The latest kenshi 24/7 publication has been released: a translation of Ogawa Kinnosuke sensei’s Teikoku Kendo Kyohon (The Kendo Textbook of Imperial Japan). I am a bit bias, but I have to say that the book is amazing, not just in content, but in format as well… I’m super excited to release it!
When this book was published in the 1930s, Ogawa sensei was the head instructor of the Budo Senmon Gakko (Busen), the school run by the Dai-Nippon Butokukai, the largest and most influential martial arts organisation in Japan. Busen was a teacher-training college and the premier place to study kendo prior to the war. It’s graduates taught kendo all over Japan (before and after the war) and it’s not too much to say that what was taught there – about the philosophy of kendo as well as it’s execution – forms the basis of the kendo that we do today in the 21st century.
Here’s a sneak peak:
For full information including pictures and information about formats etc, please check out the books dedicated page on our publication website, kendo-book.com.
I cannot, just by telling you about it, convince you of the pleasure of what happens at such as festival as well as you would learn for yourself, sitting in the middle of the crowd watching the arete of men and physical beauty, amazing conditioning, and great skill and irresistible force and daring and pride and unbeatable determination and indescribable passion for victory. I know that you would not stop praising and cheering and applauding.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the World Kendo Championships, held in the Nippon Budokan, Tokyo. I attended as neither competitor nor spectator, but as a volunteer staff member for the All Japan Kendo Association (ZNKR), which was a new – and eye opening – experience for me. In particular I got to see how things operated (specifically the media side of things), plus was privy to not a few highly interesting (and secret!) conversations. I also met a Japanese imperial princess, but that’s a story to be had over a beer or two. Due to my work situation I was only onsite on days 2 and 3.
I won’t bother detailing the flow of the competition nor the results – you can find all those on the official page or from your friends. My main goal with this post is simply to share some pictures and chat briefly about my experience.
Day 2: ladies individuals and teams
I rolled up to the Budokan just before 7am and was in for a long day: I didn’t leave until around 9pm. Other volunteers where there longer than that. This day was mostly spent acclimatising to the role so I didn’t walk around or take as many pictures as I did on the last day (which I now regret).
The highlight (!?!?) of the day was a large-ish earthquake that happened in the middle of the ladies award ceremony. The Budokan shook back-and-forth quite a lot and the ceremony was suspended for a few moments to ensure everything was ok. In Kansai we don’t experience quite as many earthquakes as they do in the Kanto region, so I was far from impressed!
Here are some pictures from the day…
Australia vs USA
Brazil vs Italy
Bulgaria vs Hawaii
Bulgaria vs Hawaii
USA vs Canada
Italy vs Japan
Italy vs Japan
Watching the final
Day 3: mens teams
This day saw the largest turnout spectator-wise, especially from the afternoon. I spent some pre-opening ceremony time watching the warmup of a few teams. The warmup area was in an ad-hoc tent that was set up in what I believe was part of the parking area! When the competition started proper I did some wandering around taking random shots, both of the shiai itself and of other stuff that was going on in and around the Budokan.
One thing that (happily!) surprised me over the day was the realisation just how technically proficient some of the teams have become over the last decade I’ve been in Japan, especially some of the European ones. There was some really athleticism on display as well as some precisely executed waza and nice seme-ai. Watching some of the tall and muscular young guys I started to feel inadequate!!
Check out some pictures…
Team snaps (random):
Some of the Aussies!
Ireland team hug
Belgium vs Hungary
Venezuela vs Taipei
Spain vs China
UK vs NZ
Korea vs Japan
Korea vs America
Korea vs Japan
Korea vs Japan
Korea vs America
Behind the scenes
I spent a lot of my volunteering time posting on twitter, taking pictures for flickr, uploading stuff to the kenshi 24/7 facebook page, and monitoring Ustream comments. One thing I’d like everyone to know is that this is a massive operation, especially the Ustream -> YouTube process. Although there is a lot of self-automation, there is constant manual monitoring and intervention if required. It’s really quite impressive how something that was live-streamed a few moments ago get’s shifted to YouTube so quickly. There were also ippon collections and slo-motion vids that got uploaded super speedily.
Although some people had problem watching Ustream, most didn’t. The former we couldn’t really help as any strangling/blocking of the streams were happening at their end. Why some ISPs blocked some channels but left others open I have no idea. At any rate, those that couldn’t see things live could wait a few moments and see the recorded version on YouTube anyway… if they had the patience!
At the same time as all this was happening the scores were being recorded digitally and fed into the official tournament system. Part of this system also updated the official site the instant a point was made (input). It was all rather cool.
Although it was a very exhausting couple of days for me (and I didn’t even work that hard!!), I consider myself lucky that I was allowed so much access to what was going on. I think we need to thank the ZNKR and it’s team of volunteers for going to so much effort.
Some pics from behind the scenes…
ustream channel number 1
Random nito instruction
Eiga sensei doing NHK narration
To tell you the truth, more than watching the competition itself, I got a lot more joy just walking around, taking pictures, meeting some very old friends, and chatting to new people. Quite a few people came up to me and said “Are you George?” and thanked me for kenshi 24/7… which was unexpected but very nice!
Of course, I did watch a lot of the matches, and I not only enjoyed them immensely but came away with a new found respect for the increase in technical ability shown by everyone. This – assuming it is coupled with a deep understanding of the culture of kendo – can only lead to bright things for the future of kendo. Exciting times!!!!
Special thanks go out to Paul Carruthers from Newcastle who kindly donated a couple of spare tickets for day 3. I managed to get both tickets into needy hands pretty quickly (one person from Hong Kong, another from Osaka) – cheers Paul, I owe you a beer!
When I think about the sensei that had the most influence over the development of modern kendo the three that immediately come to mind tower above all the rest: Naito Takaharu, Takano Sasaburo, and Ogawa Kinnosuke. As I’ve already done posts on the the first two, it’s time now for one on the last of the triumvirate.
Ogawa Kinnosuke was born in 1884 in Aiichi prefecture. He began kendo whilst in school, at around 13/15 years of age, under kendo hanshi Kato Kiichi and later under Kohori Yasutada. In his late teens and very early 20s he taught kendo at a middle school and joined the army (field gunnery position) before being employed by Nagoya police department. It was at thus juncture where his kendo life was to change.
The Dai-Nippon Butokukai had been founded a few years earlier in 1895, with the goal of promoting spiritual discipline through martial arts education. Upon completion of its HQ dojo – the Butokuden – a handful of prominent kenshi were selected to instruct there, one of whom was to have the greatest influence of the development of modern kendo: Naito Takaharu. In 1905 a school was formally opened to teach kendo instructors and Naito was selected as the senior teacher. At this time the school was known as the Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseijo, but eventually (after a few re-organisations and renames) it would be known to everyone as Busen (Budo Senmon Gakko). It was to this school that Ogawa was dispatched by the Nagoya police department in 1907.
Ogawa would spend 3 years studying kendo directly under Naito. Including Ogawa, students of the Yoseijo around this time who were to go on to have a massive impact on the future of kendo: Saimura Goro, Mochida Moriji, Nakano Sosuke, Oasa Yuji, Shimatani Yasohachi, Oshima Jikida, Ueda Heitaro, and Miyazaki Mosaburo amongst others. The first 4 people mentioned were, along with Ogawa, awarded 10th dan after the war.
After spending 3 years training under Naito (and surrounded by high quality kenshi) Ogawa was ordered back to Nagoya to take up his kendo teaching position within the police.
For the next 4 years Ogawa taught kendo within the Nagoya police department when – in 1914 – Naito got in touch and requested that he return to Kyoto to become a helper at the newly overhauled Busen. Obviously a favourite of Naito, his promotion was swift: he became an assistant Busen teacher in 1917 then, after being awarded his kyoshi in 1919, a fully fledged one.
1919 also saw the arrival of a new Busen principle, the influential politician Nishikubo Hiromichi. Ogawa was taken under Nishikubo’s wing and when Ogawa came to build his own dojo he used the kanji from Nishikubo’s first name (Hiromichi 弘道) for the name of the dojo he built in 1924: Kodokan 弘道館. Kodokan was originally built in the grounds of Chomyoji temple, not far from the Butokuden. This dojo would become one of the main dojo that Busen students would attend in the evenings.
From around 1926 the ageing Naito’s health began to worsen, and Ogawa was selected to take over the senior teaching role. During this time he was awarded hanshi by the Butokukai. When Naito passed away suddenly in 1929, Ogawa was appointed as Busen’s principle instructor. He would keep this job until 1944 when he himself petitioned for retirement (perhaps due to the over-arching control Japan’s military government was exercising on the Butokukai?).
The 1920s and 30s can rightly be seen as the period where kendo – it’s philosophy, ideology, as well as physical execution – began to finally take a consistent form. The driving force behind this was mainly the Butokukai and the teachers (and graduates) of Busen. It’s not too much to say that Ogawa was in key a position of authority and influence during the majority of this time.
Reading scores and scores of kendo books from the post-war period, Ogawa’s name comes up time and time again: it’s obvious that he was high respected and that many many Busen students regarded him as their teacher. Unfortunately, Ogawa himself was far from prolific when it came to written material: he only authored a single book in 1932 (revised in 1937) called Teikokuku Kendo Kyohon: The Kendo Textbook of Imperial Japan.
After the war ended, like all the senior pre-war guard, we don’t really hear or see much of Ogawa until he is awarded 10th dan from the newly formed Zen Nippon Kendo Renemei in 1957. (All the 10th dan recipients were Naito students and Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseijo graduates.)
Ogawa sensei passed away in 1962 at the age of 78.
Although the original/second generation of Kodokan that Ogawa ran and where Busen students practised no longer exists (between 1924-1934 Kodokan was located in Chomyoji, from 1934-1945 inside Ogawa’s private residence), the group continued after the war (at first run by Ogawa’s son, who was 9th dan) in various locations and still exists today.
If you want to visit something associated with Ogawa then you should attend keiko at the Butokuden and – before or after – take a short walk to Chomyoji and pay respects at his grave.
Ogawa Kinnosuke sensei
Name card for the tenran shiai
Busen tameshigiri class
Takano and Ogawa
Ogawa family grave
Saimura Goro (left) vs Ogawa Kinnosuke (right) at the 1940 Tenran-jiai:
As long term readers of kenshi 24/7 may have noticed, this site strongly emphasises the traditional and historical aspects of kendo. I also find myself – both online as well as off – thinking about and having discussions about how kendo has evolved through the years, for both good and bad. Although there is a lot you can find on the site that is my own thinking or heavily influenced by the sensei and sempai that surround me, most of what is presented here is informed through historical analysis, in particular through lots and lots of reading. Over the years I’ve also harvested a wealth of older kendo videos and images from the net as well (though often these are without context), whose availability adds something to the greater kendo knowledge base.
Looking through older books, pictures, and videos, I often find myself wondering about why is it that, as the movement we use in kendo has changed a lot over the past 100 or so years, bogu hasn’t changed much. Sure, different materials are used over time and fashions go in and out, but bogu generally looks the same as it did in 1915. One picture (shown above) of Takano Sasaburo caught my imagination in particular and – when I saw it at first – I studied it intently.
Bogu-wise, what this (undated, but possibly sometime in the 20s?) photo shows us is that bogu pretty much looked then as it does now. The only difference is the absence of a zekken (a post war invention), the colour of the kote (of the kobushi/kotegashira plus a stripe), and, to lesser extent, the colour of the front stripe (menboshi) of the men. Looking through a variety of material over the years I come to the conclusion that the style (or fashion) of the bogu worn by Takano sensei in the picture above, was not only relatively common, but lasted for a long time.
Check out the pictures in this gallery:
Kendo manual, 1920s
Kyoto Taikai 2015
Unknown army picture
Unknown navy picture
And these videos (the first is from 1914, the second from 1932):
See what I mean?
Although on rare occasions (for example at the Kyoto Taikai) I caught a glimpse of people wearing (sometimes only parts of) what seemed like older-fashioned bogu, it wasn’t until a year or so ago that I actually got my hands on some: one of my sempai whipped out a pair of kote that looked exactly like those Takano sensei is wearing in the top picture. Obviously, my attention was immediately caught. I discovered that a company in northern Kyushu still made this old style but – after further inquiry – found out they were very pricey. I hummed and hawed for a bit (mainly because I generally don’t like to wear anything that stands out … and these kote definitely do!) but eventually I decided to ask my friend Andy at All Japan Budogu whether he could custom make a set. He said he could, so I set him on it and waited.
After a few months I was genuinely surprised when Andy not only made me some kote, but he started offering them online to the public as well !!!!! Here are two pictures of my kote plus one of Andy’s product images (which may be of my set as I think it was the prototype – the difference in colour is in the lighting, image processing and background):
So, I got what I wanted and – I must admit – I was secretly delighted!! Although I only have the kote at the moment, I think I’ll probably extend my range of anachronistic looking bogu parts in the future.
Review: Mugen brand, Renma Type 2 Cho-Mamorigata kote
Although I didn’t set out to write a product review in this piece, I think it’s only fair to write something here about my opinion on the kote after using them for a few weeks.
Feel: well, there’s not really much I can say here – the kote fitted perfectly and – although I was worried that they might have been too large at first (they are sold as a practise/protective kote and are hence thicker and more reinforced than normal) – within 10 minutes of using them in keiko for the first time they were already comfortably sitting in my hand. This is no different to how the other kote I’ve gotten from All Japan Budogu have behaved and I’m extremely happy with them. As pointed out above they are kote that are meant for use in hard, daily practise, and this is exactly what I’ve been using them for. They feel great!
Look: they look super distinct… you will stick out a mile! If you have any deficiencies in your grip you will be unable to hide them from your sensei and sempai anymore – they will spot it from across the dojo. btw, My students reactions ranged from “What the hell are those!?” to “Oh wow, your kote are cute!”
Kote lining: I didn’t think about the kote lining choices that All Japan Budogu give, so I guess Andy just picked for me. I must admit that I probably wouldn’t have chosen what I ended up with (as it’s not inline with my more traditional approach) but, truthfully, I have no problems with it. It’s a pleasant wee touch actually.
Smell: everything that looks beige, as well as the kote palms, are made from smoked deerskin, which means that the kote smell strong. I don’t mean a little bit, I mean they smell strong. If you leave them lying out in your bedroom your entire room will quickly smell. Your non-kendoka boy/girlfriend, your parents, and your pets may all have a problem with the kote. Through time the strength of the smell will diminish, but until then you may want to keep them in a couple of plastic bags or outside on the balcony.
In summary: the kote are excellent. I love the combination of the more anachronistic design with the modern know-how provided by the All-Japan team. In the future I hope to ask for some more custom parts with the combination of traditional styling and modern skill and material from them as well.
The Kyoto Taikai is Japan’s premier kendo event, this year being the 111th time it has been held (it’s only stopped a few times over the years, either due to war or because a tenran-jiai – competition in front of the Emperor – took precedence). Although this year was my 13th time (I think!) I still haven’t lost my appreciation or fascination of the event… I love it! There is literally so much going on it’s hard to explain online – not only the tachiai itself, but various keikokai, drinking events, koryu embu, etc etc. Rather than attempt to spell everything out, I’d like to share some pictures that I took over the course of the 4 days.
Day 1 (May 2nd)
The first part of the the first day of the taikai is reserved for demonstrations of the older budo and is one of the highlights of the entire 4 day event. Participating groups change every year, but what you usually end up seeing is sojutsu, a variety of kenjutsu styles, and a mix of jodo-related arts. Sadly, due to the dearth of groups nowadays, this part of the event finishes quite quickly before moving on to lots and lots of naginata and jodo demonstrations. Once the jodo is over (usually by mid/late morning depending) the entire rest of the day moves onto iaido.
In theory, everyone participating on the first day must hold renshi 6dan in one of the three arts run by the All Japan Kendo Federation (ZNKR), i.e. kendo, iaido, or jodo, but it’s not always necessary.
Day 2 (May 3rd)
The final 3 days of the taikai is for kendo demonstrations only. Day 2 starts with a demonstration of kendo-no-kata before the kendo starts properly. Participants start at renshi and move up through kyoshi.
The iaido and jodo 8dan exams are held in the Budo Center next door.
Day 3 (May 4th)
The demonstrations on day 3 are all kyoshi. This tends to be one of the busiest days for keiko as the Budo Center is open for free use all day. Many groups gather and hold sessions, and some people just roll up and improvise. This year I joined one official 2 hour session in the morning, and then just improvised for an hour or so in the afternoon. It was great !!!!!
btw, today I shot pictures only in black and white because my friend Andy Rogers couldn’t make it – he runs the new website kendomonochrome.com. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out (his pictures blow mine away) !
Day 4 (May 5th)
The final day is the big one: the 8dan’s. They go through kyoshi up until the final (and small group) of hanshi (which, by the way, included a pair of hanshi 7dan – which is more senior than kyoshi 8dan). The hanshi embu are slightly different than the other one’s as there are no shinpan (just a sensei to say start and finish) and ippon are not scored. This is traditionally how all the matches at the Kyoto Taikai would’ve been run.
As you can imagine, this day usually sees the most amount of spectators. Finding a good place to view the action can sometimes be very difficult.