Fun and instructional videos


These two videos are well worth a look. Firstly, from a channel that is uploading lots of "Kendo vs..." videos lately, this is the first one I've seen where someone with a high level of Kendo skill is up against a fencer. I'm not sure if the epee-ist is as skilled but it is an interesting match. 

This video is more interesting from a technical and cultural point of view. It shows a demonstration shiai at the 88th Kyoto Taikai held at the Butokuden in 1992. The two competitors are Sugawara Keizaburo (on left) and Nakakura Kiyoshi (the taller sensei, who featured in the story I told last Saturday at training). Both sensei were 9th dan. George McCall has a great article listing all the 9th dans here, including the rationale and history behind the higher dan grades.

What I love about this match is how spirited it is. There have been 'generational shifts' in Kendo (as George observes in the linked article) according to how and where the major Kendo teachers were taught, and who they were taught by. There was also the huge influence on the Kendo of those who were taught during Japan's militarisation in the 1930s. This is the influence here with senseis Sugawara and Nakakura. Even at advanced age (Nakakura was 82 and Sugawara was 80 here) their Kendo is feisty and provocative. You can hear Nakakura sensei's kiai "yokomen!" at about the 1:03 mark. They make many more attacks than modern hanshi. This is not a spiritual battle, it's an actual one! They're trying to kill each other!

Nakakura is first out of the gate as usual, almost trying to bully his opponent into submission. He makes cuts such as do, where there is no opening but still he strikes the target cleanly. Other times he cuts successfully and then breaks maai by lowering his shinai, indicating he has ended the match because he just awarded himself the point! Sugawara is unfazed. He holds his ground and eventually makes a beautiful kote-men which draws gasps from the audience. 

Watch Nakakura sensei's footwork. He alternates okuriashi and ayumiashi as he feels. He was once asked whether his practice of Aikido influenced his Kendo. He said that the only thing he kept from Aikido was the footwork.


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