Archive for the ‘Kendo Heroes’ Category

Lost Heroes

toda-senseishihan-chibaFirstly apologies for taking my longest ever time out from writing this blog. A troublesome house move and both my wife and I running into some health problems slowed things down a bit.

2016 has been a year where my baby boomer generation lost many of its heroes. The list of famous people who passed away seemed long and relentless. We were by no means untouched in kendo with the sad loss of Chiba sensei and now Toda sensei.

I was fortunate enough to get to know Chiba sensei well enough to write about him when he passed away earlier this year. Toda sensei I knew less well but had met him a number of times in France at the annual Orleans Seminar and again in Japan and at several international taika. All Japan Champion at the age of 22, he was a one Japan’s leading jodan players, becoming a double hero in his 50s by switching to nito and spearheading its revival.

A friendly sociable man he had both empathy for the people that he met and a great sense of fun.  I remember him demonstrating a good singing voice and some pretty mean guitar playing at a Kitamoto end of seminar party. The last time I spoke to him was at the referee’s training camp in Japan before the 15WKC. He was there to provide experience of refereeing nito matches. After one of his shiai which I witnessed from the sidelines, he delivered a particularly strong men strike which was not awarded ippon. I told him as he came from the shiai-jo that I was surprised that it did not score. His reply was that “you and I must both study harder”.

Chiba sensei and Toda sensei, I will be thinking of you both this New Year’s Eve. I am sure that your examples will give many people the strength and inspiration to build on kendo’s legacy in the coming years.

May I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful New Year.

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Kendo heroes!

Chiba and Uegaki sensei

Chiba and Uegaki sensei

two weeks time we have 4 hachidan and a supporting cast of nanadan sensei visiting the UK for a seminar and I am really looking forward to a my “hachidan fix”. In the meantime I have been reviewing my videos of this years Kyoto Taikai and thinking about what makes some of the great sensei as good as they are.

Perhaps it is because of my own age and kendo aspirations, but I find the All Japan Hachidan Championships and the Kyoto Taikai far more inspiring than the All Japan Championships. The depth of Kendo shown by some of the sensei who are now in their 60’s appeals to me more than the speed and accuracy of the current younger champions. There is a long list of sensei whom I admire, but those that immediately come to mind are Yamanaka, Uegaki, Arima, Sumi and Chiba sensei.

If you are familiar with their kendo, you will realise that this is a very eclectic mix. I like the first two because of their phenomenal pressure and work rate. Sumi sensei’s kendo is big and bold with his signature big men attack whilst Arima sensei is renowned for small sharp tsuki and kote attacks. He is also one of the few senior sensei to use cheeky techniques like gyaku dou.

Chiba sensei’s jodan is of course legendary, but to be honest, I have never really had any interest in practicing jodan. It is just his ability to hit at will that makes his kendo so interesting to me. Of course he also teaches superb chudan kendo. This is by no means an exhaustive list of my current kendo role models, but these gentlemen all come quickly to mind when people ask “who’s kendo do you admire”

What makes it more interesting is that they are all thoroughly like-able people – humble, amusing and good to be with. It is almost as if the hachidan shinsa is in three parts – jitsugi, kata; and a formal nice guy examination, or maybe the last bit is just part of becoming hanshi. Here’s a picture of two of my heroes in London. + Ben Sheppard sent me this link of Chiba sensei in action .



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