The Budokan in Japan | Part 1

kendo
My first memory of Japan was standing in front of the Budokan. It’s a fairly brisk spring morning and I can see my breath as it mixes with the crisp Tokyo air. But there I was…absorbing all these new sights and sounds. Their history and culture was now within my reach as I pressed my hand on the entry door. I hear a voice saying sumimasen (excuse me) to which I turn around and see my master for the first time. I respond saying "I just moved to Japan and am here to study the way of the sword and learn your culture!" He looks at me with a puzzled face as he did not speak English nor did I speak Japanese. I try again blurting out another English sentence with his same response. At that point I look him in the eye and say..."Kendo". 

"Kendo desu ka" he asks?  I nod and thus began my first steps on the path to perfection and the way of the sword. My future master, Abe Shinobu Sensei, leads me to a room and motions for me to take off my shoes and sit on the floor covered with tatami mats. He leaves and after a few moments the door reopens admitting a young woman holding a tray of tea. She proceeds to set three cups down while Abe Sensei and one of his students come in, sit down and bow. I join them and as we sip tea the student nervously tries to converse in his "pidgin English" as we familiarized ourselves with each other.

Not wanting to wait even a day, as he might forget me, the next morning I immediately go to the train station and jump into a taxi. I hand the driver the card and say "onegai shimasu" and we are off on my new adventure. It takes only about ten minutes to arrive, look around and find that I am inside the gates of a university.


Looking back now I realize that just by dumb luck I entered the wrong end of the building as Abe Shinobu Sensei was outside for a smoke. I don’t recall what was said over tea, but with a dictionary in my hand and friendly conversation I was invited to visit his school. He then gave me his business card and said, "from station...take taxi". It's meaning being give this card to the taxi driver when you get to Sakura Shimachi train station.

I look around and find an office, which looks like admissions, enter and hand them the card. The person, whom I presume is the administrator, points to a chair and in his best English says, "sit prease". Within a few moments someone comes and takes me to Abe sensei’s office. I later found out I was really fortunate to encounter him due an unusual twist of fate. Little did I know that just the day before I was talking to this Ojii san (older gentleman) about wanting to learn Kendo. To my surprise, he just happened to be the head master of Kendo from 1955 to 1985 at Nihon Taiiku Daigaku one of Japan’s strongest Kendo schools.

About the Author:

Dana Gregory Abbott Is an internationally recognized expert of Japanese Sword Arts who has been influential in advancing and spreading the martial arts. 

He holds a 7th Degree Black Belt, is an inductee to the Black Belt Hall of Fame. In addition to teaching and advancing the arts, he is published, and is the inventor of the ActionFlex product line that allows students to make rapid progress in training without injury. www.learnthesword.com

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