The Iaido Journal  Oct 2008
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One on One with Kajitsuka Sensei
(Ohtsubo branch of Owari Line, Yagyu Shinkage Ryu)
Part Three: Teaching and Learning

copyright © 2008 Douglas Tong, all rights reserved

The following article is the third and final part of an interview with Kajitsuka Yasushi Sensei, headmaster of the Ohtsubo branch of the Owari Line of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu. In this part of the interview, Mr. Tong takes the opportunity to discuss with Kajitsuka Sensei what he considers to be essential in teaching students and the optimal attitude that students should have when training in budo.

Question: As a teacher, what do you try to teach your students, apart from just technique?
Sensei: I try to teach my students three rules to live their life by:
  1. Love what you do. This is the most important.
  1. Do it from the heart. We say “kokoro”. In other words, do it with all your heart and soul.
  1. Continue it. Keep doing it. Don’t stop.
These are the three main rules.

Now after these three, I also recommend to my students two more:
  1. Don’t be afraid.
  1. Take things on. By this, I mean, try new things. (The Japanese word, “Challenge”.)
Yagyu Shinkage Ryu group

Question: As a teacher, what do you believe is most important for students to remember when studying kenjutsu (or budo)?
Sensei: Ah, an interesting question. I would like my students to remember that everyone is the same. There is no student. There is no teacher.

Question: There is no student, there is no teacher??
Sensei: Yes. Everyone is the same. There is no student. There is no teacher. Of course, there is still teacher status but that is all.

Question: I am not sure I understand.
Sensei: Here is an analogy. Budo is like climbing a mountain. Everyone is climbing up the same mountain. I am just farther up the mountain than you. I have seen the path that you will take. So, I can point out some of the pitfalls that I have already encountered on my journey up this mountain.

However, you must realize that I am still myself going up this mountain.

But, I am not a guide telling you where you should go. We are all mountain climbers in the same group. But there are, naturally, some of us with more experience than the rest of the group…

(at this point, the American interpreter gives his interpretation of what sensei has just told us: “Sensei is saying that he is not teaching us. He is passing on what he has learned and experienced in his years of training.”)

Question: That is a great analogy. Thank you sensei for your time and generosity in allowing me to talk to you about many things in budo. It has been a great session.
Sensei: Not at all. It is my pleasure.

Author’s post-script:

I had the wonderful good fortune to have studied under Mutou Sensei, a very kind and warm man. He welcomed me kindly and taught me honestly. Mutou sensei was a great teacher: patient, understanding, and encouraging.

Now I have had the good fortune to have met and studied under another great teacher, Kajitsuka Sensei. His frank and open attitude made me feel accepted and his teaching style was very much like Mutou Sensei’s before him: patient, understanding, and encouraging. I must confess that I was very impressed when studying and talking with him in Japan. He is full of knowledge and wisdom but most impressive was his enthusiastic spirit: enthusiasm for his art, enthusiasm for teaching, enthusiasm for life.

“Don’t be afraid to try new things.” He is truly inspirational.

Douglas Tong began his studies of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu with the late Mutou sensei (Kajitsuka sensei’s teacher) in Zushi in 1992. Mr. Tong can be contacted via email at:

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TIN Oct 2008