【INTERVIEW】THOUGHTS ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF KENDO ONLINE SALON

“Thoughts on establishing the Kendo Online Salon”
​〜"Kendo Innovation Laboratory" Morimasa Okada, 8th Dan Kyoshi,〜

Mr. Morimasa Okada, who opened the industry's first full-scale Online Kendo Salon "Kendo Innovation Laboratory" with the concept of "exploring kendo innovatively beyond the concept of a Dojo".
He is also known as a great general, who led the prestigious Nippon Sport Science University women’s team to win the national championships for the first time.
We asked about his thoughts that led to the opening of the Salon, base on the teaching philosophy inherited from his grandfather (Morihiro Okada Kendo / IAI Hanshi) for three generations, as well as from his kendo teaching experience for more than 30 years.
(Hereafter , KENDO PARK=KP   Mr. Morimasa Okada=Okada)


ー Morimasa Okada ー
1967 Born in Tokyo
Received lessons and instructions from his childhood for the Kendo (including Iaido and Koryu; Old style swordsmanship) from his grandfather Morihiro and his father Yasuhiko, and entered Nippon Sport Science University.
After graduating from university, with only 22 years of age, he became the Third generation Dojo Head (Kancho) of Shodokan (in Tokyo).
At the same time, he served as an assistant at the Martial Arts Laboratory of Nippon Sport Science University, and also provided guidance at the Keio University School of Medicine Kendo Club and the Waseda High School Kendo Club.
​Since then, he has been engaged in a part-time lecturer and a sports specialist at the Nippon Sport Science University, Director of kendo club, and so on.
He led the team become the champion at 2007 All Japan Women's Student Kendo Championship, 2009 All Japan Women's Student Kendo Championship (Ms. Aya Nishino) and 2015 Kanto Student Kendo Championship and so on.
​His instructed students include, Tai Watanabe (currently Kumamoto Prefectural Police, twice champion at the World Championships), Ryo Murase (currently director of Nippon Sport Science University Ohka Junior and Senior High School, former World Championships Japan representative), and Norihide Maihara (currently Osaka Prefectural Police), Yasunori Kaizuka (currently director of Nippon Sport Science University Ebara High School), and many other well-known players and instructors who are active throughout the country.
At Shodokan Dojo, he instructed many entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers, celebrities, and others in a variety of fields, and in the last three years, has produced 12 people who have been promoted to 7th Dan.
On the other hand, he has established the European Shodokan branches such as the French Shodokai and the Shodokan Vondé, centered by French disciples, and has been engaged on overseas promotion and guidance.
In 2018, he founded the General Incorporated Association for the Preservation and Inheritance of Traditional Culture, Shodo Gakuin, and became its Representative Director.
In 2020, established the industry's first full-fledged Online Kendo Salon “the Kendo Innovation Laboratory”. He acts as a Representative and President of the Salon.
Head of Shodokan, part-time lecturer at Oberlin University, Vice President and Director of Suginami Kendo Federation
​Kendo 8th Dan Kyoshi (as of January 2020)


Telling the history of modern Kendo

KP
Please tell me the origin (roots) of Okada-sensei’s Kendo.

OKADA:
The teachings from my master and also my grandfather, Morihiro Okada, are the basis for everything.
From my grandfather, the first generation Head of Shodokan, I learned kendo, kendo Kata, and IAI from a young age (around the age of two).
He taught me kindly, not "compulsory at home", which is often the image of a person born in a martial artist's house.
I was praised when I do it well, which made me so pleased, and I think, this lead to myself working on it proactively.
As a grandfather, who many of them I believe are also, I think he was just simply happy to see his grandchild learn kendo.

As for IAI, my grandfather usually practiced every night alone in the Dojo after the disciples went home, so I began with pulling a toy sword out from the scabbard, then a mock sword, and eventually with a real sword.
This is virtually a man-to-man private situation with the highest-ranking Hanshi Master, but at that time, there was no way for me to recognize how precious and rare this is.
Thanks for this, around the age of four; I was able to master the Musou Shinden Ryu IAI from the “Sho-Den” to “Oku-Den”.
Having a public performance with my grandfather at the opening ceremony of the Kendo Tournament hosted by Suginami Kendo Federation has been a great memory.


It was an environment where I was exposed to kendo and IAI from the early age

.KP:Please tell me about your grandfather's teachings.

Okada:
His grandfather always asked his disciples to perform a thorough repetition of reasonable basic actions based on “the Kendo Basics of the Metropolitan Police Agency” established in 1935, and called for a Kendo with respectable posture and attitude.
In the first place, my grandfather was born as a successor of a farmer in Niigata Prefecture, and worked hard for agriculture until the age of 27.
However, during that time, he was desperate to do kendo, and thinking if so, it should be at the Metropolitan Police Department, so as a result he turned out to be one of a very rare Kendo person who quit agriculture, moved to Tokyo and started kendo in a full scale.
At that time, there was no unified "basics of kendo" as we have now, so I think that it was an era when kendo with various values ​​was performed by each Dojo and Style (Ryu-ha).
The Dojo that my grandfather went to was the “Shusei-Kan” of Kurama Ryu swordsmanship, and the teacher who he studied was the head & originator Emori Shibata-Sensei (Chief Shihan instructor of the Metropolitan Police Department).  who was a former shogunate, having a friendship with Kaishu Katsu.
In those days, practice was, in one word, "Kneading (NERU)" practice, which was quite different from modern kendo.
My grandfather told me that, with the course of more than a dozen years, he was able to learn the Kurama-Ryu secret "Makiotoshi", a technique which became his specialty later.
A few years after he became a Police Department teacher, he had the opportunity to have a Keiko lesson from Goro Saimura-Sensei (※), the chief Shihan Master at that time.
Per what my grandfather said, the Keiko lesson was just 7 minutes or so, but In the midst of a situation where all kinds of his technique, including the signature Makiotoshi, was totally ineffective, Sensei showed him an exemplary skill demonstrating “This is KENDO”, based on the basic (Kihon), which led him to change his whole outlook on kendo.
After training, he was encouraged by his teacher to correct posture which his left leg is pointing to the left (SHUMOKU-ASHI) and also Keiko lesson with close distance to the opponents, so he decided to "remake the basics" by proper basic movements (SUBURI and KIRIKAESHI).
My grandfather was over 50 years old at the time, and from that point on, he imposed more intense repetitions of basic movements on himself to correct his bad habits.
I really respect this attitude of my grandfather. Here he learned the body movements, and at the same time, acquired theoretical guidance that was very rare at that time.
The implemented base is, the "Metropolitan Police Department Kendo Basics" which my grandfather was one of the participant involved in enactment.
It goes without saying, looking at the names of the great Master Shihan of the time being involved, such as Hakudo Nakayama, Goro Saimura, Moriji Mochida, Jikita Oshima, Kiyoshi Horiguchi, and Masaji Itoh, this is surely the basis of basics for the modern kendo.
This method of teaching has been, and continues to be, the unshakable foundation and base of my kendo.

※ Goro Saimura
He is the recipient of the "Kendo 10th Dan", which only five peoples exist  in the history, and he provided guidance to the Metropolitan Police Department, Kokushikan College, Waseda University and many other institutions.
​One of the most famous kendo artists who made a great contribution to spread and develop modern kendo as a first-year student of the martial arts teacher training institute  (Busen).

Communicate the guidance inherited from his grandfather to the present day.

Dojo inheritance at the age of 22

KP
At the age of 22, you became the Head of current Shodokan.

Okada:
After my grandfather passed away, my father took over the Dojo, and soon afterwards he handed it over to me.
Under normal circumstances, my father would have stayed on as Dojo Head longer for his age, but he had a different sensibility.
He suggested to me, "If you are going to become an expert, you should take over the dojo from a young age," and that he would be involved in the activities of the Dojo as a retired person, and at the age of 57, he really retired.
This has a meaning, because he considered that ; "Kendo is an art that takes at least 30 years for an apprentice who learned from scratch to become a full-fledged master. Therefore, it is difficult for the true disciples of the Dojo to grow if you are stuck in your own generation”.
Now, after almost 30 years passed from that time, the meaning of this is very clear to me.
Furthermore, we had a Dojo in Suginami, Tokyo, so we had a hard time including the problem of maintaining the real states property for inheritance and others.
My grandfather had originally leased the land as a leasehold, so in the process of converting it to his own ownership when he re-signed the contract, he dismantled the building he had reconstructed in 1975, turned it into a vacant lot, and returned part of it to the landlord.
There was a time when I lived with my family for about two years in a prefabricated temporary house on a vacant lot with about 60 floorboards from the previous Dojo that had been dismantled for the use in the next Dojo with my disciples.
​Nevertheless, given that successor issues have become a task in any industry these days, at that time, I think my father's methodology was quite an advanced one from various points of view.


Shodokan boasts 3 generations, 80-years history.

KP:
I understand that you are also involved in teaching overseas.

Okada:
In the era of Showa 40’s (1965~), when it was still rare to see a foreigner in Japan, we were accepting French kendo students as a full-fledged Kendo abroad study disciples.
​Since my grandfather was a teacher of the University of Tokyo Kendo Club, many French Kendo players has enrolled through the introduction of Kenichi Yoshimura, 8th Dan Kyoshi, who was a student of my grandfather and a local instructor in France.
All of them were aspiring to be a kendo instructor when they return back to their home country in the future, and they lived near the Dojo and attended the practice for many years.
Later on, they all played a key role in the French national team at the World Kendo Championships.
Even as a child, I wondered about the way these people from different countries worked diligently and sweat profusely in their daily practice, and trying hard in spite of the language barrier.
On the other hand, I now feel very fortunate to have been in such an environment.
Many of the French Kendo players and their students who were trained during this period later became high-ranking Kendo players and instructing the younger generations in various parts of France.
Because of this, my father went to France for the first time at the end of the Showa period (1926-1989) to have seminars and teach kendo there.
Since then, he has continued to offer local training and established the French Shodokai as the European branch of Shodokan and the branch Dojo "Shodokan Vondé" by his disciples.
I believe that they are firmly rooted in the guiding principles that we have passed down from generation to generation.
Apart from that, in the recent years I have been teaching in Australia for the training sessions every year.
Kunio Shizawa-Sensei, who was my university professor, has been teaching Kendo in Australia about 40 years ago, so many Australian Kendo players still rely on him and visit Japan.
I have been participating on teaching locally per the entrustment from Shizawa-Sensei from few years ago, and though I feel lacking of my power for the assignment, per the request of Melbourne Budo Society I am taking part in the teaching.
Although the atmosphere is different from that of the French Kendo players, there is much in common in the desire of these earnest Kendo players to seek the path.
I am teaching them with the consideration that I need to transfer seriously for them too.


Involved in teaching overseas from his grandfather's era.

ON-LINE Salon establishment

KP
Please tell us about the issues you feel in instructing kendo.

Okada:
There are a lot of issues in continuing the Dojo and communicating well, and I don’t think there is room for me to talk all of them here.
On the other hand, fortunately, living my whole life on Kendo, I have been teaching for about 30 years, centered from Dojo to high schools, colleges, and abroad. Through my instruction, I have met many people of all ages, genders, regions and nationalities.
Many of them were really enthusiastic about Kendo, and I felt a lot of times, that, “I should have met them sooner and tell and share the essence of Kendo”.
I believe that the relationship with people is an asset, in any situation.
A dojo is a place where unique disciples are trained and nurtured by those disciples.
On the other hand, the instruction at school, even though may possible to have more dense activities, basically will be sharing time with the majority of students in a certain amount of time.
In light of this, I feel that it is necessary to make an effort to pass on the kendo that I have cultivated a little more widely, and at the same time, while further questioning what I have learned at my Dojo and at the university to the present time, to firmly communicate to the future generations.
I thought that through an initiative such as our institute (Online Salon), I would be able to connect with many people through kendo, including my colleagues and students.
I also thought that we could create a place where we could explore kendo on an ongoing basis together.

* Online Salon
​A generic term for a membership-based community that develops Online through a monthly fee system.
It began to appear in earnest around 2016, and there are a number of celebrities and industry-specific ones.
An advanced attempt to open a Dojo Online

Beyond the Dojo concept, explore Kendo innovatively

KP
This is a very advanced initiative in the kendo industry.

Okada:
To put it simply, you can think of it as "Newly opening a Dojo online".
In traditional Kendo magazines and video media, the process  was “receiving guidance in one direction”, but we chose the Online Salon because we felt it was important to provide a place for two-way communication for the Salon students.
Of course, I will provide various information, but the purpose is to add the essence of modern kendo and sublimate my view of kendo.
For example, for several years, I have been giving written and verbal advice to one of my students, Tai Watanabe (a two-time world champion, now in Kumamoto Prefectural Police Department), using videos to listen to her thoughts, aims and aspirations at the time.
During the two-way exchange of opinions, I felt strongly that this is the way of giving advice that was not possible before.
I have come to think that it is possible in this day and age where we can easily record videos and communicate them by email, and we should use them more effectively in the future.
​Based on these experiences, we have led to establish the "Kendo Innovation Laboratory" as a form of Kendo Online Salon, as a result of exploring the process of guiding the technology to the ideal direction, interactively, based on the common values.
He is also known as a famous general who led Nippon Sport Science University to win the first Japan Women’s Championship.KP
Please teach me the concrete contents

Okada:
With the concept of "exploring kendo in an innovative way beyond the concept of Dojo”, we offer the following benefits to our members.

 Regular video and column letter distribution (each scheduled about once a week)
* Distribution videos will include instructional videos, Keiko training videos, and past videos that will serve as future materials.
 Research discussions within the community (dedicated Facebook Group for Salon students only)
 Individual Q & A and video commentary
 Priority invitation to "regular training sessions" (= practical Keiko lessons)
[Sponsored project]
 Kendo equipment purchases are always 5% OFF (provided by KENDO PARK)

In addition to the above, we hope to engage in various activities together with Salon students in the future, such as dialogues with various people, large-scale seminars, and training sessions around the country.
The name "Kendo Innovation Laboratory" is not just a place to show off my kendo theory, but rather a desire to explore Kendo together with you and enhance the view of Kendo.
I think, as a result, this will become a study for myself and also will make a challenge to take a step forward for the new possibility of spreading kendo.

Jigoro Kano-Sensei, the founder of modern judo, gave the necessary steps for the Keiko practice as below.
①Randori [Free exercise]  (= Ji-Geiko practice for kendo)
② Kata
③ Lecture
④ Q&A
This Laboratory also considers to establish those four pillars with great care.
In addition, the phrase "Keiko Shoukon" is my personal motto.
It is an expression of "learn from the teachings of the past and utilize them in light of the present”.
I would like to use the new soil of Kendo Online Salon to explore and illuminate Kendo, the unique and traditional kinetic culture of Japan, with you.

We look forward for your enrollment to our club.