An early encounter training with Koichi Tohei Sensei in Hilo.

After training Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, Nonaka Sensei shared a story with us about Koichi Tohei. Takashi Nonaka Sensei 9th dan with the Hilo Ki Society was a student and close friend of Koichi Tohei Sensei.

In the late 50’s in Hilo, Nonaka Sensei was conversing with Tohei Sensei about a story he read from one of his fathers books. In the story from this book there was an encounter of two swordsmen in a duel. The two men drew their swords and focused on each other with the tip of their blades. One of the men was intending to engage the other when he noticed something. Now all he could see of the other man was the tip of sword pointed at him. His opponents Ki or intent was far beyond his own. The other swordsman’s skill was far superior to his own and he accepted defeat before any movement was made. Nonaka Sensei asked Tohei Sensei if this was possible. Tohei Sensei thought about it for a little while and said “Lets see.”

Later after classes were done, Nonaka Sensei and Tohei Sensei stayed after class to train. “Lets try to see if I can do what that swordsman did.” Stated Tohei Sensei. Tohei Sensei walked to the far opposite side of the tatamis till h stood on the end of the mat with a jo in hand. He turned and faced Nonaka Sensei who had a bokken in his hand. “Raise your bokken. I am going to walk towards you, strike if you can cut me at any time.” Said Tohei Sensei. Nonaka sensei was experienced with the sword being a prewar shodan in Kendo and thought this should be no problem.

Tohei Sensei raised the jo above his head with the tip pointed at Nonaka Sensei’s head. He slowly started walking towards Nonaka Sensei. Nonaka Sensei stood with bokken overhead to strike at any openings. As Tohei Sensei moved forward, Nonaka Sensei said his vision narrowed. Tohei Sensei’s body began to be overshadowed by the tip of the jo. All Nonaka Sensei could see was the tip of the jo grow bigger with every step Tohei Sensei took. He said he felt he could physically cut with the sword but, mentally he was frozen in place. There were no openings as he came closer. The tip of the jo was focal point which grew larger and closer. Eventually,Tohei Sensei came close enough to touch Nonaka Sensei on the forehead with his jo. By this time Nonaka Sensei was covered in sweat and nearly collapsed onto the mat.

Tohei smiled and said “Wakarimaska?”. Nonaka Sensei nodded. “I realized at that moment I needed to train more.”


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