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.
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.
A couple of years ago when I was visiting Tokyo for some kendo, I stumbled upon a chunky kendo book from 1935 in a second hand bookstore. What immediately caught my attention was name of one of the most fearsome kenshi of the 20th century on the cover: Takano Shigeyoshi (adopted son of Sasaburo). Another name on the cover suggested it was co-written, but that person I had never head of: Tanida Saichi. Of course, I immediately bought the book, took it back to my hotel room, and had a closer inspection. It was at this point I noticed that Tanida was the principal author whereas Takano served as a proofreader/mentor for the project.
I couldn’t uncover any information about Tanida at all other than what was written in the introduction (where it mentions Takano was his sensei and that he has studied kendo for over 20 years) which is very frustrating! At a best guess – based on the content of the book – I’d say that he was some sort of professional school kendo teacher. The fact that Takano was his sensei suggests that he was either a student of Takano at the Urawa Meishinkan between 1900-14 or in Manchuria sometime after 1914. Perhaps it was a bit of both.
Anyway, an extremely detailed book, it goes into a lot more detail and covers a much larger scope than any other kendo book I have seen, pre or post war. To give you a clue as to just how comprehensive it is, here are the chapter titles:
1. The nation and athletics
2. The social position of Budo
3. The development of kendo
4. The significance of kendo
5. The purpose of kendo
6. Kendo and discipling the body
7. Kendo and discipling the spirit
8. Kendo and technical skill
9. Where does the essence of kendo lie?
10. Kendo and calligraphy
11. Kendo and character
12. Kendo is dignity
13. Kendo and the military
14. Kendo and bushido
15. The holes in modern kendo
16. The steps in kendo
17. Things to prepare about in your kendo shugyo
18. The process to walk the path of kendo
19. What we can apply from the life of self-improvement led by Confucius to our kendo shugo
21. Things we should be careful about during practise
22. Kendo bogu and uniform
23. Basic movements
25. Basic striking
26. Other ways to strike
27. Things to be careful about when striking
28. Basic drills
29. How to move the sword
30. Special training
31. Musha shugyo
32. Attacking strategies
33. Defending strategies
35. Types of keiko
37. Dealing with jodan, nito, naginata, or other types of weapons
38. Men techniques
39. Kote techniques
40. Dou techniques
41. Tsuki techniques
42. Kendo in school
43. Discussion on teaching kendo
44. Discussion on how to help others improve
45. Discussion about competitors
46. Kendo teaching material
47. The steps in designing kendo teaching material
48. The conventions for teaching material
49. Things you should be careful about as a kendo teacher
50. Grading kendo
51. Dai nippon teikoku kendo kata
54. Types of shiai
55. The style of “Kokutai yusho taikai”
56. Kendokai (keikokai)
57. Kendo seminars
58. Size/weight of shinai
59. How to improve technical skill
60. How to forge the spirit
61. Taking stock
62. Kendo and women
64. Eishin-ryu iai
65. Shizuka-ryu naginata
66. Setsunin-to, katsujin-ken
68. Things you should know about the katana
Whew!! I don’t think I translated the chapter titles 100% accurately, but I think you get the gist: the book is super comprehensive. In fact, I think I’ll have to wait for retirement before I’ll ever find the time to sit down and read it from start to finish.
I contemplated translating a small part of this book today, but I think I’ll leave that for another time. Instead, please enjoy some pictures/illustrations from the inside of the book itself.
btw, when doing some online research about the book I discovered that it was re-issued in modern format a few years ago. I haven’t seen the new version, but if you are interested you can pick it up here at amazon.jp.
As I’ve discussed on kenshi 24/7 many times, Naito Takaharu sensei was – is, in fact – the single most influential figure in modern kendo’s history (the closest person to this title is his rival, Takano Sasaburo). His idea of kendo, both in execution and in thought, permeates kendo today. Often this idea is expressed more as an ideal, but people serious about kendo still follow his defined kendo diet of kirikaeshi, uchikomi, taiatari, and kakarigeiko. He also saw little or no point in competition for the serious shugyo-sha, an attitude that has been almost lost today, even amongst senior practitioners.
During his 30 years as the most senior Butokukai kenshi he taught many people (including every 10th dan) but, being the humble person he was, he didn’t leave a lot of written material. However, his students talked about him profusely over the following years.
Luckily, in addition to the personal accounts left by his students, there were two volumes dedicated to Naito sensei produced, both of which I own and will introduce today.
The first is a book called “Kenshi: Naito Takaharu.” Luckily it was put together and printed just over a year after his death (he died on the 9th of April 1929 and the book was published for the Kyoto Taikai in 1930). Due to the books immediate nature it serves as an invaluable testament to the man.
The second book was published in 1975, a full 45 years after his death, and is entitled “Kensei: Naito Takaharu.” This book is valuable for two reasons, the first being the passage of time, and the second being less rushed content. In particular, comments by the most senior sensei of the day about their relationship to and experiences under Naito sensei are invaluable.
Unless I win the lottery and can quit my day job it’s impossible to translate the books fully, so let me just introduce a random portion from the earlier book.
From “Kenshi: Naito Takaharu” : Shinpan
The way Naito sensei did shinpan was as if he were a giant mountain. He would never move nor even stand from the shinpans seat. Even if the competitors were in a situation where he couldn’t see clearly he wouldn’t move. He would explain this by saying “If you can’t see them with your eyes, you should be able to sense them with your heart.”
When the shimpan of shiai were from the older generations (and thus smaller in stature) sometimes he would spot one siting on the shinpan chair with their legs dangling down not touching the floor. If he saw a scene like this Naito sensei would call the sensei to his house and warn them: “Sit naturally and place your hands on your knees. If you don’t sit yourself properly then how can you shinpan correctly? If you are sitting on your seat and move around you’ll make bad calls.”
When shinpaning he hated black tabi. Even if it were very cold he’d rather just shipan in his bare feet or, occasionally, he’d wear white tabi. He stuck to this rule even in large taikai. Due to this there was an instance where a famous kendo sensei was due to work as a shinpan in a shiai. The sensei tried to find some white tabi in Kyoto but couldn’t, and ended up judging in his bare feet.
* Note that until after the war (excluding the Tenran-jiai) a single shinpan was normal. They sat in a chair.
Naito sensei gallery
Most of the images included below are from the books mentioned.
Naito Takaharu sensei
Naito Takaharu sensei
Naito Takaharu sensei
Naito sensei is on the right
Keishicho kendo teachers – Naito is second row from the bottom, first on the right
Teikoku kendo no kata organisers: Naito in the middle
Mihashi is on the left, and Naito on the right (middle is Ueno)
Zusetsu Kendo Jiten (A pictorial encyclopaedia of kendo) is a wonderful A4-sized hardback book published in 1970. The book’s authors, Nakano Yasoji (hanshi hachidan) and Tsuboi Saburo (kyoshi nanadan), were backed up by input from one of the most famous kenshi that ever lived, Mochida Moriji (hanshi, judan).
The book starts with some beautiful colour plates including Mochida and Nakano sensei performing kendo no kata at Noma dojo as well as some random snaps from the 1969 All Japan Kendo Championships.
The rest of the book is in black and white and includes lots of pictures of waza and diagrams of this and that. A nice weighty book, it’s fairly comprehensive and easy to understand, and would make a nice addition to any kenshi’s library… even if they don’t read Japanese.