I go to Noma Dojo located in Gokoku-ji, Tokyo, every morning. My house is in the northern part of Saitama prefecture and it takes about 2 hours by train to get to the Dojo from my place. So, if I get up around 4:00 am and catch the first train, I can be on time for the morning practice which starts at 7:00 am.
Three years ago, when I got ready for a practice and entered the Dojo, one Sensei came to me and whispered, "Shimano-san, Shimano-san. Would you like to know the secret of how to be a strong Kendo player?" I wondered what he was trying to say and, at the same time, why he approached me, since there were many other Kendo players. I was pretty confused but also curious. So, though I thought that he was acting strangely, I asked him, "Yes. Could you please tell me what the secret is?" The Sensei stared into my eyes seriously for an instant, but then he said gently, "It is to get along with your wife." Then, he left me and went back to his position at the Dojo.
Now, I became really confused. To get along with my wife? How can that be the secret to be a strong Kendo player? I was completely puzzled.
However, as I spent time to think over it, I realized that how fortunate it was to be able to keep practicing Kendo at Noma Dojo every morning like this. I should, of course, thank Kodansha1 for keeping Noma Dojo open. But, at the same time, I also realized that I could do it thanks to my family. I noticed that I had thought that Kendo was a personal thing, and I had been careless about my family when it came to Kendo. However, I can leave home and come to practice because my home is at peace. I can keep a calm mind thanks to the other people around me. "To get along with your wife" is definitely a secret to be a strong Kendo player. Not only in Kendo. You can do your best at work only if your home is at peace. After I understood this, I became used to telling others "The secret to be a strong Kendo player is to get along with your wife!" whenever, say, I had a chance to discuss about Kendo while having some drink with my friends.
One day, I told the Sensei that I was promoting his great secret. He said, "Oh, yeah!? That's good. By the way, what do you wear when you go to bed?" I was confused again by his strange question and replied, "Well..." Then, he said, "You should wear Nemaki.2 Not something like pajamas." I was totally at a loss. What is the relation between his secret and that question? "Remember the scenes in some TV dramas. Characters are always in pajamas when they have a marital quarrel. You cannot have a quarrel with Nemaki," he said and laughed like Mito-Komon-sama.3
But, why wear Nemaki but not pajamas? Why did he mention it when I was talking about his secret? You might have already guessed it. In the case of pajamas, it takes time to undress. On the other hand, in the case of Nemaki, you can split open the front part easily. Yes, the essence to get along with one's wife lies in such things, too.
Thus, the Okuden of my Kendo secret is "to get along with your wife," and the methodology is "to go to bed with Nemaki." I am not kidding at all. So, please do not take me wrong. If you have any worries about your Kendo, why don't you look at the face of the one who sleeps next to you once again. To be a good couple seems easy, but it also seems very difficult.
I am determined to practice "to get along with my wife" and to devote myself to Kendo. So, I decided to disclose this as the Oku-den.
By the way, when I attended the wedding reception of my friend the other day, I was asked to make a speech. So, I announced this Oku-den and people told me later that they were really impressed. My gift to the couple was, of course, Nemaki.
written by Ryoichi Shimano
translated by Hiroyuki Otaki (Shidokan Kendo Club)
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