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Shosetsu

Evolution of Japanese Swordsmanship (Both history and film)

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At first glance, this topic might seem the same as another thread I had on Swordsmanship.  But they are different because the other thread dealt with the spiritual aspects of Japanese Swordsmanship. Whereas this thread delves into techniques.  Also its gradual development into what is presently called Kendo.

So what better way to begin the topic than to mention the 1970s  film series Kendo Ippon.  Acting in the main role of Gentaro was actor Miura Tomokazu. He was most likely chosen for this role because of his then-popularity of being a singer and acting in several teenage movies alongside Leading Lady Yamaguchi Momoe.

As Gentaro, Miura plays a high school student. On the high school curriculum is Kendo which he practices diligently especially because his own Father used to be a Kendo sensei.

Kendo is the modern day sport developed from Japanese Swordsmanship.  It has been made safe from the use of protective armor and also using a harm-less Sword made of bamboo, called a Shinai.

The Miura series deals with Gentaro's training and his progressive development into a proficient kendoist.

Along the way, he crosses Swords with Hikaru, a Female, who uses a unique style called The Butterfly technique.

And to add to that, there was also another kendoist,  the Psychotic-male kendoist who uses the technique called Jigoku Sandan-Giri (Hell's 3-step Slash).

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The Sword used in the Kendo Ippon series is a Shinai, which is a cylindrical bamboo shaft which has been split into four lengthwise sections.  That is done so that when you strike your opponent, it lessens the impact.

There is a cord that runs along the length of the shaft up to the tip in order to secure the protective cap at that end.  That cap is a safety measure because one of the moves in Kendo is to thrust at your opponent's throat.

That lengthwise cord represents the back of a real sword. Since the real katana is a single edge blade, the shinai must be held with the cord side facing backward. Because the Uncorded side represents the Cutting edge.  A fight technique seen quite often in the films is mi-ne uchi. It means that if you use a Real sword but want to preserve life, then you would flip the blade to the blunt side so that striking your foe would knock him out only.  That technique can be seen on a regular basis in the series Abarenbo Shogun  starring actor Matsudaira Ken, which was about the 8th Shogun, Yoshimune. Also using that stun technique was Kurama Tengu in the version starring actor Meguro Yuki. 

Edited by Shosetsu

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In the film series, Gentaro's Father is accidentally killed by another Kendoist in a sparring session.  Even though accidental, the Kendoist feels guilty about it, so tries to atone for it by training Gentaro in private.  The man who plays the tutor is actor Ichiro Nakatani who was most known for his role as Yashichi the ninja in the long-running TV series Mito Komon.

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Does anyone know of the dvd availability of the movie Araki Mataemon?   It is based on the true story of  historical Swordsman, Mataemon, who was involved in a famous sword duel.  No, I don't mean the version starring Takahashi Hideki but another version starring Matsukata Hiroki.  Different version.

Edited by Shosetsu

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On 11/5/2018 at 6:12 AM, odioustrident said:

Do you mean Kanei Command Performance in which Matsukata Hiroki plays Musashi? Mataemon is in that film but played by another actor.

 

Thanks for the reply, trident. But I think that one is different. Because I never knew that Matsukata portrayed Musashi.  There was another movie I recall, The Greatest Swordsman ,where Swordsmen came from all over Japan to participate in a Grand Tournament at the Shogun's castle. The only specific actor I remember from the film was Tetsuro Tamba who specialized in the Spear. Is that the movie you are referring to?

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Although the most well-known Swordsman is Miyamoto Musashi, there was another one who was just as formidable  and fought and won numerous duels.  He was Kagehisa Ittosai.  He is so highly respected that many of his techniques are used in modern-day Kendo tournaments. In particular is one technique with a shinai-sword which differs from a conventional Parry-maneuver.  Because conventionally when you parry your opponent's blade, you sweep it aside.  But in Ittosai's technique, the so-called parry comes straight down.  There is a slight sweep but it's very slight because even though it is a Parry, it is actually a single-move that continues downwards in a cut to the opponent's helmet.  It sounds easy but takes great skill because if not done properly it will fail to block an attack.

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In the Hanayama Daikichi that I mentioned in an earlier post starring Hiroki Matsukata, it should be added that the titular character was actually made famous at first by Matsukata's Father, actor Konoe Jushiro.  Although Jushiro's most famous role was that of true-life Swordsmaster Yagyu Jubei in movies such as the classic Yagyu Secret Scroll.

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