Born in Tokyo in 1883, Hotta Sutejiro (Ono-ha itto-ryu) began kendo at around the age of 10, under the famed Shinto munen-ryu kenshi Watanabe Noboru. Where he worked and when is a little bit tricky to pin down, but we know he was employed as a budo instructor at Keishicho from 1905. At some point he quit the position and worked teaching kendo at various places through Japan, eventually returning to Keishicho in 1922 where he continued to teach until at least WW2. He took part in the 1929 Tenran-jiai in the kendo professional section, and did a demonstration match with Oasa Yuji in the 1940 one (he had obviously become hanshi in the meantime). What happened to him during and after the war is a mystery.
Although the details of Hotta Sutejiro’s kendo life are kind of vague, he left quite a large legacy in the shape of a number of publications. Doing research you can find quite a few titles that he authored, but it turns out that some of them are just re-prints of earlier books with a different title. In fact, I recently just bought a book by Hotta entitled “Kendo Kowa” (kendo lectures) that ended up being exactly the same as a book called “Kendo Kyohan” (kendo instruction) that I already had!!!
Below I will feature some pictures from Kendo Kyohan, plus a short translation. I hope you enjoy it.
So, even relatively new kenshi 24/7 readers probably realise that I’m a bit old-fashioned when it comes to kendo/budo things, perhaps you could even call me a bit of an antiquarian (though kendo stuff isn’t really that ancient!). My passion for old kendo things falls mainly in four areas: books, equipment, dojo, and people. A fifth area – my classical swordsmanship background – I have yet to discuss in detail on kenshi 24/7. Maybe in the future.
Anyway, today’s post is an introduction/review of two pieces of kendo equipment that were 100% custom made for me with my penchant for the old-fashioned in mind.
Ozawa Aijiro (1864-1950) is probably a name that is not familiar to most kenshi 24/7 readers, but his grandson’s might be: Ozawa Hiroshi sensei, the author of the first kendo book I ever bought and owner of Eishingijuku Kobukan (usually just referred to as Kobukan).
Translated from the Kobukan website:
Born on the 20th of December 1863.
In his youth he studied Ono-ha Itto-ryu under Oshi domain sword instructor Matsuda Jugoro. He reached the highest level (Menkyo-kaiden) of not only Itto-ryu, but also Kyoshinmeichi-ryu and Jikishinkage-ryu kenjutsu. He studied under and acquired the deepest secrets of swordsmanship under famed kenshi such as Yamaoka Tesshu, Watanabe Hiroshi, and Sakakibara Kenkichi.
He worked as a politician first in Saitama prefecture (4 sessions) then at the National Diet (5 sessions). During this time he lobbied for the addition of judo and kendo to the public school education, eventually finding success.
In 1926 he was awarded kendo hanshi. He passed away on the 19th of June 1950, at the age of 88.
– From “Ozawa Aijiro’s posthumous manuscripts and reminiscences (1950)
It wasn’t until Aijiro was 26 that he entered political life, in which he would spend another 19 years. During this time he was instrumental in the addition of budo (judo and kendo) to the school system, one of the most pivotal episodes of kendo’s history. In 1909, after being caught up in a political scandal, he retired (before budo was actually added to schools). This allowed Aijiro to re-focus his life back on to budo.
Aijiro’s dojo Eishingijuku Kobukan was originally built in Saitama in 1891. When he reached 70 years old (1934) he “moved” this dojo (actually, built a new one) to Nakano ward in Tokyo. Luckily it survived the war but, because of concerns of the deterioration of the wooden building, it was knocked down and reconstructed in 1977 (the current dojo).
The two books being introduced today were written relatively late in Aijiro’s life, when he was 74 and 80 years old, well after becoming hanshi.
The first book, Kendo Shinan (“Kendo instruction”) was published in 1938. The second, Kokoku Kendoshi (“A kendo history of imperial Japan”) was published in 1944. I have an original version of the former book, but unfortunately only a re-printed version of the latter.
Kendo Shinan (“Kendo instruction” / 1938)
This book was probably the first or second old kendo book I ever bought, and the source of a couple of articles in the now archived “Dead or dying waza” series from back in 2009. A fairly thorough as well as compact book, it is also peppered with lots of pictures and, luckily for me, furigana, which makes reading it a breeze. If you are interested in old kendo books and are not sure what kind of thing to look for, this book is highly recommended.
For this post I’ve resurrected a couple of the smaller archived translation pieces for you to enjoy. Please refer to the pictures in the gallery below.
When your opponent tries to attack your men, pull your right leg back, twist your body slightly to the right and – at the same instant as you go down on your right knee – swing your shinai to the left and strike your opponents right dou. You could also move quickly to the left and strike your opponents left dou. Another method is to leave your right foot forward and simply sink your left knee, allowing you to hit their left or right dou.
Lower your body in such a way that the sword of your opponent might fall on your head from above. At the same time, without allowing the opponent to make an effective attack, you may skilfully strike dou.
Kendo vs Jukendo:
When facing someone armed with a mokuju (bayonet) you should slightly put your right shoulder forward, drop the tip of your shinai, and have the sensation of a more flattened posture than normal. Looking for a chance to attack, strongly jump foward and attack your opponents men, or jump diagonally to the right with your left foot and attack their migi-yoko-men with your hidari-kakate waza. When your opponent attempts to tsuki you, dodge their attack with your body and sweep or push their mokuju with your shinai, then attack their shomen, yokomen, or left do. Since tsuki is difficult to do against this type of opponent, its advisable to aim for men.
Kendo vs Sojutsu:
The spear is usually held with the left hand in the front, and the right hand behind. The body is held in a sideways stance with right at the rear. The normal seme from someone using a spear is from the left hand side. Spears are fundamentally thrusting weapons, so you should aim to avoid the spear tip and enter into the space beyond it. If you see an opening where you can enter into this space then its essential that you take it, as it will render your opponents weapon useless.
Kendo at Toyama Military Academy
Ken vs spear
Ken vs jukendo
Kokoku Kendoshi (“A kendo history of imperial Japan” / 1944)
As you would expect from someone as highly educated and intelligent as Aijiro, this history book is super comprehensive. It traces the history of swordsmanship in Japan from ancient times up until the pre-war era, with a small handful of various illustrations: makimono, woodblock paintings, koryu lineage lists, etc. At the very end of the book there is a description of kendo kata with pictures of Nakayama/Takano used as reference.
For me, however, the most intriguing thing about this book is that the history presented in it, 70+ years ago, is the same history that we are presented with now. In other words, reading this book you realise how little historical research in kendo has advanced since the time this book was written… which is a topic for another day! Anyway, here are a couple of scans from the book to enjoy.
Recently, I custom ordered another smaller-sized tsuba (I prefer using super small tsuba) and, as a bonus, I received another gorgeous wave decorated one as well. Looking at the pictures below, I’m sure you’ll agree they really are works of art.
Yesterday was the first kenshi 24/7 run Eikenkai session of the new year, and it was a packed one! 34 kenshi from six prefectures (Okayama, Hyogo, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Mie… plus Rhett from America) squeezed into the kendojo at Sumiyoshi Budokan, which is located in the precincts of the beautiful Sumiyoshi shrine.
Although there was a cold breeze outside, the dojo was boiling. We did about 40 minutes of kihon (including uchikomi and kakarigeiko), 20 minutes of waza practise, and about 45 minutes of jigeiko before heading to the nearby local restaurant for okonomiyaki and a couple of refreshing beers.
With work and other dojo commitments increasing exponentially over the last year I’ve decided to reduce the number of sessions we will hold this year, probably only hosting three or maybe four rather than our usual six. Anyway, the next session will be in mid-May, so if you are in the Kansai area at the time please feel free to get in touch. Cheers!