When the Tokugawa-Bakufu was dismantled in 1867/68 budo education was thrown into turmoil: gone were the domain schools as well as the short-lived Kobusho, and with that budo instructors suddenly lost their profession. Many (now ex-) samurai were suddenly jobless and facing destitution. One person that stepped up to help these people was the ex-samurai, Kobusho kenjutsu instructor, and Jikishinkage-ryu kenshi Sakakibara Kenkichi. He instituted what was called “Gekken-kogyo” – the highly popular public budo shows. “Gekken” refers to the nascent form of what we now call kendo. Although mainly sword-based shows, bouts with other weapons also occurred, and women and even foreigners are also recorded to have taken part.
Gekken Kogyo, July 2013
Coming to Japan to study kendo, the first thing you look for is a good dojo. In English as well as Japanese (nowadays) the word “dojo” also has the implied meaning of “group” or “club,” which goes beyond the mere physical location suggested by the word itself (see this article from 2011). Although there are many “dojo” in Japan that practise in school gyms or sports centres, I have always been lucky in that every group I belonged to have always had their own dojo (actually, one is owned by the prefecture and rented by the group – also not uncommon here in Japan).
Sadly, however, one group that I have been a member of for almost 15 years now, was forced out of it’s dojo in July of this year… which has inspired todays brief post.
I picked up my first nama-kiji dou in 2015, as a sort of present to myself. Up until that time – unbelievably – I’d never had a bamboo dou. There were a couple of reasons why I didn’t get one: the main one being economic, and the second that I thought that (somehow) a bamboo dou would be really heavy (not necessarily true).
With these reasons in mind I never really thought about buying one until one day I walked into my local kendo shop and – boom – there was a beautiful bamboo dou-dai sitting on top of the counter. Within about 3 minutes I said “I’ll take it!” It was pure impulse buy.
As I mentioned in my last post, I spent some time in the beautiful Scottish capital city of Edinburgh earlier this summer teaching a two-day kendo seminar (plus one regular keiko session). It was the fourth time I have been invited by my home dojo, Edinburgh Kendo Club, to teach there.
The summer holidays are over here in Japan, and it’s back to school for yours truly after a very busy few weeks of kendo. I am always running around doing kendo during this period, and so am quite used to it, but this year was slightly different in that I combined two events in to a single week… which normally wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that the dojo were about 5,700 miles apart as the crow flies.
I’ll give a brief explanation about the two teaching environments I was in, and do a simple teaching-observation at the end to wrap-up.
I only came back to Osaka two days ago and I am still suffering from jet-lag as I type this now, so please excuse any spelling or grammar mistakes!