Interview with Longtime Kenshi Jim Dixon: Nobuto Omoto and Kendo Politics

Rob Nobuto Omoto left a big impression of a young Jim Dixon after teaching a class at the Seattle Kendo Kai. Throughout his kendo training, Dixon always returned back to Omoto’s teachings and kept in contact often. Where Dixon went, Hawaii, New York, California, New Mexico, he always found a way to practice kendo and extend the philosophy of Omoto. Today, Dixon took some time to discuss his relationship with Omoto, where he found places to train, and some everlasting stories he experienced along the way. All images provided by Jim Dixon.

Martial Arts of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: Welcome Dixon Sensei! Thank you for joining us and I look forward to our conversation.

Jim Dixon: It is a pleasure to meet you. I must express my appreciation for what you are doing!

MAYTT: You began training in 1969, the beginning of the onset of Japanese martial art’s popularity. What was it about kendo that piqued your interest then as it still does now?

Jim Dixon, taken when he was fighting a severe illness.

JD: I started in 1969 with Rod Nobuto Omoto Sensei, training at Seattle Kendo Kai. Before that, I’ve been practicing judo since 1964 and was doing Western fencing with brothers Yeve and Leon Auriol, two Olympic champions. Those were my two primary arts. Later, I got strongly into karate and then Taido with a very intense teacher, Hide Hirayama, in San Francisco. Anyway, my kendo journey started in 1969. I was into Judo and western fencing; Akira Kurosawa’s movies were coming out. And one of the fencing students at the school, an older guy, said, “You know, there are people who do Japanese sword fencing, have you ever heard of Kendo?” He gave me a telephone number to call; I called it, and it was an import shop. I went to the import shop, and the person there said, “Okay, you’re going to need a hakama, keikogi, kote, shinai, and bokken.” He sold me those at real cheap prices and I showed up on Sunday at the Japanese Buddhist Temple – Seattle Dojo. I went in and it was the sensei on one side of the room and maybe twenty students on the other, all in hakama and keikogi. I remember, they were sitting in Mokusu. I was in awe. Then they got up and began practice, my awe increased, I was hooked. Then, it was mostly Japanese practitioners, but there were three gaijin, all scholarly.  Most of the gaijin population wasn’t into it for the sport; it was usually Japanophiles, philosophers, and academics. Tom Bolling, the ex-librarian at the University of Washington, is a perfect example. For mining more Omoto Sensei stories, he’s the guy. And kendo! [Laughs] Out of all of Omoto’s students, I think he maintains the kindness teaching most consistently.

Then in the mid-1970s, I moved to California and practiced at the San Francisco Kendo Dojo. When I was in the San Francisco Kendo Dojo, I competed in the 1973 World Championship – the one in Los Angeles. But I didn’t get very far! [Laughs] My aspirations were, perhaps, better than my kendo. I wasn’t really under serious Kendo tutelage under that point.

MAYTT: Your first instructor was kendo pioneer Rod Omoto in Seattle, Washington. What was it like training under him during your formative years?

JD: Omoto Sensei made a big impression. Omoto Sensei was just different, it wasn’t like he was the big sensei or anything, he was just there. I can’t explain it, but he made a major impression on me. Better, I think, in terms of setting the example of being a good, rather an extraordinary, human being, than any of my other martial arts teachers – in any art.

He was the non-messenger – example only. [Laugh] It was who he was, and he was extraordinary. And not just his kendo – his kendo was on a level that – I’ve worked with a lot of hachidans, I’ve had a lot of keiko, I’ve never experienced the realms that he thought I would be eligible to be introduced to. It was different realms, like seme – the state in which an unrelenting, determined position of advantage is maintained on the opponent – times a thousand – nothing that exists these days.

Here’s the deal, his generation of teachers was forged by fire, by horror, by a misappropriation of all the principles that had been blended through Zen and Shintoism and Confucian virtues to create this extraordinary vehicle for human development unlike anything else – Kendo.

Omoto Sensei said, “Meditation, the quiet mind, “Sei shin,” is real easy inside the temple. Everything’s nice and sweet, quiet, and tranquil, but to keep that state in real life, when you are really under pressure – now that’s something!” If you can maintain the same mind there, if you can maintain that serenity there, that’s where it matters. “Heijoshin” in every action.

Kendo, in the hands of a good sempai or sensei can create a pressure cooker, where you can bring somebody to states where they are at their absolute best. Where literally you believe if you blink you die, but has to be guided by kindness, and that’s the weirdest feeling on the receiving end. If it’s not guided by kindness, you are doing something very different – not real keiko. That whole generation that was forged by teachers the likes of which no longer exist – as Omoto Sensei would say, “They will never come again.” 

And he was Busen – Budo Senmon Gakko – basically budoka ken. Takaharu Naito Sensei – talk about extraordinary, was one of Omoto Sensei’s Sensei. Omoto Sensei also served as uchi deshi for Kinnosuke Ogawa Sensei before the War.

Perhaps it was after the war, after Hiroshima and the aftermath, that he became so committed to the Katsu Jin Ken – “the sword that preserves humanity,” or “the sword that preserves life.”

It was the kindness factor that really, I could play him and some of the other older kendoka forever as long as my body would hang out – for the rest of my life. And grow profoundly as a human being through each encounter. But now, it’s often just a game of dominance, or “getting a point off sensei” – why? What a waste of an art. Because Kendo really can do something extraordinary by creating profoundly intense situations where you have to strive to be at your best. But once you start putting in the winner and loser concepts, the competitive realm, you start moving into an art of dominance, I’m better than you, an art of conflict and division. Li Jun Feng, one of the greatest martial arts teachers of the twentieth century, would say that, “Competition breeds conflict, conflict brings division, division brings hatred – this is the trouble with the world today.” This often progresses into rank, where they maneuver for position in regional and national organizations – I’m more rank than you, I’m a bigger player, I’m “Dai Sensei.” Omoto Sensei hated that.

MAYTT: How would you classify or describe the practices when you first began kendo? How have you seen kendo practice and training evolve and adapt since you first began?

JD: When I was a kid, I couldn’t figure it out. How could they know what I’m doing before I know? It was so clear that they knew what I was doing before I knew what I was doing. They moved languidly, that’s the other thing. They could play with time. You’d see it coming for about ten minutes beforehand and there was just not enough time or space to go from here to there to defend. [Laughs] You’d watch it coming and time would stand still with the inevitability coming at you. And with a smile, they would just tap you and it would be like this explosion of energy inside your head! [Laughs] This is the stuff that we’re losing. We’re trading this for trophies and little temporal experiences of ego, of; “I won,” “I beat them,” “I got a point off sensei.” What a poor trade off! I mean, you could be getting the secrets to being an extraordinary human being, the secrets of how to be in life no matter what the circumstances.

There’s a thing with keiko; keiko is not sparring. Keiko is, technically, ‘the study of ancient ways’ through a very physical reality. But it’s not dominating. The point is not the point. You used to be judged on the quality of your kendo, not whether you got a point or not. That’s where I am. Keiko is where you’re trying to be your very best and Omoto Sensei would be really pissed at you if you weren’t accelerating a little bit beyond where you’ve ever been.

MAYTT: You have a lot of stories regarding Omoto. What are some of your favorites to retell and revisit?

JD: Omoto Sensei had a very interesting way of dealing with egregious political maneuvers. He would say, “I’m not a sensei, I’m a kendo dummy; don’t call me a sensei, I’m a kendo dummy.” I had always thought it was this weird Buddhist humility thing, but it’s more, he’s free; you can’t touch him! Politicians and sensei jockeying for position, they can’t touch him. He’s not a sensei anymore. He’s a kendo dummy – he doesn’t play that game.

That’s Omoto Sensei in a nutshell. There’s this Buddhist concept of pure poverty and it has to do with whether finances have a hold over you or not. Nothing had a hold over him. He lived frugally and spent lavishly on hosting others.

MAYTT: You mentioned in an email correspondence that Omoto was very influential in your kendo as well as your life as a whole. Could you tell us more about the role Omoto played in your development?

JD: Being calm, cool, collected, and kind. That’s the other thing, I practice medicine – oriental medicine. I’ve been an EMT, I’ve been a patroller, search and rescue, I’ve been on one Rescue 911 episode about some foundation rescue. But these places where you need someone who is calm, cool, and collected, that’s what I aspire to. However, there are lots of paramedics like that; lots of martial artists like that. What I really want to be and to have if I’m in a sudden crisis, is calm, cool, collected, and kind. And that’s really looking at the whole picture, not just stabilizing the medical emergency right there; looking at the inner trauma – this person’s life just went sideways. If you’re not kind in that situation, step up to the next level.

The thing about Omoto Sensei is that he gave everybody different things. He was different depending on who you were. With Bolling Sensei, he gave him concepts like, “Stay cool,” “Don’t anticipate.” For me, he was very specific, he gave me “Mu yu,” “Don’t worry!” [Laughs] Because I worry a lot. Bolling Sensei, he gave something totally different. We are totally different. He also gave me “Sei shin,” “Quiet mind,” that Kiyoshi Ono Sensei left him in a scroll.

MAYTT: You also mentioned Maki Miyahara, Masashi Shikai, and Noboru Akagi as notable influences on your kendo development. How did they help you on the path of the sword?

JD: I started in 1969 with Rod Nobuto Omoto Sensei. Since then, I’ve had three guiding lights: Omoto Sensei is my primary guiding light, actually in life, more than my father – more than any figure; Miyahara Sensei was another one, and Noboru Akagi Sensei from Hawaii. All three of them have a deep kindness that we don’t often see anymore. They’re phenomenal swordsmen, but I’ve got these things I’ve been stressing to my students for the last I don’t know how long – everybody wants to be calm, cool, collected in keiko, right? That’s sort of a given. [Laughs] We set a higher bar. We absolutely have to be calm, cool, and collected, and kind. If you can do that, you’ve done a quantum leap in your keiko; you’re doing ko ken chi ai, which is the keiko that elevates both parties. It’s not this quest for dominance, show you how great I am – it’s something else, something wonderful that cultivates truly admirable human beings.

Omoto Sensei, Miyahara Sensei, Akagi Sensei, they each had unique flavors. Engaging with them, you got to go to places that you couldn’t imagine by yourself. Or you couldn’t get there with lesser luminaries than they were guiding you. Each of them, all the guiding lights, they had an incredible center, they were incredible warriors but each guided by kindness – the ones I really respect.

I spent seven years teaching in Hawaii, at Makawao Hongwanji Temple with Sayoko Kobata Sensei. It was a fairly big dojo, and we would bring in people like Akagi Sensei, Richard Teshima Sensei, Terushi Ueno Sensei – the Oahu Sensei. Teshima Sensei was teaching my daughter; and he gave her one of the great lessons. They were doing keiko, and she never forgot this: you cannot back away from your fears. That simple. Changed her life. You cannot back away from your fears. In bogu, when you’re against Teshima Sensei with kindness – she was about nine or ten at that point – but helping her to believe that backing away from your fears is not always the best way to go, that there are other ways. You don’t have to back away from your fears.

Things like this. Little gems that change a life and my life has been changed repeatedly by these guys, especially the example of kindness – calm, cool, collected, and kind.

In Hawaii when I was teaching, there was this sensei, Hachiro Komatsu Sensei, who relocated to Maui, our dojo. He was technically blind. He lived right across from the Hongwanji Temple – a beautiful dojo in Makawao. But he drank a lot – so did I in those days. We’re drinking – at the “dai ni dojo,” the great second dojo – but this was just him and me one time after practice. He said, “You know, I can’t really see you, but I know your character. So, if I apply a certain pressure to you, I know how you’ll respond – I’ll know what you’ll do. I’ll know where you are and although I can’t see you, I hit there and you’re pretty much always there.” [Laughs] It’s like, “Oh! That’s how it’s done!” Can’t see you but I never miss you!

These sort of mystical things that sort of explain the workings – how do they know what you’re doing before you do. It’s not just setting you up. There are several mechanisms to it. One is the set up – they put you in the position where you have to respond in a predictable way. You feel that you’re forced; that you have no other possibility. You have to get out of the situation you’re in and they’re just waiting for that. They know exactly what you’re going to do – the line and path of your sword. But that’s a set up; they created that. The other thing is like Komatsu Sensei, knowing your opponent, being able to read them so well – their personality quirks, what they’re going to do in response to a wide range of pressures – if you apply one, you can pretty much predict how they’re going to react.

My teachers had this incredible skill coupled with incredible kindness. Having come to that kindness by having seen incredible suffering. Miyahara Sensei from the Internment Camps; he was wonderful. He’s been here in Taos, New Mexico in 1996 with Walter Yamaguchi Sensei. It was actually a big gathering in 1996.

MAYTT: In the 1990s, you and two other kenshi, Charles Riddle and Carl Basham, established the Taos Kendo and Iaido Dojo. How did you three meet and later decide to open your own school?

JD: I had moved from New York and came to Taos in the 1980’s. There was no kendo here, but there was a guy who taught Itto Tenshin Katori Shinto-ryu. He grew up in Japan and was definitely eccentric but incredibly talented. You’ll probably never hear of him, as he really does like his anonymity.

Anyway, I practiced Itto Tenshin Katori Shinto-ryu with him pretty seriously for a few years and then two students of Kenshi Nabeshima, Charles Riddles and Carl Basham, both sandans at the time. came to Taos in 1994. Nabeshima Sensei was an acupuncturist and a member of the Nabeshima samurai family and clan. He was basically samurai royalty. Brilliant swordsman, both in Kendo and Iaido, of the Muso Shinden-ryu lineage. He wrote a wonderful book called, The Needle and The Sword.

His two students came to Taos and tacked up this notice somewhere saying “kendo.” It was in the handball court at a spa down here. I saw “kendo” and was instantly excited. I had not had anyone to practice with since I moved here from New York. I was so excited, and they were really wonderful. Charles Riddle could’ve and should’ve been one of the really good Senseis for the future, but politics sort of sidelined him, unfortunately. Carl Basham, another wonderful swordsman, has been bashing around dojos along the East Coast for the last fifty years or so.

Anyway, I dragged out my old bogu and went back into the kendo flow, and the Taos Kendo and Iaido Dojo was established. We moved out of the racquetball courts and eventually into this magnificent gymnasium – in between practicing at different places, some with cracks in the floor that our toes would get caught in, another, Aikido dojo with a soft mat where I screwed up my ankle. The only injury I ever suffered. They had a mat and kendo is a hardwood thing. There’s this technique, hiki-waza, where you strike while flying backwards and you sort of glide. But my back foot got caught in the mat, weight came down on it, tore the cartilage. But it had a really great aikido instructor that loaned us the space. But then we finally got this hardwood floor, the best we’d ever had.

We had a big seminar in 1998 with Miyahara Sensei, Yamaguchi Sensei, and Ono Sensei. A lot of people came for that. A couple of years later I moved to Hawaii. Hawaii was where the kendo is, and I was so excited to go. It was the mecca. I went to Maui, but I found that I was the highest-ranking person there. All the high rankers were on Oahu and that’s a two-hundred-dollar flight, hotel, plus the car. I was a bit bummed. I thought I was going to dive right into the greatest kendo on earth. I was at that dojo, Makawao, for about seven years. I was working in a hospital there.

Then I came back here and saw that some of my old students had sort of kept the dojo going. They had lost the gym and were practicing outside. Someone sent me a police report from the Taos News saying that a bunch of men with swords were doing a cult thing, but when the police arrived, it was only a Kendo class. [Laughs] We got back below the gym that we’d been in around January 2007. Masashi Shikai Sensei and others came out and helped us out with our kendo. I love Shikai Sensei; I think he’s magnificent. Along with Mark Uchida Sensei from Colorado we held our last seminar with Ota Tadanori Sensei in Fall 2019 – that was where we had some many sensei from all over the country, most of them high rankers. It was a wonderful gathering. Then Covid came; and we closed down the dojo

The last seminar at the Taos Kendo and Iaido Dojo, in August 2019, with Ota Tadanori.

MAYTT: Many schools, manuals, and practitioners emphasize kendo’s purpose for self-betterment, however, it utilizes matches and, to a further extent, competition to reach such a goal. In your opinion, how does kendo and its community keep the balance between self-betterment and competition in its training? If kendo becomes competition-centered, how will that change the art; would it be considered kendo at that point?

JD: When you have a competitive art, you are fighting for the point. For the validation of winning. This can extend to rank, to organizational positioning, to the enhancement of ego. Striving for rank, Striving for a position in the organizations. I see this but I don’t understand it. Then there is what I call the weasel class. There are these students that come up and eventually get their teaching ranks and then it’s time to push sensei out of the picture, saying, “I’m the dai sensei!” [Laugh] Saying, “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about; he’s sort of senile. I’ll show you how to get the point.” It breaks my heart because I’ve seen great Sensei get pushed out of the dojo – legends! Beautiful kenshi who would have something to say that’s so understated that it is often missed. That’s the other thing; it wasn’t talk, talk, talk, and talk. It was an example – you can’t talk about this stuff. You can only experience it; it was experiential knowledge. When you’re on the receiving end and it is guided by kindness, but no tolerance for nonsense, it can lead you to amazing places. [Laugh] They’re making you to be your very best. And there’s all sorts of mechanisms that Omoto Sensei taught that were designed to bring students to have a reference point to be what they could be light. The truth to themselves. I have a great deal of disappointment. Dominant-heavy, game of dominance. It’s a tipping point. If you go on one side of it, you’re consistently practicing keiko for the benefit of all, trying to benefit yourself into a beautiful human being, risking everything for sutemi, and really going there. Not, hedging your bets and then bam! Doing the quick kote hit. No, why? Or the worst, being a bully and I’ve seen this, and it pisses the hell out of me. Yes, you can dominate everybody, and you can, in your own petty, little, bullshit way, pretend that you’ve beaten them. You know nothing about kendo – about real kendo. You interviewed with Begay Sensei, and he had the impression about real kendo – nobody’s teaching real kendo. What does that mean? That means, if you cross swords with somebody and, all of a sudden, your insides turn to liquid, and you realize that you’re going to die now. Those guys, they’re a little weird and that’s a little bit of an easy seme – not an easy seme, I don’t do it. I’ve certainly experienced it many times. Then you got people like Omoto Sensei who can show you a level of kendo that you might not be ready for. [Laughs]

It was mystical people like Ono Sensei after the war, the ones who sort of disappeared in the countryside and reemerged after the insanity. There were a few of them in the sword arts too. It was Ono sensei who gave Omoto Sensei the scroll of sei shin, quiet heart. He talked so much about – he never articulates what – but it’s just in this sort of awe that he had. You sensed that there was an amazing amount of goodness and this hoping of never again. What I mean by never again, the hijacking of the art of kendo, the way of the sword – do, michi, the way of spiritual cultivation through the sword – into the most barbaric of the kenjutsu/setusjin-ken nationalistic – as a vehicle of nationalism and horror. This is a vehicle of goodness and Zen practitioners – monks love iai. I cut every morning – I can’t imagine a day without iai. It’s not possible. [Laughs] What it does inside of you

Here’s the why I’m talking to you: we’re at a tipping point – well, the tipping point was probably a decade or so – and what has happened is that we’ve tipped over into competitive kendo, worldwide, and the pursuit for point and tournament waza and faster than another and rank; everything that leads to me being heartbroken. And my sensei was heartbroken, and I don’t know what’s possible because the ones that can actually contain the real deal, I was taught by their reflection, the mirror’s reflection. But I got to observe at the end of a shinai the real deal. I had this belief that they were actually curing me through kendo strikes – mysterious acupuncture points – because I felt magnificent after keiko! [Laughs] I couldn’t possibly get enough, but trying to do that while all these guys are maneuvering for points was hard. And I’m ashamed of some of my students, honestly. Another senior sensei that you also interviewed, watched him coming up and said, “Ah! There’s another one coming to beat me up!” And that was a waste! This guy has a reservoir of really cool knowledge and if you weren’t there to just get a point off sensei, you could actually learn something. And they would teach you. But if you were interested in getting a point off sensei, you get what you get. It’s really sad. I am in a crisis of faith about my students, where they ended up, what they’re doing now

The individual set of development was extraordinary. And it was a means to develop individuals. That whole period in Japan when Jigoro Kano established judo, with all the luminaries that we’re trying to create, before the nationalists hijacked the whole scene of budo. But that it could and should, that these means of creating extraordinary human beings did exist, or worthwhile perusing, even in the schools. And this is what Busen Butokukan was founded for. It wasn’t to get tournament champions – that’s interesting. People don’t really focus on that. It was to create elite teachers, not champions, teachers. And that’s on such a bigger level than smiting people. And it’s so much more complex and difficult and if you don’t have kindness then you don’t have it. You should because a lot of my teachers were quite fierce and deeply intimidating – scared the shit out of me most of the time! [Laughs] But, none of them were bullies. They were the obvious kind ones – Omoto Sensei, Maki Miyahara sensei, Akagi Sensei. And he was the one that got me off my knees – I used to have trouble with my iai in seiza. “Stand up for god’s sake. You’re going to wreck your knees!” And then I stood but he gave me the way to it. “Keep it real. What are you focusing on, knee pain or the cut?” “The cut sensei. The cut!”

MAYTT: With the current pandemic on the wane, how do you feel kendo will rebound and grow from the general decline it felt in the last few years? How do you think the art will adapt or evolve in the next decade in the United States?

JD: Where will it go? That’s why I have such hope in you. That’s why I’m doing this interview; why, if we can at least record what once existed, that Kendo was Kendo with a capital “K” rather than the small “k” kendo. that it was a michi, a do, designed to cultivate the human spirit, like they say in the Purpose of Kendo -get correct citation- that is what its potential is. To give lip service to that and then go about teaching people how to smite others and get trophies and be mean about it.

Competition has its place, don’t get me wrong. I’m saying yes, you can use competition, it can be included in the rubric, definitely in keiko, you need somebody else to honestly pressurize you. So, it’s not really the competition, but it’s the attitude towards it. For instance, take Masashi Shikai, talk about sheer delight. He’s highly competitive, crazy skilled, nobody could beat him, but totally kind! He’s not beating you with anger. He’s got a garage full of trophies that’s just ridiculous. He takes them out and hoses them off once every few years! [Laughs] His Kendo was beautiful, but he wasn’t doing it with any sort of meanness or aggression – just joy. Shikai Sensei is basically indomitable. He was Torao Mori Sensei’s student, one of the last living – we’ve had him out here three times. He’s somebody who’s the opposite of the quest for rank, prestige, and position. He doesn’t do that. He just loves kendo! [Laughs] And he’s preternaturally good at it. When you play him, it is hysterical, like when he does his double do on you, when he cuts you from one side to the other and back again. It’s like ‘Holy cow, how did you do that?’ [Laughs] In a fraction of a second he does it. Then there is the story of “Shikai’s footprints” – the story where he struck men, followed through, ran up the wall, turned around, came down, and struck his opponent again. Beautiful man, so much zanshin running up the wall! [Laughs]

Dixon (right) and Masashi Shikai (left) demonstrating a waza in the Taos Kendo and Iaido Dojo, or rather, Shikai demonstrating a waza on Dixon.

It’s like this, I love kendo. But there’s not that many people I like playing with anymore. So much is simply competition. I love playing the upper rankers; they’re beautiful, but they’re dying out. Murakami Sensei died; Maki Miyahara Sensei died, Yamaguchi Sensei, Omoto Sensei – a whole generation gone. Then, in my peer group, many are also departing from this life.

 I am disappointed in my teaching career in that I wasn’t able to communicate what is core to my understanding of kendo; that it is a life-promoting art; that it should be guided by kindness. Compassion is the first virtue, the first pleat on the hakama. If you do nothing else but follow the pleats of the hakama – jin (compassion), gi (uprightness), rei (respect), shin (loyalty/sincerity), and chi (wisdom) – then you are doing great! And that if you do your kendo and keiko following the five plates of the hakama – with compassion, with uprightness, where you’re not taking the sneaky point but really going full out in “sutemi,” sincerity – where you’re really giving it you all in the face of impossibility, where you’re stepping into it saying, “Yes! I’m going to die! But what the hell!?” [Laughs] Then you’re really doing something! Add in respect and a bit of wisdom and you’ve got a hell of a means for self-development. But it all begins with compassion, the first pleat – jin. In Iaido, with a draw, you have to go past that on the hakama, before you get to anything else. Then you have uprightness. I used to say that I teach the pleats of the hakama not competition. [Laugh] You’ve got compassion – jin – gi, uprightness – I’m a good person. I don’t want to stab you in the back. Then rei, respect. To me, that’s like reverence for all life. It’s way more than bowing at the beginning. No. It’s in yourselves. The reverence I have for my senseis, the reverence I have for this art, the reverence for all those who went before me to create this vehicle for human evolution, the likes I’ve never seen. All the good things about me, I am convinced they come from kendo. Honor, integrity, loyalty, sincerity, and courage in the face of overwhelming odds – kendo gave me those. I don’t like this about myself. I aspire to be completely absorbed. Omoto Sensei always said, “My life is kendo.” And it’s true! It’s not just shinai whacking! [Laughs] No! It’s how you greet somebody, how I see you, why I wanted to see who I was dealing with and what spread this might have for benefit, and the kindness as the basic foundation of how you operate. This is for the benefit of all concerned.

If you take any meanness, or that edge where I want to dominate you. You can tell most things about your opponent and where it’s going to go by watching them come out and get into sonkyo and stand up by that point, you should have figured out a lot about them, certainly their flavor.

One of the things that my dojo did was being like Switzerland, neutral. There are so many schisms in kendo now, and I didn’t want to be there. Everyone was welcome. We were always like Switzerland. We wouldn’t take sides. Everybody was welcomed. If you did kendo and you were sincere, you were welcome.

You can’t have the quest of kindness and quest of dominance in the same match. You’re either going to have a quest for dominance or you’re going to have keiko, which is ultimately ko ken chi ai – the kendo that elevates both parties. I love my kendo, what I’ve been taught, what I do, what I know, who I am. I love kendo. I’ll be doing my kendo forever. That’s my kendo journey. I’m not sure what it will become, only that it will continue for the rest of my life.

MAYTT: Thank you again for taking the time to talk with us today!

JD: Thank you for the invite and I look forward to more of your research!


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