Kendo 1925 – in pictures

I spent a lot of time reading about kendo and of course, preparing scripts and pictures for my own kendo projects and of course this website. By far the most fascinating thing for me is to get my hands on older kendo manuals, the well-worn the better. I especially enjoy looking through those books that include pictures.

The pictures below are all from a kendo manual entitled ‘Practical kendo for students’, which was published in Taisho 14 (1925). It was written by Tominaga Kengo and includes an introduction by his sensei, Takano Sasaburo. The book is full of interesting kendo pictures, a few of which I plucked out and have uploaded here as I imagine that many readers will enjoy them as well.

In particular, I like pictures that show changes in the shape compared to the kendo we do nowadays, including waza that have fallen or are falling out of use.

At any rate, enjoy! I hope to introduce more pictures at a later date.

As an added bonus here are some pics from an article series I published 4 years ago. This book was published in 1927.



Shoshin ni kaeru (初心に返る)

Even though I don’t post on on a daily basis, I usually find myself linking cool videos, pics, and kendo what-nots to the facebook page every day, so I’m sure that some people were wondering whats been up with the lack of updates over the last 2 weeks. Basically, after a silly fall, I ended up breaking my ankle (left fibula). Not only that, but I had to get it operated on = a titanium plate and 6 screws. Boo. After just recovering fully from my last mishap (a broken back), I’m beginning to think I’m cursed!!!

The good news is that the surgeon, my rehabilitation guy, and friends who have suffered similar problems, have all assured me I will get back to keiko soon enough – I just have to be patient in the mean time, and concentrate on rehabilitation. Almost everybody also told me to use the time to think about stuff, not just kendo things, but the day-to-day things that often get forgotten (especially when on a 12 keiko/week diet).

Thinking about my friends advice, the phrase SHOSHIN NI KAERU (初心に返る) immediately came to mind. The phrase basically means “to go back to the time when you first started something” (i.e. when your thoughts were still untainted) or something to that effect. Obviously it’s a term that can be used for many different aspects of our daily lives.

Kendo-wise – for me – I’m taking this non-keiko time as an opportunity to re-evaluate not only the physical aspects of my kendo (which will have to re-start themselves very slowly anyway) but also the more metaphysical aspects of my kendo shugyo – Why am I doing it? Of what value is kendo to me? What benefit is there to teaching kendo to children? How can I become a better person through kendo? How has kendo changed me over the last 20 years? etc. etc. I also took a lot of time out to reflect on the story of Suzunosuke, in particular that I shouldn’t moan about the pain, the inconvenience of hobbling around in crutches, and that I should be thankful for my 38 years of life to date.

Another added bonus to all this extra time is that the next kenshi 24/7 publications release is now pretty much imminent! I have a test copy of the book front of me as I type this (it truly is beautiful!) and am just awaiting the last bunch of typo-edits to come in from a couple of friends before I update the pdf and publish. The content is still top secret, but I assure you that you will love it!

It took an accident and hospital stay to get me to ponder on some of the stuff above (and to finalise my book). Hopefully it won’t take as much for you to make some space in your day to consider your (kendo) life and to perhaps get things done that you’ve been putting off.


The pic is from the manga Vagabond. I don’t really have time to r much anymoreh anymore, but a bunch of comics were conveniently placed in the hospital t The average age of the patients in my ward must have been about 70, so I was the only reader!!

Eikenkai September 2013

The second last Eikenkai session of the year was a quiet one, with 14 kenshi gathering at Sumiyoshi Budokan on the morning of September 29th. The session was a slightly different format than usual – but still kihon based – starting with a couple of hundred kirikaeshi.

Next years schedule is 90% set – if you are in town please consider joining us!! Remember and read our “Please note that…” section on this page.

2014 Schedule

– February 23rd
April 27th (not set 100%)
– June 22nd
July 27th (not set 100%)
– September 28th
– November 30th

The last session of this year is on December the 8th.

Please check the main Eikenkai section on this site for the latest news regarding schedule and joining. Cheers!

Remembering Suzunosuke 鈴之介

The following is an English translation of a Japanese article that I wrote and was published in the October edition of Kendo Jidai (on sale August 25th 2013). Its the story of my kendo student Kubota Suzunosuke who passed away in January of this year and that I introduced on this site back in March. The English version is of course slightly different than the original Japanese. Please note that I have his parents blessings to put this online.

Continue reading Remembering Suzunosuke 鈴之介


About two weeks ago I had the rare chance to have a long private chat during lunch with my sensei after keiko (he’s in his mid-60s hanshi). We talked about lots of different things including our private lives, but its something kendo related (of course) that he said that inspired this current post.

Since around about April I’ve found my enthusiasm for kendo wavering a bit, This happens to everyone now and then of-course, but this time its lasted 5 months, which is pretty long even by my standards. Looking for some words of wisdom to help snap me out of my mood, I asked my sensei has he ever experienced something like this. He of course has practised kendo his entire life. He joined the police straight out of high school for the sole purpose of pursuing a kendo career. He’s taken part in almost any competition you care to name, placing in many of them (as a tokuren member or after that as a police kendo teacher). Lately he’s been busy travelling all over the place teaching seminars and what have you.

I assumed he would answer my question in the affirmative, which he did, but not in the manner I had guessed. As a young man in the tokuren squad he basically lived to compete. Shiai success was everything. Failure to perform in shiai meant being removed from the shiai lineup and, if things didn’t improve, threat of removal from the team entirely. This of course would mean having to work as a normal policeman (or quitting). This was (and still is) a very very competitive environment (remember you also have to vie with your teammates on a daily basis for selection and other people are waiting in the wings to join). It was during this time – when shiai success was not forthcoming – that his enthusiasm wavered and he sometimes lost his confidence. However, he managed to overcome these periods of doubt and went on to have a successful shiai career. This translated itself into a kendo teaching position when he was in this late 30s and set him up with not only a job for life, but is also directly related to his teaching duties nowadays (before and after retirement).

The doubts that my teacher had were then dispelled by constant shiai success in his youth, and since then he’s had none!!! But he then went out of the way to point out that his situation is only typical of those few people that actually make tokuren squads and survive the duration. School (and to a certain extent university) teachers – the next level ‘down’ from police kendo pros – have a much different experience.

Top level competitive kenshi almost always follow the exact same path until they leave university – start as a primary school kid and continue kendo through their junior and high school years, often going to renowned dojo or schools with a solid kendo tradition. Some will have have shiai success from the start (Uchimura) and others will be late bloomers (Teramoto); most will go onto to university before entering a kendo related career, and a few will go straight into the police after high school (Yamamoto Mariko). People are of course scouted. Those that graduate university and wish to pursue a kendo related career have basically 3 choices: enter the police, become a teacher, or join a company with a kendo team (non graduates can’t become teachers). Obviously which path a person chooses is based not only on their kendo skill, but also their personality and academic ability. That some people choose not to join the police is understandable – the harshly competitive environment and high failure rate must put most people off. Becoming a teacher is also something that isn’t for the light hearted, but in a much different way. Joining a company team is probably the easiest option of the 3, with its more casual kendo pace and ‘normal’ life style. Of course, the majority of people quit kendo after university (women more so), or continue only very casually.

When becoming a teacher your kendo career suddenly tips upside-down: from being on the receiving end of instruction, you are now on the giving end. Shiai becomes almost entirely something for your students, not for yourself, and your kendo pride and success is intertwined with that of your students. Your daily kendo practise is mainly aimed at your students improvement, not your own (although many younger teachers will continue to do kendo with their students; older teachers basically only shout at the kids and then do a bit of jigeiko!). The tokuren policeman/woman on the other hand is fighting for their survival.

Its this that explains why police kendo dominates in Japan: those that have success in the environment become not only highly skilled, but supremely confident. They have to be in order to survive (and to translate their tokuren years into a future career). Its this process that my sensei went through and explains his lack of wavering over the past 30 years (and I assume others in a similar situation). I envy this self belief!!

I actually sat down and wrote this post soon after the discussion with my teacher. As I post it live (about 2 weeks later) I find myself sitting here with a beer in hand. Of my three keiko sessions planned for today I skipped both the morning and evening practise…. in fact, my evening practise is going on right now as I post this live! I know that my teacher did keiko this morning, and I highly suspect he’s currently doing keiko right now…… no good George!!