Monna Tadashi 門奈正

(the picture above shows (l-r): Monna Tadashi, Sasaki Masanori, Naito Takaharu)

Along with his friend and fellow Tobukan/Hokushin Itto-ryu kenshi Naito Takaharu, Monna Tadashi (1855-1930) was one of the most influential swordsmen in modern kendo’s early period. At Busen they were known as the pair: “Waza Monna” and “Ki Takaharu.”

The Monna family were hereditary retainers of Mito-han and Tadashi was his parents 4th child (out of 8). The period was a tumultuous one, and his family didn’t escape involvement in political matters: his father became involved in intrigue and eventually died during political imprisonment. Due to this the eldest brother committed seppuku and the other brothers yet to reach manhood (including Tadashi) were confined to house arrest.

Tadashi was under house arrest from 10-15 years of age. After his release, Tadashi studied Suifu-ryu kenjutsu, attaining Menkyo-kaiden in the art before joining Tobukan in around 1881. There he studied Hokushin Itto-ryu and Shin-Tamiya ryu battojutsu as well as shinai kendo under Ozawa Torakichi. At Tobukan he also received instruction under Shimoe Hidetaro (a student of Chiba Shusaku) and in 1888, due to the influence of Ozawa and Shimoe, Tadashi went to Tokyo and began teaching kendo at Keishicho (eventually with Naito).

In 1894 he was sent with the other kendo teachers from Keishicho to take part in the First Sino-Japanese war (they were sent to the Korean peninsula). During a particular battle in Pyongyang, he is said to have spearheaded an attack and killed 28 Chinese soldiers (with a sword presumably).

In 1899 (while Naito joined the Dai-Nippon-Butokukai) Tadashi moved to the Kanagawa police department and worked hard to establish the Dai-Nippon Butokukai Kanagawa branch. He was awarded Seirensho the same year.

In 1907 he joined Naito at Busen and became a kendo instructor here.

1911/1912 he was involved in the committee for development of kendo-no-kata.

In 1913, at the same time as Naito Takaharu and Takano Sasaburo, he was awarded hanshi.

Scandal ?

In 1919 Tadashi was dismissed from Busen and moved to the Butokukai’s branch school in Nagoya – seemingly for having a relationship with a Geisha from Gion 37 years his junior. In Nagoya he continued to teach kendo but led a secluded life with his paramour until his death.

He is buried in Nanzen-ji temple in Kyoto.

Back line (l-r): Takano, Naito, Monna

Sources

This article is basically a quick translation of some secondary material simple to introduce someone whose picture many kendo people have seen and hopefully to spur some interest in the people that helped develop modern kendo.

水戸東武館一三〇年誌。
明治撃剣家 春風館立ち切り誓願。堂本昭彦。

SEME #3 and 4: Nishikawa Kiyonori and Sueno Eiji

The following is a short translation of a couple of famous sensei’s description of SEME.

SEME #3: Nishikawa Kiyonori

“With the extension of your kensen aimed between your opponents throat and chest area keep your kamae in the center. Without hitting or striking the opponents shinai, lightly stick your shinai to theirs. If your opponent tries to take the center, slightly push your shinai back on theirs (and re-take control). If they continue to try and take the centre lower your kensen to around about the height of their solar plexus and check their shinai in place.

When you are driving in for the attack be especially careful of your footwork and hip movement, and ensure that your feeling (of attack) is expressed out through your kensen towards the opponent. When you get into striking distance you must not attack straightaway; rather, keep the driving feeling as it is and watch the opponent. In the instant that they start to move, strike them.”

Nishikawa sensei is the main teacher at Keishicho, the top kendo police institute in the country. He studied under many of the countries leading kenshi, including Morishima Tateo. He has won the All Japan Kendo championships 3 times (+runner-up once, third place 3 times), the 8dan senbatsu championship once, the World Kendo Championships (mens team) twice, the All Japan Police championships (team) 8 times and placed 3rd in the individuals 3 times. He was kyoshi 7dan at the time this article was published; he is now kyoshi 8dan.

Nishikawa sensei as a young 6dan (chudan):

SEME #4: Sueno Eiji

“With your body filled to the brim with ki, kamae in chudan. Keeping the extension of your kamae somewhere between the middle of your opponent’s body and their shoulders, without striking or hitting their shinai, and while moving slightly forward, back, left and right, strongly apply pressure (towards your opponent) with your ki.

If the opponent tries to strike, hit, wind, etc, your shinai keep your hands soft and absorb their interference; however, without letting any time open up, let your kamae return naturally to the center. This is not just about destroying their kamae, but about destroying the internal kamae of their heart/spirit; to do this you must be deliberate in your seme.

Its at this point where the principles (of kendo) come into play: when the opponents spirit or ki stops (due to confusion or doubt), when the opponent is just about to launch a technique, when they step back to retreat, or when an attack is spent, etc etc, it is here that you must strike.”

Sueno Sensei was a kendo tokuren member then kendo teacher at the police academy in Kagoshima before retiring. He trained under famous kenshi including Nakakura Kiyoshi sensei. He won the All Japan kendo championships once (came 2nd once), the All Japan kendo federation 50th anniversary 8dan competition, the world kendo championships (team) once, Todofuken taikai twice, the All Japan police championships (team) twice and individuals once. He was kyoshi 7dan at the time this article was published; he is now hanshi 8dan.

27th All Japan Kendo Championships 1979. Sueno Eiji sensei (6dan, white) vs Seme #1 Furukawa Kazuo (5dan, red).

Source

This small section is part of a much larger series of interviews called “Mei senshu, renma no hibi” (famous competitors and their day-to-day practise) published by Kendo Jidai between 1983-84. The series was compiled into 2 books and published as “Renma no hibi” in 1989. Most of the interviewed sensei were only 7dan at the time and are now renowned 8dan sensei.

剣道時代の「名選手、錬磨の日々」(1983ー84)からの抜粋です。「錬磨の日々」の本は1989発行。作道正夫。

Kendo 1925 – in pictures

I spent a lot of time reading about kendo and of course, preparing scripts and pictures for my own kendo projects and of course this website. By far the most fascinating thing for me is to get my hands on older kendo manuals, the well-worn the better. I especially enjoy looking through those books that include pictures.

The pictures below are all from a kendo manual entitled ‘Practical kendo for students’, which was published in Taisho 14 (1925). It was written by Tominaga Kengo and includes an introduction by his sensei, Takano Sasaburo. The book is full of interesting kendo pictures, a few of which I plucked out and have uploaded here as I imagine that many readers will enjoy them as well.

In particular, I like pictures that show changes in the shape compared to the kendo we do nowadays, including waza that have fallen or are falling out of use.

At any rate, enjoy! I hope to introduce more pictures at a later date.

As an added bonus here are some pics from an article series I published 4 years ago. This book was published in 1927.

Sources

最も実際的な学生剣道の粋。富永賢吾。大正十四年発行。
剣道指南。小澤愛次郎範士。昭和二年発行。

Shoshin ni kaeru (初心に返る)

Even though I don’t post on kenshi247.net on a daily basis, I usually find myself linking cool videos, pics, and kendo what-nots to the facebook page every day, so I’m sure that some people were wondering whats been up with the lack of updates over the last 2 weeks. Basically, after a silly fall, I ended up breaking my ankle (left fibula). Not only that, but I had to get it operated on = a titanium plate and 6 screws. Boo. After just recovering fully from my last mishap (a broken back), I’m beginning to think I’m cursed!!!

The good news is that the surgeon, my rehabilitation guy, and friends who have suffered similar problems, have all assured me I will get back to keiko soon enough – I just have to be patient in the mean time, and concentrate on rehabilitation. Almost everybody also told me to use the time to think about stuff, not just kendo things, but the day-to-day things that often get forgotten (especially when on a 12 keiko/week diet).

Thinking about my friends advice, the phrase SHOSHIN NI KAERU (初心に返る) immediately came to mind. The phrase basically means “to go back to the time when you first started something” (i.e. when your thoughts were still untainted) or something to that effect. Obviously it’s a term that can be used for many different aspects of our daily lives.

Kendo-wise – for me – I’m taking this non-keiko time as an opportunity to re-evaluate not only the physical aspects of my kendo (which will have to re-start themselves very slowly anyway) but also the more metaphysical aspects of my kendo shugyo – Why am I doing it? Of what value is kendo to me? What benefit is there to teaching kendo to children? How can I become a better person through kendo? How has kendo changed me over the last 20 years? etc. etc. I also took a lot of time out to reflect on the story of Suzunosuke, in particular that I shouldn’t moan about the pain, the inconvenience of hobbling around in crutches, and that I should be thankful for my 38 years of life to date.

Another added bonus to all this extra time is that the next kenshi 24/7 publications release is now pretty much imminent! I have a test copy of the book front of me as I type this (it truly is beautiful!) and am just awaiting the last bunch of typo-edits to come in from a couple of friends before I update the pdf and publish. The content is still top secret, but I assure you that you will love it!

It took an accident and hospital stay to get me to ponder on some of the stuff above (and to finalise my book). Hopefully it won’t take as much for you to make some space in your day to consider your (kendo) life and to perhaps get things done that you’ve been putting off.

VAGABOND

The pic is from the manga Vagabond. I don’t really have time to r much anymoreh anymore, but a bunch of comics were conveniently placed in the hospital t The average age of the patients in my ward must have been about 70, so I was the only reader!!

Eikenkai September 2013

The second last Eikenkai session of the year was a quiet one, with 14 kenshi gathering at Sumiyoshi Budokan on the morning of September 29th. The session was a slightly different format than usual – but still kihon based – starting with a couple of hundred kirikaeshi.

Next years schedule is 90% set – if you are in town please consider joining us!! Remember and read our “Please note that…” section on this page.

2014 Schedule

– February 23rd
April 27th (not set 100%)
– June 22nd
July 27th (not set 100%)
– September 28th
– November 30th

The last session of this year is on December the 8th.

Please check the main Eikenkai section on this site for the latest news regarding schedule and joining. Cheers!