Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Through the Mists of Time

Original Sources:

Through the Mists of Time

Part One

copyright © 2010 Douglas Tong, all rights reserved

In this series of articles, we examine parts of Master Yoshio Sugino’s seminal book Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Budo Kyohan (A Textbook of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Martial Training), published in Japan in 1941.

In this passage, Sugino Sensei relates what budo means.

Budo’s Meaning and Purpose (Part 1)

“The way of martial arts are Amaterasu Omikami (the great sun goddess), Japan’s building at the time the gods came, before the place the leading gods, the warrior gods, this meadow of the country in which the violent gods were made peaceful.

The gods at the beginning, just, not selfish, 100%, to Heaven’s duty and grace responded.

In this way, the old song: “Umi ukaba mizu tsuku shikabane, yama ukaba kusa musu shikabane, okimi no soba ni koso shiname kaeri ni ha seiji.”(“In the ocean, dead body. In the mountain, in the grass, dead body. Beside the prince I will die.”), as it is written.

This is the martial way’s fundamental spirit, it can be said of this song.

In other words, martial training, according to our spirit, the physical body polishing, with this, the Emperor’s country’s prosperity, in strength to try hard, these things are the essence of Budo.”

( to be continued…)

Sugino Yoshio
The 16thYear of Shōwa
Chiba-ken, Katori-gun, Katori-cho

Extract from:
Sugino Yoshio & Ito Kikue (1941). Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Budo Kyohan.

Author’s post-script:

Umi ukaba mizu tsuku shikabane,
yama ukaba kusa musu shikabane,
okimi no soba ni koso shiname kaeri ni ha seiji.

In the ocean, dead body.
In the mountain, in the grass, dead body.
Beside the prince I will die.

A powerful poem here. We see the fundamental spirit of classical Japanese budo. A tragic outlook but a heroic one. In many Japanese samurai fables and movies, we frequently encounter tragic heroes. A good example of this tragic ethos is embodied in the famous story of the 47 Ronin, which some view as Japan’s national legend since it is emblematic of many of the virtues that the Japanese people admire: loyalty, sacrifice, persistence, and honor.

In this passage, Sugino Sensei related the key tenets of budo (if we interpret budo as meaning “the martial way”):

1.    to polish the physical body; in other words, to prepare and ready the body for exertion.
2.    to make supreme efforts for the prosperity of the Emperor and the nation.

This last point, to make supreme effort for the Emperor, is very much the essence of the philosophy of the samurai, that of service.

“From the earliest times, the Samurai felt that the path of the warrior was one of honor, emphasizing duty to one's master, and loyalty unto death.”

The original meaning of the word “samurai” meant “to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society” and “those who serve in close attendance to the nobility.” And in a military world with clan fighting clan especially during times of unrest such as the Sengoku Jidai, military service for one’s lord carried with it the real potential for a tragic ending to one’s life. But in such service was heroism. To sacrifice yourself for others. Tragic but heroic.

This is mirrored in the philosophy of many police services in the world. The motto most commonly adopted now is: “To serve and protect”…

Sugino Sensei makes an important point. He talked about “…the martial way’s fundamental spirit.” We must not forget that in the end, budo training is about this. We can teach techniques, endless techniques, but it is all for naught if we do not teach about the soul of budo. Techniques are just the physical and the technical. But the traditions and the customs and the morals and the ethics of swordsmanship, these are the spirit of budo.

It is like the letter of the Law and the spirit of the Law.

Just teaching techniques is empty, like a corpse. You need to have the soul to make it complete.

“Beside the prince I will die…”
This is the essence of traditional Japanese budo.

Part Two of this excellent article will be posted in a few days. Thank you so much, Doug!

Many readers are familiar with Mr. Tong’s articles. He has has been a frequent contributor to our site. Each article offers valuable insights into the heart and soul of the traditional martial arts. I strongly encourage readers to click on Douglas Tong’s name in the archives section to the right to access more of his articles.

Mr. Douglas Tong has been teaching kenjutsu (classical Japanese swordsmanship) since 1994. Mr. Tong trained exclusively in Japan under these teachers: 
Katori Shinto Ryu under the late Master Yoshio Sugino in Kawasaki-shi.
Yagyu Shinkage Ryu (Ohtsubo Branch) under the late Master Masao Mutoh in Zushi-shi.
Ono-ha Itto Ryu under Master Takemi Sasamori in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo.
Muso Shinden Eishin Ryu iaido under Master Toshihiko Izawa in Fujisawa-shi.
Mr. Tong has a nidan (2nd Dan) in iaido (Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei – All Japan Kendo Federation). He was tested at the Kanagawa Prefectural Gradings in Yokohama.
Mr. Tong was the first to introduce the style of Katori Shinto Ryu (Sugino Branch) to Canada in 1994, and was the driving force in the growth of Katori Shinto Ryu in the province of Ontario. Mr. Tong learned Katori Shinto Ryu in Japan under the direct tutelage of the legendary Master Yoshio Sugino, who was the swordfight choreographer for Director Akira Kurosawa’s two most famous samurai films, Seven Samurai and Yojimbo.

Mr. Tong began his study of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu under the late Master Masao Mutoh, the 10th soke of Yagyu Shingan Ryu Taijutsu (Edo-Line) and 2nd headmaster of the Ohtsubo Branch of the Owari Line of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu. He now continues his studies under Mutoh Sensei’s successor, Master Yasushi Kajitsuka. Mr. Tong is the leader of the official study group (keiko-kai) for Yagyu Shinkage Ryu (Ohtsubo Branch) in Canada under Master Kajitsuka.

Mr. Tong teaches classes in kenjutsu at various dojos in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). He also runs workshops annually for organizations such as Rapier Wit Stage Combat School, at martial arts expos like MMA Expo, and at fan conventions such as Anime North. Mr. Tong and members of his organization perform public demonstrations twice a year at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre for their Spring and Fall Festivals. Honoured to be a part of the largest annual gathering of the Japanese community from Ontario and upstate New York, they have been performing there each year since 2005. They also demonstrate at various local charitable events such as McMaster University Fencing Club’s annual fencing tournament (a fundraiser for McMaster University Children’s Hospital) and Anime North (fundraising for SickKids Hospital). And they demonstrate at local cultural events such as the Museums of Burlington’s Japanese Culture Day in 2014, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of the twinning of the two cities of Burlington and Itabashi, Japan. Tokumeikan is proud to be a part of these major cultural festivals and exhibitions of martial arts in the Greater Toronto Area.

Mr. Tong is also involved with the Japanese community in Toronto, serving for years as one of the assistant kendo instructors at the Nikka Gakuen Kendo Club, as well as volunteering and helping out at the Nikka Gakuen Japanese School.

In his professional life, Mr. Tong has a Master’s Degree in Education. He taught overseas in Japan. When he returned to Canada, he was employed as a lecturer and course instructor in the Department of Applied Linguistics at Brock University in Canada. He is currently a public schoolteacher with the Peel District School Board and is a member of the Ontario College of Teachers in good standing.

Mr. Tong can be contacted via email at: or at

He can also be reached at 519-942-6381

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