Shobukan Kenjutsu Dojo: Dedicated to a Martial Tradition
Shobukan kenjutsu dojo is the only officially shibu of Otake Risuke shihan’s dojo Shinbukan in Vietnam. Shobukan dojo is fully dedicated to transmitting and learning one martial tradition: Tenshinshō-den Katori Shintō-ryū. In that sense we, through our efforts, aim to exercise this martial tradition’s cultural preservation. Shobukan kenjutsu dojo has one officially appointed shidosha and two shidoin. They are the only persons allowed and capable to teach in Vietnam.
Our goals are to properly transmit the martial tradition of the ryu. This includes its martial physical techniques but also knowledge and mental ability, moral values and cultural practices. We hope that through cultural exchange people of different cultural backgrounds will be able to exist together peacefully. We try to train with the ancient Japanese bushi or samurai in mind. This entails both the physical and the non-physical. Shobukan dojo opened its doors to the public in 2012 in Hochiminh City Vietnam. Locally the dojo is also recognized as an official branch of the Hochiminh Vietnam-Japan Friendship Organization.
Our head teacher at Shinbukan dojo in Japan is Otake Risuke sensei. He named our dojo after the place where he used to train when he was younger. He wrote the name he choose on a scroll for us. When you visit Shobukan dojo you will see this scroll above on our wall. The word Shobukan means several things depending on the way you write it. One of the meanings is “the epitomy of martial spirit”. Another is “to develop martial skills little by little, day by day”.
Katori Shintō-ryū today is guided by Otake Nobutoshi Shihan. Additionally Yamada Hironobu sensei taught both in Japan and abroad. He introduced Katori Shintō-ryū as taught by Otake Sensei to the Netherlands. Yamada sensei passed away in 2017. In Vietnam Malte Stokhof has been appointed shidosha. Otake Nobutoshi officially appointed Vietnamese assistant teachers to Shobukan dojo.
Our students: “Turn no one away, nor rope them back in.”
The fundamental stance of the tradition toward students has always been: “turn no-one away, nor rope them back in.” We do not actively look for new students nor do we chase students who do not come back to training. This applies to people who behave as is expected of martial artists of the ryu. That being said we welcome new students every month but only few come back after their first training session. We make no exceptions when it comes to training and supporting the dojo: all of us carry the same burden, young or old, male or female. The burden includes honest and vigorous training with all and anyone in the dojo. We were all beginners once and we all continue to need help from people who are seniors. In return it is our duty to welcome and assist our juniors with a welcoming and respectful spirit. Failure to do so will be addressed by the dojo. Other duties are to support the dojo by helping out when needed. This can take the form of organising trips, events or even seminars. The students who have these values and show that they understand these expectations continue their training with us for the long-run. Those without those values will not.
In our dojo we set expectations; not only of skill, but more importantly; also in regards to conduct. We hold our members to a higher expectation of conduct. We follow our founder and our sensei in their teachings. We keep the peace as long as possible, but there are certain lines that cannot be crossed; certain actions will not be tolerated. We do not accept any actions that influence the dojo negatively, either its atmosphere, people’s safety or otherwise. Students who do not follow the advice of the dojo repeatedly will be asked to take some time off from training to reflect on their behaviour. This is a well-known solution in Japanese society. The idea is that after a while the person who reflects comes back and shows signs of reflection. From that moment on, students are welcomed back and will continue to receive instruction. Some students do not take well to reflection and continue to play a negative role influencing the dojo either during practice our outside practice hours. In such cases it is the responsibility of the dojo leader to protect the larger organisation and take decisive action by removing their influence upon others.
Just as the members of the ryu make the ryu, so do the students make Shobukan kenjutsu dojo. Our students both women and men, come from many countries including but not limited to Vietnam, France, Canada, Japan, Germany, Australia, and America. Our youngest student is 12 years old and our oldest student is around 50 years old. Almost all of our first students who started training when the dojo opened are still training with us. Some have emigrated to another country or have had to move to another province in Vietnam for work. We are still in touch with them and from time to time they visit the dojo and continue their training.
People start training for different reasons. Some may find the physical training appealing, others have a fondness for all things Japanese and others again may look for a social club. Whatever the initial reasons may be, many have found that their original interest has changed or an additional, new motive has arisen which makes them want to deepen their knowledge of the ryu. One of the turning points for many students has been taking the blood oath or their chance to be taught by Otake Risuke Sensei and Otake Nobutoshi Shihan. Other experiences which often strengthen students’ interest in the tradition are the international seminars Shobukan dojo organizes in Vietnam with Otake Nobutoshi sensei and Katori Teruo sensei.
Testimonials of our Students
I made the switch from Aikido to Katori Shintō-ryū as I was looking for more dynamic sword skills and rigorous training. My trial was during a regular training night and I was hooked; hooked by the knowledge and intensity of Malte Sensei and the rest of the monjin. The camaraderie of regular training, the seminars and the training in Japan is amazing. At the moment, due to Katori training and attitude I am the healthiest and fittest that I have been in 10 years.
There is no other way that I would rather spend my time. So for a vacation I went to Japan. It was a dream come true. Initially the idea of meeting Otake Sensei was very overwhelming at first, but after I literally asked him to train and completely embarrassed myself, I started training it was then I realized that although I was being taught by a legend, it was just more training. So I kept training…
Although I’m one of the oldest members of the dojo, I don’t feel that way. Katori keeps me limber and fit and energized. Katori keeps me sharp mentally, it helps me to have an open mind – to be ready for anything. During seminars and while training in Japan you see this in practice; training with others from all parts of the world, training for improvement of skill and of will.
With Katori I feel that I train my mind, my body and my spirit in a very simple and pure way. We train the basics, machi uchi, kamai and kata (oh yeah and push ups)…over and over and over aiming to improve. In Katori training, there is no non-sense, it is straight forward and makes sense. The philosophy is clean and pure and about personal improvement, not about violence. Tenshinshō-den Katori Shintō-ryū has been around a very long time and if you start to train in Katori you will understand why it is still around. As for me, it will be around my life for a long time to come. What do I like about Katori? Everything the full embodiment of budo and budo spirit. Katori is not for everyone, but everyone should try it to see if it’s for them.
When I came to Vietnam 5 years ago, I quickly started looking for a dojo to start practising taekwondo or ju-jitsu again. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any place bearing true martial arts values. I then stumbled upon Katori Vietnam, decided to give it a try and eventually found what would become a real passion a few months after. If you are looking for a place where to practice “martially”, hard, with dedicated and friendly people, then look no further!