Osaka Tokuren demonstration(s) 大阪特練模範演武

This morning I took part in godogeiko session in the suburbs of Osaka city. This is a yearly event and includes a demonstration session plus godogeiko with some of the local kenshi (from children-adults) and a few members of the elite Osaka tokuren police squad.

Last year I had the flu so video-ed and uploaded the kihon session (see below) but this year I was fighting fit so took part as normal.

As a special present to kenshi 24/7 readers, I took and uploaded the light demonstration session between Kiwada Daiki and Teramoto Shoji, both past All Japan Kendo Championship (and WKC) winners.

Below are a couple of other video’s featuring the Osaka tokuren’s kihon geiko… enjoy!

12th January 2014 (jigeiko):

September 2013 (kihon demonstration):

January 2013 (kihon demonstration):

March 2008 (kihon and jigeiko):

Saimura Goro

一、剣道は精神が本である。技は精神を体得せんがための手段である。
一、剣道の稽古は竹刀を真剣の考え使い、身を捨てて練磨することが大切です。
一、どの間に入っても、少しもの気が抜けてはいけない。

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:

1. As the dojo were small everyone fought at close distance;
2. 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.


Video

Saimura Goro vs Ogawa Kinnosuke (Tenranjiai, 1940):

Saimura Goro (uchidachi) and Mochida Seiji (date and location unknown, but presumably in the 1960s):


Anecdote

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.


Source

剣聖十段斎村五郎・気の剣。スキージャーナル、1997発行。早瀬利之。

Correct, enjoyable, and friendly

Last year I posted a short article introducing the artistic work of the oldest sensei I study under. Be sure and check out the post above even if you have done so before.

This year – as always – I was happy to go into the dojo and discover a beautifully painting waiting for me. Being the year of the horse, there were of course horses in the picture, and above them the words 正しく、楽しく、仲良く = correct, enjoyable, and friendly. Although a relatively simple theme for this years keiko, I think they are words to remember.

This edited iPhone snap doesn’t really give the picture credit, but I think it doesn’t hurt to share anyway. Enjoy!

2014-i-sensei

Eikenkai (2006-2013)

Happy 2014! As you may have noticed, kenshi247.net has undergone a complete renewal mainly with the aim of making things more minimal. As part of this reworking I decided to remove pretty much all of the pre-2013 articles. Don’t worry – the content hasn’t been deleted – it’s simply been archived at the moment, and I’m sure will pop up in a different format in the future.

Whilst doing this cleanup I started thinking a lot about not only what I had achieved with the site since it started back in 2008, but also about the success of the keikokai I began pretty much in tandem with the site: Eikenkai.

The history of Eikenkai is basically split into 3 periods:

1. Pre-Eikenkai period: 2006+
2. Official start of Eikenkai: 2008/2009
3. Finding a permanent base at Sumiyoshi Budokan: 2010+

Basically, the idea about starting my own kihon-based keikokai started in around 2006, when I began to be involved in a couple of friendly, non ‘official’ gatherings outside of my official dojo. These gatherings were more informal and, more-often-than-not, involved more kihon practise than I found in my dojo. However, I wanted to do something more than just a loose gathering of friends for a bash. Slowly I began to co-opt one of my sempai’s informal gatherings. It took a while, but eventually more of my friends than his were coming! Eventually I just said “I want to change the format” and went ahead and did so. The name change came a little later.

At this point we were still using public dojo on a lottery basis – we were never sure which space we could rent. After some hunting around and string pulling we were able finally to get a dojo we could pre-book on a yearly basis starting in 2010. Bar building our own dojo, this is the best situation we can hope for.

Since the initial inception already 8 years have passed!! The format of the keikokai is set, we have a proper home, have a strong core member base, and some of our members have become or are on the cusp of becoming kodansha. I can’t be sure, but I suspect that in the long term, the connections and friendships made at Eikenkai (not to mention all that kirikaeshi!) will have a deeper impact for me than the running of kenshi247.net itself.

At any rate, here’s to more Eikenkai in 2014 – happy new year!!

Eikenkai: 1-picture-per-year, 2006-2013:

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

Rule changes for the better

In 2009 I wrote a post called TSUBAZERIA RULE CHANGES IN HIGH SCHOOL KENDO that looked at new rules that were being implemented for high school kendo competitions here in Japan. Just over 4 years later and I can say without a doubt that the flow of shiai has improved drastically due to this simple change: there is less time wasting in tsubazeriai and students kendo has become a lot more positive and forward-attacking than it was before. There’s probably not been enough time since the rule implementation for a larger change in shiai flow to occur in university and adult shiai, but I’m pretty positive we are going in a good direction. So, it’s with great interest that I listened to a sempai of mine talk about a further change happening in Junior High School kendo (which I am not personally involved in).

A new rule in junior high school change states the following under the section “Strange defensive postures” (変形な構え等の防御姿勢):

“In the case of a strange defensive kamae, the following shall occur:

In the first instance: call a goki and instruct the players (of what is acceptable and what isn’t);

In the second instance: issue a hansoku.”

What is defined as a “strange defensive posture” is basically when you “lift your left hand above your eye level in order to block your men, kote, and dou” i.e. the “Sanpomamori” posture referred to by Morishima Tateo sensei. The rule change goes onto state that any waza executed out of this kamae (or something near to) will not be judged as valid.

As things stand at the moment, you can see people run into tsubazeriai using this posture a lot in shiai. I guess it’s a combination of not wanting to be hit and time wasting. Even if you look at video of the All Japan Kendo Championships – and of 3-time winner Uchimura Ryoichi – you can see that in the highest level shiai in Japan this type of movement happens a lot. It’s not just time wasting and defensiveness that’s the problem – it’s that it looks ugly.

I think that this is a great rule change. If it’s as successful as the tsubazeriai rule change in high school kendo then I think the flow of shiai will become much better in the future, and we will see students perform not only more beautiful kendo, but also less defensive, more positive kendo.

Personally, it’s my hope that this new rule in junior high school, plus the tsubazeriai rule of high school, be applied to not only adult competition here in Japan, but be spread abroad as well (the conduit for which would be the World Kendo Championships). I assume that these changes are part of the ZNKR’s long term plan, the aim of which is to eventually produce kenshi with better kendo who will in turn teach and influence others. Will it work? I guess only time will tell.

Sources

平成25年度 (公財)日本中学校体育連盟剣道競技部申し合わせ事項