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Kenshi to Olympic Fencer

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  • Kenshi to Olympic Fencer

    Does anyone recall a story from years past of a kendo sensei from Japan who moved to the US and was witness to an Olympic fencing demo? Seems he learned how to fence on his own and ended up coaching the US Fencing team to some sort of medal. Fantastic, I know, but I recall reading this somewhere. Hope y'all can help! Thanks all!

  • #2
    Mori Torao sensei

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    • #3
      What a Story..!

      Sounds like a really interesting tale.

      Do you know where you can find more about it..?

      keep sharing!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by akumalkenshi
        Sounds like a really interesting tale.

        Do you know where you can find more about it..?

        keep sharing!
        Thanks much katonk-san! akumalkenshi-san, found these links:

        Sunday, January 26, 2003 Wilson Park Gymnasium, Torrance CA

        http://www.worldoyama.com/Download/WOK_NL_Fal2003.pdf

        The second one seems a bit more idealised than the first, but I'm not sure which one is closer to the truth. The basic framework is there though. Mori sensei was an exceptional kendoka and fencer and was an Olympic coach for the US Olympic fencing team leading them to a medal. Very inspirational story. Mori sensei was apparently related to Noma Hisashi sensei, who wrote "The Kendo Reader" and was also an exceptional kendoka, but unfortunately passed on quite young as did Mori sensei some years later.

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        • #5
          Mori Sensei - The Real Story

          Originally posted by ChaShu
          Thanks much katonk-san! akumalkenshi-san, found these links:

          Sunday, January 26, 2003 Wilson Park Gymnasium, Torrance CA

          http://www.worldoyama.com/Download/WOK_NL_Fal2003.pdf

          The second one seems a bit more idealised than the first, but I'm not sure which one is closer to the truth. The basic framework is there though. Mori sensei was an exceptional kendoka and fencer and was an Olympic coach for the US Olympic fencing team leading them to a medal. Very inspirational story. Mori sensei was apparently related to Noma Hisashi sensei, who wrote "The Kendo Reader" and was also an exceptional kendoka, but unfortunately passed on quite young as did Mori sensei some years later.
          My fencing coach was Heizaburo Okawa, who was Mori Sensei's son-in-law (and a kendo sandan to boot) and the club that I fenced at was the Mori FC (I started there long after Mori Sensei had died). As a result I was familiar with his story.

          Mizobe Sensei, of Westside Kendo Dojo, trained with Chris Mori Sensei, Tarao Mori's son, and with Amemiya Sensei of the Gardena JCI Kendo Dojo. Amemiya Sensei was the kenshi fencing with Mori when the latter had his heart attack. I had forwarded the second of the above links to Mizobe Sensei and he checked with Amemiya Sensei to get the "Rest of the Story."

          Mizobe Sensei has posted this on my blog:

          "I have been meaning to post my comments for quite a while, but got busy. I also wanted to verify facts and be absolutely certain of their authenticity.
          Regarding the "account" of Mori-sensei's "last moments".....

          ".....On January 8, 1968 at about 10:00PM he was teaching a couple of students Iai (quickly drawing the sword). As he finished the draw, he had a heart attack and fell down holding his sword. With a doctor and his students watching, he held his sword tight, smiled and died."

          This guy should be writing for some "fantasy" magazine, The National Enquirer, or a 'manga' publisher! What BUNK!

          First of all, Mori-Sensei passed away on January 8, 1969, not 1968. He was practicing Kendo, not Iaido. He was practicing at the Gardena Japanese Community Center (now Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute--"JCI").

          Mori-sensei had a history of angina and was taking nitroglycerin tablets. Unfortunately, he didn't tell anyone.

          When he had his attack, there was no doctor present at the dojo.

          There was no such thing as a paramedic program in Gardena at the time. His students loaded him up in one of their cars and drove him to Gardena Memorial Hospital, where he passed away. He DID NOT die at the dojo holding a sword with a smile on his face!!! How ridiculous!

          I know all of this is true because the last person to practice with Mori-sensei is a friend/sensei of mine. Tadao Amemiya, 7-Dan, is the senior instructor at Gardena JCI Kendo Dojo. I have known him for close to 30 years. He is one of the sensei who I have had the honor to learn from. He is also one of the sensei of whom I pattern my teaching style after.

          After Mori-sensei's death, there were a few stupid/ignorant people in the Kendo community who actually blamed Amemiya-sensei for causing Mori-sensei's death. Amemiya-sensei just let them think what they wanted. This man has so much integrity that he refuses to test for 8-dan (hachi dan), which he could easily pass. After years, I finally worked up the nerve to ask him why. He told me that Mori-sensei was his sensei. Mori-sensei was one-in-a-million. Few sensei before him had such awesome natural Kendo ability and no one has come close since. Amemiya-sensei told me that for him to test for 8-dan would be saying that he is just as good as Mori-sensei. He said there will never be anyone like Mori-sensei. Amemiya-sensei told me that he will die a 7-dan!

          I have personal ties to Mori-sensei. Even though Mori-sensei had passed away many years prior to my starting my "journey" in Kendo, his son, Chris, was one of my instructors (He told me that the idea that his father passed away "with a smile on his face" was "rubbish"). He trained me the way his father trained him. I consider myself and my students "down line" from Mori Torao-sensei. I also personally know Mori-sensei's widow, Junice (not a misspelling), and his daughter, Jeannie. In fact, I saw all three of them 2 days ago at the JCI fund-raiser carnival.

          There are so many people, so many so-called "experts" in the martial arts world who claim to have "known" Mori-sensei, his life, and all that happened during his short time on this Earth. Most are "wanna be's". The ones who really knew him honor and respect him to this day. They would NEVER make things up for the sake of a "Hollywood ending"!

          Setting the record straight,

          Mizobe-sensei
          Last edited by Theodore; 4th August 2005, 01:53 PM. Reason: Typo

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          • #6
            Thats the story I've heard from Mizobe Sensei many times. I've also heard bits and pieces of that from Amemiya Sensei as well.

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            • #7
              the last physician i went to for a physical was mori sensei's grand kid. it came up randomly, it happened to be a week before mori hai. "yeah, thats my grand father..."

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              • #8
                I'll be darned. Say, if Mizobe-sensei wants to write anything more about what the teaching style was like in that lineage, I'd be all ears...

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                • #9
                  I know my post is late by about 8 years (!), but I just wanted to add that I was maybe 9 years old when I was watching Mori-sensei practice at Gardena dojo the night he passed away. After the end of regular practice, Mori-sensei did jigeiko with 3 Gardena dojo instructors, the last of whom was Amemiya-sensei. I recall that only he was able to give Mori-sensei stiff competition. After several minutes, Mori-sensei stopped in the middle of his bout, did a couple "shinkokyuu" and fell straight back, stiff as a plank onto the floor.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ChaShu View Post
                    Does anyone recall a story from years past of a kendo sensei from Japan who moved to the US and was witness to an Olympic fencing demo? Seems he learned how to fence on his own and ended up coaching the US Fencing team to some sort of medal. Fantastic, I know, but I recall reading this somewhere. Hope y'all can help! Thanks all!
                    I'm an epeeist (light rapier type weapon) and a Kendoist, and I don't know why I think so exactly, but in my own experience I find I do really well at fencing after having done kendo only for a year rather than the other way around. However, I have to say I'm really good at tsuki when going from fencing to kendo. They are both so extremely similar though, in spite of the differences in etiquette and dress and even in scoring. Fundamentally you're both playing "tag" as my fencing coach said about what fencing is all about. It's just high speed tag. The things that decorate this "tag" game still don't make it any less a game of "tag." The sabre fencing and kendo I don't feel are different activities at all really. The footwork is virtually the same, and the cuts are mainly to the head and sometimes to the wrist in both, rarely to the trunk. EXTREMELY similar. Like as in kendo, the lunge isn't really a one-footed affair in sabre fencing, and often you tend to run past the guy while doing a cut. Extremely similar.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Kozushi View Post
                      Fundamentally you're both playing "tag" as my fencing coach said about what fencing is all about. It's just high speed tag. The things that decorate this "tag" game still don't make it any less a game of "tag."
                      My better judgement says I should say nothing and get on with my own kendo but...

                      Semantically this statement is a bit ambiguous. It's "just" a game of tag, yet the decorations does not make it any "less" than tag. That means it's not greater than tag and not less than tag... just tag? It's also not clear if by game of tag you mean that it is purely down to athelticism and reflex, a game devoid of anything deeper... the tone seems derisive nevertheless.

                      Anyway, kendo needs to be understood in the context of its relationship to the other Japanese sword arts, iaido/iaijutsu and tachiai/kata based koryu kenjutsu. Taken on its own kendo COULD be "just tag" but seeing it this way misses the point of what kendo aims to impart. The mechanics of kendo differ significantly from the mechanics of handling a real sword. In the context of real sword combat, kendo therefore would be doing a disservice imparting only knowledge of how to tag the other guy faster as this would not work with real swords (practice Nihon Kendo-no-Kata with mogito and you'll get an idea of this).

                      Instead kendo is about training the "spirit" (not the religious kind); to put determination into one's actions. It is also developing oneself to manage antagonistic situations by training in a live and stressful scenario. Solo and pair based kata do not lend themselves quite so easily to this kind of development (although my iaido/jodo sensei makes me feel like he's really going to kill me when I practice paired kata with him... and he doesn't play kendo). Ideally one trains in one or both of the other arts and use the strengths of each art to cover the weaknesses of the other arts.

                      The biggest difference I notice between kendo practice in Japan and in many (although not all) Western practices is that the Japanese tend to emphasize spirit (e.g. making lots of noise) while there is a little bit of an over fascination with waza in the West. In the dojo I practice in, if you are young and fit you can have the most beautiful waza and blinding speed but if your kiai isn't loud enough the sensei will put you through hard training.

                      Also... old thread is old.
                      Last edited by dillon; 16th October 2014, 01:52 PM.

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