Philosophy of kendo: killing sword and life living sword. Reconsider the meaning of the culture of kendo in connection with the ideas of setsunintou and katsuninken

Teruo Oboki
Saitama University, Japan

This paper is intended to make the philosophy of kendo clear on two themes: the first is about martial arts, which were originally a culture of destruction?one that specifically denied the lives of others for the sake of one?s survival?and which were thus developed as techniques to kill and maim others, and which then became a measure to educate people to realize the importance of living together and one that has since been developed as a culture of creation; the second is about when and by whom battle techniques were converted into an apparatus to promote awareness of life. Author present theme from the viewpoint of body-and-mind relations, namely the philosophy of setsunintou (sword to kill people) and katsuninken (sword to restore people to life)?one of concepts in Zen, that was introduced into swordsmanship. The philosophy changed
swordsmanship from killing techniques into techniques to restore and foster people.
To consider the issue, author focus on the relationship among military commanders, masters of martial arts and Zen priests, who lived from the latter half of the 16th century?when firearms were introduced from Europe into Japan, to the first half of the 17th century?when swordsmanship was systematized and written records about swordsmanship were compiled, focusing on: Nobutsuna Kamiizumi (1508-1582?), Muneyoshi Yagyu (1527-1606), Ieyasu Tokugawa (1542-1616), Munenori Yagyu (1571-1646), Soho Takuan (1573-1645) and Musashi Miyamoto (1584- 1645). The spirit of these people, who lived through the Warring States Period of Japan and built a peaceful time, has been handed down as the spirit of swordsmanship.
Keywords: philosophy of kendo ? sword to kill people ? sword to restore people to life

Published online: 17 September 2015
Copyright: ? 2015 the Author. Published by Archives of Budo
Contributor: Teruo Oboki conceived the study design, collected and analysed the data, prepared the manuscript and secured the funding.
Funding: This study was supported in part by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Fundamental Research (B),Task No.15H03067)
Conflict of interest: Author has declared that no competing interest exists
Ethical approval: Not required
Provenance and peer review: Under responsibility of HMA Congress
Corresponding author: Teruo Oboki, Saitama University, 255 Shimo-Okubo, Sakura-ku, Saitama City, Saitama 338-8570, Japan; e-mail: tobokiuno[at]
Open Access License: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-commercial 4.0 International (, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license