The words above are attributed to Saimura Goro, one of the the most influential kenshi in the pre-WW2 period, and one of only 5 sensei that were awarded 10 dan after the war. A liberal translation in English reads:
* The aim of kendo is to improve the spirit. The means of achieving this is through the polishing of technique.
* It’s important to think of and use the shinai as a real sword and to cultivate a positive style of kendo with no holding back (sutemi).
* During keiko you must never relax your guard whatever distance you find yourself in.
Pretty easy advice on the face of it, but the more I read it, the more difficult it seems to be.
Saimura Goro: a very brief bio
In 1906, Saimura Goro was in the first group of students that entered the Butokukai’s Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseisho (‘martial art teachers training school’ – this was later renamed to the Budo Senmon Gakko, or ‘Busen’ for short). At 18, he was the by far the youngest student in the first group. Here he studied kendo under Naito Takaharu. Naito’s kirikashi and kakarigeiko-centric keiko regime would shape not only Saimura’s physical kendo, but his attitude towards kendo itself.
(The first batch included Nakano Sosuke (20), and the next year Mochida Seiji (Moriji) would join (21). All 3 would become kendo leaders in the future, and all were awarded 10th dan. Although Mochida was older than Saimura, he was the kohai in the relationship as he entered the Yoseijo later.)
During his time in Kyoto he was infamous for his short temper and always getting into arguments. Eventually he was banished from the school and sent to Kyushu as a kendo teacher for 3 years (he was, essentially, exiled for his attitude). After this, however, he was invited back to the Yoseijo by Naito, and become a kendo instructor there.
In 1917 he retired his teaching position and moved to Tokyo in search of work. Here he lived with his wife and small children close to the breadline for many years while he built up his career. It took time, but eventually he would land teaching positions in Keishicho, the imperial police, Toyama Gakko (military), Waseda university (and accompanying schools), and the new Kokushikan senmon gakko (later, university). His influence, therefore, was large.
Saimura was the first of the Butokukai (i.e. Naito-trained) kenshi to become employed as a kendo teacher in Tokyo. At the time the style in Tokyo was said to be different:
- As the dojo were small everyone fought at close distance;
- Takano Sasaburo’s style of using a variety of techniques from different angles was the standard.
Saimura learnt his kendo in the bigger dojo found in Kansai and would launch attacks from a far distance. He also favoured a simpler, cleaner style of kendo, focusing mainly on men and tsuki. Saimura also taught differently – he basically brought Naito’s kirikaeshi/kakarigeiko-centric style to Tokyo (Mochida would arrive later at Noma dojo). It was due to these 2 factors that Saimura became as renowned as he did, leading him to be sought after and employed as a kendo teacher in the establishments listed above.
By the way, it’s worth noting that when Saimura first arrived in Tokyo he was surprised to find many dojo didn’t focus on kihon and had a lackadaisical approach to keiko. He was to be a leading figure in changing this attitude.
In the years leading up to WW2 Saimura would continue rotating around various dojo teaching kendo. He would also appear in all of the tenranjiai, as competitor, demonstrator, and judge.
After the reestablishment of kendo after the war Saimura became an honorary shihan to both Keishicho and Kokushikan, was awarded 10dan, and performed – with Mochida as his shidachi – kendo kata at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Saimura Goro vs Ogawa Kinnosuke (Tenranjiai, 1940):
Saimura Goro (uchidachi) and Mochida Seiji (date and location unknown, but presumably in the 1960s):
Other articles relating to Saimura Goro
Attack from a far distance – be energetic and lively – attack with abandon
The ultranationalistic general Anami Korechika was appointed War Minister to a desperate Japan in April 1945. Five months later and Japan was finished. The cabinet met on the 14th of August and signed the surrender document. It just so happened that there was keiko at the army ministry dojo that very day. Anami, who has signed the surrender document earlier that day, turned up to do keiko with his sensei, Saimura. The next morning, he committed seppuku.