August 2017, enjoying the quiet summer months, we traveled across Japan to Miyakonojo and the Kirishima Sankei region to visit 3 of Japan's last Bokken workshops. We've conducted 3 interviews, starting with master Aramaki Yasuo. Here's the transcript with some additional comments and information.
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Academic research about Budo culture and history is important, and popularizing it in different forms is at least as important as the research itself. Alex Bennett does both, and he does it well. In this interview, we start with Alex's story, his first encounter with Kendo, then how he decided to dedicate his life to practice, research and teaching. In the second half, we talk about the History of Budo and how all major Budo appeared and evolved through the 20th century.
Presentation of Alex Bennett’s interview by Jordy Delage.
The origin of the Iaito does not date back very far, to the 60s or so. The creation of this tool for practice was primarily driven by new laws and regulations, enacted after World War ll. Since then, with the experience of many trades in the manufacture of the Nihonto (Japanese sword), some Japanese craftsmen have developed an expertise, still unparalleled outside the archipelago.
We went to the region called Gifu to visit the workshops Minosaka and Nihon Token (Jisei), two of the most famous in Japan. Familiar with this topic for some years, we had many questions to ask – which we are summarizing here.
The Bokken, wooden imitation of the famous Katana, is almost as old as the latter. Its poor quality in the beginning made it a "consumable item" which could easily be replaced if broken. The Bokken's quality improved gradually over time but it was not until the early 20th century, with the birth of the workshop in Miyakonojo (Kyushu) that the Bokken, the wooden sword, became a piece of art. At this workshop the ancient art of woodworking met the traditional martial arts, both of them sharing common values.