The following is a loose translation of a short essay from a book entitled “Kendo: the route to promotion.” There are two books in the same series, each containing about 60 short essays by people who have passed hachidan. In the essays the sensei discuss their mindset and approach to the exam.
Of course, the vast majority of people who pass hachidan do kendo as part of their job (i.e. policemen or teachers) so their experience might not seem immediately relevant to your average kendoka. However, I do think there are some things to be learned from other peoples journey, whether some circumstances are different or not.
From the 120 or so essays over the two books, I picked a sensei who I personally know and have studied under for a while.
Continue reading My route to hachidan 八段への道筋
Today’s article is a short translation piece from the venerable Ogawa Chutaro sensei (1901-1992). Not only was Ogawa sensei kendo hanshi kyudan (teaching posts at Kokushikan and Keishicho) and an Itto-ryu and Jikishinkage-ryu swordsman, he was also one of the few distinguished kenshi known to have a truly deep involvement in buddhism. I think only Yamaoka Tesshu and Omori Sogen top him in this regard. His ideas about the purpose of kendo as well as his rationale for practising budo, was influenced heavily by this, and can be seen in The Concept of Kendo, which he helped write.
I’m not sure if you will be interested in the translation, but it spoke to me on a private level. I hope you enjoy it.
Continue reading Ichinen-fusho 一念不生
When the Tokugawa-Bakufu was dismantled in 1867/68 budo education was thrown into turmoil: gone were the domain schools as well as the short-lived Kobusho, and with that budo instructors suddenly lost their profession. Many (now ex-) samurai were suddenly jobless and facing destitution. One person that stepped up to help these people was the ex-samurai, Kobusho kenjutsu instructor, and Jikishinkage-ryu kenshi Sakakibara Kenkichi. He instituted what was called “Gekken-kogyo” – the highly popular public budo shows. “Gekken” refers to the nascent form of what we now call kendo. Although mainly sword-based shows, bouts with other weapons also occurred, and women and even foreigners are also recorded to have taken part.
Gekken Kogyo, July 2013
Continue reading Kendo art 剣道美術品
Coming to Japan to study kendo, the first thing you look for is a good dojo. In English as well as Japanese (nowadays) the word “dojo” also has the implied meaning of “group” or “club,” which goes beyond the mere physical location suggested by the word itself (see this article from 2011). Although there are many “dojo” in Japan that practise in school gyms or sports centres, I have always been lucky in that every group I belonged to have always had their own dojo (actually, one is owned by the prefecture and rented by the group – also not uncommon here in Japan).
Sadly, however, one group that I have been a member of for almost 15 years now, was forced out of it’s dojo in July of this year… which has inspired todays brief post.
Continue reading Farewell – the sad demise of local dojo さらば – 町道場の死滅
I picked up my first nama-kiji dou in 2015, as a sort of present to myself. Up until that time – unbelievably – I’d never had a bamboo dou. There were a couple of reasons why I didn’t get one: the main one being economic, and the second that I thought that (somehow) a bamboo dou would be really heavy (not necessarily true).
With these reasons in mind I never really thought about buying one until one day I walked into my local kendo shop and – boom – there was a beautiful bamboo dou-dai sitting on top of the counter. Within about 3 minutes I said “I’ll take it!” It was pure impulse buy.
Continue reading Mokumoku shugyo 黙々修行