The founding of Kensei kensan kai is the result of Watanabe Yukio (1947-) sensei’s burning interest in Iaido. Watanabe-sensei is currently ranked 7-dan Iaido Kyoshi in the ZNKR, and resides outside of Kawagoe, in Saitama prefecture, Japan. Watanabe-sensei started practicing Iaido under the instruction of Iwamoto Masaaki-sensei and through seven years of arduous practice progressed to the Kuden (oral-tradition) level before Iwamoto-sensei passed away.
During this time he also made the acquaintance of Michioka Yoshinori-sensei.
Michioka-sensei, a very distinguished practitioner of Kendo and Iaido, having won numerous competitions in both arts during his lifetime, was a training-buddy of Iwamoto-sensei’s. They practiced together under the instruction of Omura Yuji-sensei. Omura-sensei had studied Iaido under Nakayama Hakudo-sensei since the age of 15 and was perhaps the most proficient of Nakayama-sensei’s students. Omura-sensei started his own dojo, the Yushin-dojo (named after himself, not to be confused with Nakayama-sensei’s dojo, the Yushinkan) in the Nerima ward of Tokyo after Nakayama-sensei’s passing, and ran it until he himself passed away at the age of 86 in 1980.
After Iwamoto-sensei’s passing, Watanabe-sensei asked Michioka-sensei permission to study under him in accordance with Shu-Ha-Ri, and at that time they created the Kensei kensan kai in Japan together.
Kensei kensan kai in Sweden
In 1980 one of Swedens most proficient Aikido-ka, the late Lennart Linder, went to Japan to practice for a Kobayashi-sensei, who held Aikido-practice in the Renbukan-dojo close to Hon-Kawagoe station in Kawagoe city, Saitama prefecture. During this time, Michioka Yoshinori-sensei held Kendo and Iaido practice in this very same dojo. It was common that Iaido practice was held after Aikido practice at the Renbukan during this time, and Lennart was given the opportunity to see Kensei kensan kai’s Iaido. Lennart was so impressed by what he saw that he pleaded Michioka-sensei and Watanabe-sensei to come to Sweden so that Swedish Budo-ka’s would be able to experience Kensei Kensan Kai’s Iaido there.
During Michioka-sensei’s and Watanabe-sensei’s first visit to Sweden in 1983, Mike Henry and Roger Undhagen were among the spectators at Kensei Kensan Kai’s first exhibition in Sweden. Mike and Roger, who had started practicing Kendo and Iaido four years earlier, were so impressed by the display that they immediately left their dojos, and asked Michioka-sensei for permission to study under him in accordance with Shu-Ha-Ri. They later spent a number of years studying Iaido full time in Japan as uchi-deshi for Michioka-sensei and Watanabe-sensei.
Kensei kensan kai Today
Today, Kensei kensan kai in Sweden is run by Mike Henry and his and Roger’s students Björn Stille, Magnus Erkstam and Amanda Gydemo-Östbom. Iaido practise is held in Stockholm, Sweden.
During his studies at the Linköping Technical Institute (LiTH), Mike Henry was asked by the Linköping Budo Club (LBK) to hold Kendo and Iaido practice. Practice started in 1989 and has been held continuously since then by Mike Henry, Magnus Erkstam, Caroline Lindholm, and Mattias Jansson.
Since Michioka-sensei’s passing in 1997, Mike and Roger have asked Watanabe-sensei permission to study Iaido under him in accordance with Shu-Ha-Ri, thus continuing the Kensei kensan kai legacy in Sweden. This legacy continues to this day with several of Kensei kensan kai’s students regularly going to Japan to study Iaido full-time for Watanabe-sensei. The practitioners studying full-time in Japan with Watanabe-sensei over the years have been:
- Roger Undhagen: 1983-1984, 1987, 1990, 1993, 2000, 2001
- Mike Henry: 1984-1986, 1992, 2003, 2008
- Christian Eriksson: 1989
- Magnus Erkstam: 1993, 2001, 2005
- Theodore Bergqvist: 1995
- Björn Stille: 1996, 2003, 2007
- Ulf Undmark: 2000, 2003
- Mattias Jansson: 2017, 2019
- Amanda Gydemo-Östbom: 2018, 2019
- Patrik Karlsson: 2019
- Caroline Lindholm: 2022
Kensei kensan kai is forever grateful to Lennart Linder for his contribution to Swedish Iaido.