Interview with Haruna Sensei in 1994

Reprinted with courtesy of Kim Taylor, Univ. of Guelph, Canada

Haruna Matsuo sensei, 1925 - 2002

Haruna Matsuo sensei, 8th dan Hanshi Iaido, died in September 2002 at the age of 77.
He was a regular visitor to Britain, teaching at BKA Iaido seminars.
As a tribute, we (BKA) have re-printed in this issue an interview Haruna sensei gave in 1994.

This interview with Haruna Sensei, who died recently, was reproduced from The Iaido Newsletter (Canada) 1994.

 In 1990, Goyo Ohmi was invited to England to practice with Haruna Matsuo, 
a Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iaido who
 had been teaching regular seminars in that country for several years. 
As a result of that meeting, the University of
 Guelph Iaido club invited Haruna sensei to Canada the next year.
 1994 marked the fourth visit of Haruna sensei to
 Canada and that year we took the opportunity to interview him. 

 Haruna sensei is a 7 dan Iaido Kyoshi who resides in Ohara village, Okayama prefecture. 
He is a retired Junior High
 School teacher, a member of the All Japan Kendo Federation, a director of the 
Okayama Prefecture Kendo Federation
 and chief instructor and director of the Musashi Dojo of Ohara. The Musashi Dojo is 
owned by the town and is
 situated beside the Musashi Museum. 

 KIM TAYLOR: I would like to thank you for coming this year to Canada, and for the 
last few years of instruction in
 Iaido. Haruna sensei, I would like to start by asking you about your competitive 
achievements in Iaido, I know your
 career is quite impressive. 

 HARUNA MATSUO: I have participated in Provincial and National competitions and 
demonstrations 256 times. Of
 these, I lost completely 12 times, came in third 8 times and second 28 times. I was 
awarded gBest Fighting Spirith
 45 times and gSpecial Fighting Spirith [an award higher than Best Fighting Spirit]
 15 times. The rest I won. You
 can do the maths yourself to see how many times that was, I am not sure. 

 I entered my first national competition in 1978 and placed second. Overall at national 
competitions I placed in the top
 eight twice, second 5 times and in 1989 I won at the 7th dan level. This year I came
 second again. 
KT: Do you enjoy competing, sensei? 

 MH: Enjoy it? I canft answer whether I enjoy it or not, but shiai is practice. 

 KT: To test yourself, to have a challenge? 

 MH: No, I donft practice for shiai, the competitions are simply another practice day 
for me. 

 KT: So practice and shiai are the same, and you should have the same attitude during 
practice and during competition?

 MH: Yes. 

 KT: Where did you begin your Iaido practice? 

 MH: My first instructor was Yoshizaku Yamashibu, 8 dan Hanshi, who died last year. 
His teacher was
 HarusukeYamamoto who studied under Masamichi Oe, the 17th headmaster of 
Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iaido. I
 started practice in 1972 at 46 years of age. 

 KT: Was it difficult to start Iai at that age?

KT: I understand that there are two branches of Niten Ichi Ryu. 

 MH: Yes, there is the Noda Ha Niten Ichi Ryu and there is the Hyo Ho Niten Ichi Ryu,
 which is headed by Imai
 sensei. This school is named the Santo Ha in an old book, but the name is no 
longer used. The name Santo Ha came
 from one of the teachers in the lineage. Hyo Ho is written the same as Hei Ho,
 but is properly pronounced as Hyo Ho.

 KT: Where do you usually practice Niten Ichi Ryu? 

 MH: The Musashi Kenyu Club in Ohara. Kenyu Bu translates as sword friendship 
clubh and is one of several
 Niten clubs in the town. About 8 members in this club practice at the Musashi Dojo 
once a week. 

 KT: To point out how little information we have in the West about Niten Ichi Ryu, 
I have some comments and
 questions here which were asked on the Iaido-L computer mailing list. The first
 comment states that the questioner
 thought that Niten Ichi Ryu was no longer being practiced. 

 MH: The headmaster of Niten Ichi Ryu is Masayuki Imai and he owns the headquarters dojo. 
There are branch
 groups in Okayama, Kumamoto, Fukuoka, Saga and Saitama prefectures. There are probably
 120 to 130 people from
 these clubs practicing Niten Ichi Ryu in Japan today. I donft know how many people 
practice under Noda Ha. 

 KT: The second question concerns the content of the school. 
MH: The Tachi Seiho set consists of practice with the long sword against the long sword, 
Kodachi Seiho is short
 sword against long and the Noto Seiho is long and short sword against long sword. 
These are the three sections of
 practice. There is also a Bojutsu, or long staff set which is staff against long sword. 
I have not practiced the Bojutsu. 

 KT: I have seen a videotape of Imai sensei and his students demonstrating bojutsu. 
It is not at all the same style of bo
 we would see here, derived from Okinawan Karate. 

 MH: The Niten Ichi Ryu bo is a little bit longer than the Muso Ryu Jodo staff. 

 KT: It seems similar to jodo. 

 MH: Yes, but the specific movements are quite different from Muso Ryu Jodo. 

 KT: How many kata in each of the three sword sets? 

 MH: Tachi Seiho has 12 kata altogether, and Kodachi Seiho has sevenc 

 KT: That is the set we hope to learn from you tomorrow. 

 MH: That is not possible. It canft be learned in only a couple of days. 
Donft think so simply [laughs]. 

 KT: And Nito Seiho? 

 MH: Nito Seiho has 5 kata. 
KT: Only five - are there any other nito kata? 

 MH: There are 5 kata called the Setsssusa [prounced Sessa] and five kata called Aikuchi. 
Imai sensei does not teach
 Sessa and Aikuchi; Aoki sensei told Imai sensei that it is not necessary to practice 
these kata. For instance, I showed
 you Jinrai and Raiden in the demonstration today. These Iaido kata were created for 
practice only and are not part of
 the school. Sessa and Aikuchi were not created by Musashi but by later students after 
he died. Imai sensei said that it
 is not necessary to practice them, so we do not. At least not often. 

 KT: A final question from the computer list concerns how people look at Musashi in Japan. 
In the West we sometimes
 get the impression he is a rather ambiguous figure, sort of like Billy the Kid. 

 MH: The Japanese donft think this way; hefs not an outlaw like Billy the Kid. 
Most people think of him as a
 philosopher. Budo people look to him as a philosopher, a writer, and are proud of 
him for his swordsmanship and for
 his artistry as a painter and sculptor. There are fictional accounts of his life, 
but most people donft believe these

 KT: This confirms what I have heard. For instance, the current headmaster of the 
Yagyu Shinkage Ryu referred to
 Musashifs book Go Rin no Sho when explaining the different types of seeing, during 
a lecture in New York City last

 MH: Yes, he is respected for his whole life, as an artist and not just for his skill 
with a sword. 

 KT: Maybe we should get back to Iaido. Sensei, I have a whole series of technical 
questions written down here, but
 you have just given us three days of explanations and I know you could speak for 
three days on these questions.
 Perhaps you could comment on what is most important for beginners to learn. 
MH: Beginners should work on the same angles of nuki tsuke [the one-handed opening
 cut] and on footwork first. If
 they donft, they will pick up bad habits which are very difficult to fix. 
Real beginners should not learn kata first but
 work on the vertical cut only, and on noto [putting the blade away], not on the 
first technique. Even in Japan beginners
 go too fast, many learn the second, third, fourth techniques too soon and this 
causes trouble. In the old times they
 taught students the first technique only, for three years. In kendo they also 
said do kirikaeshi [a basic cutting drill] for
 three years before putting on the bogu. If we do this today, nobody will stay in
 the class so we teach them from one to
 ten as soon as possible. I believe thatfs why most peoplefs Iai is very bad. 
If you do the first kata perfectly, master
 it completely, there wonft be any problem going on to the next kata. 
Learn breathing, the vertical cut and the other
 parts of the first technique fully before going on. The sooner you teach 
the rest of the techniques, the sooner the
 beginner gets into trouble. Teach the basics deeply. 

 KT: Wefve mentioned what to teach beginners; what does a senior in Iai do 
that makes him different from a

 MH: We teach the beginners simple movements. For instance [demonstrating], 
in footwork the teaching is very simple:
 move the foot, turn. When it comes to a senior this is not good enough. 
The movements must be more refined, more
 subtle. Seniors must be taught the fine technical points of each movement. 
The movement is broken down into many
 more steps to teach it deeply. So beginners and seniors will perform the 
same kata, the same movements, but the
 seniors must show much more refined, controlled movement. Beginners perform
 bigger, rougher moves. 

 KT: Sensei, what attitude must a student have for competition, demonstration or testing? 

 MH: The attitude will be no different between these. 

 KT: What about everyday practice? 

 MH: It shouldnft be different. When you do keiko [practice] you should do it seriously. 
For instance, the students
 did a demonstration for me on the last day of the seminar. During practice, everyone
 was easygoing and relaxed, but
 during the last 15 minutes they thought, gnow sensei is watching meh so they 
performed carefully. That feeling is
 wrong. You should do keiko the same as embu [demonstration]. 

 KT: At one point in the seminar, I believe you mentioned that we should practice as
 if our lives depended on it, 

 MH: Of course you should practice that way. Most people are doing practice without
 this attitude and thatfs why
 theyfre doing it wrong. They have no concentration during practice. 
Are you practicing seriously or not, thatfs the
 point. Most people are not serious. If youfre not practicing seriously, 
just go to bed. This is what Tomigahara sensei
 [9th dan Hanshi, Muso Shinden Ryu] always taught me. In the demonstration 
the students all did gshinken shobuh
 [fight with a real sword] but when practicing they were not serious. 
There should be no difference in the two feelings. 

 KT: Sensei, do you think that students who have gained expertise in Iaido should
 practice other styles, for instance

 MH: Of course Iaido students should study kendo as well. The International Kendo 
Federation has also stated that
 Kendo and Iaido should be practiced together. The two are the wheels of a cart. 
If one wheel is missing the cart falls
 over. Most budo experts have this opinion. 

 KT: Would other styles of kenjutsu, for instance Niten Ichi Ryu, help in practice? 

 MH: Yes, Niten Ichi Ryu helps Iaido a lot. Kendo helps Iai and Iai helps Kendo. 
Today one of the students told me
 that Iai practice helped her Chinese Tai Chi. It is all the same. 

 KT: So you believe that there is no danger of doing too many things, of knowing a 
little about a lot and not being good
 at any one thing? 

 MH: If you do Iaido, Kendo or Jodo only, this is not good. You should do more than 
one of these. Other budo like
 Kyudo [archery] have the same gmindh but the techniques are different. That much 
diversity is not necessary. I
 believe you should not learn that much budo. 

 KT: So the important thing is the mind? 

 MH: The mind is the same but the techniques are different. Iaido and Kendofs mind 
and technique are the same; if
 you do one, you should do the other. Kyudofs concentration is the same as Iaidofs 
concentration, the mind is the
 same but the skill, the movement is different. Sado [tea ceremony], flower arrangement, 
all the do [ways] have the
 same mind as budo. They all help the budo ? that is Japanese culture. 

 KT: So the reason we do budo is to improve our mind, not to learn how to cut 
people in half with a sword? 

 MH: That is the important part of budo. The technical part of cutting is not important. 
That is a good question. We
 must all learn do, not only cutting. To go more deeply, the Iaido mind must be used 
in everyday life. From that will
 follow peace in the world. 

 KT: So, katsukin ken not satsujin ken. 

 MH: Just so, the sword that gives life, not the sword that takes life. 

 KT: Just to back up a little bit, your advice then is to practice Iaido, Kendo and Jodo, 
their techniques are similar and
 they all work on the mind. Iaido and Kyudo on the other hand both work on the mind, 
but the techniques are
 confusing so donft practice them together? 

 MH: I believe you canft practice that many different things. If you are a samurai 
you must practice everything, but
 today people have to make a living. If you do budo all day thatfs different, go 
ahead and learn Kyudo, Karate,
 Aikido, Judo. Today nobody can do everything. Stick to Kendo, Iaido and Jodo if you 
must also make a living. 

 KT: In Iai, who are the important figures we should know about? Students learn about
 Masamichi Oe, Jinsuke
 Hayashizaki, c which others? 

 MH: Jinsuke Hayashizaki is the originator of Iai teechniques and we should know about him. 
Remember that our Iai
 and jinsukefs Iai are not the same any more. Jinsukefs students created many 
different schools, and Jinsuke is the
 head of all of these. You mentioned Masame Oe, he is important for 
Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu but not for other styles
 or schools. So when talking about the history of Iaido, the most important is 
Jinsuke Hayashizaki, then students of
 school should know the history of their own school. 

 KT: As students of budo, what other figures should we know about and study? 
Whose lives should we learn from? 

 MH: The number one figure should be Miyamoto Musashi and his book the Go Rin no Sho. 
This book contains
 everything, how to hold the sword, metsuke [gaze], posture. The book explains mind 
and spirit, how to face an enemy
 in a fight. Musashi wrote the book with reference to fighting but the writing is alive today. Company managers use it to
 understand how to manage people. The Go Rin no Sho explains how to live your life. 
It is not only a book about

 KT: Are there any other books or lives we should study? 

 MH: The Go Rin no Sho is enough. 

 KT What personal characteristics are required to make a good budoka? 

 MH: Your question is backward. If you practice budo, you develop a good character. 
Budo improves your character.
 A baseball coach maybe able to say: gthis person should be good baseball playerh. 
A budo person will never say:
 gthis person shouldnft study budoh. Everyone can practice budo and everyone can 
learn kokoro from budo. 

 KT: What do we learn from budo? 

 MH: Kokoro [heart/mind/spirit/personality]. This is difficult to explain. 
Top sensei often argue about the meaning of
 kokoro and one person said that trying to explain kokoro was like trying to tie up a
 girlfs messy hair. It keeps slipping
 away. One sensei said kokoro is gyouh, but where is it? In your arm? No. 
In your heart, your mind? Kokoro is the
 whole person. 

 KT: What is the relationship between student and sensei? 

 MH: Student and sensei are walking along together. I am here, thatfs why the 
student is there. The student is there,
 thatfs why I am here. If the sensei doesnft think that way, hefs not good 
enough to be a sensei. A bossy, bullying
 person is not a sensei. If students are polite to a teacherfs face but talk 
about him behind his back because hefs a
 bully, this showfs hefs not a good sensei. A good example is Tomigahara sensei. 
Hefs not bossy at all, hefs
 very simple and humble in his actions and thatfs why I follow him. 
The senseifs humanity is most important, not
 his rank. 

 KT: Unfortunately I think rank is often the most important thing in the West. 
What is the relationship between student
 and organisation then? 

 MH: A relationship between student and sensei makes sense, but a relationship 
between student and federation
 doesnft seem to match. What do you mean? 

 KT: For instance, what loyalty should a student give to a sensei and what 
loyalty to a federation. 

 MH: When a sensei is wrong, for instance if he splits from an organisation and 
that split is wrong, the student has an
 obligation to tell his sensei that hefs wrong and stay with the organisation. 
On the other hand, if the sensei is right to
 leave the organisation then the student should follow him. The decision of right 
or wrong lies with the student and the
 student must decide for himself what to do. A student canft give this decision 
to the sensei. 

 KT: I suppose my answer then is that a student has a relationship with a sensei 
but is merely a member of an

 Sensei, is it possible for a student from the West to understand budo or must one 
be Japanese to fully grasp it? 

 MH: I believe Western students who practice budo can understand it c some of 
these students understand it. You
 donft have to be Japanese. Even the Japanese donft understand what budo is [laughs]. 
Many Japanese, many
 Americans, many Europeans understand what budo is today. 

 KT: Sensei, you have travelled to the West many times. Do you enjoy these visits? 

 MH: Yes, I really enjoy the visits and I wish for many people to understand about 
budo, so Ifd like to share my
 knowledge about budo with as many people as possible. 

 KT: How would you compare the skill level of the students in the West to those in Japan? 

 MH: The technical skill of the West is still quite low compared to Japan. 
Many Europeans understand the mind of
 budo, but the technical skill is still lower than in Japan. For example
 your rank in Iaido is only fourth dan but your
 knowledge of budo is high. I have a high opinion of your knowledge of budo. 

 KT: I promise to practice harder sensei. 

 I would like to thank you very much for giving me your time like this. 
It was most kind of you to share your
 knowledge with us. 

 - Goyo Ohmi and Kim Taylor, 1994