March book project #4: kendo books for kids 三月本プロジェクトその4

The fourth instalment of my March book project will look at a handful of books that are primarily for children. I guess many kenshi 24/7 readers aren’t too interested in kids kendo books and, honestly, neither am I very much. However, when flicking though the books I realised one area that they can be of great benefit: as a Japanese learning tool.

In a (now archived) article I wrote back in October 2008 I discussed the benefits of studying Japanese for the serious kendoka. Let me resurrect the body of that post for you now:

I live here so I need to use Japanese in my daily business (work, kendo, buying beer, etc), but for those of you that live outside Japan and practise kendo, what’s your take on whether learning Japanese for budo (kendo et al): is it a good or a bad thing? Actually, lets go one step further: is it a necessity or or is not?

Are there any benefits to your study, either physically or mentally, by learning Japanese? Can you learn kendo (for example) without Japanese and still “get” kendo? If you don’t fully understand the more intricate nuances of budo terminology does it even matter? etc etc.

If you have a look at the (very modern) definitions of both BUDO (1987) and KENDO (1975), it would suggest that the study of things like kendo go above and beyond mere “Japaneseness” and are separate from – not only Japanese culture (including language) – but any culture (historical references withstanding).

My personal viewpoint is this: by not understanding or, much more importantly, by not making an effort to understand the Japanese terminology that is used within our everyday practise, then I suggest that you will be forever underexposed to the full breadth of the thing that we call “kendo” (and “budo”).

I believe that kendo (and perhaps “budo” in general) cannot be separated from its “Japaneseness” without making it something else (for better or worse). This includes, of-course, our day-to-day in-the-dojo vocabulary set.

This might sound like me saying “learn Japanese and understand the truth” but please don’t misconstrue what I mean. I think there is a new definition shaping outside of Japan as to what KENDO/BUDO means and what its aims are. This is a natural thing and something that comes from people having a long exposure to the art. Surely a localisation of meaning is not only natural, but something to be celebrated? Hand in hand with this localisation you have, of course, less emphasis on Japanese language as a core transmission vehicle for the art(s), and new definitions of words being written (if Japanese is even being used).

However, there is a danger: I was taught many Japanese words throughout the years of my training only to find out much later that many of the words/concepts explained to me were in fact conveyed inaccurately. This was not deliberate of-course, just a by product of studying something as “Japanese” as kendo, but without Japanese language proficiency on the side of the teacher (and the student).

At any rate, I don’t think anyone would deny that knowledge of Japanese won’t help you to understand some of the more physical and (more pointedly) metaphysical concepts that underpin everyday budo practise, and that people can reach the highest levels of budo ability without speaking Japanese; I will always reserve a little bit more respect, however, for those that do go out of the way and add – to the already hard task of learning budo – the study of Japanese as part of their shugyo. If you haven’t already, why don’t you give it a go?

I think that even if you disagree with what I tried to say back in 2008 I think you might concede the general gist: that knowledge of Japanese increases the breadth of kendo/budo knowledge available to you (whether thats verbal or written), and that this can only be an aid in your study. It is with this in mind that I look at todays handful of books.

All the books shown today are completely in Japanese but they are all written simply and, more importantly for those wishing to use them as study tools, with furigana.

Parents and kids kendo classroom / Kids kendo primer

By complete coincidence, both of these children kendo books were written by the same gentleman – Tsukuba university professor Tsuboi Saburo – and both were released in 1980.

Although the funny drawings in the inside of both make them without a doubt kids books both, surprisingly, cover a large breadth of information. From the history of kendo dating back hundreds of years (including details of famous kenshi and ryuha) up to the more mundane things such as explanations of different keikogi patterns and how to tie all the knots on the shinai, these books have it all. Also included are keiko plans, waza explanations, kata, shiai rules, shinpan movement, etc etc etc., probably anything you care to mention. And all in very easy to understand Japanese.

I think either book can be picked up second hand for a handful of yen and can, in my opinion, serve as a great way to study Japanese via a topic you like.

Kendo manga textbook series 1-7

You’ve probably seen one or two of these books before. This is a series of textbooks in manga style that goes through the ins-and-outs of kendo. The series of 7 books I have deal with basics, techniques, shiai, kata, shiai rules, kendo knowledge, and gradings. They are aimed at primary school kids and as such as super easy to understand. If you are learning Japanese and are looking for easy kendo material to help you do so, you can’t go wrong with these books.

Book covers

The top two books are by the same author and the bottom picture shows the manga series.





March book project #3: kendo by pictures 三月本プロジェクトその3

For the third instalment of my March book project I chose four titles that have variations on a similar name/theme: Shashin de miru kendo (“Kendo by pictures”). One of the four is actually a revised and reprinted version of the other, so it’s really three books I’m looking at today.

Kendo by pictures and diagrams

The first book was actually printed originally in 1966 but was later revised and re-printed in 1979 to match changes competition rules. Other than the shiai and shinpan areas, both books are pretty much the same.

The contents of the books are, to be honest, quite bland. The pictures are mostly uninspiring as well. Due to this I decided not to translate anything from the book, but simply upload a couple of pictures.

This picture shows where your elbows should be positioned in chudan no kamae. The first picture on the left is a good example, the other two bad:


The next shows chudan no kamae from the side and top. The pictures on the left are good examples, while those on the right are bad examples:


btw, check out these kenshi 24/7 articles on tenouchi: one, two, three.

The last picture shows an uchikomi-dai and how to receive using uchikomi-bo:


Kendo primer by pictures

This book is far more appealing visually than the ones above. I’m mostly interested in the book, however, because it was at least partly written by Shodokan’s Okada Morihiro sensei (Keishicho shihan, Tokyo University shihan, Kurama-ryu exponent), someone that I’m sure a few of the older non-Japanese kenshi came across during their travels. Again, I’ll just show a couple of pictures from the book and skip translating any content.

An interesting uchikomi-dai which two people can use at the same time:


This picture shows how you should step back in to chudan when finishing kodachi kata, i.e. carefully:


Kendo by pictures

Not as visually good as the book above, but definitely the book with the most comprehensive content from those introduced today. As such I’ll translate a small part of the content below.

I don’t really know much about the author Kamo Jisaku other than what is written in the books bio: he was born in 1900 in Saga prefecture and eventually (1923) studied under Mochida Seiji and Nakano Sosuke. In 1934 he would study kendo and iaido with Haga Junichi. The following year he was sent to China. In 1938 he built his own dojo and was still teaching there at the time of the books publication (1981). He was kendo and iaido 7dan.


The secret to improving:

– Be enthusiastic about keiko –

There are many types of people in the world. Some are are alert and some are slow; there are those that are dextrous while are others are clumsy. Someone endowed with both alertness and dexterity may, if they continue practising throughout their lives, see their skills increase to reach expert level eventually. However, it seems that many people such as this are lacking in patience.

On the other hand, if someone who is both slow and clumsy continually practises with enthusiasm over a long period time, they cannot fail to become stronger, eventually defeating those blessed with more natural abilities.

– Aim to do kendo correctly, and place emphasis your own research –

Above and beyond enthusiasm it’s important to understand kendo theory, to not do wasteful keiko, to proactively ask your sensei about how to improve your kendo, and to respect your sensei’s teachings – these are areas important to emphasis as well. An enthusiastic person who keeps these in mind will improve smoothly.

– Keep good manners –

Although kendo is a combative art, it is important to always be polite, to respect your opponent, and to pursue kendo for the purpose of improving the character. If you heed this advice your sensei and your sempai are more likely to take an interest in you and teach you many things.

– Keiko with vigour –

In order to have a vigorous kendo style you have to pressure your opponent strongly with shouts from the pit of your stomach.

Your shouts and your movement cannot be detached, rather, nimble action depends on your kiai.

– Take the initiative (sen) –

In kendo there are techniques that require taking the initiative and those that are reactive. The former are by far the most important.

If you just wait for your opponent to attack you in the hope of striking an oji-waza, then your progress will be stunted. You must always aim to take the initiative at all times.

– Strike men a lot –

The opponents men is the target farthest away and attempting to strike it is highly dangerous as it may lead to your kote or dou being struck instead. However, as far as shiai is concerned, statistically speaking more men-uchi are scored than other areas.

Beginners like to strike dou a lot, but someone who does this will not improve quickly.

Book covers

The two at the top are basically the same book.




March book project #2: Ichi-ryu no waza wo mi ni tsukeyo – Kendo 三月本プロジェクトその2

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).

Book covers




March book project #1: kendo nyumon and kendo dokushu kyohon 三月本プロジェクトその1

For the first instalment of this months book project I picked two books that were written by the same authors: Oshima Kotaro and Ando Kozo. Oshima Kotaro was the son of Oshima Jikita (another article here) and Ando Kozo was the shihan of the Waseda university kendo club from 1999-2002.

The two books being looked at today are: Kendo Nyumon (“An introduction to kendo”), published in 1971, and Kendo Dokushu Kyohon (“A self-study guide to kendo”), published in 1980. Putting aside the difference in titles, the latter is essentially a renewed version of the former with extended supplementary chapters (for example on shiai and shinpan) and increased emphasis on some of the introductory parts. It’s also worth mentioned that the books are quite in-depth despite being labelled with “introduction” or “self-study” in the title.

The standout feature of the books – which is immediate to anyone who picks up either book – is the clarity and precision of the diagrams… they might be the best kendo diagrams I’ve seen yet. In this short article I’d like to pick-up a couple of said diagrams and share them here. For the same of interest I’ve chosen things that are not particularly common.

Hanging up your bogu

Kendo dou always come with a small leather hoop in the back. Nowadays most people just string a dangly charm through it, but its real purpose is for hanging up your bogu in the dojo. Here are some easy to follow pics and an abbreviated description from the book about how to do so. You can of course use your own method as well.


(Described using a men tied using the top-down style)

1-3: Make two loops with the himo as shown in the diagram.
4-5: Pass the loops through the kote ensuring to hook the ends onto the thumbs of the kote.
6-8: Pass the men himo thought the piece of leather on the back of the dou. Tie tightly and hang on the wall.

Migi-morote jodan / migi-katate jodan

In his youth Takano Sasaburo was said to specialise in one-handed migi jodan kamae. Use of this kamae is seldom (if ever) used nowadays, and it is never listed in newer kendo manuals. Before it disappears out of the consciousness of kenshi forever here are some diagrams and abbreviated description of how to kamae like this. Of course I don’t suggest you take up this kamae in your daily practise unless you have a mitigating factor (e.g. use of only one arm).


Migi-morote jodan (right for forward):

When going into this kamae you have to swap the normal position of your hands, putting the left hand to the front and the right hand to the back. When swapping over be careful that your opponent doesn’t attack.

Moving the kensaki slightly to the left move up into jodan by extending your right elbow forward. Your right first will be around about the same line as your right foot and your shinai will be at about 45 degrees behind you.

Migi-katate jodan:

Swap your hands. Remove your left hand from the shinai and place it on your waist. Raise your right hand up enough so that you can see your opponent.

Shikake and Oji waza diagram

Next is one of the most interesting diagrams (actually two of them) found in the books. The first is the shikake-waza diagram under which it is written:

Attacks shouldn’t be limited to a single strike but, like shown in the diagram, there are many different ways you can string them together. In fact, this doesn’t show everything as there are infinite combinations.


I quite liked looking at this and imaging some non-obvious patterns, for example “tsuki-dou-tsuki” or “men-tsuki-dou” etc.

Next is the oji-waza version. The left side shows where the opponent is attempting to strike, and the right is where you strike (after kaeshi, nuki, suriage, etc).


Again this sometimes suggests waza that we wouldn’t usually consider, for example striking dou when your opponent attacks kote… but with a bit of imagination it could be done!

Katate migi (han-) men

A favourite of my sensei, I’m currently working on this technique at the moment. I’m not confident with it at all and am currently at the one handed suburi and hitting tyres stage. I like to think that looking at these diagrams and doing the short translation aids me in acquiring the technique!


This one-handed technique (left or right handed) is generally used when the opponent lowers their shinai and steps back or when their kamae is opened due to a strong harai from yourself. It can even be used when you attempt to strike your opponents kote but they have somehow avoid your strike – you can then move quickly onto this one-handed attack. Let’s look at the standard way of executing this technique.

1. Whilst dropping your shinai tip step in and pressure your opponent. Reacting to this your opponent will lower their shinai tip as well. At that very instant swing your hands up and release the grip on your right hand.

2. Whilst moving your left foot to the front start the striking action. Before making the striking action ensure that your are gripping strongly and that the shinai won’t travel below a 45 degree diagonal line.

3. Placing your right hand on your waist and twisting your hips, use the power generated from there to unleash your strike.

4. Strike your opponents men with your arm at around shoulder height.

* Ensure that you don’t drop the tip and strike from the side.
* Practise this technique using an uchikomi-dai.
* Make sure that your hand grip is sufficiently strong enough before using this technique in practise.
* To avoid injury, never strike the opponents men at ear height.

Katate migi-men kaeshi hidari dou

In the rare case that someone actually launches the technique above at you, you must respond somehow. There are a number of techniques listed in the book but I like this one as it’s also useful to practise against jodan opponents. Come to think of it, I’m much better at responding to one-handed techniques than I am at executing them!


1. From chudan kamae pay careful attention to your opponent. When you think he is about to launch a one-handed katate strike be ready to move quickly and with a soft grip.

2. You read that he is about to launch the attack.

3. Move your left foot directly to the left and bring your right hand to about the height of your right shoulder. Twisting your body slight to the left hold your shinai vertically.

4. With the feeling of shouldering your shinai receive the opponents shinai with yours. From the moment you receive until your strike should be done in a single action.

5. Moving your shinai diagonally back to the right knock the opponents shinai of target and prepare to strike his left dou.

6. Preparing for the strike move your left hand strongly into the centre line whilst beginning to bring the shinai down to strike at a 45 degree angle.

7. Shifting your centre of gravity onto your left full pull the right foot in front of the left. If you don’t relax the strength on your left hand at this point your strike will be weak or may miss.

8. Strike the opponents left dou. After striking either move to a safe distance or express zanshin.

Book covers

I don’t have a dust jacked for my version of Kendo Nyumon, so I whipped it of… sorry Amazon!


解説:剣道独習教本。大島宏太朗・安藤宏三。Illustrated Budo Series。昭和55年発行。

Eikenkai February 2016 英剣会

Forty-three kenshi got together in Sumiyoshi Budokan, next to Sumiyoshi Taisha in central Osaka, for yesterday’s jam-packed kenshi 24/7 led Eikenkai session. People travelled to Osaka for the practise session from as far as Iwate, Shizuoka, Okayama, and Mie prefectures, but the title to furthest away goes to Canada. Of course, most participants came from the Kansai area prefectures: Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo.

Nationalities that were represented were Scotland, Denmark, Estonia, America (CA, NJ, WA) , England, France, Canada, Italy, and Japan, with grades ranging up to nanadan. Not bad!

We also had a couple of representatives of the All Japan Deaf Kendo Federation taking part. This is a group that is attempting to create a country-wide network of kendoka who have hearing difficulties, with the aim of providing aid and support for their pursuit of kendo.

Due to the dojo not being wide enough to deal with so many people, we did a abbreviated kihon session in groups of four for about 80 minutes, followed by a leisurely 60 minutes or so of free practise.

After keiko about half of the participants went to the local okonomiyaki restaurant for food, beer, and chat. I think everyone enjoyed themselves!!

Eikenkai’s 2016 schedule is available here. If you do wish to join one of our keiko’s please ensure that you read the “Points to note before joining a session” before getting in touch. Cheers!