British Pathé – kendo !

British Pathé have finally released their archive on youtube including some kendo videos for us enthusiasts to wonder at (they had been available on their own website and in lower quality for a few years now). The vids span the years from WW1 up until 1974 and are an extremely valuable source for those interested in the historical development of kendo.

The post-war vids in particular show just how ad-hoc kendo was in the UK during the ’60s and ’70s (or even – dare I say it – how made-up it all was). This is valuable in many respects, not in the least because Britain was one of the earliest European countries to adopt kendo. Of course, I’d love to compare these videos to kendo from other countries around the same time frame.

(Actually, did you know that the first ever kendo manual in English was published in 1964? The book was called “An Introduction to Kendo” and it was written by R.A. Lidstone, an early British kendo pioneer. He passed away in 1969 but must have been at least partly responsible for the teaching and dissemination of kendo to the people in these videos.)

Anyway, my favourite vid from the Pathé bunch is the 1932 “Big Hits” one… mainly because the gentlemen in the video looks like he is having a great time !!

“Interesting Wrestling” 1914-18 (Kendo aboard a navy ship during WW1)

“Big hits” 1932

“Japs On The Jump” 1932 (sorry, thats the original title)

“Judo and Kendo” 1936

“England Expects Every Man To Do His Judo” 1937 (kendo demonstration at the end)

“Biff!” 1937

“Kendo Beware” 1962

“Kendo Beware” 1966

“Kendo Beware” 1966 OUT TAKES (no sound)

“Karate Championships” 1969 (kendo starts at the 40 second mark)

“Kendo in London” 1974 (no sound, film reversed)

Takano Shigeyoshi hanshi’s 50 pointers for kendo keiko 高野茂義の稽古心得集

The following is a translation of a collection of things to be careful about during keiko by Takano Shigeyoshi entitled “Keiko kokoro tokushu.” It is a mostly random collection of kendo hints – things to be careful of, things to do, things not to do, comments about waza, etc. Some of the content is a bit dated but thats fine – it serves to illustrate both how kendo has and has not changed over the years as well as being a useful list of pointers.

I found the Japanese text online (see here) where it states that it was a document handed down to the owner of the homepage. Takano Shigeyoshi wrote only one book to my knowledge (and then it was published way after his death) and the list is not in there. I have no reason to doubt that it’s not Shigeyoshi’s work as it’s highly possible it was a not-for-sale publication (it’s reasonably common to privately record renowned sensei’s teachings in books like this after their death – I have 2 myself) or perhaps even from some private correspondence… it could even be taken from a students notes, I don’t know. Anyway, I believe Takano Shigeyoshi to be one of those highly influential pre-WW2 kenshi who’s impact is relatively unknown today – inside or outside of Japan -possibly due to his long spell in Manchuria but more probably because of his lack of written output. It’s for this reason that I am presenting it now.

The picture at the top shows Takano Sasaburo (left) and Shigeyoshi (right) performing kendo no kata in Saitama circa 1934.

Collection of pointers for keiko

1. Beginners practise should be short, use large movements, and be with full spirit.

2. You should always aim to have a correct posture and manner at all times.

3. In kendo, posture is of utmost importance. If you have a bad posture then you are not doing kendo.

4. In chudan no kamae your right foot must not face outwards. People with posture like this will never improve no matter how much keiko they do.

5. Be sure to point your left thumb down when gripping the shinai.

6. In chudan no kamae the left hand should be held at the height of the belly button and a little bit forward from it and the right should be placed lightly on the shinai. Although the left hands grip should never be relaxed, only at the moment of impact should you squeeze with the right hand and put power into it. If you constantly put power into your right hand then you will be unable to execute a good strike.

7. There are people who, immediately after standing up from sonkyo, move to the right – this is bad (your kensen becomes weaker). It’s important to move forward at this time, even if it’s only the big toe of your right foot.

8. When you move your front foot out the back foot must follow. In the same way, when you move back on your back foot then the front foot must follow.

9. It’s not good to fight from close distance.

10. You should aim to strike from as far a distance as possible.

11. If beginners concentrate on learning men and kote then they will naturally be able to do tsuki and dou.

12. You must defeat your enemy first by seme then striking, not simply striking (with no seme).

13. Leading with your right foot strike the enemy. At this time be sure that your right foot doesn’t land before the strike,

14. It’s not good to raise your front foot up too much when stamping. Aim for your foot to skim across the floor.

15. Try to remove the enemies kensen from aiming in your direction before striking.

16. There are no chance to strike other than when your opponent attempts to strike you or when he moves back (even a light debana kote is still ippon).

17. After you acquire kendo to a certain extent, then you should make an effort to research/study body movement / footwork. When the front foot moves the back foot must follow.

18. If you see an opening in your enemies kamae lower your kensen and pressure their right fist. While they are protecting this area you can cut or thrust them.

19. When moving your kensen down to pressure your enemy be wary of moving your hips down at the same time – in fact, it would be better if you actually went forward half a step with the feeling of overpowering them. If they attempt to retreat at this time immediately strike men (alternatively seme their right fist then thrust).

20. Kirikaeshi is for the benefit of removing unneeded power from the shoulders. Without moving your shoulders up bring both hands above your head (high enough so that you can see the enemy) and from here cut either side of the head to around about the 3rd bar on the mengane. Be careful of not striking flatly (horizontally) and ensure that your kensen touches your back. But this is only half of the story. The receivers job is to pull out the best from their partner so they should receive with the a light feeling, never a hard “striking” one. Also, receivers should always encourage attackers to strike whilst moving forwards, so they should move back, and even move circular if need be. When the attacker seems to have spent their energy then allow them to strike a final men. Be sure that the attackers last men is done from the correct distance so to strike with the monouchi (itto-issoku). You can allow them a little pause for a breath if need be. This last men is very important as it’s the type of men that is likely to be executed during a shiai.

21. Do keiko as if you were in danger of being cut or thrust.

22. Be constantly careful of distance during keiko. It’s important to try and always have the feeling of striking first: when you think you see a chance, even if you think you won’t execute a successful strike, you should step forward and attack.

23. Try to strike the enemies intention to attack with as small a strike as possible.

24. If you think about striking then it’s already too late. When the thought occurs you should already have struck.

25. When striking ensure that your right hand is fully stretched and that your footwork, stomach, and arms are acting in unison.

26. When you perform taiatari do so with the feeling of pushing the enemies arms upward.

27. In chudan no kamae, if the enemy comes forwards and attacks then you should use their strike and turn it back on them. Your feeling should always be “sen-sen-no-sen” and, no matter how difficult the situation may be, you should always be ready to respond to their attack, even if it is bad.

28. When the enemy comes forwards and strikes step forward without breaking your kamae and keep your kensen in the centre line. You should display the feeling neither that you have been cut or not cut.

29. After striking men don’t lift your hands above your head, instead you must express zanshin.

30. If the enemy attacks you, don’t step to the side and strike their shinai away, instead execute suriage and strike.

31. When you strike hikimen, don’t lift your hands above your head immediately after striking.

32. When striking kote, don’t move your body to the left or the right, instead strike straight forward.

33. Block with the monouchi when your right kote is attacked. Block with the middle of the shinai when your left kote is attacked. When your men is attacked block by lifting straight up, don’t hit to the side.

34. If you don’t have power in your stomach when moving back after a hikigote, then it won’t be considered ippon.

35. If the enemy attempts to tsuki you don’t move back but forwards.

36. After striking right-dou you must express zanshin and carefully look at your opponent.

37. Pushing down on the enemies kensen – if they don’t respond then simply strike men. If they push back, then go underneath their shinai and strike from the other side (ura).

38. When the enemy attacks men wait until the last second – until their arms are at full stretch – and hit their dou (kaeshi or nuki). Kote (debana) is executed in the same manner.

39. When you want to hit the enemies men slightly press down on their kensen and, moving yourself out of the centre line slightly and without lifting the shinai/arms up, strike men in a small motion. (editor: this description is a little bit hard to understand)

40. It’s not good to strongly hit the enemies sword from the ura side. Rather, you should lightly press down on their shinai’s omote side and always keep yourself on the centre line.

41. When you are pressuring the enemy by circling your sword under theirs and attacking their men and they decide to strike kote, simply stretch your hands forward (it won’t become an ippon).

42. In jodan no kamae don’t grip the shinai tightly – do so only at the moment you strike.

43. If the enemy is in jodan and you are in chudan protect yourself with the feeling that your left kote is your tsuba. If you step forward with this feeling you cannot be struck.

44. Lifting your hands up when being attacked from jodan means you will be struck. Instead, protect your right kote using your kensen.

45. In jodan no kamae, if you move back or become passive, then you have been defeated.

46. When you are in ai-jodan and the enemy goes to strike your kote don’t twist your upper body or pull your hands back, instead move out of the way using footwork then immediately launch a counter attack.

47. When tired everyone tends to breathe through their mouths using up all their energy reserves. Instead, keep the mouth closed and breathe through the nose.

48. Don’t do keiko only for your own benefit. Be prepared to keiko for your partners benefit as well.

49. There are two ways to see. One is to use your eyes, the other to use your heart (spirit). Seeing with the eyes only is small and is apt to error whereas seeing with the heart is vast and allows you to perceive not only the the state of the enemy, but to predict things before they happen. In fact, perceiving in this manner is a great benefit to your life as a whole, above and beyond kendo.

50. In the beginning use a long shinai (4 shaku 5 sun) then, as your grit and determination is tempered through hard training, move to a shorter shinai. Yamaoka Tesshu began with a long shinai then shortened it more and more. Finally he reached a point where a shinai was no longer needed.

(Editor: At the end there is simple list of terms: these show the flow from pre-attack to post-attack. I’ve put the terms in bold then – in my own words – described what they refer to.)

Wazamae – Preparedness. This term refers to what you do before you attack in particular the semeai. In other words, how the kensen is used to feel out the opponent, tapping, hitting, slapping, pushing, wrapping, etc their shinai, your footwork, use of the voice, etc.

Semete (Kuraiseme) – Pressure (presence). This is the pressure applied to the opponent. Sometimes this is done by movement, sometimes by spirit alone.

Gamanshite – Endurance. Don’t be rash – take your time, don’t be in a hurry.

Yudansezu – Carefulness. Often people are struck because they make a mistake.

Handanyoku – Careful judgement. You must be able to read the situation, to understand when to do what and how to react to unexpected situations.

Ketsudanshite – Decisiveness. Once a decision is made then you need to act on it without hesitation.

Suteminite – Attack. When attacking do so with no regard to success or failure. Throw your whole spirit and body into the cut.

Uchikiru – Finalization. Be sure and finish the cutting or thrusting action, don’t stop half way.

Zanshin – Awareness. After the strike keep calm and be ready to respond to any counter attack.


As always, please remember that translation is an art and not a science. Ten different people may translate even something simple ten different ways depending on their own particular interpretations and experience/background on the matter at hand.


Bogu review: All Japan Budogu’s Guardian

Note that this bogu set is now no longer in production. To see more bogu like this please visit the All Japan Budogu website directly.

I very rarely do reviews of equipment on this site… and, in fact, this is actually the first bogu review I’ve ever done. The reason why I’m doing one now is pretty simple: my friend Andy* asked me!! Since Andy has come to Japan I’ve helped support his forays into the kendo equipment business (through posting a link here and there as well as banner placement on this site and an odd advert in my publications), and he has reciprocated by giving me equipment now and then. Last December Andy asked me to write a review for it a new bogu (actually, a re-working of an older model) here on kenshi 24/7, and at the end of February it arrived.

Although Andy is a good friend of mine it’s important to me that information on this site is presented as accurately as possible… and that extends to reviews like this. What you are reading here is my honest opinion.

Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s move on.

* Andy is the boss of the international sales division of All Japan Budogu

What I look for in a bogu set

I’m a simple guy and not into colourful set’s of armour with flash designs or with diamond encrusting. I’m not interested in sticking out. I believe that bogu is a tool and has a job, and as such my basic needs are these:

1. Does it fit me?
2. Will it deal with the daily wear and tear of hard keiko?
3. Do I look like a serious kendo practitioner?

Other things I pay attention to (but are secondary to the above) are:

4. Is it worth the money?
5. Is it overly heavy?

Thats basically it. As you can see, I am more concerned with the utility of bogu rather than the specifics of the materials used, and I prefer a subdued look rather than a flash design. Bearing these things in mind, let me discuss the bogu.

All Japan Pitch® – GUARDIAN (2014 version)

So the armour I received was the renewed version of the All Japan Pitch® – GUARDIAN bogu set. The link above has the full product description from which the following sections caught my attention:

“as well as featuring all of the same lightweight, quick-drying and comfortable features of our All Japan Pitch series, GUARDIAN has been especially designed to given an extra element of protection… we have increased the padding in the areas that are frequently stricken with the Shinai, which gives the Bogu set an added appeal to those who often act as Motodachi…”


“In addition… GUARDIAN is light, flexible and comfortable, making it perfect not only for daily practice, but well suited to travel… Designed with keeping a traditional, dignified appearance in mind…”

So, lightweight and flexible yet protective with a dignified appearance? Sounds good. I’ve used the set for over a month now in a few different settings – the following is a quick discussion of the individual parts followed by a summary at the end.

Men 面

First of all, the men that I received fitted perfectly – having someone take your specifications and hand you a men to those exact standards is 1/2 of the battle.

As the description states, the men is extremely light and dries very quickly (I put outside in direct sunlight). The men is so light, in fact, that before I wore it I worried whether it would stand up to sessions where I was mostly motodachi. After going through a few keiko’s of this type, however, I’m happy to say that it did a good job – better, in fact, than my old expensive men with a thick padded insert in the top.

I have to mention the lightness again: there have been times during keiko I’ve almost forgot I was wearing it. Compared to my other men (I have 4 or 5 others) it’s a different beast – in a good way.

My only concern was an aesthetic one: the mendare are a little shorter than I prefer. However, a shorter style is common nowadays in Japan – and some other men have even shorter mendare – so it could just me being an old man!

Bonus: the subdued menchichigawa are excellent! I didn’t specify anything particular for the menchigawa, Andy just stuck something in that was my style… and I like them.

Kote 小手

The kote, like the men, are light and dry quickly. They are flexible yet protective. When I first tried them on I immediately thought that they were too big, but after only 10 minutes of keiko they seemed to mould to my hands. No complaints here – I’d easily spend my own money for another pair of these (in fact, I will).

Again, I have a minor – easily solved – aesthetic concern: my name tag on the kote is massive!!! I don’t mind the “All Japan” branding on the kote at all, but a giant “MCCALL” is a little bit distracting. Next time I get some of these kote I will either a) get my name embroidered in more subdued colour, b) simply get my initials embroidered; or c) have no embroidery on the kote at all. Well, at least no one will steal them!!

Dou 胴

The dou is a standard Yamato dou and I don’t think is particular to this set. I almost always get my dou in ISHIME or pebble-dash style because it’s less shiny and doesn’t stick out so much.

Tare 垂れ

Again, like the men and kote, the tare is soft, flexible, fast drying, and protective. Looks good, fits well, and does its job = happy George.

In conclusion

Basically, the set does what it states in the description: its very light, flexible, and it offers good protection; it dries fast, and looks subdued. Thats 1, 2, 3, and 5 of my list right there.

Number 4, is it worth the money? The set retails for $695, which is about 70,000 yen – would I pay that for this set of armour? Yeah, I would. The most expensive bogu set I have bought thus far was 250,000 – over 3 times as much – but I think that this Guardian set does the same job and, in fact, is better in many ways.

This summer I am returning home to the UK to see family and friends. Of course, I’m planning to do kendo as well. I usually borrow armour when I go home because its too much hassle to lug heavy equipment from Japan 1/2 way across the world – this time, however, because the bogu is so light, I am taking it with me. Instead of struggling uncomfortably in another persons bad-fitting armour I’ll at last be able to do my normal kendo at home.

The only dissenting thing I can say about the set are the minor aesthetic points I raised above (these are just my personal preferences). However, neither of these will stop me from using the set nor recommending it for others.

Lastly, I’ve added in a couple of pictures of yours truly in action wearing the set so that you can get a better ‘feel’ for it. The pic at the top of the page and the 2 below are from a large godogeiko session at Osaka university during March. I don’t particularly like posting pictures of myself, but this time it can’t be helped!

For more information check out the information page or visit All Japan Budogu’s facebook page.


Takano Shigeyoshi hanshi’s jodan 高野茂義の上段

Takano Shigeyoshi: A very brief bio

Takano Shigeyoshi was born in Mito in 1877 (family name Chigusa). When he was 14 he enrolled in Tobukan and began to study kendo under Ozawa Torakichi. His father, himself a renowned swordsman, died the same year and Shigeyoshi ended up being looked after by the dojo. Eventually he was given some money and, with a pat on the back, told to go to Tokyo to continue his pursuit of kendo. This led him to Takano Sasaburo whose student he became in 1895. In 1900 Shigeyoshi was adopted by Sasaburo and took over the teaching and running duties of Urawa Meishinkan. In 1914 he accepted a kendo teaching position in Manchuria where he remained until after WW2. He took part in the 1929 and 1934 Tenran shiai, as a competitor in the kendo specialists section of the former (he lost the final to Mochida Seiji), and shinpan and special-shiai embusha in the latter (his partner was Nakayama Hakudo – their shiai is picture at the top of the post). He died in 1957.

Renowned as a strong kenshi in his own lifetime, he was especially known for his fearless jodan. The loose translation presented below is from his own words.

Around about 1897 there was a match between Kaiho Shin (son of Kaiho Hanpei: student of Chiba Shusaku, Hokushin itto-ryu menkyo-kaiden, and Mito-han bushi) and Naito Takaharu which I watched with Shimoe Hidetaro (a famous and influential Meiji-era Hokushin itto-ryu kenshi). Kaiho, in jodan, was attacked fiercely by Naito from chudan. However Kaiho stuck to jodan kamae and acted undisturbed, patiently avoiding and dealing with the brunt of Naito’s attacks. His jodan was extremely impressive and I thought “Ah, this is what you would expect of the son of Kaiho Hanpei!”

After the match, while Kaiho was cleaning the sweat from his face, he turned to Shimoe: “Sensei, what do you think? Should I give up jodan?” Shimoe shook his head and said “Your jodan is different from others, keep practising in that manner.”

Although Shimoe sensei didn’t say to me explicitly, I had the strong impression that he believed that jodan kamae cannot be taken by just anyone – you need a certain dignity in both body movement and spirit, and perhaps must even come from a (blood) line of expert swordsmen.

The shape of jodan no kamae is one where there is many openings to be attacked, so you must have strong confidence over-and-above your enemies, and use this to proactively and aggressively attack them. That is to say, you must (spiritually) look down upon your enemy. Some people master this by hard training/discipline, others by being born with such a nature. Kaiho was someone who acquired this manner naturally – it was in his blood.

In the past, if you took jodan no kamae when facing a sempai you always said “Shitsurei saseteitadakimasu” (excuse me for being rude). This was an unwritten rule of etiquette. Nowadays this fine custom has been disappearing and – what is worse – I’ve started to see people that cannot even do kendo in chudan to a decent level take jodan unashamedly. Not only is there the phrase “Not knowing one’s own level,” but seeing people like this gives me a worried feeling.

I was initiated into the true way of jodan first through Shimoe sensei, then through Takano Sasaburo sensei. I acquired my understanding through hard discipline at the feet of these two sensei. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but the fact that my jodan was learnt in such a manner is something I can brag about.

The most essential thing required for good jodan is good use of the back/trunk (core). Whether its something like Sumo or Judo, one of the most basic elements is how you use this core area, especially so in kendo where use of the area is emphasised. From chudan, to move into jodan simply move your hands up without any specially effort. Recently I’ve seen people kamae leaning over, or even with the bottom of the tsuka sticking out from their left hands. People who strike from these situations cannot hit with power. I’ve also seen people who move their kamae up and down, subsequently their kensaki has no composure and they look undignified. People who kamae with a bent back are doing jodan (the word “jodan” here is a play on words between jodan 冗談 – a joke – and jodan 上段- the kamae – the point being that people who kamae in this manner are a joke). That there are many people doing this joke-jodan unabashedly while at the same time acting like they are some sort of strong kenshi is really a deplorable state of affairs.

In the final of the 1934 Tenran-jiai I used jodan, but it was never by plan to do so at the start (perhaps in front of the Emperor and in amongst such distinguished kenshi he felt it was rude to do so?) but on the first day – when I was up against Kondo kyoshi, the representative from Taiwan, in the preliminary rounds – I somehow injured my right knee. “This is no good” I thought and – having no other option – I went in to jodan. By concentrating on pressuring my opponents slowly and steadily I didn’t have to move so much, and in this way I was able to win my matches despite my injury.

By the way, watching shiai nowadays I notice that – even for people in chudan – that there are few people who attack when their opponent presents an opening, or who break their opponents posture then attack, that is to say, there are few competitors that follow the principles of the sword – they just shout out “Yaaaaaaa,” randomly attack their opponent, and touch them lightly. Disappointedly, these are awarded ippon. Real shiai are not like described above: before striking your first have to pressure and pull out the enemies weak point then execute the winning strike. If this strike is weak or light then you must move to the next strike and, if that is again light, the next. That is to say, execution of attacks should be smooth and effortless, like flowing water.

In my latter years when I was facing my students in jodan I would warn them before attacking and say “I’m going after your men!” or “I’m going to get your kote!” This isn’t something I learnt from Shimoe sensei, but rather – after years and years of kendo discipline, experimentation, and research (gaining a sense of dignity through this) – I discovered my own method of teaching my students.



University invitational shiai 大学招待試合

One of the busiest times of the year for my high school kendo club is in March due to the amount of university invitational shiai we attend. These types of shiai are when university kendo clubs invite a number of high school kendo clubs to come to their university for a day of kendo. These competitions are basically commercials for both the university and it’s kendo club: “Look at our wonderful campus!” – “Our kendo club has a 90 year history!” – etc. The shiai are staffed by current members of the university club with shinpan duties and other senior tasks handled by a combination of current members and graduates (occasionally high school students have to referee).

Since these competitions are not formal there is no official representation by the high school kendo association and as such the refereeing can be a bit more relaxed than normal (university students are generally bad shinpan!!). Due to the invitational nature of the shiai high schools from different prefectures sometimes have a chance to face one another (something that happens less frequently than you may imagine).

The highlight of these types of competition tends to be the (often short, always hectic) godo-geiko session afterwards. These are a free for all: high school students, university students, high school kendo teachers, university kendo teachers, and university graduates all mixed up in a mosh-pit like keiko session.

Since these type of shiai don’t really happen outside of Japan I thought I’d share a little bit of information about them as well as put up a handful of pictures so you can get a feel for it. Also, check the video out at the bottom. Enjoy!

Here is a video clip of the same invitational shiai from back in 2012 (different hall):