history kendo kenshi

Monna Tadashi

(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.

Scandal ?

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.

Back line (l-r): Takano, Naito, Monna


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.

明治撃剣家 春風館立ち切り誓願。堂本昭彦。

By George

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

10 replies on “Monna Tadashi”


It seems that the family name is Monna, with two n’s. At least, Japanese wikipedia transcribes it as 門奈 正(もんな ただし), and in Kendo World Vol 3, No1 2004, page 12, right column, top paragraph, Alex Bennett gives the reading as Monna Tadashi.

I am sure there are other references, however literally less then an hour ago, I had the same discussion about correct reading of this name with the translator of 「大日本武徳会制定剣術形」, 1912, by Monna Tadashi and Naito Takaharu, so these two are fresh in my memory.


Hi Stany,

Yeah, another person on facebook (who’s forever trying to correct everything I do!!) pointed the same thing out. There I explained that it doesn’t really matter whether its moNa or moNNA because to English speakers – AND native Japanese speakers – there would be no (or very little) actual perceptual difference in pronunciation. Like 東京 being TOKYO or TOUKYOU or 難波 being rendered NAMBA or NANBA in English. Japanese speakers might tell you that this isn’t true, but they will never admit that nobody actually pronounces all the vowels in Tokyo or Kyoto !!!!! Other more confusing ones are names like 下岡 which comes out as ‘Shimooka’ if we directly write it out… which an non-Japanese speaker would completely mess up the pronunciation of. Writing ‘Shimo-oka’ or ‘Shimo’oka’ makes it more complicated. For kendo datotsubui I use ‘men, kote, dou, and tsuki’ — I hate using the extra ‘u’ on the DOU, but if I don’t do it then things get confusing !!!

So where does that leave us?!? As far as literally rendering of the kana into the latin alphabet, you are right. As far as non-Japanese speakers who want to read kendo stuff then (i.e. the readers of this site), I’d say, its neither here nor there.

btw within this website I’ve actually used both moNa and moNNa = my choice is simply based on my mood !


I’ve never 大日本武徳会制定剣術形 in any language other than Japanese… afaik I’m the only person even interested in these things!!!! Please check out my latest book, Noma Hisashi’s KENDO READER, for a translation and annotated version of the 大日本帝国剣道形 from a little bit later.

p.s. You convinced me … I changed it !!

Also, I think I might translate the above into English… its probably a 30 minute job.

The hardest part of translating 大日本武徳会制定剣術形 is the foreword. Seriously.

As for the names… You are right, and double moira makes very little practical difference. However, two things to consider: Suppose I want to do further research, and speak Japanese (well, I do speak a smattering of it)? If you transcribe using established standard (Hepburn), then it’s possible to take English spelling, and convert it back to at least kana, and, hopefully, person is notorious enough to have their own entry in Britannica, or wikipedia, or elsewhere, and I can figure out what the correct kanji spelling of the name is.

Second point is a corollary. If you don’t follow standards while writing your article, and someone writes an article about the same person, yet follows a standard, and again, I, a reader, want to find out more, yet I don’t speak Japanese, how can I make sure that I find all relevant documents that use alternate spelling? So please be nice to the few percent of your readers, that actually want to dig a little deeper 🙂

As for nitpicking… George, I really hope I haven’t offended you, and that was never my intention. So please don’t take it personally. You are doing a great job, and I really enjoy reading your site. Just by translating from Japanese and posting, you do more for Kendo outside of Japan, then 99% of other folks (and don’t get me started on big-headed wikipedia editors and their warring edits)

Cheers and thank you!

Thanks Stany. It takes a lot more than a discussion of whether or not to use an N or not to offend me!! To be honest, I never even really deeply considered it. I’m a bad speller at the best of times, so it’s no wonder these things slip by me. I’m pretty sure the whole site is littered with spelling and grammar mistakes!!!!!! I really should be more careful.

At the moment the English (non-Japanese?) kendo community has access to a minuscule percentage of the kendo information available. What I present on kenshi 24/7 is a tiny fraction of what I read and study on a constant basis. Part of my mission with this site is to inspire more people to get into kendo research… hopefully by coming to Japan and learning the language – because theres no other way to learn deeply about the culture of kendo.

( ps if you have an English translation of the 大日本武徳会制定剣術形 I could publish it here if you want? If its not English then thats cool… like I said, I have the manual and could translate it pretty quickly. )

Sorry, George. I’d love to, but the translation that I have, was done by someone else, so it’s not mine to publish.

However, I do encourage you to translate and publish it (it’s only ~36 pages, and most pages only have the captions), since it is a fascinating look at what DNBK was thinking, when trying to create a standard Kendo kata.


Yeah, I’ve had access to it for years. The kata were actually put together before this manual came out, at a several week long seminar at Tokyo Shihan Gakko. We shall see. The history behind kendo no gata is only for kendo geeks.

I was looking for more info on Monna Tadashi and I saw this article and was reading the comments… What is this 大日本武徳会制定剣術形 book you are talking about? Google translate, for what is worth, romanizes it as “Dai Nihon Takenori-kai seitei kenjutsu katachi”.

Is it about a particular set of pre-Nihon Kendo Kata or is it about the history of how the Kendo no Kata were created?

Whatever the case may be, more info on the Kendo no Kata is always nice…!

The correct reading is “dai nihon (or Nippon) butokukai seitei kenjutsu kata” and they were the standard kata used in the butokukai from 1906 until they were replaced by the teikoku kendo kata.

Eventually I will present a complete background to the kendo kata included pictures and descriptions of this set. Be patient !!

Leave a Reply

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