Kendo judan 十段

In 1952 the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei (ZNKR) was formed with the object of trying to re-organise kendo on a national level (iaido and jodo would come under it’s aegis in 1956). Kendo was in a sorry state at that time: the Dai Nippon Butokukai (the overarching organisation in control of kendo before WWII) had been forcibly disbanded in 1946 due to it’s use as a tool of the military government during the war, budo was banned in public institutions (including schools and the military), and a new sportified form of “soft kendo” called Shinai Kyogi (national organisation started in 1950) was causing all sorts of concerns for orthodox kenshi.

Five years later, kendo was still lagging behind judo in terms of popularity, both at home and abroad. Part of the catch-up strategy was to establish a grading system on par with judo, that is, one that awarded grades up to 10th dan. In 1957 the fledgling organisation awarded it’s first four 10th dans by special committee.

This post and the pictures below are taken from an article published in the February 1958 edition of the Asahi Picture News. Supplemental biographical information or links to prior kenshi 24/7 articles are added below the translated sections.

Note that the article itself also features three judo 10th dans as well. I’ve omitted the judo parts.

Kendo Judan

The first kendo 10th dan’s have been born. Ever since the ZNKR was established in 1952 they have been looking at re-organising the grading system used by the now defunct Butokukai. This summer they explicitly set out their new system: grades up to 7th dan will be earned through examination, while those 8th dan and above will be awarded via recommendation and committee selection. The ZNKR has enthusiastically fashioned this renewed grading system in part because “compared to judo, kendo is relatively slow in reviving itself (after the post-war years).” Like this, it has awarded four 10th dan’s, five 9th dan’s, 48 8th dan’s, and 375 7th dan’s.

We visited the new 10th dan sensei at the height of the kangeiko season, please listen respectfully to their words.

Nakano Sosuke (74 years old)

Nakano Sosuke

“The purpose of kendo is to cultivate the spirit. It used to be that dojo etiquette was very strict, but it’s not that way nowadays. This is bad. I always tell the Chikuho high school kendo club students that I teach that they should be model students for their whole school.”

Nakano sensei, originally from Nagasaki, graduated from Kyoto’s Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseijo (the forerunner to Busen) when he was 21 (1906). He went on to become a kendo shihan for the Kyoto Police Department before moving to Fukuoka and taking the post as a prefectural Budo shihan. In 1935 he was awarded 9th dan and moved to Manchuria (55 years old). He returned to Japan during the war years.

His vocal cords were cut out due to throat cancer and now he cannot speak at all. His wife Kazyo-san spoke for him:

“The hardest thing for him is that because he has no voice he cannot kiai. However, keiko for him is what makes him most happy, if he couldn’t do keiko there would be no pleasure in living.”

Even now he gets up early every day at 6am and goes to teach at Chikuho high school kendo club.

This picture shows him thinking silently about his past.

His eldest son Munekatsu (50) is 6th dan, and his 2nd son Masakatsu (38) is 5th dan.

Extra bio:

1885: Born
1898: Began kendo under Takao hanshi in Nagasaki before going to Kyoto to study at the newly formed Butokukai HQ in Kyoto.
1905: The Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseijo started and Nakano was sent as a student of the first class.
1906: Graduated from the Yoseijo and appointed an assistant instructor.
1910: Awarded seirensho
1911: Becomes assistant instructor at Busen.
1916: Awarded kyoshi
1927: Awarded hanshi
1929, 1934, 1940*: Took part as shinpan and selected competitor in the specialist section of the Showa tenran-jiai.
1931: Becomes kendo shihan at the Japanese government in Korea.
1957: Awarded 10th dan by the newly formed ZNKR.
1963: Passed away.

* Nakano sensei demonstrated kendo with Saimura in 1934 and Mochida Seiji in 1940 at the tenran-jiai.

Ogawa Kinnosuke (73 years old)

Ogawa Kinnosuke

At about 173cms and over 75kgs Ogawa sensei is very robust:

“Even if I’m feeling a little bit under the weather I go to keiko and sweat it out. Nine years ago I unfortunately suffered from a bout of pneumonia but I’m in sound health now. When I went to the doctor he told me I was as healthy as someone in their 40s.”

Like this, you can see that Ogawa sensei is a very healthy senior citizen.

Ogawa sensei started to learn kendo when he was 13 years old at a dojo in his home town (Aichi prefecture, Iwakura-cho) called Seishinjuku. He studied there for 4 years.

In 1929 he was appointed the chief kendo instructor of the Butokukai in Kyoto.

After the war, in 1946, in addition to holding a public office, he became the kendo shihan of the Kyoto branch of the Imperial Guards. He still teaches there today.

During his career he has taught over 3000 students.

“Although people say we are entering a kendo boom nowadays, this is not the kendo that we developed before the war, it’s a sportified version. Those of the next generation that do proper kendo do not desire to practise in this manner.”

Even now Ogawa sensei doesn’t miss a days keiko and manages to do an hour of keiko without his breath becoming laboured.

“As you age you will lose to those more physically powerful than you. Use your partners power against them, and win through technique.”

Ogawa sensei’s only daughter Yukiko is a tea ceremony instructor and her husband Masayuki is kendo nanadan.

Extra bio:

See the prior kenshi 24/7 article.

Check out the kenshi 24/7 publication by Ogawa Kinnosuke sensei: Teikoku Kendo Kyohon, The Kendo Textbook of Imperial Japan.

Mochida Seiji (73 years old)

Mochida Seiji

“My father was the headman of a small village in Gifu prefecture and had his own dojo. He’d gather the local kids around and teach kendo in the dojo that he owned. Due to my father I started kendo when I was 6 years old. I didn’t really enjoy kendo but somehow I ended up on this path….”

In May 1929 on the grounds of the Imperial Palace 32 of the country’s elite kenshi competed in front of the Emperor. The final was between Mochida sensei and Takano Shigeyoshi sensei.

“Luckily I was able to win the fight but I will never forget that intense bout for the rest of my life. As a prize I was given a Bizen Osafune crafted sword from the Imperial Court.”

Mochida sensei get’s up at 5am everyday and goes to the nearby dojo for an hour of keiko. Even if 7th dan’s come to keiko with him he makes short work of them.

“Recently novels featuring strong swordsmen have increased in popularity, however they are filled with exaggeration. The primary secret to reaching the inner depths of swordsmanship is found in the cultivation of the soul and the spirit.”

Mochida sensei graduated from Kyoto’s Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseijo and is currently an honourary kendo shihan at Keishicho (Tokyo Metropolitan Police).

Extra bio:

1885: Born
1902-1907: Studied kendo at the Gifu prefecture sub-branch of the Butokukai. Trained for a short time in 1902 at Takano Sasaburo’s Meishinkan and Nakayama Hakudo’s Yushinkan.
1907: Sent to the Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseijo from the Gifu Butokukai.
1908: Graduates from the Yoseijo.
1909: Appointed an assistant instructor at the Yoseijo.
1911: Awarded seirensho. Becomes assistant instructor at Busen.
1919: Awarded kyoshi. Appointed head kendo teacher at the Chiba prefecture sub-branch of the Butokukai.
1922: Becomes a kendo teacher at Jigaro Kano’s/Takano Sasaburo’s Tokyo Shihan Gakko.
1925: Becomes kendo shihan at the Japanese government in Korea.
1927: Awarded hanshi.
1929: Took part as shinpan and competitor in the specialist section of the tenran-jiai, winning the specialist competition.
1931: Became the shihan of Noma dojo.
1934, 1940: Took part as shinpan and competitor in the specialist section of the tenran-jiai.
1957: Awarded 10th dan.
1964: Demonstrated kata at the Tokyo Olympics
1965: Awarded the Order of the Rising Sun
1974: Passed away.

Saimura Goro (71 years old)

Saimura Goro

Saimura sensei graduated from Kyoto’s Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseijo when he was 20, later becoming a kendo instructor at Busen, Kokushikan, and the Tokyo Imperial Guards. Currently he is an honourary kendo shihan at Keishicho. When he was younger he was famous for being strong willed and was feared so much he was nicknamed Kaminari Goro (“lightening Goro”).

“I was a bit rowdy when I was younger, so much so that I got kicked out of school for drinking too much (he infamously put a classmate in hospital after a fight). Afterwards I made amends and was lucky to be allowed to graduate….”

His family were shihan of the Kuroda clan (Fukuoka) and it’s this that inspired him to pick up the sword when he was 15.

“For the last 20 years I’ve been getting up every morning at 4:30am (3:30am during kangeiko season) and heading to keiko. However, recently my health hasn’t been so good so the doctor has told me to stop.

Young people nowadays don’t like to do anything difficult. I want to say to them that if you don’t try and experience something then you will never understand what it is. If you overcome difficulties through severe discipline it will definitely add something positive to your life. To those that are living in university lodgings and working hard at kendo, I guarantee you it will be worth it after you graduate.”

Extra bio:

See the prior kenshi 24/7 article.

In 1962 a further – and what was to be last ever – 10th dan was awarded: to Oasa Yuji sensei. Like the other sensei mentioned above, he too studied kendo at the Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseijo directly under Naito Takaharu sensei.

Oasa Yuji

1887: Born
1909-10: Entered the Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseiji
1915: Awarded seirensho.
1921-45: Instructor at the Saga prefecture Butokukai sub-branch.
1922: Awarded kyoshi.
1929, 1940: Took part as a competitor in the specialist section of the tenran-jiai.
1930: Sent to America for 6 months by the Butokukai to research sports education.
1936: Awarded hanshi.
1955: Became Saga prefecture kendo renmei president.
1962: Awarded 10th dan.
1974: Passed away.

In February 1974 the last two remaining 10th dans – Mochida and Oasa – passed away and after that it was never awarded again. It was not until 2000, however, when the ZNKR finally revised their rules and stopped the possibility of awarding either 9th or 10th dan.

Check out related article posted 5 and 1/2 years ago: A brief investigation into the SHOGO system


Pictures from the Asahi Picture News article.


Luckily we have video of the demonstration matches of all 5 of the sensei introduced here. These videos show their matches at the 1940 Tenran-jiai.

Nakano (l) vs Mochida (r):

Saimura (l) vs Ogawa (r):

Oasa Yuji can be seen on this video on the right vs Hotta Sutejiro (sorry, it can’t be embedded).



Big thanks !!! 感謝!

Two weeks today I released kenshi 24/7s latest publication, a complete English translation of Ogawa Kinnosuke sensei’s Teikoku Kendo Kyohon (The Kendo Textbook of Imperial Japan). In these last couple of weeks the book (both print and digital) has been picked up by dedicated kenshi from all across the globe, including:

America (about 20 states), Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK.
(these are only the countries for which I have statistics available)

I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who picked up the book – I’m positive that you’ll not only find it an important addition to your kendo library, but that it’s a book you will come back to again-and-again over the years.

If you could help get the word out to your kendo friends that would be amazing! For example, by taking the book to the dojo and passing it around, and/or by sharing a link to the books dedicated page. Cheers!


Just in case you haven’t seen the book yet…

Excerpts from a testimonial:

George has done it again! The Teikoku Kendo Kyohon is his latest contribution to the English-speaking kendo community, and it really is an excellent work. Similar to kenshi247’s previous release, The Kendo Reader, this is also a translation of a pre-World War II kendo manual…

I think that is where the true value of the Teikoku Kendo Kyohon lies; in the insight it provides into where modern kendo came from…

Ogawa-sensei was an incredibly important figure in shaping kendo today, and this book is a major part of that influence. If you are interested in the history of kendo and how it has evolved, then this book is an absolute must-read….

Read the rest of the review here.

Sneak peak:

For full information including pictures and information about formats etc, please check out the books dedicated page on our publication website,

Eikenkai June 2015 英剣会

Eikenkai is a kenshi 24/7 led kihon-heavy keiko session that takes place usually every couple of months in central Osaka.

Yesterday’s session (Sunday the 28th of June) was held at our usual venue Sumiyoshi Budokan, which is right next to the beautiful Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine. It seemed like a nice cool day until I got to the dojo itself and realised it was boiling! A few regular members were not in attendance due to the All Japan University Championships taking place over the weekend in Osaka, but that didn’t stop around 20 people getting together for Eikenkai’s trademark tough kihon session.

After stretching and doing suburi we did around about 40 minutes of kihongeiko, including a few rounds of kirikaeshi and uchikomi. After a short break for some water, we did 25 minutes of waza practise (focusing mainly on oji-waza) before going straight into an hour of jigeiko. Pretty much everyone was dead by the end of it!

To finish up a small handful of us popped out to the local okonomiyaki restaurant for food, a few beers, and lots of kendo chat.

Our next regular keiko will be held on the 13th of September at Sumiyoshi Budokan. We will, however, be holding a special session at a different venue far to the south of Osaka on August the 30th. If you are interested in coming along to either session please (after reading and understanding the “Points to note before joining a session”) get in touch. The regular session will be advertised on facebook as normal, but the special one won’t.

The awesome black and white pics below are courtesy of Aussie ex-pat Andy over in Nagoya. Check his work out online at Kendo Monochrome.

Teikoku Kendo Kyohon – The Kendo Textbook of Imperial Japan 帝国剣道教本

The latest kenshi 24/7 publication has been released: a translation of Ogawa Kinnosuke sensei’s Teikoku Kendo Kyohon (The Kendo Textbook of Imperial Japan). I am a bit bias, but I have to say that the book is amazing, not just in content, but in format as well… I’m super excited to release it!

When this book was published in the 1930s, Ogawa sensei was the head instructor of the Budo Senmon Gakko (Busen), the school run by the Dai-Nippon Butokukai, the largest and most influential martial arts organisation in Japan. Busen was a teacher-training college and the premier place to study kendo prior to the war. It’s graduates taught kendo all over Japan (before and after the war) and it’s not too much to say that what was taught there – about the philosophy of kendo as well as it’s execution – forms the basis of the kendo that we do today in the 21st century.

Here’s a sneak peak:

For full information including pictures and information about formats etc, please check out the books dedicated page on our publication website,

BIG THANKS to all of kenshi 24/7 readers for your continued support over the years, cheers!!


Don’t forget that we have a suite of great publications available at

16th World Kendo Championships 第16回世界剣道選手権大会

I cannot, just by telling you about it, convince you of the pleasure of what happens at such as festival as well as you would learn for yourself, sitting in the middle of the crowd watching the arete of men and physical beauty, amazing conditioning, and great skill and irresistible force and daring and pride and unbeatable determination and indescribable passion for victory. I know that you would not stop praising and cheering and applauding.

Lucian (ca, 120-190 CE), Anacharsis (Athletics)

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the World Kendo Championships, held in the Nippon Budokan, Tokyo. I attended as neither competitor nor spectator, but as a volunteer staff member for the All Japan Kendo Association (ZNKR), which was a new – and eye opening – experience for me. In particular I got to see how things operated (specifically the media side of things), plus was privy to not a few highly interesting (and secret!) conversations. I also met a Japanese imperial princess, but that’s a story to be had over a beer or two. Due to my work situation I was only onsite on days 2 and 3.

I won’t bother detailing the flow of the competition nor the results – you can find all those on the official page or from your friends. My main goal with this post is simply to share some pictures and chat briefly about my experience.

Day 2: ladies individuals and teams

I rolled up to the Budokan just before 7am and was in for a long day: I didn’t leave until around 9pm. Other volunteers where there longer than that. This day was mostly spent acclimatising to the role so I didn’t walk around or take as many pictures as I did on the last day (which I now regret).

The highlight (!?!?) of the day was a large-ish earthquake that happened in the middle of the ladies award ceremony. The Budokan shook back-and-forth quite a lot and the ceremony was suspended for a few moments to ensure everything was ok. In Kansai we don’t experience quite as many earthquakes as they do in the Kanto region, so I was far from impressed!

Here are some pictures from the day…

Day 3: mens teams

This day saw the largest turnout spectator-wise, especially from the afternoon. I spent some pre-opening ceremony time watching the warmup of a few teams. The warmup area was in an ad-hoc tent that was set up in what I believe was part of the parking area! When the competition started proper I did some wandering around taking random shots, both of the shiai itself and of other stuff that was going on in and around the Budokan.

One thing that (happily!) surprised me over the day was the realisation just how technically proficient some of the teams have become over the last decade I’ve been in Japan, especially some of the European ones. There was some really athleticism on display as well as some precisely executed waza and nice seme-ai. Watching some of the tall and muscular young guys I started to feel inadequate!!

Check out some pictures…


Team snaps (random):


Behind the scenes

I spent a lot of my volunteering time posting on twitter, taking pictures for flickr, uploading stuff to the kenshi 24/7 facebook page, and monitoring Ustream comments. One thing I’d like everyone to know is that this is a massive operation, especially the Ustream -> YouTube process. Although there is a lot of self-automation, there is constant manual monitoring and intervention if required. It’s really quite impressive how something that was live-streamed a few moments ago get’s shifted to YouTube so quickly. There were also ippon collections and slo-motion vids that got uploaded super speedily.

Although some people had problem watching Ustream, most didn’t. The former we couldn’t really help as any strangling/blocking of the streams were happening at their end. Why some ISPs blocked some channels but left others open I have no idea. At any rate, those that couldn’t see things live could wait a few moments and see the recorded version on YouTube anyway… if they had the patience!

At the same time as all this was happening the scores were being recorded digitally and fed into the official tournament system. Part of this system also updated the official site the instant a point was made (input). It was all rather cool.

Although it was a very exhausting couple of days for me (and I didn’t even work that hard!!), I consider myself lucky that I was allowed so much access to what was going on. I think we need to thank the ZNKR and it’s team of volunteers for going to so much effort.

Some pics from behind the scenes…


To tell you the truth, more than watching the competition itself, I got a lot more joy just walking around, taking pictures, meeting some very old friends, and chatting to new people. Quite a few people came up to me and said “Are you George?” and thanked me for kenshi 24/7… which was unexpected but very nice!

Of course, I did watch a lot of the matches, and I not only enjoyed them immensely but came away with a new found respect for the increase in technical ability shown by everyone. This – assuming it is coupled with a deep understanding of the culture of kendo – can only lead to bright things for the future of kendo. Exciting times!!!!


Special thanks go out to Paul Carruthers from Newcastle who kindly donated a couple of spare tickets for day 3. I managed to get both tickets into needy hands pretty quickly (one person from Hong Kong, another from Osaka) – cheers Paul, I owe you a beer!