Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohon: Pre-War Kendo Waza

The following is a translation of waza descriptions from Takano Sasaburo sensei’s book Kendo Kyohon, published in 1930. The translations were done by Kent Enfield and serialised here on kenshi 24/7 back in 2009.

During the end of year article clean-up that I usually do, I temporarily archived the series (6 posts) with the aim of bringing it all together and presenting it as a single article on the site at some point. Since the last post on the site was replete with pre-war kendo video, and because some people commented about the techniques used on the kenshi 24/7 facebook page, I thought it was about time I made an effort to repackage and re-present Kent’s amazing work. Here it is.

(Please note that the picture at the top and the video below have nothing to do with the Kendo Kyohon itself, they are just for illustration purposes.)


Discussions of pre-war kendo pop up from time to time with people proposing what it was like.  It seems that those proposals are often supposition based on what someone wishes or imagines it was like instead of the sources that are available.  To that end, I’m translating portions of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohon into English.

Kendo Kyohon was originally published in 1930, and much of it is repetition from his prior work, Kendo, published in 1915.

This post is split into six sections. The first four will be his “fifty varieties of technique” broken into four sections: men, tsuki, kote, and do. The fifth will be tsubazeriai and taiatari, and the sixth kumiuchi (grappling, and throwing). The curriculum of 50 techniques is a reduction and reworking of a curriculum of 68 techniques described by Chiba Shusaku. The 50-technique version also appears in Kendo, with the only differences being slight differences in phrasing and more old-fashioned grammar.

I’d like to make one note on the translation. Takano sensei describes the two participants as “I” [我] and “the enemy” [敵]. I have switched first-person declaratives to second-person imperatives, as that is much more natural in modern English.



Fifty Varieties of Technique

In kendo, having a certain one or two favorite techniques at which you are proficient is advantageous, but it is not good to be biased toward your favorite techniques, without any variety or being skilled at other techniques.  You must master many techniques, so that they can be used skillfully to respond to the situation.  The 50 most basic yet typically easy to use techniques are listed below.  You should gradually try these techniques and work to master them.

其の一 面十八種
Section 1 Eighteen for Men


Semekomi Men
While attacking the enemy from gedan, chudan, or jodan, see an opening and strike men.


Degashira Men
While facing each other in gedan or chudan, strike men when the enemy begins to try to advance.


Shogeki Men
When the enemy is in chudan, strike shomen the moment the enemy moves to gedan.

NOTE: I am unsure of the pronunciation of 正撃.


Hanmigeki Men
You are in jodan, and the enemy is in gedan etc.  As the enemy thrusts, open to either the enemy’s left or right and take hanmi, avoiding the enemy’s sword.  Strike the enemy’s yokomen with one hand, either left or right.


Morote Shomen
When facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., as the enemy tries to strike your right kote, open your body to the left of the enemy, removing your kote.  Assume hanmi and strike the enemy’s shomen.


Nuki Men
Facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., when the enemy strikes at your right kote, take one step backward from the left foot and dodge without blocking.  From there, swing your sword halfway up with both hands and strike.


Morote Jodan Men
When the enemy is defending in gedan or chudan, etc., from jodan, when you see an opening, strike men. Depending on the situation, you can also strike the enemy’s kote. The correct striking method for this is to strike the enemy the moment they begin to move.


Katate Jodan Men
When the enemy is defending in jodan or chudan, etc., from left or right katate jodan, strike men. Depending on the time, you can also strike kote.


Hidari Ai Jodan Men
When both parties are facing each other in hidari jodan, strike men from jodan. Depending on the time, you can also strike kote.  Wait for the opportunity to develop.  The correct time to strike is when the enemy comes to strike.


Migi Ai Jodan Men
When both you and he are facing each other in migi ai jodan, strike men from jodan.  Depending on the time, you can also strike kote.  Other than this, it is in accordance with the previous paragraph.


Suriage Men
When facing each other in gedan or chudan, as the enemy comes to strike your own men, slide up [suriage] to jodan and strike men.


Ojikaeshi Men
When both parties are in the same kamae as above, as the enemy comes to strike your men, perform ukenagashi and from there strike men in response.  Depending on the time, you strike kote.


Makiotoshi Men
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above, as the enemy comes to strike your men, perform makiotoshi to either the left or the right and strike men.

NOTE: This makiotoshi waza is an oji waza in response to men, so it is clearly not the same technique as the modern shikake waza with the same name.  As it can also be followed by tsuki (listed in the next section) instead of men I believe it is probably similar to the makiotoshi of Shinto Muso Ryu.


Hari Men
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above, slap the middle portion of the enemy’s sword and from there strike men.


Osae Kote Men
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above, as the enemy comes to strike your men, press his right kote and, from there, step in one step, stretch out your arms, and strike men.



Seme Kote Men
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above, threaten to strike the enemy’s right kote.  When the enemy protects his kote, without a moment’s delay, fly in and strike men.


Shinai Osae Men
When facing each other, the enemy in chudan and you in gedan, as the enemy comes to strike your men, press down on the middle of their tsuka.  At the same time as the enemey’s kamae crumbles, swing up halfway with both hands and strike men.

NOTE: If this is the technique I think it is, it appears in the Nihon no Kobudo video of Ono-ha Itto Ryu.  As the enemy cuts, you catch the tsuka with your monouchi, move it down to the back and side, then cut.


Sutemi Men
When the enemy is in chudan and you are in gedan, from there attack the enemy’s right kote.
When the enemy defends by changing from chudan to gedan, without a moment’s delay, fly in with abandon and, adequately stretching out your arms, strike men.

In part one I translated the section of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohon describing 18 techniques for striking men. Part two is 13 techniques for thrusting.  One important point not included in this section is that Takano sensei considers tsuki to contain three distinct techniques: mae zuki, omote zuki, and ura zuki—in the same way that men is divided into shomen, hidari men, and migi men.  Because of this, I will include his section on how to thrust [突方] from the early chapter on basic practice [基本練習] that describes these three variations.


Mae Zuki
Thrust at the enemy’s throat, wringing both hands equally and stretching out your arms at the same time you move your body forward.


Omote Zuki
Wring both your hands, and turn the edge slightly to the right.  At the same time, stretch out your arms, and thrust to the throat while advancing your body towards the enemy’s omote (left side).  It is essential to advance your right foot slightly diagonally to the right and to accompany it with the left.


Ura Zuki
Wring your hands, and turn the edge slightly to the left.  Stretch out your arms, and thrust to the throat at the same time as you advance your body a little bit diagonally to the left, to the enemy’s ura (right side).

Now, on to the section describing techniques that result in a thrust.

其の二 突十三種
Section 2 Thirteen for Tsuki


Mae Zuki
Using both hands, thrust to the enemy from the front.


Katate Zuki
Using one hand, thrust to the enemy from either omote or ura.


Nidan Tsuki
When facing each other in either gedan or chudan, threaten to strike the enemy’s right wrist.  When the enemy changes to gedan to defend, thrust from the ura side.


Kiriotoshi Zuki
When facing each other in chudan, as the enemy comes to thrust or strike, cut down the attack [kiriotoshi] and thrust with both hands.


Omote Katate Zuki
When you both are in the same kamae as above, when you see the enemy lower his sword to gedan, thrust from the omote side with one hand.


Ura Zuki
When you are both in the same kamae as above, press the enemy’s sword from the right and thrust with both hands.


Ire Zuki
When you are facing each other in gedan, as the enemy comes to thrust, turn over your hands, pull in, and counter the thrust with a thrust.

NOTE:  This is the name Takano sensei uses for the main technique of tachi no kata no sambonme.



Kote Osae Mae Zuki
When the enemy is in chudan and you are in gedan, strike the enemy’s right kote, press on the tsubamoto of the enemy’s sword from omote, and from there thrust in.


Degashira Tsuki

Facing each other, the enemy in gedan and you in chudan, as the first enemy advances, if you extend the sword directly forward with both hands, the enemy will naturally run into your thrust.


Jodan Henka Tsuki
As the enemy is in gedan and you are in hidari jodan, as the enemy first begins to advance, from jodan match up with their sword, pull it in, and thrust.

NOTES: The action of pulling in is described using the same language as is used in irezuki, 引入れ–hikiire, suggesting the two use similar mechanics.  Also, while in current Japanese 誘う means “invite”, “lure”, “induce”, the character has an archaic reading いざなう as well as an slightly different meaning along the lines of “go along together with”.  Chiba Shusaku describes the analogous technique in his curriculum,  jodan hikiire zuki, against the enemy’s katatezuki using the phrase “此の方上段より其の太刀に添ひ、引き入れて突く”–“you meet their sword from jodan, pull in, and thrust”.  The pertinant verb in this description is 添ふ (そう) which means “go along with” or “suit”.  It’s the intransitive partner to 添える, the soeru that give the soe in soete tsuki in seitei iai.


Makiotoshi Zuki
While facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., when the enemy strikes at your men, perform makiotoshi to the left or to the right and thrust.

NOTE: As previously noted for makiotoshi men in Part 1, this makiotoshi is clearly not the same technique as the shikake waza that is more commonly known these days.  It may be similar to the makiotoshi of Shinto Muso Ryu.


Nuke Zuki
When you are facing each other in the same kamae as above, as the enemy strikes at your men, move your body diagonally to the left or right, escape from underneath the enemy’s sword, and thrust to the enemy’s throat.


Tsuki Kaeshi Zuki
When you are facing each other in the same kamae as above, as the enemy thrusts at you,  turn the blade to the enemy’s left turning over your hands and counter the thrust with a thrust.

In parts one and two of this series I translated the sections of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohan describing techniques for men and tsuki.  In this part, I translate the section for kote techniques.

As in part two, I have included the section on how to strike kote [籠手の撃方] from the chapter on basic practice [基本練習].


Kote Uchi
Swing up until you can see the enemy’s kote between your arms, and strike kote from the front.  Advance from the right foot, and follow it with the left, but the feeling of advancing with your abdomen is essential.  This is because in the case of kote uchi it is easy to strike as if using just your fingers.


Maki Kote Uchi
With the feeling of drawing a small circle, spiral in with your sword tip and strike the enemy’s right kote.   The footwork is the same as above.


Nuki Kote Uchi
Step to the left with the left foot.  Accompany it with the right foot, and advance the right foot in front of the left.  Describe a half circle under the enemy’s sword with your sword tip.  During the first step make a large evasion, then strike the enemy’s right kote.

Now the section on kote techniques.

其の三 籠手十二種
Twelve for Kote


Oyo Kote
When you are facing each other, the enemy in chudan and you in gedan, press the middle of the enemy’s sword.  As the enemy pushes back in order to not be pushed, make use of this and avoid his sword, wrap around under it, and strike makikote.


Katsugi Kote
When facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., bring your sword to your left shoulder and strike the enemy’s right kote on an angle from the side.


Age Kote
When both parties are facing each other in the same kamae as above,  when the enemy raises up to assume jodan, strike without a moment’s delay.


Degashira Kote
When both parties are facing each other in gedan, strike kote the moment the enemy initiates striking your men or kote.


Suriage Kote
When you are facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., as the enemy comes to strike at your men, bring the sword to your right shoulder to perform suriage and strike the enemy’s right kote.


Tsuki Barai Kote
When both are in the same kamae as above, as the enemy thrusts at you left handed, sweep it away to the left and strike the enemy’s right kote.


Jodan Kote
When the enemy is in gedan or chudan and you are in jodan, if you show signs of striking men, the enemy will certainly try to defend against this, so strike his right kote.  If in this case the enemy lowers the tip of his sword, strike the inside kote.


Migi Jodan Kote
When the enemy tries to strike your kote or men from chudan or gedan while you are in migi jodan, take one step backward from the left foot, making a large evasion and avoid the enemy’s sword, then step in one step and strike the right kote.


Sasoi Kote
When facing each other in gedan or chudan, if you show signs of attacking the enemy’s right kote, the enemy will certainly try to attack your own kote.  Block, parry, etc. this and strike the enemy’s right kote.


Tome Kote
In the same kamae as above, as the enemy tries to strike your right kote or men, block with the tsuba moto and from there strike the enemy’s right kote with a small motion.  Depending on the distance, you can also perform suriage with the shinogi of the monouchi then strike.


Orishiki Kote
In the same kamae as above, as the enemy comes to strike your men, put your the left knee down on the floor and strike, kneeling.


Maki Kote
With both in the same kamae as above, as the enemy tries to strike your kote, wrap around underneath and strike kote with a small motion.

In the first three parts of this series I translated the sections of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohan describing techniques for men, tsuki, and kote.  In this part, I translate the section for do techniques.

As in part two, I have included the section on how to strike do [胴の撃方] from the chapter on basic practice [基本練習].  Note that for basic migi do, Takano sensei uses ayumi ashi, striking with the left foot forward.


Migi Do
Swing up until you can see the enemy’s do between your arms.  Advance slightly diagonally left with the left foot, and accompany it with the right foot.  Stretching out both arms, strike the enemy’s right do diagonally from the upper left.  In this case, the crossing of your arms comes directly in front of your body, but bear in mind not to let your sword stray, holding it between your arms.  Turn the edge to the right.


Hidari Do
Swing up until you can see the enemy’s do between your arms.  Advance diagonally to the right with the right foot, and accompany it with the left foot.  Stretching out both arms, strike the enemy’s left do diagonally from the upper right.  Turn the edge to the left.

Now the section on do techniques.

其の四 胴七種
Seven for Do


Suriage Do
When you are facing each other with the enemy in jodan or chudan, etc., and you in chudan or gedan, as the enemy tries to strike your men, perform suriage, and strike do while kneeling.


Orishiki Do
When facing each other in gedan, chudan, etc., the enemy will come to strike your men.  Quickly kneel and strike do, paying no heed to his sword as it passes by.

NOTE: 摺れ違ふ (surechigau–usually written 擦れ違う or すれ違う) means for two things to miss or pass by each other, but I felt that if I translated it as such, people would read it as either both missing or running past each other, neither of which is the case.


Tachi Do
In the same kamae as above, as the enemy strikes at your men, flying in and stretching out his arms, pay no heed to his sword and quickly indeed dodge and strike do.  Strike while standing and not kneeling.


Katate Men Do
In the same kamae as above, as the enemy come to thrust, open your body to the enemy’s left and strike the enemy’s left men with one hand.  Then turning over your hands and strike the enemy’s right do.

NOTE: The 又は was a source of trouble in translating this technique. , without , is often used similarly to “moreover,” “furthermore,” “then,” or “and” in English, but 又は is, to my knowledge, exclusively used in listing alternatives.  That is, it means “or” in English.  However, translating it as such would make this into two separate techniques, katete men or do.  That doesn’t make sense given that it appears in the section on do techniques, and that katete men against tsuki was already described under hanmiuchimen.  Thus, I believe that the in the original is a mistake and have translated the sentence as if it weren’t there.  Thanks to Josh Reyer for providing a second opinion regarding this.


Men Kote Do
When facing each other in chudan no kamae, the moment the enemy tries to lower his sword to gedan, step in one step and strike shomen, take one step back and strike kote, then, stepping forward with the left foot and turning over your hands, strike the enemy’s right do.


Tsuba Zeri Do
When together in tsubazeriai, upon seeing an opening, strike do while standing.  When you push the enemy, the enemy will push back.  Strike from under the enemy’s extended hands.  This is a method for striking using the enemy’s power.


Kote Kakari Do
With the enemy in jodan and you in chudan, gedan, etc., if you show signs of attacking the enemy’s kote, the enemy will try to avoid your sword.  The moment he does, fly in and strike.

In the first four parts of this series I translated the sections of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohan concerning techniques for men, tsuki, kote, and do. Part five will cover tsubazeriai and taiatari.

Tsubazeriai, taiatari, and kumiuchi are sections three through five of the chapter titled “Information about Shiai” [仕合心得].  Sections one and two of that chapter are “Normal Information” [一般の心得], which covers things like reigi and the notion of fighting fair and square, and “Preparations at Tachiai” [立合の支度].



(1) How to Separate
When you have come to tsubazeriai, coming close to the enemy, separate quickly. The moment of separation is worthy of attention, so separate pull back quickly, either striking where the enemy is unprepared or suppressing his sword so that the enemy cannot extend his hands.  If you don’t know this and pull back ineffectively, you will be defeated by the enemy.


(2) Information About Tsubazeriai
When you have come to tsubazeriai, extend your legs and waist so that your body doesn’t shrink, lift up your face, and even compete in height lining up your face even with that of the enemy.  Make yourself tall to the point of feeling that you will defeat the enemy, and enter strongly into the space in front of the enemy (futokoro).  By doing this, you will reveal the strength and valor in your heart and make the enemy cower.  If you have this knowledge and enter quite deeply into the enemy’s space, your body will be at ease, and your movements will become free and nimble.  This isn’t just a physical matter.  You must suppress the enemy with your spirit.



(1) How to do Taiatari
Taiatari is colliding your body with the enemy’s, knocking them back or knocking them down and preventing them from striking after you do (ato uchi).  At the same time as you strike, turn your face slightly to the left, put your right shoulder forward, and strike the enemy in the chest in a strong, bouncing manner.  At the same time, scoop up with both hands towards the enemy’s chin and knock them down.  If you are proficient, you can knock the enemy back two or three ken [about 3.5 to 5.5 meters] when you knock them down.  If you do taiatari, the enemy will try to not be knocked down, so you can make an opening somewhere.  Don’t miss this chance to strike.


(2) How to Receive Taiatari
When the enemy comes to collide, shift your body and avoid it, or in what is called “ireatari“, momentarily shrink down then stretch out again to strike the enemy.  Even if the enemy comes in strongly and furiously, you can receive it easily or avoid it.  You should train until you can calmly dodge or push back even when someone of incredible strength comes at you.  When the enemy pushes strongly, if you receive by turning your body slightly diagonally to either the right or the left, it is easy to stave him off.  You should practice taiatari regularly and often.

In the first four parts of this series, I translated the sections of Takano Sasaburo’s Kendo Kyohan concerning waza for men, tsuki, kote, and do.  In part five I translated the sections about tsubazeriai and taiatari.  In this section, I translate the section on grappling (kumiuchi).



(1) Striking Down the Enemy’s Sword and When Your Sword is Struck Down
Grappling is something that happens when the enemy closes to wrestle or when your sword is struck out of your hands.  In the case of knocking the sword out of the enemy’s hands, take advantage of the opportunity and strike directly.  If you delay in striking, even though you don’t draw close to the enemy, he may be pressured into grappling.  In the case where your sword is knocked out of your hands, fly in straight away to wrestle before the enemy can perform another technique.  In the case where you can’t do that, jump back for a moment.  When you see an opening, fly in.



(2) How to Grapple

In the battles of the past, they would fight from a distance with bows and arrows.  Coming close, they would struggle using striking weapons like spears, naginata, swords, etc.  When they couldn’t achieve victory that way, they would hold down the enemy, pin him, draw a dagger, stick it into the gaps in the armor, and cut off the enemy’s head.  Emulating that, in a grappling situation hold down the enemy, twist his arm, twist his men so that he cannot move, or twist his men completely off.

Because in kendo the techniques are concerned with the sword, outside of situations when it can’t be helped, you should avoid grappling.  If you have great strength, challenging people to grapple or wrestling with those who are weak is incorrect.

When the enemy has knocked your sword out of your hands, if he can’t immediately strike, pressure the enemy with all of your spirit and he will let you escape.  In the past when they couldn’t fight with striking weapons or one person had broken their sword and they reached out their arms to grapple, even though it was clear they would be at a disadvantage on closing, they would accept this knowing they would die in battle.  This was something that was revered in the minds of warriors who valued their reputations and had a sense of shame.  In the case when you knock the sword out of the enemy’s hands, striking immediately without any loss of spirit or letting up is the way of kendo, but taking advantage of the being able to disarm the enemy and striking anywhere, impatiently trying to achieve victory, is unseemly.


(3) Kendo and Judo
However, it is still necessary to practice grappling constantly.  When the enemy’s sword is knocked away and he comes to wrestle, if you don’t have knowledge about grappling, it will probably be an ungainly defeat for you even if you are skilled with the sword.  Also, if you have an encounter with thugs and can’t avoid fighting, this knowledge will often be of use.  Kendo and judo aren’t entirely distinct things.  These two are, for example, like a mino [straw rain cloak] and kasa [conical rain hat].  You can’t say either is sufficient by itself.  Therefore, in addition to studying kendo, you should study judo as well if you have the opportunity.

NOTE: Takano sensei uses kendo as a general term for sword arts.  Elsewhere he refers to Itto Ryu kendo, Katori Shinto Ryu kendo, Kurama Ryu kendo, etc.  Thus it is quite possible that he uses judo in the same way, as a general term.

尚こゝに足搦の法に就いて述べて置き度い。足搦の技に熟して居る時は、敵の氣を奪ひ、擔を寒からしむることが出來る。此の技を行ふには、敵に接近して、彼我の身體が相接觸する程にならなければ、十分に効を奏しない。其の方法は、我が左足を敵の右足の外踝に掛け、敵の脚を强く拂ふと同時に、我が太刀を敵の左頸筋に當てて强く押すのである。此の外、種々の方法がある。敵から足搦を掛けられた時は、敵の中柄、或は襦袢を捉へて立直るのである。又敵から掛けられた時も、前に突進すれば却つて敵を倒すことが出來る。決して後へは引かぬことである。又敵が足搦を掛けようとするのを察知した時には、却つて此方から掛けるやうにする。すべて足搦を行ふ時には、敵の身體が浮付いて、所謂死腰になつた時を見て掛くべきである。無理に試みる時は我が體勢を亂し、敵に乗ぜられのである。足に十分力を入れ、强く敵の脚に掛けなければならぬが、同時に腕で押す力が入らなければ役に立たぬ。 腕と脚と相伴つて掛くから、敵を顚倒させ、我が體勢も崩れることなく泰然たるを得るのである。

(4) Ashigarami
Still, I would like to write about how to do ashigarami here.  When you make use of ashigarami, you can rob the enemy of his spirit [ki] and chill his courage.  When performing this technique, if you don’t draw close enough to the enemy that your bodies are touching, it won’t have a sufficient effect.  To do this, hook your left leg around the outside of the enemy’s right ankle, and at the same time as you sweep the enemy’s leg strongly, put your sword on the enemy’s neck and push strongly.  There are many other ways besides this one.

When the enemy tries to do ashigarami on you, stay standing up by grabbing the middle of his hilt or his juban.  Moreover, when reaped by the enemy, you can knock him down instead by rushing forward.  By no means retreat backwards.  Also, when you sense the enemy is going to try ashigarami, try to reap him instead.  When performing ashigarami, you should watch for what’s called “dead hips” (shinigoshi) when the enemy’s body begins to float.

If you try it when you shouldn’t, your own posture will be broken, and you will be ridden by the enemy.  You have to reap the enemy’s leg strongly with sufficient power in your foot, but if you don’t use enough force in your push, it won’t succeed.  If you use your arms and legs together, the enemy will fall, and you will be stable without your posture being broken.

1934 Tenran-jiai (illustrated)

On the 4th and 5th of May 1934, Saineikan – a budojo located in the grounds of Tokyo Imperial Palace – was the venue of the second of three Showa-period Tenran-jiai (a budo or sports competition held in front of the Emperor). This post was mainly written in order to share some of the pictures available of the event, but I’m also using it as an opportunity to bring together related kenshi 24/7 articles.

There’s still a lot more that needs to be written both about the event itself and the people involved, but there’s no point in hoarding all these cool pictures, so here they are… enjoy!!!

(Links to related articles are after the pictures.)

Emperor Showa watching the shiai:


Shinpan and competitors:

Kata (Nakayama Hakudo and Takano Sasaburo):

Competition winners (note Noma Hisashi on the right):

Finals of the professional kenshi division:

Finals of the prefectural kenshi division (Noma vs Fujimoto):

Special demonstration match (Mochida Moriji vs Ogawa Kinnosuke):

Special demonstration match (Oshima Jikida vs Ueda Heitaro):

Special demonstration match (Takano Shigeyoshi vs Nakayama Hakudo):

Special demonstration match (Saimura Goro vs Nakano Sosuke):

Special demonstration match (Jukendo):

Special demonstration (teaching children):

Various matches from throughout the two days:

Related articles on kenshi 24/7

Teikoku Kendo Kyohon – the book written by Ogawa Kinnosuke, a shinpan and special demonstration member.

The Kendo Reader – the book written by Noma Hisashi, the winner of the prefectural kenshi division.

Fujimoto Kaoru – a look into the life of the person Noma defeated to take the title.

Takano Sasaburo – the most senior sensei in attendance and head shinpan.

Saimura Goro – a shinpan and special demonstration member.

Nakayama Hakudo – a shinpan and special demonstration member.

Takizawa Kozo – information about post-WW2 Tenran-jiai and Saineikan.

(I’ll probably expand on this list as time goes on)


The following video is NOT from the 1934 Tenran-jiai featured here, but one held 6 years later. Although a different shiai, I think we can assume that the execution is pretty much the same:


昭和天覧試合 : 皇太子殿下御誕生奉祝。宮内省 監修。昭和9発行。大日本雄弁会講談社。

MEI-SHOBU: the ki of Naito vs the waza of Takano 名勝負:内藤高治vs高野佐三郎

Kyoto Butokuden, late Meiji period*. It’s the last tachiai of a long day but the hall is packed. The yobidashi (announcer) steps forward:

East side. Tokyo. Takano sensei !

West side. Kyoto. Naito sensei !


With the call the packed audience suddenly goes quiet and an palpable feel of excitement (or perhaps expectation?) fills the air. Facing each other on the dojo floor are the two most famous swordsmen in Japan: on the east side Tokyo Koto Shihan Gakko’s Takano Sasaburo; and on the west side Busen’s Naito Takaharu. In between them moderating the tachiai stands Monna Tadashi.

The spectators sit nervously in silence wondering what kind of contest will unfold before them. Will it be an equal fight? What kind of techniques will be used? Who will be triumphant? But despite this nervousness there was no fighting mood in the air. Rather, the two sensei seemed detached.

The swordsmen bowed to each other and moved slowly into the center of the hall. Sonkyo. Finally, in the instant that they stood up, the tension between them radiated out into the audience.

Naito and Takano were born in 1862, just 4 months apart. Both were born into budo families and lived through a period of turmoil in Japan as it went through monumental cultural changes. While young they both studied kenjutsu (Hokushin Itto-ryu and Ona-ha Itto-ryu respectively) eventually heading to Tokyo to seek further instruction from the top instructors in the country – Naito under Sakakibara Kenkichi (Jikishinkage-ryu) and Takano under Yamaoka Tesshu (Muto-ryu).

In 1887, after an extended Musha-shugyo, Naito finally entered the employ as a kendo instructor in the kendo mecca that was Keishicho (the fledgling Tokyo Metropolitan police force). Takano had already entered it a year earlier in 1886. It’s almost as if they were destined to cross paths.

Their first shiai would have to wait until 1890. The event was a keishicho sponsored tournament (gekkiken-kai). At this time Takano had already moved out of his position at keishicho and was working as a kendo instructor for the Saitama police. During the competition Takano was matched up with a keishicho kenshi famed for his high-speed waza, Saruda Tosuke. However, Takano’s waza was renowned for being fast as well, and he overpowered and defeated Saruda.

As keishicho sponsored the tournament it wouldn’t be seemly for them to lose to someone working in a rival police force, even if they had once worked with them. Keishicho management’s response was to issue a command:

“Naito, take care of it.”

And with that, the future leaders of the kendo community (and creators of the modern kendo style) faced each other for the first time.

Even though they both employed their strongest techniques neither could best the other. Eventually, as time wore on and on, the shiai was called to a halt and a draw declared. Thus ended the first of many duels the pair were to have.

30 years after their first match in Tokyo they again found themselves facing off at each other, but this time they were both older, wiser, and had far more experience. In the intervening years both men had forged careers as professional kendo instructors – Takano at Tokyo koto shihan gakko and Naito at the Butokukai’s training facility Busen – and had become the top instructors in the country. Now they faced each other in the middle of the Butokuden in unmistakable seriousness as if it was a fight to the death.

During the fight the spectators felt an oppressive pressure from the shiai-jo, almost turning their blood to ice. Some people thought “I want this to finish quickly!” and others “I want this to keep going on and on!”

Just as it started softly, suddenly on Monna’s “SORE MADE” (thats enough) the shiai was over. The spectators that had been holding their breathe in excitement let out an audible sigh of relief. Even after the sensei had bowed and left the area the sense of tension remained and, for a little bit, the audience sat in stunned silence.



This account is based on multiple first-hand accounts of shiai between Naito and Takano found in 3 books:


Comic pics from the manga 龍-RON-


* A precise date is not given : “The time when the Emperor or the Crown-Prince was in attendance” is the only information.
UPDATE: based on a new source, I discovered that Naito and Takaharu fought each other in 1901, 1907, and 1916 in the Butokuden (and again in 1920 at the opening of Meiji Jingu). Only scores were kept for the 1901 tachiai – it was a hikiwake. The other bouts were mohangeiko.

Saimura Goro


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.


Saimura Goro vs Ogawa Kinnosuke (Tenranjiai, 1940):

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


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.



The Sword of the Samurai in the Hands of Americans

“Another new fad has come to New York – Japanese fencing. If you hear the clash of armor and clang of steel as you saunter through the brown stone districts uptown it’s wealthy young men taking lessons in palace stables and studios where the famous two handed swords to the samurai are at work. The weapon always has been described as formidable in the hands of an expert. The word “samurai” means knight, and for three thousand years he has been the ideal swordsman of Japan – always using the terrible two handed blade of his fathers.”

I get an awful lot of correspondence from readers, most of it asking me about this and that, but occasional people volunteer ideas or information. This was one such case: a Canadian gentleman by the name of Maxime Chouinard who practises koryu/iai over in Quebec, got in touch and passed me the following newspaper clippings about early kendo practise in America. Wow, I thought, this is reeeeeeeally fascinating information, specifically as an important look into a) how the general America society viewed the art and b) as an insight into some Japanese ex-pats thinking.

At the end of the Edo period when Japan finally opened up there was a large influx of people from various nationalities that went to seek their fortune in the yet undeveloped country. It’s uncertain exactly how many non-Japanese people were working in Japan, but the government hired hundreds and we can assume there were probably thousands more working in private enterprises. Through historical records we know that some of these people did study kendo (gekken/gekkiken/kenjutsu as it was variously called at that time) while there were there. In fact, some of the men that went over were charged with re-developing the Japanese military, swordsmanship included. Around about the same time – and I admit that my knowledge is a bit vague on this matter – many Japanese people also started to go abroad, whether it was to study, on business, or indeed to make a new life.

It’s probably at around this point that kendo first travelled abroad: either taken back by the non-Japanese people who had been in Japan or transported by Japanese people themselves. Maybe a bit of both.

This interesting topic is large and deserves some serious attention… unfortunately not something I have the time or resources to do so at the moment. The purpose of this article is simply to introduce the subject and hope that it creates more interest. I’m sure there are hundreds of more newspaper articles out there on this topic, probably spanning quite a few countries as well. If you have any links, please post them on facebook or comment here.

Maxime and I talked back and forth about what to do with the information here and we decided to leave writing a more in-depth, fuller article on these clippings and this subject to him. Make sure and check out Maxime’s own fascinating blog which has covered and I’m sure will cover some of the issues raised above.

For starters, please check out the quotes and corresponding articles below:

A fencing and kendo demonstration with Mark Twain in attendance, New York, 1893:

“Dueling swords were now in order… the bouts ended with a side-splitting scrimmage with Japanese singlesticks between Mr. Charles Tatham and the samurai Shilo Sacaze (sic) of Nagasaki. This epic combat showed the samurai extremely quick and clever with the peculiar bamboo stick of his native land. His odd movements and loud shouts delighted the audience with screams of laughter and applause when the samurai closed with Mr. Tatham and began to wrestle with him on the stage.”

– The New York Times, November 21, 1893 (full article)

The Japanese fencing club “Sunrise” in Honolulu, 1896:

“By way of introduction the combatants removed their kimonos and donned loose skirts and a helmet with strong iron bars across the face. Then they sheathed their bodies with stiff bamboo breastplates. Heavily padded gloves with gauntlets finished the costume. The “short sticks” are about five feet long, and are made of several pieces of bamboo fastened together. There seemed to be no call of “time” by a referee. The men stepped to the center of the room and saluted each other by a motion of the arm, and then one uttered a guttural sound signifying his unwillingness to begin the fray and they crossed sticks, the point of each being held on a level with the neck and the handle grasped with both hands. Yajimai led, and throughout the bought was acting on the offensive, while Karikawa braced himself so as to resist and ward off any blow that might be directed toward him. Once he was thoughtless. Yajimai gave him a crack on the helmet that resounded throughout the room. All the time the men were fencing they were shouting as if warning each other to look out for what might be coming.”

– Kentucky new era, 1896 (full article)

A Japanese fencing club for ex-pats (the picture at the top of this article is from this piece) from 1897:

“Everywhere in Japan since the late war they are teaching this fencing. The clubs are formed throughout Japan and they teach it in all boys’ schools. It is not merely for sport. During the late war with China the government found that it would be necessary for the people to understand how to use a sword. Japan cannot keep a standing army of any size, so her subjects have to be trained.”

– San Francisco 1897 (full article)

Annapolis 1906:

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The quote at the start of the article matches the pictures here.

– Omaha Daily Bee, 1906 (full article).