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Old 03-22-2012, 05:34 PM   #98
Location: Los Angeles
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 1
Re: bokken suburi questions

I cannot address the original topic, "bokken suburi questions," but I want to respond to two issues that arose in the subsequent responses in regard to Kashima-Shinryu. First, Kashima-Shinryu does not discriminate against applicants who practice Aikido (or anything else). Rather, the rules simply state: "In the interest of maintaining Kashima-Shinryu's integrity as a traditional form of Japanese culture, on-going membership in other martial art organizations is prohibited" (

Second, the "he said vs. she said" analogy is entirely misleading, in so far as it suggests a private dispute about which outsiders can have no knowledge. To see why it is so misleading, you need merely to look at *who* says *what* in public. For the purposes of this discussion we can even ignore Prof. Seki and focus exclusively on what other people say.

[1] The Soke (head of the Kunii family) of Kashima-Shinryu says that Prof. Seki is the Shihanke (headmaster). The 20th generation Soke, Kunii Michitomo, was interviewed across two issues of "Gokui" magazine (summer and autumn 1997). He pointedly did not mention Mr. Inaba once. Instead, the interview began with a text box that identifies Kunii Michitomo as the oldest son of Kunii Zen'ya and Prof. Seki as Zen'ya's successor who represents the Soke in teaching and directing Kashima-Shinryu ("Gokui", summer 1997, p 38). This relationship continues today under the current Soke, Kunii Masakatsu.

[2] Kunii Zen'ya says so, as testified by his own handwriting --- clearly reproduced in plate 14 of "Legacies of the Sword" --- where he addresses Prof. Seki as "Kashima-Shinryu Shihanke." (Many documents & scrolls written by Kunii Zen'ya exist and the distinguishing features of his handwriting are easily recognizable.)

[3] The Kashima Jingu Shrine says so, as indicated (again) by plate 6 of "Legacies of the Sword," which shows Prof. Seki demonstrating Kashima-Shinryu at the shrine. In the Spring of each year The Kashima Jingu sponsors a martial art demonstration in honor of Tsukuhara Bokuden. Once every 12 years the shrine also sponsors a martial art demonstration as part of a special boat festival (conducted along with the Katori Jingu Shrine). The shrine always invites Prof. Seki and his students (no one else) to demonstrate Kashima-Shinryu at these events.

Testimony by the current Soke, the previous Soke, the handwriting of Kunii Zen'ya, and the Kashima Jingu should provide more than sufficient evidence. But if anyone needs to hear from an independent third party, then [4] the Japanese government also says so. The government has granted Prof. Seki exclusive legal rights to the name "Kashima-Shinryu" in relation to martial art activities of any form. The Japanese government does not grant this kind of legal privilege lightly, but only after conducting a thorough investigation during which all evidence --- including objections or counter claims (if any exist) --- receives full consideration.

Now what does Mr. Inaba say? Robert Cowham suggests that the "Akamon Aikido" club bulletin should record relevant information. Libraries do not seem to preserve copies of that bulletin. In searching for it, though, I came across a copy of "Tokyo Daigaku Aikidobu Gojunen Shi" (2004), a thick (342 pages) compilation of historical information about the first 50 years of the Aikido Club at Tokyo University. It does reprint 4 issues of the club bulletin, but each of them consist of essays written by Mr. Tanaka Shigeho, the founder and chief instructor (shihan) of the club. Out of the book's 99 subsections, 8 are by (or concern) Mr. Tanaka and 3 are by Mr. Inaba. Even these 3 are interesting though.

The first one consists of a brief (2 page) salutation to congratulate the club on its 50th anniversary. In it Mr. Inaba recounts how when he first arrived at Tokyo Univ., he decided to demonstrate Kashima-Shinryu battojutsu kata during the university's May festival even though he had no prior experience at performing these kata ("keiken wa nakkata"). He describes his demonstration as a heroic accomplishment, achieved through sheer determination and insight. The other two consist of reprints from other publications. There is a short essay in which Mr. Inaba discusses the meaning of the term "ai-ki" as used in the teachings of various swordsmen, such as Chiba Shusaku, Yamada Jirokichi, Yamaoka Tesshu (etc.). In this essay he never mentions Kunii Zen'ya. The other is an interview from "Aiki News" magazine (Winter 2000) on the concepts of "jutsu" and "do" in Aikido. In this interview Mr. Inaba does mention Kunii Zen'ya, but since the interview focuses on Aikido the remarks about Kunii lack any narrative thread.

Inaba presents a more straightforward account of his relationship with Kunii Zen'ya in an interview that appears in the Spring 1997 issue of "Gokui" magazine, which ran a cover story about Kunii Zen'ya. Below I translate in full the section where Mr. Inaba addresses the question about his training under Kunii Zen'ya.

---- Question: [Can you tell us about your] "Meeting Kunii sensei?"

Inaba: "When I first met Kunii sensei I was accompanying my Aikido instructor Tanaka Shigeho and my senpai [senior student in Aikido] Shimada [Kazushige]. I was just a second-year student at Meiji University. I did not know anything about Kunii sensei (smiles). Therefore, thinking 'is it alright for me to go along?,' I accompanied them, and that was the first time (smiles). As soon as I met him I was enchanted. I felt that 'here is a person who earnestly and truly has devoted his life to budo,' and right then and there I requested permission to join his dojo.

"But, after I became his student, at first I received absolutely no instruction from him. Because I was the most junior student, the training sessions would end while Kunii sensei was still working out with the senior students. Therefore, each of my training sessions was spent practicing jujutsu. At that time I thought to myself, 'I did not come here to learn jujutsu!' Kunii sensei, though, taught that one must learn jujutsu before learning swordsmanship.

"But I could not bear the waiting, unable to learn the sword as I wanted. For another whole week he [Kunii sensei] did not give me any lessons at all. Then I begin to think: 'If Kunii sensei will not give me a lesson, I am going to quit . . . .' [ellipsis in the original]

"Just around that time, by chance there was a rainy day. When I showed up at the dojo, I was the only one there. Kunii sensei came out and said: 'O.k. I will practice with you.' That was the first time he taught me sword.

"Until then I had never used a sword [i.e., bokuto] in his dojo. But I had been watching the senpai [senior students] and I had memorized all their movements. Kunii sensei said: 'Cut like this.' And without thinking I just did it. He said: 'Oh, the angle of your stroke is very good.' Because I had been anticipating this moment all week, it made the number-one strongest impression [on me]. I was so happy (smiles).

"At that time Kunii sensei was 70 years old. He died at 72. Therefore, I just barely had time to meet him. Karmic connections are really important!"

I think the public record speaks volumes. It is readily accessible to anyone who wishes to examine it. To return to the first issue: the words "maintaining Kashima-Shinryu's integrity as a traditional form of Japanese culture" might seem abstract or vague to some people, but these words have definite and concrete implications. At the very least they mean that one should not attempt to dismantle Kashima-Shinryu by rejecting part of its curriculum (such as its jujutsu) and focusing only on other parts (such as swordsmanship). They almost certainly mean that in traditional Japanese culture one should respect the authority of the school's Soke and respect the determinations of the shrine with which the school identifies itself. They even mean that if one has not been taught how to perform the school's kata, then one should not attempt to demonstrate them in public (or teach them to others). Much more could be said, but I will stop here.

. . . . William Bodiford
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