The following is a translation of waza descriptions from Takano Sasaburo sensei’s book Kendo Kyohon, published in 1930. The translations were done by Kent Enfield and serialised here on kenshi 24/7 back in 2009.
During the end of year article clean-up that I usually do, I temporarily archived the series (6 posts) with the aim of bringing it all together and presenting it as a single article on the site at some point. Since the last post on the site was replete with pre-war kendo video, and because some people commented about the techniques used on the kenshi 24/7 facebook page, I thought it was about time I made an effort to repackage and re-present Kent’s amazing work. Here it is.
(Please note that the picture at the top and the video below have nothing to do with the Kendo Kyohon itself, they are just for illustration purposes.)
Discussions of pre-war kendo pop up from time to time with people proposing what it was like. It seems that those proposals are often supposition based on what someone wishes or imagines it was like instead of the sources that are available. To that end, I’m translating portions of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohon into English.
Kendo Kyohon was originally published in 1930, and much of it is repetition from his prior work, Kendo, published in 1915.
This post is split into six sections. The first four will be his “fifty varieties of technique” broken into four sections: men, tsuki, kote, and do. The fifth will be tsubazeriai and taiatari, and the sixth kumiuchi (grappling, and throwing). The curriculum of 50 techniques is a reduction and reworking of a curriculum of 68 techniques described by Chiba Shusaku. The 50-technique version also appears in Kendo, with the only differences being slight differences in phrasing and more old-fashioned grammar.
I’d like to make one note on the translation. Takano sensei describes the two participants as “I” [我] and “the enemy” [敵]. I have switched first-person declaratives to second-person imperatives, as that is much more natural in modern English.
Fifty Varieties of Technique
In kendo, having a certain one or two favorite techniques at which you are proficient is advantageous, but it is not good to be biased toward your favorite techniques, without any variety or being skilled at other techniques. You must master many techniques, so that they can be used skillfully to respond to the situation. The 50 most basic yet typically easy to use techniques are listed below. You should gradually try these techniques and work to master them.
Section 1 Eighteen for Men
While attacking the enemy from gedan, chudan, or jodan, see an opening and strike men.
While facing each other in gedan or chudan, strike men when the enemy begins to try to advance.
When the enemy is in chudan, strike shomen the moment the enemy moves to gedan.
NOTE: I am unsure of the pronunciation of 正撃.
You are in jodan, and the enemy is in gedan etc. As the enemy thrusts, open to either the enemy’s left or right and take hanmi, avoiding the enemy’s sword. Strike the enemy’s yokomen with one hand, either left or right.
When facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., as the enemy tries to strike your right kote, open your body to the left of the enemy, removing your kote. Assume hanmi and strike the enemy’s shomen.
Facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., when the enemy strikes at your right kote, take one step backward from the left foot and dodge without blocking. From there, swing your sword halfway up with both hands and strike.
Morote Jodan Men
When the enemy is defending in gedan or chudan, etc., from jodan, when you see an opening, strike men. Depending on the situation, you can also strike the enemy’s kote. The correct striking method for this is to strike the enemy the moment they begin to move.
Katate Jodan Men
When the enemy is defending in jodan or chudan, etc., from left or right katate jodan, strike men. Depending on the time, you can also strike kote.
Hidari Ai Jodan Men
When both parties are facing each other in hidari jodan, strike men from jodan. Depending on the time, you can also strike kote. Wait for the opportunity to develop. The correct time to strike is when the enemy comes to strike.
Migi Ai Jodan Men
When both you and he are facing each other in migi ai jodan, strike men from jodan. Depending on the time, you can also strike kote. Other than this, it is in accordance with the previous paragraph.
When facing each other in gedan or chudan, as the enemy comes to strike your own men, slide up [suriage] to jodan and strike men.
When both parties are in the same kamae as above, as the enemy comes to strike your men, perform ukenagashi and from there strike men in response. Depending on the time, you strike kote.
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above, as the enemy comes to strike your men, perform makiotoshi to either the left or the right and strike men.
NOTE: This makiotoshi waza is an oji waza in response to men, so it is clearly not the same technique as the modern shikake waza with the same name. As it can also be followed by tsuki (listed in the next section) instead of men I believe it is probably similar to the makiotoshi of Shinto Muso Ryu.
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above, slap the middle portion of the enemy’s sword and from there strike men.
Osae Kote Men
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above, as the enemy comes to strike your men, press his right kote and, from there, step in one step, stretch out your arms, and strike men.
Seme Kote Men
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above, threaten to strike the enemy’s right kote. When the enemy protects his kote, without a moment’s delay, fly in and strike men.
Shinai Osae Men
When facing each other, the enemy in chudan and you in gedan, as the enemy comes to strike your men, press down on the middle of their tsuka. At the same time as the enemey’s kamae crumbles, swing up halfway with both hands and strike men.
NOTE: If this is the technique I think it is, it appears in the Nihon no Kobudo video of Ono-ha Itto Ryu. As the enemy cuts, you catch the tsuka with your monouchi, move it down to the back and side, then cut.
When the enemy is in chudan and you are in gedan, from there attack the enemy’s right kote.
When the enemy defends by changing from chudan to gedan, without a moment’s delay, fly in with abandon and, adequately stretching out your arms, strike men.
In part one I translated the section of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohon describing 18 techniques for striking men. Part two is 13 techniques for thrusting. One important point not included in this section is that Takano sensei considers tsuki to contain three distinct techniques: mae zuki, omote zuki, and ura zuki—in the same way that men is divided into shomen, hidari men, and migi men. Because of this, I will include his section on how to thrust [突方] from the early chapter on basic practice [基本練習] that describes these three variations.
Thrust at the enemy’s throat, wringing both hands equally and stretching out your arms at the same time you move your body forward.
Wring both your hands, and turn the edge slightly to the right. At the same time, stretch out your arms, and thrust to the throat while advancing your body towards the enemy’s omote (left side). It is essential to advance your right foot slightly diagonally to the right and to accompany it with the left.
Wring your hands, and turn the edge slightly to the left. Stretch out your arms, and thrust to the throat at the same time as you advance your body a little bit diagonally to the left, to the enemy’s ura (right side).
Now, on to the section describing techniques that result in a thrust.
Section 2 Thirteen for Tsuki
Using both hands, thrust to the enemy from the front.
Using one hand, thrust to the enemy from either omote or ura.
When facing each other in either gedan or chudan, threaten to strike the enemy’s right wrist. When the enemy changes to gedan to defend, thrust from the ura side.
When facing each other in chudan, as the enemy comes to thrust or strike, cut down the attack [kiriotoshi] and thrust with both hands.
Omote Katate Zuki
When you both are in the same kamae as above, when you see the enemy lower his sword to gedan, thrust from the omote side with one hand.
When you are both in the same kamae as above, press the enemy’s sword from the right and thrust with both hands.
When you are facing each other in gedan, as the enemy comes to thrust, turn over your hands, pull in, and counter the thrust with a thrust.
NOTE: This is the name Takano sensei uses for the main technique of tachi no kata no sambonme.
Kote Osae Mae Zuki
When the enemy is in chudan and you are in gedan, strike the enemy’s right kote, press on the tsubamoto of the enemy’s sword from omote, and from there thrust in.
Facing each other, the enemy in gedan and you in chudan, as the first enemy advances, if you extend the sword directly forward with both hands, the enemy will naturally run into your thrust.
Jodan Henka Tsuki
As the enemy is in gedan and you are in hidari jodan, as the enemy first begins to advance, from jodan match up with their sword, pull it in, and thrust.
NOTES: The action of pulling in is described using the same language as is used in irezuki, 引入れ–hikiire, suggesting the two use similar mechanics. Also, while in current Japanese 誘う means “invite”, “lure”, “induce”, the character has an archaic reading いざなう as well as an slightly different meaning along the lines of “go along together with”. Chiba Shusaku describes the analogous technique in his curriculum, jodan hikiire zuki, against the enemy’s katatezuki using the phrase “此の方上段より其の太刀に添ひ、引き入れて突く”–“you meet their sword from jodan, pull in, and thrust”. The pertinant verb in this description is 添ふ (そう) which means “go along with” or “suit”. It’s the intransitive partner to 添える, the soeru that give the soe in soete tsuki in seitei iai.
While facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., when the enemy strikes at your men, perform makiotoshi to the left or to the right and thrust.
NOTE: As previously noted for makiotoshi men in Part 1, this makiotoshi is clearly not the same technique as the shikake waza that is more commonly known these days. It may be similar to the makiotoshi of Shinto Muso Ryu.
When you are facing each other in the same kamae as above, as the enemy strikes at your men, move your body diagonally to the left or right, escape from underneath the enemy’s sword, and thrust to the enemy’s throat.
Tsuki Kaeshi Zuki
When you are facing each other in the same kamae as above, as the enemy thrusts at you, turn the blade to the enemy’s left turning over your hands and counter the thrust with a thrust.
In parts one and two of this series I translated the sections of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohan describing techniques for men and tsuki. In this part, I translate the section for kote techniques.
As in part two, I have included the section on how to strike kote [籠手の撃方] from the chapter on basic practice [基本練習].
Swing up until you can see the enemy’s kote between your arms, and strike kote from the front. Advance from the right foot, and follow it with the left, but the feeling of advancing with your abdomen is essential. This is because in the case of kote uchi it is easy to strike as if using just your fingers.
Maki Kote Uchi
With the feeling of drawing a small circle, spiral in with your sword tip and strike the enemy’s right kote. The footwork is the same as above.
Nuki Kote Uchi
Step to the left with the left foot. Accompany it with the right foot, and advance the right foot in front of the left. Describe a half circle under the enemy’s sword with your sword tip. During the first step make a large evasion, then strike the enemy’s right kote.
Now the section on kote techniques.
Twelve for Kote
When you are facing each other, the enemy in chudan and you in gedan, press the middle of the enemy’s sword. As the enemy pushes back in order to not be pushed, make use of this and avoid his sword, wrap around under it, and strike makikote.
When facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., bring your sword to your left shoulder and strike the enemy’s right kote on an angle from the side.
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above, when the enemy raises up to assume jodan, strike without a moment’s delay.
When both parties are facing each other in gedan, strike kote the moment the enemy initiates striking your men or kote.
When you are facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., as the enemy comes to strike at your men, bring the sword to your right shoulder to perform suriage and strike the enemy’s right kote.
Tsuki Barai Kote
When both are in the same kamae as above, as the enemy thrusts at you left handed, sweep it away to the left and strike the enemy’s right kote.
When the enemy is in gedan or chudan and you are in jodan, if you show signs of striking men, the enemy will certainly try to defend against this, so strike his right kote. If in this case the enemy lowers the tip of his sword, strike the inside kote.
Migi Jodan Kote
When the enemy tries to strike your kote or men from chudan or gedan while you are in migi jodan, take one step backward from the left foot, making a large evasion and avoid the enemy’s sword, then step in one step and strike the right kote.
When facing each other in gedan or chudan, if you show signs of attacking the enemy’s right kote, the enemy will certainly try to attack your own kote. Block, parry, etc. this and strike the enemy’s right kote.
In the same kamae as above, as the enemy tries to strike your right kote or men, block with the tsuba moto and from there strike the enemy’s right kote with a small motion. Depending on the distance, you can also perform suriage with the shinogi of the monouchi then strike.
In the same kamae as above, as the enemy comes to strike your men, put your the left knee down on the floor and strike, kneeling.
With both in the same kamae as above, as the enemy tries to strike your kote, wrap around underneath and strike kote with a small motion.
In the first three parts of this series I translated the sections of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohan describing techniques for men, tsuki, and kote. In this part, I translate the section for do techniques.
As in part two, I have included the section on how to strike do [胴の撃方] from the chapter on basic practice [基本練習]. Note that for basic migi do, Takano sensei uses ayumi ashi, striking with the left foot forward.
Swing up until you can see the enemy’s do between your arms. Advance slightly diagonally left with the left foot, and accompany it with the right foot. Stretching out both arms, strike the enemy’s right do diagonally from the upper left. In this case, the crossing of your arms comes directly in front of your body, but bear in mind not to let your sword stray, holding it between your arms. Turn the edge to the right.
Swing up until you can see the enemy’s do between your arms. Advance diagonally to the right with the right foot, and accompany it with the left foot. Stretching out both arms, strike the enemy’s left do diagonally from the upper right. Turn the edge to the left.
Now the section on do techniques.
Seven for Do
When you are facing each other with the enemy in jodan or chudan, etc., and you in chudan or gedan, as the enemy tries to strike your men, perform suriage, and strike do while kneeling.
When facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., the enemy will come to strike your men. Quickly kneel and strike do, paying no heed to his sword as it passes by.
NOTE: 摺れ違ふ (surechigau–usually written 擦れ違う or すれ違う) means for two things to miss or pass by each other, but I felt that if I translated it as such, people would read it as either both missing or running past each other, neither of which is the case.
In the same kamae as above, as the enemy strikes at your men, flying in and stretching out his arms, pay no heed to his sword and quickly indeed dodge and strike do. Strike while standing and not kneeling.
Katate Men Do
In the same kamae as above, as the enemy come to thrust, open your body to the enemy’s left and strike the enemy’s left men with one hand. Then turning over your hands and strike the enemy’s right do.
NOTE: The 又は was a source of trouble in translating this technique. 又, without は, is often used similarly to “moreover,” “furthermore,” “then,” or “and” in English, but 又は is, to my knowledge, exclusively used in listing alternatives. That is, it means “or” in English. However, translating it as such would make this into two separate techniques, katete men or do. That doesn’t make sense given that it appears in the section on do techniques, and that katete men against tsuki was already described under hanmiuchimen. Thus, I believe that the は in the original is a mistake and have translated the sentence as if it weren’t there. Thanks to Josh Reyer for providing a second opinion regarding this.
Men Kote Do
When facing each other in chudan no kamae, the moment the enemy tries to lower his sword to gedan, step in one step and strike shomen, take one step back and strike kote, then, stepping forward with the left foot and turning over your hands, strike the enemy’s right do.
Tsuba Zeri Do
When together in tsubazeriai, upon seeing an opening, strike do while standing. When you push the enemy, the enemy will push back. Strike from under the enemy’s extended hands. This is a method for striking using the enemy’s power.
Kote Kakari Do
With the enemy in jodan and you in chudan, gedan, etc., if you show signs of attacking the enemy’s kote, the enemy will try to avoid your sword. The moment he does, fly in and strike.
In the first four parts of this series I translated the sections of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohan concerning techniques for men, tsuki, kote, and do. Part five will cover tsubazeriai and taiatari.
Tsubazeriai, taiatari, and kumiuchi are sections three through five of the chapter titled “Information about Shiai” [仕合心得]. Sections one and two of that chapter are “Normal Information” [一般の心得], which covers things like reigi and the notion of fighting fair and square, and “Preparations at Tachiai” [立合の支度].
(1) How to Separate
When you have come to tsubazeriai, coming close to the enemy, separate quickly. The moment of separation is worthy of attention, so separate pull back quickly, either striking where the enemy is unprepared or suppressing his sword so that the enemy cannot extend his hands. If you don’t know this and pull back ineffectively, you will be defeated by the enemy.
(2) Information About Tsubazeriai
When you have come to tsubazeriai, extend your legs and waist so that your body doesn’t shrink, lift up your face, and even compete in height lining up your face even with that of the enemy. Make yourself tall to the point of feeling that you will defeat the enemy, and enter strongly into the space in front of the enemy (futokoro). By doing this, you will reveal the strength and valor in your heart and make the enemy cower. If you have this knowledge and enter quite deeply into the enemy’s space, your body will be at ease, and your movements will become free and nimble. This isn’t just a physical matter. You must suppress the enemy with your spirit.
(1) How to do Taiatari
Taiatari is colliding your body with the enemy’s, knocking them back or knocking them down and preventing them from striking after you do (ato uchi). At the same time as you strike, turn your face slightly to the left, put your right shoulder forward, and strike the enemy in the chest in a strong, bouncing manner. At the same time, scoop up with both hands towards the enemy’s chin and knock them down. If you are proficient, you can knock the enemy back two or three ken [about 3.5 to 5.5 meters] when you knock them down. If you do taiatari, the enemy will try to not be knocked down, so you can make an opening somewhere. Don’t miss this chance to strike.
(2) How to Receive Taiatari
When the enemy comes to collide, shift your body and avoid it, or in what is called “ireatari“, momentarily shrink down then stretch out again to strike the enemy. Even if the enemy comes in strongly and furiously, you can receive it easily or avoid it. You should train until you can calmly dodge or push back even when someone of incredible strength comes at you. When the enemy pushes strongly, if you receive by turning your body slightly diagonally to either the right or the left, it is easy to stave him off. You should practice taiatari regularly and often.
In the first four parts of this series, I translated the sections of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohan concerning waza for men, tsuki, kote, and do. In part five I translated the sections about tsubazeriai and taiatari. In this section, I translate the section on grappling (kumiuchi).
(1) Striking Down the Enemy’s Sword and When Your Sword is Struck Down
Grappling is something that happens when the enemy closes to wrestle or when your sword is struck out of your hands. In the case of knocking the sword out of the enemy’s hands, take advantage of the opportunity and strike directly. If you delay in striking, even though you don’t draw close to the enemy, he may be pressured into grappling. In the case where your sword is knocked out of your hands, fly in straight away to wrestle before the enemy can perform another technique. In the case where you can’t do that, jump back for a moment. When you see an opening, fly in.
(2) How to Grapple
In the battles of the past, they would fight from a distance with bows and arrows. Coming close, they would struggle using striking weapons like spears, naginata, swords, etc. When they couldn’t achieve victory that way, they would hold down the enemy, pin him, draw a dagger, stick it into the gaps in the armor, and cut off the enemy’s head. Emulating that, in a grappling situation hold down the enemy, twist his arm, twist his men so that he cannot move, or twist his men completely off.
Because in kendo the techniques are concerned with the sword, outside of situations when it can’t be helped, you should avoid grappling. If you have great strength, challenging people to grapple or wrestling with those who are weak is incorrect.
When the enemy has knocked your sword out of your hands, if he can’t immediately strike, pressure the enemy with all of your spirit and he will let you escape. In the past when they couldn’t fight with striking weapons or one person had broken their sword and they reached out their arms to grapple, even though it was clear they would be at a disadvantage on closing, they would accept this knowing they would die in battle. This was something that was revered in the minds of warriors who valued their reputations and had a sense of shame. In the case when you knock the sword out of the enemy’s hands, striking immediately without any loss of spirit or letting up is the way of kendo, but taking advantage of the being able to disarm the enemy and striking anywhere, impatiently trying to achieve victory, is unseemly.
(3) Kendo and Judo
However, it is still necessary to practice grappling constantly. When the enemy’s sword is knocked away and he comes to wrestle, if you don’t have knowledge about grappling, it will probably be an ungainly defeat for you even if you are skilled with the sword. Also, if you have an encounter with thugs and can’t avoid fighting, this knowledge will often be of use. Kendo and judo aren’t entirely distinct things. These two are, for example, like a mino [straw rain cloak] and kasa [conical rain hat]. You can’t say either is sufficient by itself. Therefore, in addition to studying kendo, you should study judo as well if you have the opportunity.
NOTE: Takano sensei uses kendo as a general term for sword arts. Elsewhere he refers to Itto Ryu kendo, Katori Shinto Ryu kendo, Kurama Ryu kendo, etc. Thus it is quite possible that he uses judo in the same way, as a general term.
Still, I would like to write about how to do ashigarami here. When you make use of ashigarami, you can rob the enemy of his spirit [ki] and chill his courage. When performing this technique, if you don’t draw close enough to the enemy that your bodies are touching, it won’t have a sufficient effect. To do this, hook your left leg around the outside of the enemy’s right ankle, and at the same time as you sweep the enemy’s leg strongly, put your sword on the enemy’s neck and push strongly. There are many other ways besides this one.
When the enemy tries to do ashigarami on you, stay standing up by grabbing the middle of his hilt or his juban. Moreover, when reaped by the enemy, you can knock him down instead by rushing forward. By no means retreat backwards. Also, when you sense the enemy is going to try ashigarami, try to reap him instead. When performing ashigarami, you should watch for what’s called “dead hips” (shinigoshi) when the enemy’s body begins to float.
If you try it when you shouldn’t, your own posture will be broken, and you will be ridden by the enemy. You have to reap the enemy’s leg strongly with sufficient power in your foot, but if you don’t use enough force in your push, it won’t succeed. If you use your arms and legs together, the enemy will fall, and you will be stable without your posture being broken.