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PostPosted: 26 Apr 2012 08:36
by Ulrich von L...n
At the moment I'm aware of Maeda's exposure to sumo, judo / jujutsu and also baseball (!) (at Waseda University / High School?) (from the Japanese wiki article). Apart from that we know that during their tour in the USA they indeed used swords at several judo presentations (exhibitions):

in February, 1906 in the Columbia University gymnasium (also there were some kendo bouts)

in March, 1906 "Tomita and Maeda gave another judo demonstration at Columbia University, this time to about 200 students and instructors in the gymnasium. According to Columbia Spectator, "Another interesting feature was the exhibition of some of the obsolete jiu jitsu tricks for defense with a fan against an opponent armed with the curved Japanese sword.""

(from wiki: Tomita Tsunejiro)

PostPosted: 26 Apr 2012 08:47
by Ulrich von L...n
New York Tribune, February 08, 1906, Page 5

1906_Feb_8_1.jpg (60.48 KiB) Viewed 23138 times

1906_Feb_8_2.jpg (64.23 KiB) Viewed 23138 times

1906_3.jpg (66.94 KiB) Viewed 23138 times

Re: Kendo, kenjutsu and HEMA

PostPosted: 26 Apr 2012 16:06
by Lyceum
Maeda must have been fierce, hence BJJ.

I was completely unaware of his involvement in the armed arts though. I wonder if it was simply how the JMA were taught at the time?

PostPosted: 15 Sep 2012 15:03
by Ulrich von L...n
In another topic I have stumbled across an interesting remark:
...Gekken is essentially old school kendo (what kendo used to be like before the Americans ruined it during the occupation

After some search I have found an interesting article on those changes, written by George McCall :

Some highlights:
"To say it another way: a modern and democratic sport was born out of the older kendo. At the end of the war, when both the outside pressure (GHQ) and self-reproach from inside kendo circles caused the breakup/dissolution of kendo (i.e. the Butokukai) the discipline was at a crossroads; it was at this time a chance was taken and the new sport was created. At that time the (kendo equipment) manufacturers and kendo exponents wanted to somehow (in any way possible) keep at least the essence of kendo alive but, because of the severity of the situation (the current state of destitution and poverty in post-war Japan combined with the strict law of occupied rule), kendo wasn’t allowed to continue as it was (i.e. it was banned by GHQ). Despite this situation, the involved parties continued to work ceaselessly in negotiations with the the occupied authority, gathering as much information and working with their total energy and concentration to leave the purity of kendo intact, the result of which was a version of kendo with modern elements added that we call shinai kyogi.”

"The aftermath of the war
Kendo was banned but – obviously due the sheer number of people who had experience in it – not forgotten. During the banned period various groups continued to practise in secret anyway (for an example, see the article in ‘Kenshi247: selected articles 2008-2011′). A public effort was made to promote kendo at higher diplomatic levels. Often cited at this point is Sasamori Junzo sensei’s (Ono-ha itto-ryu soke) influence: educated in America (PhD from Denver University) and a fluent English speaker (and Christian priest) he worked with GHQ during the occupation period, and supported the re-introduction of kendo in educational circles (he was headmaster of various universities and eventually worked in the Education Ministry. He emerged in the post-war kendo community as the head of the Shinai Kyogi association, then eventually the university kendo association). Obviously wary about the militarism that was inherent in the immediate pre-war country controlled Butokukai, GHQ was seemingly very reticent to allow its restart. To battle this, the pro-kendo lobby introduced not ‘kendo’ but a new kendo-inspired sport called ‘shinai kyogi.’ Renamed, and without some of the more nationalist attributes, it wasn’t ‘kendo’ per-se, but it was to have a long lasting on the art."

- clothes should be made of strong cloth, a tracksuit top and trousers should be worn;
- girls may wear a skirt instead of trousers;
- shiai held outdoors generally require the use of footwear. If the ground is safe then you can use socks or go barefoot;
- any colour may be freely worn but black doesn’t fit with the bogu well, so its banned;
- clothing should be a little bit loose, not tight fitting;

- shinai should be wrapped on the outside with leather (i.e. a fukuro-shinai);
- shinai must be split in either 4, 8, 16, or more pieces;
- shinai must be equal to or less than 3.8 in length and weights where set based on age/gender;
- the kote-dome (i.e. tsuba) must be smaller than 3-sun and made of leather or rubber. It can be of any

- bogu consists of a men, doate, and tebukuro (‘gloves’)*
- names were also given in hiragana MASUKU (‘mask’ i.e. men), PROTEKUTA (‘protector’ i.e. dou), and GURABU (‘glove’ i.e. kote);

* Note that the ‘tsuba’ has been renamed ‘kote dome,’ the kote ‘tebukuro’ (gloves), and other pieces given English-sounding alternatives in order to de-swordify the art and make it seem more sporty, much like the use of the name ‘shinai kyogi’ itself (see above). We could also surmise that this was done to placate GHQ as well."

PostPosted: 15 Sep 2012 15:13
by Ulrich von L...n
Shinai Kyogi

- usually matches occur indoors, but outside is ok too;
- whether held inside or out the area must be flat and have no obstructions;
- the shiaijo is to be 6×7 meters and have a space of 1.5m between the middle and each player;
- if you are outside you can mark the shiaijo boundaries with stones or paint;
- if the shiaijo is raised it would be preferably if the boundaries were roped (like boxing)*;

* early all Japan championships also seem to have this feature

- at the start of the match shinai must not be touching (a change from pre-war);
- shiai were 3 points (pre-war this varied);
- there will be 3 shinpan (apart from tenran shiai, there was almost only ever 1 shinpan, sometimes 2);
- time limits and the use of encho (and hantei) were defined.

Hansoku (foul):
- violent behaviour (e.g. taiatari or leg sweeping);
- use of shouts (i.e. kiai);
- going out of bounds."

"... Those in bold are fundamental changes to kendo as it existed prior to or during the war:
- fixing shiaijo sizes;
- fixing of shinai weights and lengths;
- definition of time limits;
- creation of a more democracy i.e. males and females could practise and compete equally;
- establishing 3 shinpan for all shiai;
- disallowing violent actions, specifically foot sweeps;
- creation of a ‘sporty’ image."

PostPosted: 15 Sep 2012 15:20
by Ulrich von L...n
It is worth noting the marked area for mune-tsuki (a thrust to the chest), and a Western fencing mask (?).

Re: Kendo, kenjutsu and HEMA

PostPosted: 05 Oct 2012 03:28
by Mark Shaw
A member over at the KW forum just posted a link to some really interesting WW2 era Kendo & Jukendo training. It's worth a look;

There white training uniform they are wearing under the Kendo armor is sometimes still worn by Jukendo students today (perhaps a club thing?) and from what I understand derives from the french (?) involvement in pre-ww2 Japanese military bayonet training.
(would like to get involved in Jukendo myself but no ones instructing it in my country).

PostPosted: 05 Oct 2012 07:01
by Ulrich von L...n
That is interesting, especially mismatched weapons bouts: shinai vs short shinai, shinai vs jukendo rifle. Somewhere at the end there is another interesting bout with short shinais, basically knife fighting.

PostPosted: 05 Oct 2012 07:19
by Ulrich von L...n
Mark Shaw wrote: ... would like to get involved in Jukendo myself but no ones instructing it in my country.

European bayonet fencing might be a good substitution for Japanese jukendo. The jukendo training weapon - mokujo - is unrealistically light (1100g for adults, compare with Joolz's Martin-Henry waster: 5.5lbs in another topic: viewtopic.php?f=31&t=19248)

PostPosted: 07 Oct 2012 17:08
by Ulrich von L...n
A beautifully crafted film about kendo.


"4th Dan' (2010) is one of the very first fictional films about kendo. There are many documentaries and excerpts, but as far as we know, our film is among the first fictional films about kendo itself.

'4th Dan' is about a kendo student who is training for his promotional exam. He is determined to succeed and prove his worthiness to his father. However, as the exam approaches, he must confront his own darker self and must come to terms with his own weaknesses.

The film was made in close collaboration with the Budapest Fonix Kendo and Iaido Club, with experienced kendo exponents playing the roles of the main characters. It is the third independent and low-budget production by director/cinematographer George Perrin."



Re: Kendo, kenjutsu and HEMA

PostPosted: 05 Nov 2012 11:07
by drspeed

Perhaps this has been posted earlier, if so, my apologies.
This documentary reveals some of the spirit of kendo. It's about the (notoriously difficult to pass) examination for 8th dan grade.
The guy who doesn't make it is for me the hero of the film, you know that he will never give up !


PostPosted: 07 Nov 2012 09:23
by Ulrich von L...n
What makes this exam so difficult?

From ... 17975.html

60 out of 968 applicants passed (6.2%). Results will be posted on the ZNKR website on the 13th.

Day 1
Yoshida Hiromitsu, Yamaguchi Pref. Age 50
Abe Akihiko, Ibaraki Pref. Age 51
Sawada Masahiro, Fukuoka Pref. Age 54
Kamada Susumu, Tokyo, Age 61
Yamahata Aimaro(???), Osaka, Age 68 (Kanji for his given name is 阿威麿)

Day 2
Nagano Kenji, Hyogo Pref. Age 46(!)
Iida Shigehiro, Chiba Pref. Age 49
Matsushita Etsuro, Kagoshima Pref. Age 52
Nishida Yutaka, Iwate Pref. Age 53 (Given name could just be "Yuu")
Ito Yoshiharu, Osaka, 55
Hakamata Daizo(?), Tokyo 59
Sato Shin (maybe Noboru), Niigata Pref. Age 74
Tsugo Yasuhiro, Nagasaki Pref. Age 80(!)

For most people, 65 seems to be about the limit - being 80 and still having the physicality to back up the skills is very impressive.

It's a small sample size, but it's interesting to see the age breakdown.
40s - 2 people
50s - 6 people
60s - 2 people
70s - 1 person
80s - 1 person

We can assume that the guys in their 40s are the tensai geniuses. In the 50s, it seems this is the kendo peak of physicality and experience. But you have as many that pass over 70 as in the 60s, even though there must be many, many more applicants in their 60s than those over 70. I wonder if its something like many of the applicants in their 60s haven't gotten used to their lost physicality, while the ones over 70 that passed have no strength, no speed, no stamina to rely on. They are just Pure Kendo.

Neil Gendzwill wrote:Either that or it's a direction change for the committee. It was not so long ago that nobody in their 70s had ever passed, wasn't it just 4 or 5 years ago that we were marveling at a 72 year old? I always remember a conversation with one of our senior sensei here who said that if you pass everything promptly, you're eligible in your mid-40s and then after 60 the physical decline is a big factor, so in his opinion there was about a 15 year window where you had a chance to pass. Perhaps that's changing now.


PostPosted: 08 Nov 2012 22:26
by NeilG
Ulrich von L...n wrote:What makes this exam so difficult?
Are you asking what makes it difficult, or giving those K-W quotes as an answer to that question?

It's difficult simply because they set the bar really high. It may be that they are shooting for around a 1% pass rate, that's about what it is each year.

FWIW the other higher dan ranks in Japan these past few years have been really tough too, pass rates under 10% for 7th dan and 6th dan IIRC.

Re: Kendo, kenjutsu and HEMA

PostPosted: 09 Nov 2012 01:58
by Mark Shaw
I wonder if 8th Dan is not about technical finesse so much as conservatism.
Eg if you do anything idiosyncratic whatsoever at this level you fail (which explains how even Kendo champions can fail the 8th Dan routinely).
The idea being the test is about finding the next generation who will preserve Kendo and not do anything too radical.
This is pure speculation on my part (as usual) but down the track it might become an issue for the HEMA instructors here; for example, how much can a successor student change the curriculum/system you've created over decades when you retire from teaching?

PostPosted: 09 Nov 2012 06:50
by Ulrich von L...n
NeilG wrote:Are you asking ...

Yes, because all those quotes are not really answers, just some background information.

OK, I understand that "they set the bar really high" and the pass rate is somewhere between 1 and 6%, but what part of that exam is the most difficult to pass? What they test with a 70-year-old or 80-year-old gentleman? Is it about some kind of mental attitude?

PostPosted: 09 Nov 2012 06:59
by Ulrich von L...n
Mark Shaw wrote:How much can a successor student change the curriculum/system you've created over decades when you retire from teaching?

A retired HEMA grand maestro/ professore / teacher / head instructor could write a thick book to make sure that there is a reliable snapshot of the lineage, and simultaneously give his successor opportunities to change the curriculum.

Simple repeating things - over and over again, for generations - isn't very appealing.


PostPosted: 09 Nov 2012 20:35
by NeilG
Ulrich von L...n wrote:
NeilG wrote:Are you asking ...
OK, I understand that "they set the bar really high" and the pass rate is somewhere between 1 and 6%, but what part of that exam is the most difficult to pass? What they test with a 70-year-old or 80-year-old gentleman? Is it about some kind of mental attitude?
If you haven't watched the video before, I suggest you do so, I think it will help answer your question.

The exam format is very simple, you have a 2 minute match with each of two other candidates in the first round in front of 7 judges, who I believe either all or 6/7 have to vote pass. The cut at this point is usually down to around 60 candidates from typically 1000 applicants. If you make the 1st cut, then you demonstrate the 10 paired kendo kata, which takes all of 5 minutes. If you pass that, then you get to do two more matches, this time in front of the a panel of 14 judges (they combine the two panels working earlier). So total time in front of the judges is under 15 minutes. If you pass this time (10/14 I think is required) then you do a written exam, which is a formality.

I can't say exactly what they are looking for at 8 dan as I don't have much insight into that level of kendo. Of course the technique must be very good but they are looking for more than technique. In kendo, 1-3 dan cover technical stuff. 4 dan and up is more mental things, you have to show that you control and manage your partner, that you create your own chances through physical and mental pressure. There is a physical component too because of course you have to execute, and the higher you go the more correct your form must look - you are an example to your students, and must be able to play as such when under the pressure of an exam.

At any rate, that video is as good an insight into the process as I know, and I have yet to meet anyone who wasn't inspired by it. Look for a cameo from Tadatoshi Haga sensei, the little guy with the glasses instructing the older gentleman. I've had the honour of direct instruction from him, he was amazing (he died a couple of years ago). Kicked my ass when he was 76 and I was 30.

PostPosted: 09 Nov 2012 21:32
by Ulrich von L...n
Definitely interesting, but I still don't understand how a 80-year-old 7th dan can control and manage a much younger - let's say - a 50-year-old 7th dan, in his top form.

Re: Kendo, kenjutsu and HEMA

PostPosted: 09 Nov 2012 22:54
by NeilG
It's something you have to experience first hand to believe. Now bear in mind that the old sensei is going to lose in a match to a younger player in competition prime. If you want to keep outside and pick off the wrist, or resort to tactics of continous cross-checking to take advantage of frailty, then yes he won't keep up. But in advanced kendo, where we are looking to break the other person's posture and take a point off that, those old guys are very tough.

They can be physically tough, too. When I met Haga-sensei he was as I said over 45 years older than me and probably at least that much lighter. First time I played him, he invited me to do taiatari-men, which means attack the men, come in as hard as you can and cross-check, then hit another men going back. Usually you don't do that sort of thing with older sensei out of courtesy, but he made it clear that's what I was to do. So in barrels 190 lbs of 30 year old into 140 lbs (maybe) of 76 year old. He didn't move an inch from my POV, it was like hitting a brick wall. Repeatedly. I have no explanation.

After I had my match, I watched as he took apart all comers, no matter the level or age, including the best instructors in Vancouver at the time. His direct student in Canada, who I consider to be one of the top two technical kendoka in Canada, tells me he was never able to touch him.

So yeah, 8th dan == really big deal.

PostPosted: 10 Nov 2012 07:37
by Ulrich von L...n
NeilG wrote:Now bear in mind that the old sensei is going to lose in a match to a younger player in competition prime. If you want to keep outside and pick off the wrist, or resort to tactics of continuous cross-checking to take advantage of frailty, then yes he won't keep up.

For me this one is an important point, just shows that you can't overwrite the laws of physiology, even in Japan.
But in advanced kendo, where we are looking to break the other person's posture and take a point off that, those old guys are very tough.

In kendo how do you break the other person's posture? In sabre fencing you can do it with a feint or double feints, you could trick him into attacking you, just to name some technique.

You repeatedly use the term "cross-check". What does it mean? Parrying the incoming cuts?

During the taiatari-men session with Haga-sensei did you make big swing men cuts as required by proponents of beautiful, nice kendo? After the session did you ask him what was technically wrong with your kendo?

Anyway, just another interesting insight into the world of kendo. Thank you.