Inoue Shigeaki hanshi is currently visiting the UK and I have been fortunate enough to attend all of his keiko sessions and the weekend seminar. I have known Inoue sensei for some time and share some common ground in that I spent a comparatively brief period of time studying with Matsumoto Toshio sensei who was Inoue sensei’s teacher.
After training, Inoue sensei showed me an essay that he had written in English on the purpose of kendo and he explained that although he has been hachidan for over 20 years, he is only now reaching the point where he feels at ease putting his own thoughts forward rather than quoting the advice of his teachers. I will ask his permission to reproduce his essay in this blog sometime in the future, but the key point of his argument is that there is a current trend towards teaching kendo with an emphasis on how to win in shiai without taking into consideration the broader aspects of personal development based on the “Principles of the Sword”.
In his view the traditional pattern of finishing a hard day’s work, stopping at the dojo for an hour’s hard keiko and emerging feeling better and more determined to take on the next day’s challenges is losing ground to a more “train to win” approach. With this in mind he had reiterated the values of kendo that he has come to understand from his many years of shugyo.
In 2011 I posted a translation of an article by Matsumoto sensei on the “Aim of Kendo”, wherein he emphasised the positive values of kendo in a similar way. Interestingly the article was written over 35 years ago. In this post I had also included a photograph of Matsumoto sensei. I showed this to Inoue sensei who took off his dou to show me the writing inside. He was in fact wearing the same dou that Matsumoto sensei was wearing in the photograph. Obviously not only the dou had been passed down along with much of his physical kendo technique, but the philosophy of kendo and its impact on how we shape our lives was an equal part of the inheritance.
Of course we are all familiar with the concept of respect for those who taught us and those that taught them, but to see such a concrete example is a strong reminder that we never actually take possession of the values of kendo, we just keep them to pass on to the next generation.