The Iaido Journal  June 2007
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The Mind and Philosophy of Matsuo Haruna

copyright © 2007 Jermaine Carty, all rights reserved

    As a martial artist (a young one at least) and a believer and practitioner of Budo, I believe that it is very important to study the history and origins of one’s chosen art, and those of other arts as well. To me, knowing as much as one can of the who, where, why and how of the very beginnings of a martial art is crucial to fully understanding it, which I believe gives one’s practice a much deeper and fuller meaning. Studying the history of martial arts allows one to take the old and apply it to the new; to comprehend the older - sometimes ancient - roots of our study gives us the ability to find the reason for our training today. Society, times and weapons may change, but the principles of the old remain the same, as the roots of a tree, affecting and influencing humanity from beneath the surface.

    I believe studying this history is also a way of paying homage and respect to those who were the pioneers of these arts. All ways and styles of combat started with these individuals putting their entire creative energies and lives into developing a physical, mental, and spiritual way of defending oneself. While no true martial artist or sensei would accept such worship, it is to these men and women that we owe our practice.

    With that being said, I have decided to devote this article to another individual, who, from my understanding, served as an inspiration and source of guidance to many Iaidoka. What I found out about this man is what I believe to be worth sharing. His achievements and attitude toward keiko are something that we can all learn from. That man is Matsuo Haruna Sensei.

    One of the most amazing things I learned about Haruna sensei was that he did not start training until very late in his life. He was born in 1925, but didn’t start training in iaido until 1972 – at 46 years of age. This is an age at which most people think they are too old to start anything, let alone training in a martial art! Haruna sensei did, however, and made astounding achievements in the short time between 1972 and his death in 2002. He was given the rank of Hachidan, and title of Hanshi, in Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu.

    He was the head teacher and director of the Musashi Dojo of Ohara, named after the legendary swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi. He participated in over 250 provincial and national competitions and demonstrations in Japan; he lost 12 times, placed 3rd eight times and placed 2nd 28 times, among these which was his first national competition in 1978, in which he came second. He was awarded Best Fighting Spirit 45 times, and Special Fighting Spirit (higher that Best) 15 times. The rest he won.

    Despite his impressive competitive record, Haruna sensei didn’t train for shiai at all. For him, shiai was simply another day of training. He believed whether it is shiai – demonstration, competition, testing – or keiko (practice), your attitude should be exactly the same – and that attitude is that you should train as if your life depended on it!! Haruna sensei believed the key to developing in your training is by taking it seriously. Without this attitude, your practice suffers, along with your skill. It is concentration, along with deep focus on the basics that allows one to advance.

While I never had the opportunity to study or train with Haruna sensei, I am thankful for his life, his influence on and contribution to iaido and iaidoka. It has strengthened my own insights on martial arts as I’m sure it has others.

Haruna Matsuo Sensei, shitsurei shimasu!!!
Jermaine Carty is a recipient of the Haruna Bursary to the Guelph Spring Iaido Seminar.
He is a student of Martin Ricketts in Toronto.

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TIN June 2007