(the picture above shows (l-r): Monna Tadashi, Sasaki Masanori, Naito Takaharu)
Along with his friend and fellow Tobukan/Hokushin Itto-ryu kenshi Naito Takaharu, Monna Tadashi (1855-1930) was one of the most influential swordsmen in modern kendo’s early period. At Busen they were known as the pair: “Waza Monna” and “Ki Takaharu.”
The Monna family were hereditary retainers of Mito-han and Tadashi was his parents 4th child (out of 8). The period was a tumultuous one, and his family didn’t escape involvement in political matters: his father became involved in intrigue and eventually died during political imprisonment. Due to this the eldest brother committed seppuku and the other brothers yet to reach manhood (including Tadashi) were confined to house arrest.
Tadashi was under house arrest from 10-15 years of age. After his release, Tadashi studied Suifu-ryu kenjutsu, attaining Menkyo-kaiden in the art before joining Tobukan in around 1881. There he studied Hokushin Itto-ryu and Shin-Tamiya ryu battojutsu as well as shinai kendo under Ozawa Torakichi. At Tobukan he also received instruction under Shimoe Hidetaro (a student of Chiba Shusaku) and in 1888, due to the influence of Ozawa and Shimoe, Tadashi went to Tokyo and began teaching kendo at Keishicho (eventually with Naito).
In 1894 he was sent with the other kendo teachers from Keishicho to take part in the First Sino-Japanese war (they were sent to the Korean peninsula). During a particular battle in Pyongyang, he is said to have spearheaded an attack and killed 28 Chinese soldiers (with a sword presumably).
In 1899 (while Naito joined the Dai-Nippon-Butokukai) Tadashi moved to the Kanagawa police department and worked hard to establish the Dai-Nippon Butokukai Kanagawa branch. He was awarded Seirensho the same year.
In 1907 he joined Naito at Busen and became a kendo instructor here.
1911/1912 he was involved in the committee for development of kendo-no-kata.
In 1913, at the same time as Naito Takaharu and Takano Sasaburo, he was awarded hanshi.
In 1919 Tadashi was dismissed from Busen and moved to the Butokukai’s branch school in Nagoya – seemingly for having a relationship with a Geisha from Gion 37 years his junior. In Nagoya he continued to teach kendo but led a secluded life with his paramour until his death.
He is buried in Nanzen-ji temple in Kyoto.
This article is basically a quick translation of some secondary material simple to introduce someone whose picture many kendo people have seen and hopefully to spur some interest in the people that helped develop modern kendo.