View Full Version : Kenbu - sword dance

26th August 2004, 07:03
Hi There,

Am hoping someone might be able to point me in the right direction in sourcing music files or cds of some of the traditional music/poems used in Kenbu - unfortunately the web surfing that I have done keeps getting cluttered with bloody kensin anime rubbish.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Yours in budo

Jason Anstey

27th August 2004, 02:42
Hi Anstey-san,

I decided to do a search for you to see what I could find. I was curious too! I just never had an excuse to do a little searching for fun for info on this until now. ;)

Well, I tried cross-referencing, adding words "history of," and then "music of," and "music used in" in brackets, and then used just "Kenbu" alone, but still came up with only three sites on the English Yahoo. Yeah, there are a LOT of the Kenshi anime in the middle of it all. That made it hard to hunt.

Then, I went the Yahoo! Japan, and typed in "Kenbu" in Hiragana, and a bunch of sites popped up but there was too much kanji for me to make anything out for sites, so I gave that up. If someone who can read Japanese, please try? I didn't know the right words for "music of" or "music used in" in Hiragana. If someone has time, can you please write like this: Kenbu[music used in], Kenbu[music of], Kenbu[history of] or just "Kenbu" in Yahoo! Japan?

Anyway, here is what I found...

This site has Kenbu information and two videos of Kenbu with music. And, I bet if you write to the sensei of this dojo, he might know what you are interested in, and maybe, if you ask, give you contact information to talk to the two Kenbu dancers shown in the videos. They live in Japan. The videos are really neat, and IMHO, too short!! :( I never saw Kenbu until today. Gosh, it's pretty! All I knew, is that Kenbu is sword dancing. Wait util you read the info on it. Very interesting! The sword dance and music tells a story!



This has the name and lyrics of one song used in Kenbu. This photo is from 1914, and has a well known Kenbu dancer pictured here. And darn, the lyrics shown are only in Japanese. :(



This site might have something but I can't read Japanese well enough to know. So, maybe someone here can look at this site and the links and forums pages of this site to tell you if you don't read Japanese. :) It's worth a look, I think.



Well this is all I could find. I'm sorry I couldn't find anything else. I hope this helps a little, anyway. :)

27th August 2004, 02:56
Thank you very much Carolyn.

I had seen the site with the two vids and agree that they are great albeit a little short.

One of our Sensei in ZNKR and Tamiya Ryu is also the Soke of a branch of Kenbu in Sendai. I have been privilaged to see her perform on a few occasions which was unbelievable - goose bumps. Ueno Sensei head of ZNKR sung the verses.

Tamiya Ryu which I study also has a Kenbu set which is why I am so interested but will probably have to wait until I return to Japan in March to find out more.

Kenbu practitioners outnumber iaidoka in Japan but the ones who are really good are the people with a high level of Iai. I will take your advice and email the Sensei on that site for some more info.

THanks again for your post



29th August 2004, 21:49

Kenshin dojo is the place where I train at in Phoenix Arizona with Corella sensei. The gentleman with the fan from one of the videos is Toyoda Sensei, with whom I trained this summer, and he is the head of our school of Araki Muninsai Ryu Iaido. While I was over there I watched many kenbu practices, but I focused on iaido. Toyoda Sensei also teaches senbu--fan dancing-- but neither it nor kenbu are related to Araki Ryu Iaido, besides the general connections to all Iaido, or more precisely, all such traditional Japanese cultural entities. We do some kenbu here in Phoenix, and demonstrate one or two dances for the Phoenix Matsuri in March.

I really don't think Toyoda Sensei will answer many questions himself but if you have some, PM me and I will try to pass them on to Corella sensei. Toyoda Sensei will be leaving tomorrow back to Himeji, Japan. He has been here for the last week for seminars and training as he does every year. I doubt Toyoda Sensei will answer questions mainly because of the language barrier and the lack of formal introduction. But you can always start training with him maybe. :)

If you find yourself near Himeji next June (Himeji is close to Kobe) don't miss the 20th anniversary of the Meirin Kai Association, headed by Toyoda. There will be many kenbu and senbu dances as well as enbu of Araki Mujinsai Ryu Iaido. It will be quite extraordinary. Unfortunately, I will be paying off my credit debt from my recent trip so I won't be there to introduce anybody. But if you are interested, I can tell you the specifics of where and when as it approaches.

As far as how Toyoda Sensei chooses poems, who he works with to sing the songs, and how the dances are made, I know only a little bit so I don't feel too comfortable discussing much on the forum. I have a tape or two of the songs, but I can't make copies, nor can I put them on the net. Sound quality is too poor. We have other videos from enbus, and songs for those of us learning the dances, but those you have seen are the only ones up for public use.

30th August 2004, 03:41
Thanks J. Nicolaysen,

I appreciate your response and did get an email message from Corella Sensei.

I will refrain from asking further questions regarding this as my knowledge of Kenbu is too limited to add anything to this forum.

As with most things in the Japanese arts, what seems like a basic question has an answer that takes a lifetime to understand.

Thank you again for your excellent response.

Kind regards


30th August 2004, 05:29
I will refrain from asking further questions regarding this as my knowledge of Kenbu is too limited to add anything to this forum. No harm in asking just because you may not know the best way to ask, but in this case it may be the blind leading the blind if I try to answer. If anyone out there knows of research (paging Mr. Svinth) or other sources about kenbu (thanks by the way, Kaoru, for your legwork. You are one of e-budo's best ambassadors I am sure.) please post. I know certain seattle guys (Mr. Moses) are also taught it as part of their training.

As with most things in the Japanese arts, what seems like a basic question has an answer that takes a lifetime to understand. Well, that's perhaps a little of what I meant when I said that kenbu and senbu resemble iaido. Not just historical development, but that it is taught and learned in the manner of other such "arts" martial or otherwise: ikebana to kenjutsu. So of course it will take us some time to know a little more than a superficial level, if at all.

Joseph Svinth
31st August 2004, 02:42
Ooh, I was hoping you'd leave me out of this, as I really don't have much to add. However, Deb Klens-Bigman might be able to point you toward additional human resources. See http://www.newyorkbudokai.net/events_2003_guelph.html and http://www.newyorkbudokai.net/events_2003_guelph_b.html .

If you're in Honolulu, you should be able to find somebody, too. See, for example, http://starbulletin.com/2002/01/11/features/story1.html .

Historically, kenbu became popular in Japan following the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. I don't have the clipping handy, but my notes say there was an article about all this in Japan Times on November 29, 1928, 4.

About the same time, 30 Japanese, led by Mitsuru Toyama (male) and Koharu Choya (or Ohara; female, and reportedly Toyama's wife), were going up the coast from LA to Vancouver, giving exhibitions at regional opera houses. In Portland, on November 27, 1928, the Oregonian's theatre critic, Stanley Orne, wrote, "The sword play is rapid. They use both hands to aim their swords, and then fight with one hand. Their feet are in constant movement, inching nearer or sliding away. In 'Yoso Kida' one of the swordsmen Douglas Fairbankses from a balcony to the floor."

LA's L.E. Behymer was credited with orchestrating this particular tour, so it's possible that the Behymer collection at LA Public Library has pictures. See http://databases.lapl.org/db_art.shtml .

I do not know if this was the notorious Black Dragon Society Mitsuru Toyama, or instead some other fellow.

31st August 2004, 08:08

I I know that the above song 'Tabegurasu' is used for a sword dance. The song itself is about a wandering samurai. You could maybe google the term.

The dancer uses a sword and a straw hatto act out various adventures in the samurai's life.

Hope this helps

31st August 2004, 08:48
Thanks Spliffmaniac!

Google search turned up " did you mean TUBEGURU" he he he.

But seriously thanks to you and the others I at least have a few starting points.



2nd September 2004, 00:17
Hey Joe!! Good research, pard! Say, this Mitsuru feller .... same one as the Genyosha's "Big Boss"??

L-R: Onisaburo Deguchi, Mitsuru Toyama, and Ryohei Uchida c. 1923
[Image ex: http://www.aikidojournal.com/article.php?articleID=207 ]


Toyama eventually became so powerful that he himself gave orders to have political opponents murdered, including the Queen of Korea in 1894, a murder that led to the long Japanese occupation of Korea. It was also Toyama who lobbied for the military confrontation with Russia. To that end, he provided an army of spies in Manchuria to gather information on the Czar's land forces and the Russian fleet at Port Arthur. Information gathered by Black Dragon spies like Motojiro Akashi aided the Japanese fleet that vanquished the Russian fleet in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.

The power Toyama wielded in Japan was enormous, although he was ever submissive to Emperor Hirohito, especially when the monarch decided on world conquest in the late 1920s. Toyama's society had at its command more than 60,000 gangsters who acted as strike breakers and civilian supporters of the Japanese militarists, as well as supplying secret information on internal and external enemies, working closely with Kempei Tai (Japan's internal secret police) and Special Service Organ (foreign intelligence).

Throughout World War II, Toyama continued to loudly advocate a suicidal war of devastation against those nations Japan had made its enemies. He lived to the age of eighty-nine, dying in 1944, but not before he witnessed the collapse of the Japanese military empire he had worked so fanatically to establish.

Joseph Svinth
2nd September 2004, 01:40
Guy --

I don't think that this was the Black Dragon Toyama, as the impression I got was that this Toyama was a younger man.

But I could be wrong, and there is no doubt that the Black Dragon Toyama provided calligraphy for the Hokubei Butokukai's 1939 text on kendo in North America.