Improving tsuki waza 突き技の向上

A couple of articles ago Stefan asked the following question in a comment:

Hey George, where is the article on how to build a tsuki pad?

In 2008 I published two articles detailing some DIY tsuki-pads I had made. The earliest of the pair was made over 10 years ago, way back in 2006, and both articles were eventually archived. The following article was inspired completely by Stefan’s comment. I hope it proves useful!

tsuki


I strongly advise against treating tsuki as a special technique that can only be learned once a certain level of ability is acquired (this is generally ambiguous or arbitrary). Introducing it early will not only ensure that students learn it quickly, but will make them fear receiving it less. Also, the body mechanics involved in mastering tsuki mean that it’s an invaluable tool in creating good kendo.

Kendo Coaching Tips and Drills (2012), George McCall

As many of my kendo friends know quite well, I love a good tsuki (giving and receiving). Morote, katate, omote, or ura, it’s all good! I’ve probably spent more time working on tsuki by myself than any other technique. Initially, due to it’s supposed taboo status, this was because nobody would (perhaps even could) actually teach me it but, eventually, I worked at it because I came to see it as a critical part of having a complete kendo style.

When I started teaching kendo as part of my job I started to see it not only as an important weapon to have in one’s shiai arsenal, but as a building-block on which you can teach good kendo form, help acquire good tenouchi, create interesting pattern practise, and temper fearlessness in students. As such, I believe tsuki-less kendo to be a compromised kendo.

Here is another quote from my Kendo Coaching manual from the section entitled The path to a confident tsuki:

Most if not all people are wary about practising tsuki. Generally, this is because they are fearful of hurting or injuring their partners. This feeling is easily understood. The best way to combat this is to build up confidence by actually practising tsuki. Avoiding it is not a solution.

At my home and dojo I built homemade tsuki pads for practising on (see kenshi247.net). On these I (and my students) can practise tsuki without concern for hurting our opponent. I emphasis accuracy first then – once accuracy rate is high – firmness. Once accuracy and firmness is acquired, students will naturally be more confident and this will lead to better results during partner practise.

Some people suggest practising at home using a pingpong ball hanging down from a string tied to a light fixture or something. I generally dissuade my students from solitary practise this way as it usually leads to a poking at the ball and not a thrusting and – unlike a tsuki pad stuck to a wall – there is no physical feedback when you start adding firmness. For primary and junior high school level children it can be a good learning game type of activity, however.

– ibid.

The homemade tsuki pads mentioned above can be read about below.

So, how do we improve our tsuki waza?

The answer is obvious as it is simple: practise it. People unduly fear practising tsuki because of the arbitrary taboo placed on the technique. As noted above, actually practising the waza will remove that fear.

If you are in a situation whereby you don’t have an experienced instructor, or your instructor doesn’t favour the technique itself for whatever reason, you can build tsuki pads like the ones I introduced on kenshi 24/7 years ago (re-produced below) and practise by yourself at home. Once you are somewhat confident in your accuracy find someone else who wants to learn the technique and practise together (this is actually how I started to practise tsuki waza when I was a member of the British kendo team back in 2000-03… because nobody would teach us).

If you are in a coaching position yet don’t teach it to your students I’d ask you to consider why this is: is it because you yourself can’t do the technique? Is it because you think it’s dangerous? Is it because you think your students are not at the point where they should learn tsuki? For point 1, if you are a teacher you should not run-away from waza you cannot do, but actively practise them. For point 2, well, I’d argue that someone who actually practises to execute and receive tsuki is in much safer place than someone who doesn’t. For the last point, I’d ask you to re-think. Tsuki can be taught right from the beginning of a persons kendo journey, and should be thought as a building block to creating good form and acquiring good tenouchi.

I’m not sure if the quotes and discussion above will help dispel some of the myths about tsuki or get your practising it, but I sincerely hope they do!

Related kenshi 24/7 articles:

* Kobayashi Mitsuru hanshi’s KATATEZUKI (2009)
* Concerning the problem of tsuki (2011)

Competition in Osaka (2006-07)



Tsuki pad light version (2006)

Light tsuki-pad

I originally built this tsuki pad in 2006 for use in my home. I had the pad in my kitchen and used to practise about 100 tsuki in the morning before breakfast, another 100 when I came home from work before going to the dojo, and another 300 after coming back from keiko. Like a man possessed, I continued this pattern for months!

What you need

  • foam for a sander/polisher (as thick as you need)
  • sticky back square velcro patches (front and back, a little bit bigger or smaller than the foam should work)
  • sticky back tape (1 square piece around the same size as the coasters)
  • soft/flexible coasters (I used 4)
  • strong tape
  • strong post/area to put the tsuki-pad
  • beer (1 or more)

Directions

  1. take your coasters and tape them together as shown in the diagram. Leave a small area in the middle to aim at if you like (as I did);
  2. take the sticky backed square tape and stick the coasters and the sander foam together;
  3. on the strong post / area you have selected to place your tsuki pad work out exactly the height you wish to place the tsuki pad. Ensure that the area can take impact and also that you have enough distance to correctly practise your footwork;
  4. stick the back piece of the sticky backed velcro onto your selected area;
  5. place the other piece of sticky backed velcro on the clean side of the sander foam;
  6. using the velcro, stick the foam to your selected area;
  7. practise a few tsukis. How is it?
  8. drink your beer in satisfaction.

Bonus

Since you’ve used velcro patches to stick the pad to your wall or wherever, you can easily make multiple height targets… for tsuki practise against people who are taller/shorter than you.


Tsuki pad heavy version (2008)

Heavy duty tsuki pad

This redesigned DIY heavy duty tsuki pad is for use in a high school kendojo. It was made/designed with the purpose of being abused 6 days a week repeatedly and heavily. Once nailed to the dojo wall I don’t want to have to remove it for repair.

Note that as I re-post this article in 2016, these heavy duty tsuki pads are still in daily use… almost eight years later!

What you need

  • Strong wood squares, thicker being better
  • Carpeting (you can normally buy cheaply in big squares)
  • Plastic coasters (shape and thickness is up to you)
  • Hammer and nails

Directions

  1. Take your coaster and place it on the carpeting. Cut the carpeting up so that you have a larger piece than the coaster. Prepare three pieces of carpeting the same size;
  2. Place the three pieces of carpeting on top of each other and nail it to the wood. I used about 8 nails to secure them firmly;
  3. Nail the coaster into the middle of the carpeting;
  4. Attach the tsuki-pad to the dojo wall, either by nailing it in (preferably) or by using strong adhesive.
  5. Try it out!

Tsuki gallery

A random collection of tsuki pictures taken from kenshi247.net because, well, why not ?!

March book project #5: famous sensei’s books 三月本プロジェクトその5

All through this month I have been going through the mountain of kendo books one of my sempai gave me. The way I approached it was to put the really good books to the side and concentrate on the mass of general books in the pile… but, I must admit, I’ve started to tire of looking at so many books with pretty much the same or similar content. So for the fifth instalment of my March book project I’ve instead picked four of the more interesting books written by famous sensei to go through. Originally I’d intended to keep these to introduce in more detail later, but what the heck!!

Note that the books are listed in publication order, not in order in status of the sensei. Please also note, all the introductory pictures of the sensei (save the Sato Chuzo one) are not from the books in question.

btw, I did promise to keep this series up throughout March, but it’s proving a bit too much work time-wise… so this may be the last one. Don’t worry, I have other (different) articles in the pipe line!


The Kendo Textbook by Saimura Goro and Kaneko Kinji (1931, revised 1937)

Saimura Goro

In the mass pile of books I got from my sempai this book in particular knocked me over: as far as my research shows, this is the only book kendo legend Saimura Goro put his name to. I can’t be sure how much he actually wrote any of it – he may have just lent his name and allowed himself to be photographed for the project. I’m suspicious because I know other sensei sometimes did the same thing (for example Takano Sasaburo) and also because the other writer – Kaneko Kinji – wrote a handful of other kendo books. At any rate, I was taken aback. The pictures of Saimura in the front of the book and in the kamae section I had never seen before, and I think are historically valuable. I’ll reproduce a couple of pics here.

The content of the book is pretty similar to Ogawa Kinnosuke’s Teikoku Kendo Kyohon (The Kendo Textbook of Imperial Japan), which is available full translated into English by yours truly here. Content-wise as well as in design and overall feel, the books are very similar. This Saimura/Kaneko book probably goes into a little more kata detail, and also has small sections on iaido and tameshigiri.

All in all a superb book which will have to pried out of my dead hands!!


Kendo by Sasamori Junzo (1955)

sasamori-junzo

Sasamori Junzo had a completely different background from most kenshi of this period. A christian minister who studied in America, he was an educator, a philosopher, and a politician. He was not only highly active in the university kendo community, he also unified various disparate Itto-ryu groups into a single Ono-ha Itto-ryu banner (of which he was the headmaster) and, after the war, he helped create and popularise a sportified version of kendo (shinai-kyogi). His unique background comes through in the content of his books as well.

Although this book looks at many of the same things that other kendo books do, he tackles other subjects as well, and often looks more deeply into the historical and traditional aspects.

I haven’t had time to digest this information-packed book at all now, so just upload a couple of pics and leave it there for now. In the future I intend to mine the book for more detailed content.

Sasamori’s book written with Gordon Warner entitled “This is kendo” was one of the first ever kendo books available in English. Although dated and a little bit thin on information you can still buy it today.


The Kendo Reader by Takano Hiromasa (1973)

takano-hiromasa-02

Takano Sasaburo’s second son, Takano Hiromasa was renowned for his skill with a shinai even at an early age.

Although there isn’t a lot of unique information in the book, it is quite detailed and has some interesting pictures. Again, like the Sasamori book above, I intend to use this for articles in the future.

btw, it’s worth noting that there’s no doubt that the above mentioned Sasamori Junzo learned some Itto-ryu from Takano Sasaburo on his travels. However, Sasamori copyrighted the name “Ono-ha itto-ryu” at some point after the war which seemingly caused Hiromasa to rebrand the school he inherited from his father “Nakanishi-ha Itto-ryu” a name Sasaburo never once used (he used “Ono-ha”). Of course, it’s common knowledge within Itto-ryu researchers that the direct Ono family tradition was passed to Yamaoka Tesshu, who then revised it into his own art called Itto Shoden Muto-ryu. Reflecting these facts, the book simple says “Itto-ryu soke, kendo hanshi, Takano Hiromasa” on the cover.


How to study kendo by Sato Chuzo (1974)

sato-chuzo

Born in Yamagata, the influential Busen teacher Sato Chuzo sensei passed away at the age of 77 in 1976. This book has no illustrations save a small one of Sato himself (above) and a picture of his calligraphy. This book was re-printed in a modern format and can be purchased on amazon.jp here.

For this article, I translated a small section of the book entitled How to study kendo, here it is:

1. Understand right and wrong.

First, in order to acquire correct kendo as well as measure your progress, you must understand the difference between right and wrong (good and evil), then you must devote yourself to following this way. Like the saying “When the mind is not right, the sword is also not right” if you have evil in your heart then you will never be able to learn the correct way of the sword, and progress will be shaky at best.

2. You must study under a good teacher.

You must respect your teacher at all times and submit to their teachings. You must have strong belief in your teacher and protect what has been taught to you. Teachers do not only have a strong influence on technical proficiency of their students, but may also exert a considerable influence on the spiritual and even the characters of their students. It is for this reason you must seek out as good a teacher as you can. It is especially important to select a teacher with a good character.

3. The importance of the teaching Jiri-itchi.

Even it someone manages to display strong technical kendo casually (i.e. through natural talent or without much study) this is nothing more than a “blind mans kendo.” Simply being able to strike and thrust your opponent through technical ability alone has little value for those that pursue the true path of kendo. People like this become self-satisfied by easily striking people and winning shiai and, eventually, they stop making an effort. When this attitude surfaces progress will be halted.

On the other hand, understanding kendo concepts without having the technical ability to express them is the mark of the armchair samurai. This type of understanding is a useless one.

Especially, aimless devotion and inquiry into confucianism, buddhism, or spiritual enlightenment through the study of kendo has absolutely no benefit to the technically inexperienced. Even being a stickler for the more mundane of kendo’s concepts can see technique atrophy through over-thinking, resulting, in the end, of a worsening of skill not an improvement.

Its only after practising for a while when you will be able to start to see kendo. For example when your opponents men becomes open, when they more into a blocking position, when the opponent moves to thrust you, etc. etc., eventually you will then start to understand something of fear, doubt, and so on. However, even though start to see things you will strike without hitting and be struck from all directions. You might even move to strike but find your body does not obey your commands. This is because neither your technique nor spiritual power has advanced enough.

If you diligently devote yourself to hard physical disciple then, sooner or later, you will smoothly strike your opponents openings and their shinai tip will no longer bother you.

4. Do a lot of keiko.

There are people who have a lot of natural ability and others who have not so much. At any rate, there are some people who’s ability increases quite rapidly and others who don’t seem to progress much. Inevitably, the former tend to think of themselves as being somehow talented and end up slacking off, which compromises their progress. Those that don’t have so much natural ability in the beginning can, if they keep practising hard over many years while listening with humility to their teachers instruction, progress to the point of superiority over those with natural ability.

Kendo is not about simple technical mastery, about who has a talent for hitting people or who doesn’t. Rather, the spiritual element has a large effect over a persons kendo than the mere technical.

The most important thing in kendo is to discipline yourself to unbending and untiring devotion to spiritual shugyo through lots of hard keiko. Having natural ability or not is of no consequence.

5. Understand the root principle.

Whether it’s kendo, academic study, or the arts, the most important thing is to understand and acquire knowledge of the root principles. If you don’t attempt to acquire this knowledge you will have trouble improving, even if you work hard. Exactly what these root principles are depends on the teacher. For example, some teachers start with etiquette, others with cleaning (to create a clean heart). When it comes to Shogi, for example, some teachers start with teaching what the pieces mean.

The very basics of kendo are sometimes taught by showing how to move the body, and sometimes by teaching suburi. For example, in 1927 I began to study Jigen-ryu at the dojo of Togo sensei in Kagoshima. For the first two and a half days I stood in the dojo garden with a thin stick and struck a thick piece of wood left and right from 8am to around about 4pm with only an hour break at lunchtime. After this period I was finally taught some kata. These first two and a half days were my introduction to Jigen-ryu.

At any rate, mastery of the basics is essential.

6. Keiko with your betters.

Before I mentioned that it was important to do as much keiko as you can. Whilst doing this it’s important to always try your best and to do keiko with people more advanced than you are. It’s more valuable for your progress to do one keiko with your teacher than 10 with people at the same level as yourself.

Whilst doing keiko with your teacher don’t concentrate on striking and being struck. Don’t worry that you are being struck freely but you can’t seem to strike back, and certainly don’t try to hit your teacher by any sneaky means.

Facing one of your peers or someone inferior to your teacher directly after this and you will find that it’s become much more easier to face them now than had you faced them before going to your teacher. That’s one important reasons why facing your teacher is invaluable.

Also, it’s important during keiko to make sure you are not struck in the same place in the same manner twice. Struck once you should learn from it. If you see the same thing happening again don’t flee and don’t simply block it, rather you must work on a counterattack. If you are hit three or four times in the same place in the same manner without attempting to resolve your weakness, you won’t improve.

If you can’t work out how to resolve the weakness no matter what, then you should watch your current opponent fight someone else and learn form the encounter. It is in instances like this where the true value of watching keiko is found.

In a similar manner, it’s more important to face opponents that you find difficult rather than the ones you find easy to deal with. These difficult opponents will teach you your weak points.


Book covers

Here is a quick snapshot of the books introduced here today. They are left-right/top-bottom order. Hope you enjoyed the article!

teachers-books-9


Sources

新制剣道教科書。斎村五郎・金子近次。東京精文館蔵版。昭和12年発行。
剣道。笹森順造。社文旺。昭和30年発行
剣道読本。高野弘正。読売新聞社。昭和48年発行。
剣道の学び方。佐藤忠三。体育とスポーツ出版社。昭和54年発行。

March book project #4: kendo books for kids 三月本プロジェクトその4

The fourth instalment of my March book project will look at a handful of books that are primarily for children. I guess many kenshi 24/7 readers aren’t too interested in kids kendo books and, honestly, neither am I very much. However, when flicking though the books I realised one area that they can be of great benefit: as a Japanese learning tool.

In a (now archived) article I wrote back in October 2008 I discussed the benefits of studying Japanese for the serious kendoka. Let me resurrect the body of that post for you now:

I live here so I need to use Japanese in my daily business (work, kendo, buying beer, etc), but for those of you that live outside Japan and practise kendo, what’s your take on whether learning Japanese for budo (kendo et al): is it a good or a bad thing? Actually, lets go one step further: is it a necessity or or is not?

Are there any benefits to your study, either physically or mentally, by learning Japanese? Can you learn kendo (for example) without Japanese and still “get” kendo? If you don’t fully understand the more intricate nuances of budo terminology does it even matter? etc etc.

If you have a look at the (very modern) definitions of both BUDO (1987) and KENDO (1975), it would suggest that the study of things like kendo go above and beyond mere “Japaneseness” and are separate from – not only Japanese culture (including language) – but any culture (historical references withstanding).

My personal viewpoint is this: by not understanding or, much more importantly, by not making an effort to understand the Japanese terminology that is used within our everyday practise, then I suggest that you will be forever underexposed to the full breadth of the thing that we call “kendo” (and “budo”).

I believe that kendo (and perhaps “budo” in general) cannot be separated from its “Japaneseness” without making it something else (for better or worse). This includes, of-course, our day-to-day in-the-dojo vocabulary set.

This might sound like me saying “learn Japanese and understand the truth” but please don’t misconstrue what I mean. I think there is a new definition shaping outside of Japan as to what KENDO/BUDO means and what its aims are. This is a natural thing and something that comes from people having a long exposure to the art. Surely a localisation of meaning is not only natural, but something to be celebrated? Hand in hand with this localisation you have, of course, less emphasis on Japanese language as a core transmission vehicle for the art(s), and new definitions of words being written (if Japanese is even being used).

However, there is a danger: I was taught many Japanese words throughout the years of my training only to find out much later that many of the words/concepts explained to me were in fact conveyed inaccurately. This was not deliberate of-course, just a by product of studying something as “Japanese” as kendo, but without Japanese language proficiency on the side of the teacher (and the student).

At any rate, I don’t think anyone would deny that knowledge of Japanese won’t help you to understand some of the more physical and (more pointedly) metaphysical concepts that underpin everyday budo practise, and that people can reach the highest levels of budo ability without speaking Japanese; I will always reserve a little bit more respect, however, for those that do go out of the way and add – to the already hard task of learning budo – the study of Japanese as part of their shugyo. If you haven’t already, why don’t you give it a go?

I think that even if you disagree with what I tried to say back in 2008 I think you might concede the general gist: that knowledge of Japanese increases the breadth of kendo/budo knowledge available to you (whether thats verbal or written), and that this can only be an aid in your study. It is with this in mind that I look at todays handful of books.

All the books shown today are completely in Japanese but they are all written simply and, more importantly for those wishing to use them as study tools, with furigana.


Parents and kids kendo classroom / Kids kendo primer

By complete coincidence, both of these children kendo books were written by the same gentleman – Tsukuba university professor Tsuboi Saburo – and both were released in 1980.

Although the funny drawings in the inside of both make them without a doubt kids books both, surprisingly, cover a large breadth of information. From the history of kendo dating back hundreds of years (including details of famous kenshi and ryuha) up to the more mundane things such as explanations of different keikogi patterns and how to tie all the knots on the shinai, these books have it all. Also included are keiko plans, waza explanations, kata, shiai rules, shinpan movement, etc etc etc., probably anything you care to mention. And all in very easy to understand Japanese.

I think either book can be picked up second hand for a handful of yen and can, in my opinion, serve as a great way to study Japanese via a topic you like.


Kendo manga textbook series 1-7

You’ve probably seen one or two of these books before. This is a series of textbooks in manga style that goes through the ins-and-outs of kendo. The series of 7 books I have deal with basics, techniques, shiai, kata, shiai rules, kendo knowledge, and gradings. They are aimed at primary school kids and as such as super easy to understand. If you are learning Japanese and are looking for easy kendo material to help you do so, you can’t go wrong with these books.


Book covers

The top two books are by the same author and the bottom picture shows the manga series.

kidsbook1

kidsbook2


Sources

スポーツシリーズ:親と子の剣道教室。坪井三郎。梧桐書院。昭和55年発行。
少年剣道入門。坪井三郎。小学館。昭和55年発行。
剣道教科書シリーズ1〜7(マンガ剣道教室)。少年剣道新聞社。1994〜2001発行。

March book project #3: kendo by pictures 三月本プロジェクトその3

For the third instalment of my March book project I chose four titles that have variations on a similar name/theme: Shashin de miru kendo (“Kendo by pictures”). One of the four is actually a revised and reprinted version of the other, so it’s really three books I’m looking at today.


Kendo by pictures and diagrams

The first book was actually printed originally in 1966 but was later revised and re-printed in 1979 to match changes competition rules. Other than the shiai and shinpan areas, both books are pretty much the same.

The contents of the books are, to be honest, quite bland. The pictures are mostly uninspiring as well. Due to this I decided not to translate anything from the book, but simply upload a couple of pictures.

This picture shows where your elbows should be positioned in chudan no kamae. The first picture on the left is a good example, the other two bad:

shashindemiru1

The next shows chudan no kamae from the side and top. The pictures on the left are good examples, while those on the right are bad examples:

shashindemiru3

btw, check out these kenshi 24/7 articles on tenouchi: one, two, three.

The last picture shows an uchikomi-dai and how to receive using uchikomi-bo:

shashindemiru2


Kendo primer by pictures

This book is far more appealing visually than the ones above. I’m mostly interested in the book, however, because it was at least partly written by Shodokan’s Okada Morihiro sensei (Keishicho shihan, Tokyo University shihan, Kurama-ryu exponent), someone that I’m sure a few of the older non-Japanese kenshi came across during their travels. Again, I’ll just show a couple of pictures from the book and skip translating any content.

An interesting uchikomi-dai which two people can use at the same time:

shashindemiru4

This picture shows how you should step back in to chudan when finishing kodachi kata, i.e. carefully:

shashindemiru5


Kendo by pictures

Not as visually good as the book above, but definitely the book with the most comprehensive content from those introduced today. As such I’ll translate a small part of the content below.

I don’t really know much about the author Kamo Jisaku other than what is written in the books bio: he was born in 1900 in Saga prefecture and eventually (1923) studied under Mochida Seiji and Nakano Sosuke. In 1934 he would study kendo and iaido with Haga Junichi. The following year he was sent to China. In 1938 he built his own dojo and was still teaching there at the time of the books publication (1981). He was kendo and iaido 7dan.

shashindemiru6

The secret to improving:

– Be enthusiastic about keiko –

There are many types of people in the world. Some are are alert and some are slow; there are those that are dextrous while are others are clumsy. Someone endowed with both alertness and dexterity may, if they continue practising throughout their lives, see their skills increase to reach expert level eventually. However, it seems that many people such as this are lacking in patience.

On the other hand, if someone who is both slow and clumsy continually practises with enthusiasm over a long period time, they cannot fail to become stronger, eventually defeating those blessed with more natural abilities.

– Aim to do kendo correctly, and place emphasis your own research –

Above and beyond enthusiasm it’s important to understand kendo theory, to not do wasteful keiko, to proactively ask your sensei about how to improve your kendo, and to respect your sensei’s teachings – these are areas important to emphasis as well. An enthusiastic person who keeps these in mind will improve smoothly.

– Keep good manners –

Although kendo is a combative art, it is important to always be polite, to respect your opponent, and to pursue kendo for the purpose of improving the character. If you heed this advice your sensei and your sempai are more likely to take an interest in you and teach you many things.

– Keiko with vigour –

In order to have a vigorous kendo style you have to pressure your opponent strongly with shouts from the pit of your stomach.

Your shouts and your movement cannot be detached, rather, nimble action depends on your kiai.

– Take the initiative (sen) –

In kendo there are techniques that require taking the initiative and those that are reactive. The former are by far the most important.

If you just wait for your opponent to attack you in the hope of striking an oji-waza, then your progress will be stunted. You must always aim to take the initiative at all times.

– Strike men a lot –

The opponents men is the target farthest away and attempting to strike it is highly dangerous as it may lead to your kote or dou being struck instead. However, as far as shiai is concerned, statistically speaking more men-uchi are scored than other areas.

Beginners like to strike dou a lot, but someone who does this will not improve quickly.


Book covers

The two at the top are basically the same book.

shashindemiru7


Sources

写真と図解による剣道。村上貞次・阿部忍。大修館書店。昭和41年発行(修正版昭和54年)。
写真で見る剣道入門。岡田守弘・酒井哲雄。高橋書店。昭和42年発行。
写真で見る剣道。加茂治作。愛隆堂。昭和56年発行。

March book project #2: Ichi-ryu no waza wo mi ni tsukeyo – Kendo 三月本プロジェクトその2

The choice of books for the second instalment of the the March book project was simple: I picked up two books that were the same shape! I picked up one square book, saw another one, then picked that up too. Amazingly, like in my first instalment of this series, the books were not only authored by the same person, but one is simply a renewed version of the other.

The books I picked up were Ichi-ryu no waza wo mi ni tsukeyo: Kendo (“Kendo: learn the best techniques”) published in 1971 and the simply named Kendo published 10 years later in 1981. Both were written by Iho Kyotsugu (1920-1999), a kenshi with such a long and distinguished career as both a teacher and competitor that it’s too long to list!

These books are not as comprehensive as the two introduced in the previous article, and the pictures used to show the action/steps of waza execution are not so clear. However, the saving grace of both books is that they are peppered with loads of interesting pictures from the 1960s and 70s, including not a few of competitors that would go on to become famous sensei in the future. As such, in this article I will focus mainly on sharing some of the pictures, and translate only one small piece. I hope its of interested anyway.

As a side note, one of Iho sensei’s other books is still in publication and can be bought easily in bookshops or on Amazon. Entitled Shin Kendo Jotatsu Koza (“The new Kendo improvement manual”) I recommend it.


The spread of kendo around the world

The following is from both the 1971 and 81 editions of the book:

Despite having little crossover with sport nor being particularly international in character, kendo has suddenly increased in popularity over the last few years.

Up until now, kendo was popular only in countries where Japanese people of 1st or 2nd generation were living, for example, in Korea, Taiwan, and South America, etc. However, recently the joy of practising kendo has been discovered by people living in Europe and America.

The reason for this is the people who already became familiar with Japanese budo that spread abroad earlier, i.e. aikido, judo, karate, etc., were fascinated by kendo yet had no chance to study it. Recently, however, many young Japanese men have been travelling abroad for work, and it’s these people (of around yon and godan level) who have started teaching eager people abroad.

What is the fascination of kendo for non-Japanese people?

In the autumn of 1969 I was sent to Europe as part of the first official All Japan Kendo Association delegation. We spent about one month in Europe travelling through eight countries. During this time I asked many people “What’s the attraction of kendo to you?”

There were many answers to my question, most of which were the same as the answers you’d expect from Japanese people living in Japan. However, one point was different, and it’s one that causes me to re-think about what kendo is myself. To put it in one word, many people said that kendo felt “Asian.”

This wasn’t simple inquisitiveness (in something different), rather, what they were saying was that current European society was overly materialistic and poisoned by technology, thus people were in danger of living in a strange un-human manner. They said that they had to do something in order to stop this situation from becoming all encompassing, and that they discovered something in “Asian-ness” that helped. Some people tried yoga, others tried zen. From there they discovered kendo, and for many it was the most useful thing in bringing their human-ness back. Japanese people, therefore, have a wonderful thing in kendo.

This, of course, was a brief summary.


Pictures

I went through the books and chose a tiny handful of pictures that I liked. Unconsciously I seemed to select pictures with the same people in them: two-time All Japan Kendo Championships winner Toda Tadao sensei (famous for nito-ryu nowadays, he was a jodan competitor for most of his career), three times All Japan Championships winner Chiba Masashi sensei (famed for his jodan), and the winner of the first World Kendo Championships individual title (beating Toda sensei in the final) and multiple Meiji-Mura hachidan title winner Kobayashi Mitsuru sensei (famed for his tsuki-waza).


Book covers

iho-cover


Sources

一流のわざを身につけよう:剣道。伊保清次。講談社スポーツシリーズ。昭和46年発行。
剣道。伊保清次。講談社スポーツシリーズ。昭和56年発行。