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


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.

明治撃剣家 春風館立ち切り誓願。堂本昭彦。

Remembering Suzunosuke

The following is an English translation of a Japanese article that I wrote and was published in the October edition of Kendo Jidai (on sale August 25th 2013). Its the story of my kendo student Kubota Suzunosuke who passed away in January of this year and that I introduced on this site back in March. The English version is of course slightly different than the original Japanese. Please note that I have his parents blessings to put this online.


First meeting

I first met Suzunosuke after the entrance ceremony for the high school that I work at back in April 2010. He came into the kendo-jo carrying his bogu and shinai and asked to join thie club. “No problem” I said, “get your stuff on and join in!” Keiko at my school is kihon-centric and can be pretty tough, but he took to it quickly and I realised even in that first session that I had some potential on my hands.

During short break between kihon and waza practise I saw him sitting at the side of the dojo by himself looking worried. “What’s up?” I asked “I was hit on an unarmoured place and it hurts” he replied. “Well, sometimes that happens, it’s not deliberate. High school kendo is a lot tougher than junior high school level, so you’d better prepare for it” I replied.

That evening I received an email from him: “To tell you the truth, when I was a junior high school student I was very sick and was hospitalised for a long time. I’ve actually had an entire rib removed.”

Primary, junior high school kendo

Suzunosuke began kendo when he was a 1st year primary school student (6 years old) at the kendo club run by Asashi ward (an area in Osaka) police station. His mother Suzumi explains why: “He was a little bit naughty so I thought that by learning budo at the police station they could teach him some discipline.” At Asahi ward police station he was taught kendo by Sakamoto sensei, Toyotomi sensei, and Tanaka sensei. Naturally, when he entered junior high school he joined the kendo club and was taught by Ueda sensei.

Ewing’s Sarcoma

Suzuonsuke was living the life of an ordinary young boy when one day he felt something strange on his back. His parents took him to the hospital and were shocked when the doctors declared it “cancer.”

Ewing’s Sarcoma is a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in the bone or in soft tissue. Suzonsuke was hospitalised for a year and underwent cancer treatment, including the removal of an entire rib.

During this time, however, he never gave up, and continued to study hard. Eventually he even made it back to the dojo.

High school kendo club

After finding out about his medical history I was a bit worried about the manner he could take part in the clubs activities. I told him that he could take part in keiko under my watchful eye, but that competition was an impossibility, to which he grudgingly accepted. However, after doing keiko with him almost everyday over a few months and seeing his ability increase rapidly, I completely forgot about his surgery or that he ever had cancer. And, even though he was only a first year student, I started using him regularly in shiai.

He was a bright, fun loving, popular kid, and it was to no surprise that the other students selected him to become the club captain when he became a 2nd year student. While working hard in his role as the captan he applied and was accepted to join a study trip to the UK. Before heading over in July (2011), he started to feel something odd in his arm, but dismissing it he went for 10 days to the UK, took part in a gasshuku with another school, and passed his 3dan on his first attempt. However, during all this, it was discovered that his discomfort was in fact cancer.


Needless to say, it was obvious that the cancer relapse caused Suzuonsuke immense difficulties. Despite these, he tried his best to come to school to meet his friends and continue his study. Even though he couldn’t wear bogu, he still came to the dojo and helped teach the younger students. Over time his condition seemed to be getting better and in January 2012 he even managed to get his bogu on and start practising slowly again. Not just myself, but his fellow club members were amazed at his effort.

It was around this time that he emailed Hashimoto Toru, the mayor of Osaka. When he was hospitilised for a year in junior high school he was able to take part in special classes in the hospital offered by Osaka prefecture. However, this system didn’t exist for high school students (its not part of compulsory education in Japan) and he thought it unfair. He emailed the mayor via contact details on the prefecture website and was shocked when he actually got a reply. Hashimoto immediately began investigation into the system and – even more surprising for the slow Japanese bureaucracy – actually instigated it in April of the same year. All of this due to a single email from Suzunosuke.

Retirement competition

Suzunosuke started to look a bit healthier and happier and everything seemed to be going fine. In April 2012 he became a 3rd year student and was taking part in keiko on and off. The All-Japan Osaka High School Preliminaries are held every June and are generally regarded as the ‘retirement competition’ for the students at my school (we can’t compete to the top level in Osaka. After retirement, students focus solely on university entrance exams). The way that I choose competition members is first allow the respective boys and girls captains to come up with an order, then for them to discuss it with me before writing the application form. Suzunosuke came up to me with a piece of paper with the boys order on it, and I immediately noticed his name wasn’t on it. “You don’t want to compete?” I asked. “I do” he said. I spent a few days carefully reflecting on whether I should put him into the shiai before finally writing his name down as taisho.

On the day of the shiai he looked like he was composed and concentrated. However, I knew that in the morning he hadn’t taken his pain killers and that he was in a lot of pain. He was waiting until just before the 1st round shiai to take his pills. The team won the first round and then went on to the 2nd. Due to the amount of teams taking part, it was a long wait until the 2nd round. When it came, our loss was decided before Suzunosuke as taisho stepped up. Despite this he bowed, strode in to the shiai-jo and went into sonkyo. At “hajime” he stood up and kiai-ed. His family, his friends, everyone that knew him was literally staring at him. But by this point in the day the pain was back and he literally hadn’t the strength to hold onto his shinai strongly. During the match his shinai was flipped out of his hand twice, the result of the match being a 1-point win by hansoku to his opponent. After the shiai he sat by himself in the arena looking sad. I tapped him on the back and said “You did well.”

30 minutes later all the kendo club members (over 30 students) were assembled and the 3rd year students gave their retirement speech. Suzuonsuke, being the captain, went last. His speech was short, simple, and most of all, positive.

His last fight

Shortly after this he started to spend more time travelling to and from hospital. It was at this time that he joined a RELAY FOR LIFE charity event here in Osaka. The event was held in the south, but Suzunosuke wondered if it couldn’t be held at his high school, which is situated right in the centre of Osaka, facing the castle.

Day by day his condition got worse, but even then he never gave up on his dream of graduation high school and going to university. On the 19th and 20th of January 2013 he sat the gruelling Japanese university exam. At this point, he couldn’t walk and could barely speak. His family, friends, teachers, and medical staff were amazed at his willpower.

The day after the exams he took a turn for the worse. For a moment he seemed to have even got over this, but on the evening of the 30th of January 2013, he slipped away. That evening I was called to the hospital room and – after his body had been washed in the formal Japanese manner – I helped clothe him in the school keikogi and hakama.

What he left us

Suzunosuke was a someone who “did” things, a “doer.” His single email to the mayor brought in education reforms. His idea of hosting a Relay for Life event at his school also become reality: it will be held in Otemae High School in central Osaka on the 12th and 13th of October. These are things that you may have thought was impossible from a single sick high school student from a hospital bed, but he did them. What he tells all of us is that whatever difficult situation you may be in, you should never give up, and to always try your best.

His friends called him simple “Suzu” which means “bell” in English. Bells come in various shapes and sizes, with correspondingly different sounds and tones. The bell that was Suzu was struck, and the sound – to those who knew him – was bright, though short, and will continue, I believe, to reverberate for a very long time.

Words: George McCall
Pictures: Kubota Suzumi, Kubota Kazuo, George McCall
Relay for Life (Osaka):

Kubota Suzunosuke - kamae

Many thanks to Andy at All Japan Budogu for donating a couple of hundred tenugui to be sold at Relay for Life next month. 100% of the proceeds go to charity.

If you happen to be in Osaka that weekend feel free to pop in for a chat (and while you are at it, buy a tenugui and donate to a good cause!).


I’d like to introduce kenshi247 readers to someone who has played a large part in my kendo life over the last three years: Kubota Suzunosuke. He was a key member of my high school kendo club, eventually becomng the club captain and passing his 3 dan when he was still just 17. Unfortuanately, on January 30th 2013, he passed away, so you will never be able to meet or do kendo with him. However, like I have done, I believe there is something you can learn from him by knowing a little bit about how he lived his life.

In a post that is completely different from my normal content, I would like to tell you something of his story here today, but rather than use my words, I’ll do so by translating a couple of pieces that were published in the Sankei Shinbun on February 18th 2013, adding in a couple of comments for clarification here and there (I will also add a personal section at the end). The article also reached the top of news topics on that day. Of course, because I want to respect the privacy of his family, I wont go into too many extra details.

Please note that I did get his parents permission to publish this English translation online.

I hope you can find something inspiring in his story.


(Front page of the Sankei Shinbun, February 18th 2013)

A life dedicated to children with terminal illness: School lessons while hospitalised

The high school boy who fought to establish a system to allow hospitalised children take normal school classes while himself battling ill health passed away – Osaka prefectural Otemae high school 3rd year student, Kubota Suzunosuke (18).

Although still very sick with a Ewing’s sarcoma (a type of bone cancer) he managed to sit the (very tough) national university exams.

Right up until he took his last breathe on January 30th (2013) he would give the thumbs up to the people around his bed (friends, family, hospital staff) and say “ganbaru” (“Ill do my best”). Right until the end he never gave up on his dream of going to university.
(text by Takahashi Mayuko)

A maignant Ewing’s sarcoma tumour is said to affect 4 people in every million. His cancer symptoms first appeared when he was a 2nd year junior high school student (about 14yrs old). After repeatedly undergoing painful medical treatment, even to the extent of having some bones removed, he even managed to defeat two relapses (all in all, he spent 10 months in hospital).

Kubota said that the science classes he took while hopitalised at that time were “something I will never forget” (i.e. the classes were indespinsible to him). This type of system (taking school lessons while hospitalised) didn’t exist for high school students, so he – based on his experience at junior high school and worrying about falling behind in his study – sent a request in January 2012 to Osaka City to establish such a system. The reply from Osaka major Hashimoto Toru was “If the government cant even assist you alone, then what’s the government for anyway?”

In April of the same year (3 months after the original email) Osaka prefecture created a new system where they would dispatch temp-teachers to teach hospitalised high school students. Including Kubota, about 8 students have thus far used the service.

The following month, in May 2012, another malignant tumour was found, and he was given between 3 months and 1/2 a year to live.

In November he said “I want to do something for people that are going to be hospitalised in the future, or for people who will undero even more painful experiences than me” and he started petitioning for medical aid/help for children who are afflicted with unknown illnesses (in Japan, if you have an unknown disease, or something not thought of as important by the country, you will recieve no governmental aid).

Even while his condition became severe, and with his strong desire to go to university, on January 19th and 20th (2013) he sat the national university examinations. After this his condition suddenly changed for the worse, and the door on his short life closed.

(Page 23 of the Sankei Shinbun, February 18th 2013)

“Chasing his dream”
“School lessons while hospitalised”
“Earnestly sitting national university exams depsite relapse”

3rd year Osaka prefectural Otemae high school student Kubota Suzunosuke (18) from Asahi-ku passed away on the 30th of January 2013 from cancer.

“Even if you have a good idea about something, if you dont act then nothing will come of it” – this is what he said regarding his desire to improve the situation of terminally ill high school students who, while hospitalised, are denied study help from the government. His desire to help students like this arose from his own personal experience. While working towards this he continued to do his own school study. Although he passed away too early, he managed to pass on this “dream” and “desire” to many people.

“You gave me power” – Hashimoto Toru, Osaka city mayor

Last January (2012), during a temporary lull in his illness where he was allowed to leave the hospital, he sent an email to Osaka City petitioning for change in the study situation of hospitalised high school students. After this he would go into hospital about once a week while continuing to attend school. Because he didnt want to leave school during class to go to the hospital (i.e. he strongly desired to study), he would go at lunch time or after school. Despite his mother saying “You dont have to push yourself so hard!” he would say “Im going back” and return to school to help the kendo club (he was the captain). But on the evening of the 20th of May he experienced pain in his chest: the cancer was back. The verdict was 3-6 months to live.

He never gave up on his dream or neglected his learning. The teachers that visited him in school would proactively ask “What subjects do you want to study?” and when he sat tests at school he was attached to two small mobile medical devices that would adminster pain killers.

When his parents were told that he had only a short time left, they never told him. His mother said “I think he knew himself. He started to consider what he could do to help other patients around the world.”

At the end of the year his condition started to take a turn for the worse. Even though he was unable to stand or ingest food anymore, he (just before he passed away) sat the national university enterance exams on the 19th and 20th of January 2013. A special room was prepared for him and he did the exams in a special wheelchair. After each exam was finished he was able to lie down; using all the power that he had, he completed all of the tests.

At this time, it became difficult for him to say anything. The friends that visited him were anxious about his situation and spoke kindly to him. His classmates said “lets graduate together!” which enabled him to fight harder. He was looking forward to the graduation ceremony on the 1st of March. Even the day before he passed away he mustered up all his remaining strength, stuck one thumb up, and said “ganbaru” (“I’ll do my best“).

At the wake held on the 3rd of February, over 1000 people attended. At the funeral service, a message from Osaka mayor Hashimoto Toru was read: “Your proposal to start a special teaching system for hospitalised high school students has become reality. This is a ray of hope for them. When I think of how much you tried your best, I feel energised.”

His kendo club friends said “The image of you taking part in shiai while still fighting such a serious illness will always remain in our hearts.” (The picture used at the top of the article is Suzunosuke competing in his last ever shiai before retiring. This was in June 2012.)

The school is preparing a high school graduation certificate to be given out during the graduation ceremony. Also, (through Suzunosukes effort) Otemae high school will be one of the areas holding this years charity event Relay for Life.

His father Kazuo said that he was looking forward to when his son would become 20 so that they could go out and have a beer together (the legal age for drinking alcohol is 20 in Japan). His father said peacefully: “As a high school student I think he did his best in everything he tried, no matter what the conditions were. It didn’t matter what it was he never ran away from it; he lived an honest and earnest life.”

George’s comment

After Suzunosuke passed away I found myself re-reading some of the email and facebook conversations that we’d had. He liked English and was even selected to go and study abroad in the U.K. for a short stay during 2nd year (he probably new about his relapse when he went), so we often communicated in English, even on kendo club matters. An example of both his humour and his strong desire to do kendo can be seen in this facebook conversation snippet (I think the ? was meant to be an !):


More than anything else, Suzunosuke loved kendo. Not only that, he was very talented at it as well. When he was selected by the other students to become the captain of the club I was delighted. When he was selected to be sent by the school to the U.K. I was delighted. When he passed his 3dan I was delighted. When he relapsed it was a hard time for him, but he came to the dojo as often as he could, watching and helping to teach for the most part. After a few months he eventually got back into bogu, even leading the practise again sometimes.. and again I was delighted. Even though it was obvious that things weren’t going smoothly and after a lot of deep thinking on my part, I selected him to take part in the last shiai of his high-school kendo career and, it turned out to be, his life. Watching him take part in shiai again and lead his team into the 2nd round of competition was difficult emotionally for me (and his parents also I believe) and – now that I look back on it – I’m pretty sure he felt it was his last as well. 30 minutes after we were put out of the competition the entire kendo club gathered (at nearly 40 members, one of the largest clubs in the prefecture) and a smiling Suzunosuke gave a energetic, thoughtful, and positive retirement speech.

This English translation was done originally for the benefit of the friends that he made when he was in the UK, and also for the non-Japanese kenshi that visited me at work and did keiko with him. After speaking with his parents, they were happy for me to publish it here and to have kenshi from all over the world learn about – and learn from – his fighting spirit. A fellow kenshi, I think we all have something to learn from him.

This article was published on the 1st of March 2013, the day of Suzunosuke’s high school graduation ceremony.


難病の子供たちへ 尽くした命」・「病院で授業」訴え実る



「夢へ全力 思い継ぐ」・「病院で授業」久保田さん・「センター試験 再発負けず懸命に」



Naito Takaharu 内藤高治

Naito Takaharu (1862-1929) was one of the most influential kenshi to pick up a shinai. Born as as Ichige Takaharu in Mito in 1862, his Samurai parents were of budo stock: his father an archery instructor for the domain and his mother the daugher of the Hokushin Itto-ryu shihan Watanabe.

At the age of 7 he began the tradition study of Japanese as well as kenjutsu and swimming. At the age of 12 – in 1874, just 3 years after the end of the more traditional domain system – Takaharu joined what was to become one of the most renowned dojo in Japan: the newly constructed Mito Tobukan. There he learned shinai kendo and Hokushin Itto-ryu kenjutsu. Tobukan had been built by the head kenjutsu instructor of Kodokan (the domain school) Kozawa Torakichi (a student of Chiba Shusaku). It was here that he met what would be a long-term acquaintance, Monna Tadashi.

When he was 20, he was adopted by a relative (a common practise at the time) and became ‘Naito’ Takaharu.

In 1883, at the age of 20/21, Naito went to Tokyo and studied under the Jikishinkage-ryu swordsman and Kobusho instructor Sakakibara Kenkichi, the progenitor of pay-to-watch kenjutsu shows, Gekken Kogyo. These shows were started as a means for out-of-work budo exponents to make a living in a society that was hurtling towards modernaisation (Western style) at full pace.

After a year with Sakakibara, Naito went on a Musha-shugyo around the country. Upon his return he was said to have faced the strong Keishicho kenshi Takano Sasaburo (Ono-ha itto-ryu) and Kawasaki Zenzaburo (Kyoshinmeichi-ryu/Itto-ryu), defeating both.

In 1888, at age 26, he then joined Keishicho as a policeman (Monna Tadashi then joined him). 6 years later he was sent (with Monna) to Korea to take part in the Sino-Japanese war (as kendo instructors).

1897 was a busy year for Naito:

1. he was awarded Seirensho in 1897 by the newly formed Butokukai;
2. He opened a dojo called Yoshinkan;
3. He became the shihan of Tokyo Senmon Gakko (later to become Waseda university).

(he was still working at Keishicho at this time)

On the completion of the Kyoto Butokuden in 1899 (then inside the grounds of Heian Jingu) he was asked to become one of five kendo teachers there (Budo Senmon Daigaku – Busen). It was here, as the head instructor, that he taught the countries future kendo specialists, including all five future 10 dans.

At the 1901 Kyoto Taikai he had a rematch with Takano Sasaburo. The result was a hikiwake (1-1) and the shinpan Mihashi Kanichiro (in the first group of both Butokukai seirensho and hanshi awards) said : “From the start to the finish, I’ve never seen a higher quality shiai than this.”

In 1911, he was on the executive committee for the creation of the Dai-nippon Teikoku kendo no kata (the future kendo-no-kata). Long-time friend Monna Tadashi (by then teaching at Busen as well) and rival Takano Sasaburo were also members.

Naito was said to be against the change of kendo into a sportive form and his teaching reflected this: a strict diet of kirikaeshi and kakarigeiko. He was also against holding Tenran shiai, but was ordered to comply by the imperial household.

He died suddenly in 1929 due to a cerebral haemorrhage.


This article is mostly a quick translation from the Japanese wikipedia article. I will append more pictures and information at a later date.

Lifetime kenshi: Ikeda Yuji sensei

Situated in the second most populous area of Japan, and the heart of the Kansai region lies Osaka. Not as over-the-top busy and stuffed full of people like Tokyo, the city is easily navigable (even by bicycle) and its population friendly. The two main areas in the city – Umeda and Namba – are known to the locals respectively as “Kita” (north) and “Minami” (south). In the center of Minami you can find the Osaka Prefectural Sports Gymnasium. Its here every March where the O-zumo Haru-basho (Sumo spring competition) takes places. Its also the home of Yoseikai.

I have written an article about the 2nd shihan of Yoseikai, Furuya hanshi before, this time I want to introduce his sempai and the first shihan of the dojo: Ikeda Yuji hanshi.

Furuya sensei talks about meeting Ikeda sensei for the first time

“About 5 or 6 years after the war ended (1950/51) I received a letter from a Busen sempai of mine who I had never met, Ikeda Yuji (at that time Ikeda sensei was 38 and Furuya sensei was 25). It simply read: “I’d like to start a Busen alumni association and I would like you to help.” I turned up at the agreed time and place (an Izakaya in Namba) to find Ikeda sensei and 21 other Busen graduates. Ikeda sensei’s frame was so slight that at first you had to wonder if he had actually graduated such a tough school. He didn’t look it, but he was also a big drinker as well.

The stories that Ikeda sensei told about his Busen experiences at that first meeting really excited and motivated me, and I was so taken by Ikeda sensei’s personality, that I started calling him “uncle.”

At the time I met Ikeda sensei kendo was still banned in public. We were unable to contain ourselves and re-started keiko anyway in a dojo beneath a Nankai railway line. There were 7 of us and we were called the “seven samurai” with Ikeda sensei being the leader. It wasn’t before long that we were joined by many more kenshi, with some people even coming to visit from Tokyo. If was a time when people were poor and could hardly eat or drink, so keiko was fierce, like we had a fire in our bellies.”

19 kakarigeikos in 90 minutes

Ikeda Yuji was a member of the 23rd group to graduate Busen (1937). However, he initially failed the preliminary entrance course. Following this failure he did keiko in the morning and afternoon continuously for an entire year before he finally resat and passed the exams (the next year), thus gaining entrance to Busen proper. After passing the exams one of the lecturers – Sato Chuzo – said the following to Ikeda:

“You are so small/weak that we have no expectations for you at all. I wanted to tell you to just give up and go home but you came to us crying and begging for another year that I missed my chance (to tell you to go). Wakabashi sensei et al were so worried about this situation you created that they got sore heads. Anyway, you did well to pass.”

At 49kg’s in weight, Ikeda was too light and small in stature. His academic score on the test was 2nd from the bottom.

He was also reckless in keiko. During practise between teachers and students at the Butokuden, he would be busy putting on his men whilst everyone else was lining up and bowing. He would already be standing first in line for the top sensei with his kote tucked under his arms while the rest of the students and sensei had yet to tie their men. After kakarigeiko with a sensei it was normal to go to the back of the next sensei’s line and wait for your turn. Not for Ikeda. He wouldn’t wait, but lined up at the side of the person at the front of the next line. If he was told to get back, he wouldn’t budge. As soon as the student in front of him finished he would step right in front of the sensei pushing other students out of the way. Before they could do anything he was already doing kakarigeiko. In the end his transgressions silently became to be accepted.

One year during kangeiko Ikeda managed to do 19 consecutive kakarigeiko’s in a 90 minute keiko session. The other senior students were annoyed by his actions and tried to kick him around, but Ikeda was unmoved. After 90 minutes of kakarigeiko he couldn’t stand and was crawling in the Butokuden.

When his eyes opened he found him self in a restaurant on Yoshida street. The miso soup in this shop was tasty and favoured by Busen students. For eat-and-drink-all-that-you-can the price was 15 zeni in the morning, and 25 in the afternoon and evening (i.e. cheap). Busen students (including Ikeda) were apt to drink 5 bowls of miso soup and 15 bowls of rice in one sitting with east. The restaurant ran in deficit.

Kihongeiko and kendo no kata

In 1938 Ikeda was called up for one of two stints of military service. At the wars end he was in Manchuria and was interned in a Siberian labour camp for 4 years. After being released in 1949 he returned to Osaka and managed to get a job in a fabric wholesale company. It was a little bit after this time that Ikeda sensei and the 7-samurai mentioned at the beginning of the article re-started kendo in the city at the Nankai-dentetsu dojo. In 1952 a kendo competition was held in Nishinomiya city (Hyogo) and the Osaka team (with Ikeda as a member) got 2nd place.

Eventually Ikeda sensei went on to teach kendo at main places in Osaka (see timeline below) including becoming the shihan of Yoseikai. At that time keiko would be every day bar Sundays, and Ikeda sensei would come 3 or 4 times per week.

Ikeda sensei would stress the importance of kihon and recommended practising by yourself. He also spent a lot of time on kata.

At Yoseikai, after the main practise would finish he would do extra keiko with selected kenshi, perhaps 5 or 6 people for 30 minutes. He would bring the fight to these students and the keiko was very intense. His tsuki would never miss, and his kote from jodan (despite being small statured he sometimes fought jodan) was very fast.

One of Ikeda sensei’s favourite sayings was 「稽古一本酒三本」: “keiko ippon sake sanbon.” After keiko he would go to the izakaya and would lose track of time while talking about kendo things. As a man who devoted his lifetime to kendo he never broke his pursuit of kendo knowledge, and even at the end of keiko would tidy up his own bogu.

With success comes reflection

As told by Furuya sensei:

“Ikeda sensei’s tenouchi was outstanding. Because of this, sensei’s favoured technique was ‘kote kaeshi kote.’ His forward attacking men was brilliant as well, but his ability to receive and immediately turn the opponents power back on them using kaeshi waza was great. At the same time as receiving his opponents power he would strike their men or kote. Different from suriage waza, unless your tenouchi has been tempered finely you couldn’t copy his style.

But even Ikeda sensei had call to reflect on his use of the waza. One time when I asked Ikeda sensei to reminisce on his own teacher he told me the following story. Ikeda sensei met his teacher at Busen and was from the same prefecture – the aforementioned Sato Chuzo sensei. In 1954 – when Ikeda sensei was 40 years old – he won the Kokutai individual championships held in Hokkaido (Kokutai is a large and prestigious national sports competition that entails many sports and budo). After he won the title Sato Chuzo – who was a shinpan at the time – called over Ikeda sensei.

Ikeda, don’t dare show your kote and invite your opponent to strike it. Your favourite technique is kote-kaeshi-kote right? Don’t be stupid and blatantly open your kote to invite attack… you’d better stop that type of kendo right now. Kendo must be done honestly.

In this instant Ikeda sensei changed the way he viewed kendo. With the success of winning such a big shiai there also came reflection.”

Don’t be embarrassed about being hit

Again, told by Furuya sensei:

“It happened in Shudokan. Ikeda sensei was one of the teachers there, and one day he went to ask for keiko from another of the teachers, Hasegawa sensei. Hasegawa sensei was also a Busen graduate, but 7 years Ikeda sensei’s senior. At this time Ikeda sensei was in his early 50’s. When the two shihan began keiko everyone around them stopped to watch. Its rare that two shihan would keiko like this so the atmosphere was tense.

The first to move was Ikeda sensei, who launched into a morote-tsuki attack. Hasegawa sensei managed to use his shinai just in time to avoid the thrust from landing. The pair of sensei went back to chudan and the keiko commenced. Just as Ikeda sensei was about to launch another attack Hasegawa sensei sprung forward and tsuki’ed Ikeda sensei so strongly that he flew back and into the waiting line of kenshi, of which I was top of the line. Straight away Hasegawa sensei thrust again and Ikeda sensei’s body flew into mine.

Its very rare for senior sensei to go to more-senior sensei for keiko in front of so many students. Ikeda sensei toppled over in front of me. On a different day I again saw Ikeda sensei go to Hasegawa sensei for keiko. Ikeda sensei was not embarrassed about being struck, rather he admitted his inexperience and thanked Hasegawa sensei for teaching him (remember Ikeda sensei was at least 8dan at this time).

The image of that tsuki and Ikeda sensei collapsing into me is burnt into my mind.”

Sayings by Ikeda Yuji sensei

Do correct kendo, do kendo so that whoever looks at you thinks it is beautiful.

Small, shrunken kendo like a bonsai is bad, do kendo like a big tree with strong roots.

Kendo isn’t about theory. Its about seeking yourself through intense keiko. If you do this you will come to understand.

If you accept that something is impossible then it always will be. If you always avoid your opponents sword tip then you will never be able to defeat them.

Self-centered kendo is bad. There is an partner in front of you after all. If you do self-centered kendo then those watching will think “thats unpleasant” and you will be thought of as someone who does bad kendo. You must do kendo that is pleasant. Striking your opponents heart/spirit, or having your heart/spirit struck by your opponent is what kendo’s about, isn’t it?

They say “do kendo with abandon.” If you do your daily kendo like this, and if even 1/2 of this comes out during a shiai, you will win.

Even though you are swinging the shinai you don’t need power. Even though you are lifting the shinai up you don’t need power. Physical power is unnecessary. If you simply bring the shinai down it will cut.

In kirikaeshi its bad to just bash your opponents shinai recklessly. You have to tense your hands and – feeling the weight of your own shinai – immediately pivot the shinai round and strike the opposite side.

It doesn’t matter who you are, every person raises their hands before striking. Strike there. You have to be patient and wait until that moment.

Kendo is a lifetime activity. Its not just about striking and being struck, kendo isn’t as small as that.

Kendo is about harmony. You have a partner after all. You must consider your opponents feeling. Kendo isn’t something you can do on your own after all.

Simply learning the theory of kendo is no good. Kendo is only understood through physical experience. If you see the opponents kote come and you think “I’m going to evade it!” well, there simply isn’t enough time. Your opponent is also a living being. They don’t want to be hit. Thinking then attempting to strike is no good. You have to abandon oneself. Throw away everything and strike.

In your youth you must physically exert yourself to the utmost. During this period you will start to understand things like the correct opportunity to strike, and the theory behind actions. Keiko without exertion leads to nothing but small and hard kendo.

When you are doing keiko with senior people, even if you feel their strong pressure, you should attempt to strike. Even if it wasn’t the correct time to strike, aim to throw yourself into the cut and make your opponent move by doing so. If you do this over and over your emotional spirit, that is to say, your “heart” will come out. Eventually you will be able to cause your opponent to strike when agitated. He will end up simply blocking your attacks and your attacks/techniques will come out one after another.

When you think “Wow, thats a great technique, I want to learn it” you should steal it. Whether you are asleep or awake you should draw a picture of it in your mind. Naturally/eventually you will become to be able to do the technique.

“Shu-ha-ri” is something you repeat over and over. Whatever grade you become “shu,” whatever grade you became “ha,” its not “once you get to x-dan” then you are now in the “ri” stage, at least this is what I believe. It doesn’t matter what grade you are, you must always return to basics.

Do your keiko like your kata and do your kata like keiko.

Watching someone’s kata you can understand their kendo ability. How to grip the sword, how to move the body, kamae, presence… everything comes out in kata.

Timeline: Ikeda Yuji, hanshi hachidan

1914: born in Yamagata prefecture on the 13th of March.
1923: began kendo at 3rd year in primary school.
1932/1933: Entered into the Busen pre-training group in 1932 and – finally passing the exams a year later – enrolled in Busen proper in 1933. Sato Chuzo – also from Yamagata – became his main teacher.
1937: graduated Busen but stayed on in its research division.
1940: entered tenran shiai.
1942: he served as the kendo teacher for Sakai kogyo high school, and taught kendo and jukendo at Osaka prefectural university.
1945-1949: After the war he was interned in a Siberian labour camp for 4 years. After release he worked at a fabric wholesale company in central Osaka.
1950/51: helps create Busen alumni association and re-starts kendo at Nankai dentetsu dojo.
1954: he won Kokutai kendo individual championships aged 40.
1959 or 1963: becomes first shihan of Yoseikai.
1964: passes hachidan.
1969: receives hanshi
1971: Tozai-taiko west-team captain.
1976: all Japan kendo championships shinpan-cho. Served on the board to revise kendo no kata.
1991: passes away at 76.

Posts held: ZNKR director and public awareness committee member, Osaka kendo renmei permanent director, Kansai university kendo shihan, Osaka university kendo shihan, Asahi shinbun Osaka kendo shihan, Shudokan lecturer, Asahi culture center Senri kendo kyoshitsu lecturer, Yoseikai shihan, Yukenkai shihan, Juso kenyukai shihan.