The choice of books for the second instalment of the the March book project was simple: I picked up two books that were the same shape! I picked up one square book, saw another one, then picked that up too. Amazingly, like in my first instalment of this series, the books were not only authored by the same person, but one is simply a renewed version of the other.
The books I picked up were Ichi-ryu no waza wo mi ni tsukeyo: Kendo (“Kendo: learn the best techniques”) published in 1971 and the simply named Kendo published 10 years later in 1981. Both were written by Iho Kyotsugu (1920-1999), a kenshi with such a long and distinguished career as both a teacher and competitor that it’s too long to list!
These books are not as comprehensive as the two introduced in the previous article, and the pictures used to show the action/steps of waza execution are not so clear. However, the saving grace of both books is that they are peppered with loads of interesting pictures from the 1960s and 70s, including not a few of competitors that would go on to become famous sensei in the future. As such, in this article I will focus mainly on sharing some of the pictures, and translate only one small piece. I hope its of interested anyway.
As a side note, one of Iho sensei’s other books is still in publication and can be bought easily in bookshops or on Amazon. Entitled Shin Kendo Jotatsu Koza (“The new Kendo improvement manual”) I recommend it.
The spread of kendo around the world
The following is from both the 1971 and 81 editions of the book:
Despite having little crossover with sport nor being particularly international in character, kendo has suddenly increased in popularity over the last few years.
Up until now, kendo was popular only in countries where Japanese people of 1st or 2nd generation were living, for example, in Korea, Taiwan, and South America, etc. However, recently the joy of practising kendo has been discovered by people living in Europe and America.
The reason for this is the people who already became familiar with Japanese budo that spread abroad earlier, i.e. aikido, judo, karate, etc., were fascinated by kendo yet had no chance to study it. Recently, however, many young Japanese men have been travelling abroad for work, and it’s these people (of around yon and godan level) who have started teaching eager people abroad.
What is the fascination of kendo for non-Japanese people?
In the autumn of 1969 I was sent to Europe as part of the first official All Japan Kendo Association delegation. We spent about one month in Europe travelling through eight countries. During this time I asked many people “What’s the attraction of kendo to you?”
There were many answers to my question, most of which were the same as the answers you’d expect from Japanese people living in Japan. However, one point was different, and it’s one that causes me to re-think about what kendo is myself. To put it in one word, many people said that kendo felt “Asian.”
This wasn’t simple inquisitiveness (in something different), rather, what they were saying was that current European society was overly materialistic and poisoned by technology, thus people were in danger of living in a strange un-human manner. They said that they had to do something in order to stop this situation from becoming all encompassing, and that they discovered something in “Asian-ness” that helped. Some people tried yoga, others tried zen. From there they discovered kendo, and for many it was the most useful thing in bringing their human-ness back. Japanese people, therefore, have a wonderful thing in kendo.
This, of course, was a brief summary.
I went through the books and chose a tiny handful of pictures that I liked. Unconsciously I seemed to select pictures with the same people in them: two-time All Japan Kendo Championships winner Toda Tadao sensei (famous for nito-ryu nowadays, he was a jodan competitor for most of his career), three times All Japan Championships winner Chiba Masashi sensei (famed for his jodan), and the winner of the first World Kendo Championships individual title (beating Toda sensei in the final) and multiple Meiji-Mura hachidan title winner Kobayashi Mitsuru sensei (famed for his tsuki-waza).