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.



Osaka Tokuren mohan embu

Today was the Osaka Shudokan’s 50th anniversary, which they celebrated with an embu-taikai. On display was kyudo, naginata, judo, karate, aikido, jodo, iaido, and kendo. I had keiko in the morning in a different prefecture so rolled up 1/2 way through, at around the karate mark. No worries, as I was there to see the kendo which was to go on last.

The kendo embu was done by 6 current members of the Osaka tokuren squad, 2 of which will take part in the All Japan Championships in November. The session consisted of kirikaeshi (3 kinds), some kihon, a bit of jigeiko, and uchikomi/kirikaeshi to finish.

I was taking pictures mainly, but managed to grab some iphone footage, which has been edited above and uploaded to youtube for kenshi 24/7 followers. Enjoy!!!

Kendo photography

I started taking kendo pics back around 2003-4 with a small point and shoot camera and, after a few iterations of pretty low-end cameras, have settled on reasonably cost effective setup that allows me to take pics in a variety of situations, both for pleasure and images for use on this website. Since I get a lot more likes on pictures than articles on facebook, and because a lot of people ask me about the equipment I use, I thought I’d share my current setup as well as some sample images over the last 10 years using a variety of (mostly very) cheap cameras. Putting this post together has also allowed me to look to see how my technique has (or has not) matured over this time.

Basically, my current setup is as follows –

Digital: Sony Nex 5n (kit lenses 16mm/2.8 and 18-55/3.5-5.6; also use a nikon lens adapter)
Film: Nikon FM2n (primarily Nikkor 50mm/1.8; still experimenting with films; negatives self-scanned)
Mobile: iPhone 5 (instagram and/or KitCam for processing)

Nothing special nor professional, and nothing too expensive!

Please note that all photos are copyright yours truly. Downloading for use as desktop wallpaper is cool, but no unauthorised commercial use please. Cheers!

2003-7 Casio ExSlim-z40


2007-8 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30

2007 February. Panasonic Lumix.


2008-11 Nikon D40





2011+ Sony Nex5n





2012+ Nikon FM2n




2012 Point-and-shoot test with a Nikon Coolpix P310 (i.e. can I pull some decent images from a point and shoot?)


In my experience…

For me, personally, a good kendo picture is about timing and location rather than the sharpness or quality of the image produced.

As you might have noticed in the above selection, all the kenshi are in kamae or are watching/waiting rather than actually striking. With the nex5, I can easily put the shooting mode on continuous and take a burst of 10 shots/second.. in fact, I had great fun doing exactly that when I got the camera at first. Wading through the hundreds of images I would produce per fight, I could easily find 1 or 2 of clear strikes. However, the whole thing became old and rather boring quickly. Not to mention the hassle involved. Looking at the pictures I produced I also realised that I preferred to see my pictures showing ‘semeai’ or to catch the kenshi in a moment of reflection (catching facial features can be hard). Of course, I do like to take the odd ‘exact strike’ shot, but when I am doing that I stand in kamae with my camera, and take the shot as if it is a debana-men… !

Location, also, I think is vitally important. For me, kendo has to be done in a dojo. There nothing worse (for me) than seeing kendo photography done on a colour-lined basketball court or something similar. I realise that this isn’t always possible to avoid (I take pics like this as well, though I don’t like to), especially for kenshi247 readers abroad without a ‘real’ dojo. My access to a variety of dojo is probably my only advantage over other camera-loving kendo friends abroad. A way to get around this of course, is to bokeh the background out.

There are a few other things I could chat about here, but nothing extraordinary – my kendo-photography philosophy is pretty simple… just like my kendo style!

Other pics from yours truly can be seen on:

my public kendo photo album on facebook

Also check out the flickr ART OF KENDO group for brilliant kendo pics from around the world.

Looking back

Happy 2013! For the first post of the new year I spent some time looking back af old kendo pictures, some from books, others that I picked up randomly on the web. I really enjoy looking at these old pics so I’d like to present a handful of them here (the earliest picture is from 1906). Its good to see and reflect on what changes there has been to kendo over the past century or so, as well as whats stayed more-or-less the same.

If kenshi247 readers have any high quality kendo pics from before WWII and are willing to share, please get in touch!