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Suggested Reading and Notes


[Notes: Good references for some standards established at the time of publication. Some details have varied over the years, but the essential basics remain unchanged. Older books may be out of print. Copies for loan available.--wkk]

"This Is Kendo: The Art of Japanese Fencing"

(Dr Gordon Warner with Junzō Sasamori, 1964)

[Notes: Warner-sensei was a student of American kendo pioneer, Mori Torao-sensei. He started at Terminal Island/Long Beach. You can read Warner-sensei (Kendo 7-dan), and Sasamori-sensei (Kendo 10-dan), biographies on the internet.]

"Fundamental Kendo"

(compiled by the All Japan Kendo Federation, March 1974)

[Notes: Mainly a historical reference for Kendo as standardized in 1974)

"Kendo--The Definitive Guide"

(Hiroshi Ozawa, orig 1991, 1997( first english pub))

[Notes: Good guide for reference on the elements of kendo. Ozawa-sensei (Kendo Kyoshi, 7-Dan) is a professor at Science University, Tokyo )

"Looking at a Far Mountain--A study of Kendo Kata"

(Paul Budden, 2000)

[Notes: An authoritative capture of the history, philosophical elements, and steps of Nihon Kendo Kata, Budden-sensei (Kendo Kyoshi, 7-dan) is a coach at Gloucester University, UK]

"Japan: The Ultimate Samurai Guide--An Insider Looks at the Japanese Martial arts and Surviving in the Land of Bushido and Zen"

(Alexander Bennett, 2018)

[Notes: Popularized, but authoritative, introduction to Budo--Japanese Martial Arts--its history, context, philosophy, and state. Bennett-sensei (Kendo Kyoshi, 7-dan) is professor of Budo studies at Kansai University)


"Kendo--An essential introduction to the principles and practice of the Japanese art of swordsmanship."

(Minoru Kiyota, 2002)

[Notes: Excellent foundational explanation of Zen Buddhism, Shintoism, and other influences to kendo by Univ of Wisconsin professor of Asian Studies, American Kendo sensei and founder of the UofW Kendo Club]

"Bushido--the Soul of Japan"

(Inazo Nitobe, 1905, re-pub 1969)

[Notes: Classic capture of the Way of the Warrior to the Western (Christian) reader. Originally written in English by a visiting Japanese scholar. Used as reference in writing, acting in the 2003 "The Last Samurai" movie.]

"The Unfettered Mind--the Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master"

(Takuan Soho, early 17th Century, Translated by William Scott Wilson, 1986)

[Notes: Takuan was the monk that captured and trained Miyamoto Musashi. A zen monk and tea master. Unified zen with the sword. Influenced the writings of others including Musashi and his "Book of Five Rings" (Gorin no Sho).]

"The Sword and the Mind"

(translation of the "Heiho Kaden Sho" (Family-transmitted Book on Swordsmanship); Hiroaki Sato, 1985)

[Notes: Translation of books by late 16th Century-early 17th Century by swordmasters--Kamiizumi Hidetsuna, Yagyu Muneyoshi, and Yagyu Munemori (Yakyu's son). Manual on sword-fighting and the mindset involved. Some early mention of Budo concepts used in kendo teaching.]

"The Swordsman's Handbook--Samurai Teaching on the Path of the Sword"

(classical writings on swordsmanship, translated and edited by William Scott Wilson, 2014)

[Notes: Compiles writings from notable figures--zen monk Takuan Soho, swordsman Yagyu Munemori, legendary figure Miyamoto Musashi, 19th century/modern-era swordsman Yamaoka Tesshu, and others)

"Hagakure--The Secret Wisdom of the Samurai"

(Yamamoto Tsunetomo, translated by Alexander Bennett)

[Notes: Captures the essence of the Samurai view of the world in translated language that conveys nuances to the western reader that might otherwise be lost from being presented out-of-context or from using literal translations of Japanese scripts without connotation. Some of this shows the ruthlessness of the age, while recognizing a higher plane of thinking involved than just the physical. Exploited by ultra-nationalists and subsequently (and perhaps, unfairly) condemned after WWII as promoting wartime brutalism.]

"The Complete Musashi--The Book of Five Rings and other works"

(Miyamoto Musashi, translated by Alexander Bennett, 2021)

[Notes: Unreviewed, but should be a faithful capture of the original Musashi (Japan's most vaunted swordsman) writings by Bennett-sensei]


"The Three Pillars of Zen"

(Roshi Philip Kapleau, 1965 and republished 1980)

[Notes: A thorough capture of Zen Buddhism and its concepts. Zen is foundational to many concepts conveyed through the centuries on swordsmanship.]

"The Spirit of Noh--A new translation of the classic Noh treatise the` 'Fushikaden'"

(Zeami, Motokiyo actor, author (1363-1443), translated by William Scott Wilson, 2006)

[Notes: Noh classic--translated as "Transmission of Style and the Flower"--was widely read by swordsmen and contains some of the earliest integration of aristocratic standards of poetry, zen, and warrior class ideology. It suggests that when a person understands one art, they can understand others. Also, it recognizes stages in training, development, and capability appropriate for the season of one's walk down a (or the) way.]

"The Book of Tea"

(Kazuso Okakura, 1989)

[Notes: The Way of Tea articulately expressed by the author. The tea ceremony is intertwined with the history of swordsmanship, and has many parallels--meditative poise, mindfulness, efficiency of action, connection with the other, living in the moment, serenity of spirit, and others. The ceremony was the invention of a master who recognized that the violent nature of swordfighting needed balance with the deliberate and delicate exercise of civility.]

"Memoirs of a Kamikaze--A WWII Pilot's Inspiring Story of Survival, Honor, and Reconciliation"

(Kazuo Odachi, 2020 translated by Alexander Bennett and Shigeru Ohta)

[Notes: An inspirational autobiography from a kendoist (written with help by other kendoists), Odachi-sensei's (Kendo,7-dan) account of his life story and his kendo training. He was a regular practitioner at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Dept (Hqs) morning keiko sessions. A story of resilience and his focus on things that matter. A lesson on the spirit that drives a person to learn and teach kendo even into his 90s.]

"Art and Faith"

(Makoto Fujimura, 2020)

[Notes: A book in the Christian context on creating things anew in art and in life which give us meaning. Essentially, a book about Easter and the meaning and spirit behind it from an artist's point of view. It also captures the Japanese sense of un-contrived expressions of art--"long art"--and something called, "Kintsugi"--the art of taking the broken and giving it new life and ever greater value--concepts that track consistent with the Japanese sense of humility, 'natural' refinement, and growth in a chosen path ("The Way") that we see and experience in kendo.]

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