The concept of kendo in action

The following is a translation of an extremely interesting hand written note given to Jim Gucciardo (NYC kendo club) by Nishino Goro hanshi in 1998.

Nishino Goro hanshi was born in 1923 in Kochi prefecture. After graduating from Tokyo Normal Higher School he became a school teacher in Hokkaido. After the war he returned to his home prefecture and worked as a high school teacher. He has taken part in the Senshuken Taikai (“All Japans”), the kyoshokuin taikai (All Japan teachers championshop), kokutai, etc. He is the honourary kendo teacher of Kochi Prefectures Medical University.

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A brief investigation into the SHOGO system

SHOGO (称号) in Japanese translates simply as “title” or “rank,” and the word can be used in many areas, for example formal titles of nobility, military ranks, scholarly ranks, etc, and informally in the sporting world, between friends, etc.

The use of the word that I will look at here is of-course that to do with the budo world, and specifically the usage promoted by the Dai Nippon Butokukai (1895-1946), and that continues today in one of its spiritual heirs, the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei (All Japan kendo federation). Please note that the Butokukai information presented here relates to Kendo (variously called gekkiken and kenjutsu) but that eventually all arts under the Butokukai ended up using the system (kyudo, jukendo, et al).

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Practise may ingrain bad habits

From “Living with ambiguity” by Sydney J. Harris. Published by Nan’Un-Do

You probably know the chestnut about the stranger in New York, carrying a violin case, who stops an old lady on the street, and asks, “Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” With a glance at his violin case, she replies, “Practise, practise, practise!”

One of the oldest maxims in the world is that “Practise makes perfect.” This, however, is a dangerous half-truth that has betrayed many novices in many fields of accomplishimnent.

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Tsubazeria rule changes in high school kendo

The following rule changes will probably not impact your kendo training any time soon nor in the near future. However, implementation of them in competition for young Japanese kenshi ensures that there will be a stylistic change in the kendo leaders of the future and it is also strongly hints at what the kendo leaders of today see as bad style.

The changes have been in discussion and trial over quite a while here in Japan (implementation was decided in May 2009, and I have personally seen the rules been applied in shiai), but it is only from this month (October 2009) where competitors will get a hansoku rather than a warning, i.e. the rules go into full implementation.

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Kendo places #8 and #9: Kashima and Katori jingu

As part of my summer Musha Shugyo this year I visited the spiritual and historical center of budo in Japan: Kashima and Katori shrines, located in Ibaragi and Chiba prefectures respectively.

Their proximity to each other is very close, about 15 mins by train. Although 400 years ago there were no trains nor cars and travel was done by foot or horse, I can easily imagine kenshi of yore walking between these shrines as part of their musha shugyo.

From the aptly titled article “A bit of Background” please refer to this quote from Meik Skoss to understand the relationship between these shrines and budo culture:

The areas most famous for the development of the classical martial traditions (koryu) are located, as the saying goes, in the Kanto region, “Heiho wa Togoku kara”: heiho comes from the East, referring to the Kanto area surrounding Tokyo (heiho means martial or military arts; strategy). The Kashima and Katori Shrines lie on opposite sides of the Tone River in Ibaraki and Chiba Prefectures.

There are enshrined two of the most important Shinto martial deities: Takemikazuchi no Mikoto (Kashima Jingu) and Futsunushi no Kami (Katori Jingu). They, along with the Buddhist goddess, Marishiten, serve as the patron and protective deices for many of the martial traditions. Historical records show very clearly that young warriors gathered, or were sent by their masters, for advanced training at these shrines, which became centers for the martial arts after the end of the Heian era. Eventually this led to the foundation of the oldest known formal traditions in the martial arts, the Kashima Shinto-ryu and the Katori Shinto-ryu.

As this quote states, these shrines did not only serve as centers for religious and psychological development of warriors, but were also places they could study the more physical aspects as well. Kashima in particular was noted for its training of swordsmen.

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