Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, May 07, 2021

The Last Man Standing

Below is an excerpt from a post that appeared at Kenshi 24/7. It reads like a scene from a samurai movie - a new teacher arrives at a dojo and mops the floor with the senior students, all of whom had a chip on their shoulders.

The full post may be read here. Enjoy!

When Miyazaki Mosaburo, then 35 years old, walked in to the Butokuden as a newly minted kendo instructor at the end of the summer of 1927, the young busen students weren’t aware of who he was. Well, perhaps they heard rumours, but they certainly weren’t ready for what was about to happen. 

At almost 180cm, he was a good deal taller than everyone else there. His 94 kgs would’ve been equally as impressive to the lean kendoka that huddled together earlier that day and conspired together to knock him off his perch. Unlike nowadays, it was normal (even expected) for students to go full out and attempt to physically overpower those senior to them, to test them as it were. It was never going to work out how they planned… 

In 1909, the young 17 year old Miyazaki became a live-in student of the Butokukai’s head kendo instructor Naito Takaharu. He came to Kyoto to enter the Koshuka of the Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseijo – martial art teachers development school – but why Naito chose him is unknown. Perhaps it was the potential that lay within his physical stature, or perhaps it was the young mans taciturn nature (which he would keep for his entire live), who knows. At any rate, young Miyazaki lived with Naito and his wife for a number of years (exactly how many years we are not sure, at least three, potentially more). 

We know how he spent his time there for the first three years because he kept a diary detailing his habits as well as his (and Naito’s) comings and goings (only three years worth have been found). As a a historical document it is invaluable. 

During that time he cleaned Naito’s house, looked after his wife when she was ill, prepared breakfast, attended Kusonoki sensei’s lectures at Nanzenji (often along with Saimura Goro – an article for the future),  as well as attend keiko at the Butokuden. His proximity to Naito sensei is unrivalled (except perhaps with Shinohe Taisuke), and he was almost certainly extended certain privileges in later life because of it. 

Despite not being as well known as some of Naito’s other early students (Saimura, Mochida, Nakano, Ogawa, Oshima, Shimatani), it is almost certain that he was his favourite. Naito ensured that Miyazaki stayed in in a junior instructor position when he graduated, found him a good job in Mie prefecture, and called him back to Kyoto when a Busen teaching position became available. Which is where our story started.

The number of student positions available each year at the full time Busen course was extremely limited (by this time the Yoseijo had evolved in to Busen proper). Those that managed to enrol had to be not only physically able, have prior experience, and pass a difficult entrance exam, they also needed some sort of recommendation letter as well (from someone of standing or a prior graduate). Most kendo students who went through Busen did so in the Koshuka or speciality (kendo or judo) only course. Students there did not attend academic lectures and their keiko was set at a different time (though the teachers were the same, and many full time students joined it as well). 

Many had other jobs and most stayed only for a short duration. In later years (1920s) students on the full time course would be awarded government approved teaching certificates (allowing them to find work easily). At any rate, there were two tiers of students, with full time students being the cream of the crop.

The students that Miyazaki faced in the summer of 1927 were those from the full-time course. When he himself went through Busen almost 20 years earlier (its forerunner, the Bujutsu Kyoin Yoseijo) as a Koshuka, the difference between the full and part-time students was minimal. Now, however, the full time students had an air of superiority about them.

The students plan was simple: tire the old man out and beat him up. 

The first student that was sent up was a senior, fourth year student. His job was to non-stop attack the new teacher and exhaust him, allowing the other students to beat him down. The plan didn’t work. The opening kirikaeshi was intense. By the time it had finished his fighting spirit had dwindled. When jigeiko started he tried to strike kote-men and was sent flying on his back. Striking his head on the Butokuden floor, he was concussed.

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