawa Torakichi (a student of Chiba Shusaku). It was here that he met what would be a long-term acquaintance, Monna Tadashi.
When he was 20, he was adopted by a relative (a common practise at the time) and became ‘Naito’ Takaharu.
In 1883, at the age of 20/21, Naito went to Tokyo and studied under the Jikishinkage-ryu swordsman and Kobusho instructor Sakakibara Kenkichi, the progenitor of pay-to-watch kenjutsu shows, Gekken Kogyo. These shows were started as a means for out-of-work budo exponents to make a living in a society that was hurtling towards modernaisation (Western style) at full pace.
After a year with Sakakibara, Naito went on a Musha-shugyo around the country. Upon his return he was said to have faced the strong Keishicho kenshi Takano Sasaburo (Ono-ha itto-ryu) and Kawasaki Zenzaburo (Kyoshinmeichi-ryu/Itto-ryu), defeating both.
In 1888, at age 26, he then joined Keishicho as a policeman (Monna Tadashi then joined him). 6 years later he was sent (with Monna) to Korea to take part in the Sino-Japanese war (as kendo instructors).
1897 was a busy year for Naito:
1. he was awarded Seirensho in 1897 by the newly formed Butokukai;
2. He opened a dojo called Yoshinkan;
3. He became the shihan of Tokyo Senmon Gakko (later to become Waseda university).
(he was still working at Keishicho at this time)
On the completion of the Kyoto Butokuden in 1899 (then inside the grounds of Heian Jingu) he was asked to become one of five kendo teachers there (Budo Senmon Daigaku – Busen). It was here, as the head instructor, that he taught the countries future kendo specialists, including all five future 10 dans.
At the 1901 Kyoto Taikai he had a rematch with Takano Sasaburo. The result was a hikiwake (1-1) and the shinpan Mihashi Kanichiro (in the first group of both Butokukai seirensho and hanshi awards) said : “From the start to the finish, I’ve never seen a higher quality shiai than this.”
In 1911, he was on the executive committee for the creation of the Dai-nippon Teikoku kendo no kata (the future kendo-no-kata). Long-time friend Monna Tadashi (by then teaching at Busen as well) and rival Takano Sasaburo were also members.
Naito was said to be against the change of kendo into a sportive form and his teaching reflected this: a strict diet of kirikaeshi and kakarigeiko. He was also against holding Tenran shiai, but was ordered to comply by the imperial household.
He died suddenly in 1929 due to a cerebral haemorrhage.
This article is mostly a quick translation from the Japanese wikipedia article. I will append more pictures and information at a later date.