This is a translation of an article originally published 2010 in the Nippon Kendo Magazine.
Translated and edited by JuanDiego Fonseca and Brian Beckford
A brief biography
Endou Katsu is a 69 years old kendo hanshi hachidan. He spent his youth as a high school student at Iinogawa high school in Miyagi prefecture. It was there that he began to practice kendo under the tutelage of Matsugorou Takeyama and trained under Yoshihiro Nyuui. Upon graduating from the famous Kukushikan University went on to hold staff positions at Iinogawa High School, the 3rd Sendai High School, and Shida High School. He eventually became a school principal until his retirement in 2001. During the course of this time he additionally was the instructor of the Kenyuukai of Kano School for over 30 years until he took up the position as the Tohoku University Kendo Club shihan. Endou sensei has also served as an advisor and promotion council member for the Miyagi Prefecture Kendo Renmei, director of the Sendai City Kendo Renmei, Shihan and Official representative for the Sendai City Budoukan Kendo, and much more.
A Myriad of unfailing wazas (techiniques) transmitted at the Nyuui Doujou Katsuo Endou Hanshi has taught a vast number of kids both as a high school teacher and also as a instructor at the kendo doujou. Following his retirement from the postof a School Principal in 2001 he has been employed as the shihan (head instructor) of the Kendou club at Tohoku University in Sendai. The cornerstone for his instruction to university students is based upon the fundamentals he learned during span of his high school years. The substantial amount of wazas that Endou Hanshi was introduced and became proficient in, when he practiced at the Nyuui Dojo in Miyagi Prefecture, were specifically targeted towards detecting the very instant when an opponent is coming and dealing with it without hesitation or failing. The following oration is what we could hear from him at a practice session at Tohoku University. I began Kendo when I became a high school student. It was at this time that I met my former teacher, Matsugorou Takeyama Sensei, at the language classroom. His sensei was Yoshihiro Nyuui Sensei. Aside from his activities related to the high school club, Takeyama Sensei also practiced at Nyuui Dojo in Sendai. I was fortunate to be taken along with him to practice and consequently, I was ”forged” by Nyuui Sensei. Training was intense, but without both Takeyama Sensei and Nyuui Sensei’s teaching method, that involved screaming harshly at me, I wouldn’t have come to understand the essence of what they were trying to teach me. Soon after beginning to learn, I focused on kendo day and night so much that I think I was even doing Kendo even while dreaming. Although I was thoroughly instructed on the basics, what these gifted Senseis specially taught were numerous wazas and the important points for each of them. An example of such would be that he explained This is what is important for this waza, ”The proper way of using this waza is as such.” I was taught the significant points to be mindful of with great detail and was actually able to the techniques during shiai. This helped to make kendo even more fascinating. When I continued my studies at Kukushikan University I further received a high level of instruction, but even today I can say without any doubt that the fundamentals acquired during the training as a high school student under Matsugorou Takeyama Sensei is the core of my Kendo. From the this framework I will describe the strategy of seizing the opportunity, enticing the opponent and when to strike. An important item was to learn to read the opponent’s state of mind or his actions, and interpret any slight movements shown by the opponent. If you decide on performing debana-kote, this does by any means mean that the opponent is going to accept such an invitation so easily. Take the situation in which you open up to the omote side while in the issoku-ittou-no-maai distance; It is not guaranteed that the opponent will decide to commit to a men attack. In such a situation, it now becomes a test and contest of endurance. It becomes a mutual contest of endurance, and a shorter distance is attempted. What is required here is the feeling of strength. Success is when the lured opponent struggles and attacks you and you can think to yourself, I provoked it. This is what is known as defeating the opponent before the strike. There are also points to be aware of in regards to the method of striking. Nowadays, it can be seen that when striking dekote the attack to kote is launched directly in from a frontal position, and subsequently after the strike has landed the body is allowed to scape to the right side. This however, makes it easy for the opponent to aim for a post-attack and makes it hard to reassume kamae. The teaching of Nyuui Sensei was to take the imaginary line extending from the opponent’s big toe on the right foot as reference to our fumikomi’s direction. The imaginary line extending from the kensaki of your shinai aims at the chuushin of the opponent. This way it is easy to avoid hitting the base of the tsuba and on will be able to do a display zanshin based on a correct positioning of the kensaki and body posture, without worrying about a counter-strike being launched. Furthermore, I was also taught how to change to a men-nuki-kote as a reaction in case that the opponent’s men-uchi is too fast. Avoid the men by displacing to the left side and pressure the kote. If the kote cannot be struck, the strike the open men instead. Nyuui Sensei taught me the value of shikake-wazas regardless of the counter-reaction. He was very detailed about it not being about waiting for the opponent to initiate an action but to provoke it, that is, to cause it beforehand. If both opponents are aiming for debana-waza, then we must be able to see through this and invite his debana-men, and then we must reply using suriage-waza. As for the way of striking, specifially in terms of suriage-waza, I was instructed in the fine art of what to do under many circumstances, how should I perform in from omote, or from ura. I learned how the finer points of tai-sabaki (body movement). Most importantly, when mistakes were made, I received corrections addressing in which manner it should be improved. For example, ”If the distance is too deep, then lower yourself towards the back and the right” and so forth. Clear descriptions on the way of striking and leg movements were taught to me as part of a set of reactions to any situation. This ri-ai about the way to combat other high school students made it feel very interesting. In order to make his pupils aware of their own bodies, both Nyuui Sensei and Takeyama Sensei did hikitategeiko. That means that during seme-ai or kuzushi-ai, we were offered small openings (Sa!) from time to time, so we could learn to take advantage of them. They made us sense the moment prior to the origination or thought of the movement. It can be said that the importance of feeling the spirit’s movement just before a waza is performed is to experience that necessary instant where both theory and experience are combined and we understand that, here it comes!. Along with these lessons, we cannot lack the self-consciousness that even in our confrontational relationship, it is both of us performing kendo together. If one acts only upon one’s own body’s account there can be no success. If that takes place, then it becomes a dull and monotone combat which we call set-play Kendo. If one goes for set-play technique and scores by using it, then it may seems to work. However, if we use it and fail then the continuity of the combat is completely lost. If we have decided to use a certain technique and wait for the right opportunity but the opponent’s reaction is not what we intended and we fail to respond against that unexpected attack, then we will be hit. Nyuui Sensei taught us to continually apply seme until the very moment of definition, the spill point. I believe that by getting to know the opponent, by analyzing his way of moving, and by enhancing our waza, then this technique of provoking the opponent will luster and shine.