HEADMASTER TSUNEYOSHI MATSUNO
Tsuneyoshi Matsuno, My Late Headmaster
To be a student of a great man and teacher is one of the most fulfilling experiences a martial artist can have. If there is aadrawback it is simply that you are so surrounded by your teacher’s positive love of the art and life that you do not see how great he is and just how lucky you are. I have been so lucky and my instructor was that great. His name was Tsuneyoshi Matsuno and his passing brought with it emptiness in my heart and a commitment in my mind. With the unexpected passing of his instructor, Masayoshi Nakajima Ryusho-sai the 5th Headmaster of Takenouchi-Hangan-Ryu, with no designated successors, Tsuneyoshi Matsuno found himself to be one of five individuals in the position to carry on a 300-year old tradition of iaido.
Out of the five he and two others chose the challenging road of keeping this art alive and growing. With three branches now each added their name to the school name and worked to maintain its traditions and values. The Takenouchi- Hangan-Ryu-Matsuno branch gained world recognition as Headmaster Matsuno had committed himself to seek out the flickering candlelight of the samurai in as many countries as possible. He became the world emissary for the Japanese Federation for this form of Iaido. There could be no better individual to spread the word to individuals in Japan and also those denied the heritage of the daily disciplined Japanese culture.
He was the author of many books including “A Comparison of Bushi-Do & Chivalry” and “Nin-Jutsu”. Headmaster Matsuno was also the translator for books such as“Yojo-Kun—Rules of Health”, “Sword and Zen” (The Marvel of Immovability), “The Culture and History of Kansai”, and “The Way of the Samurai, East & West”. More importantly he was the translator for the book “Bugei Ju-Happan” (The Spirit of Samurai) by Masayoshi Nakajima and Shigeru Nakajima, published by Sugiyama Publishing Co.,LTD. in 1983. At that time his grade was Iai-suemono-tameshigiri-do jikiden 3-dan. Degree: Renshi. Headmaster Matsuno’s love of the art of sword showed in all he did. As a teacher of English by profession his approach to each person he met was as a willing individual with knowledge that he believed would only fulfill its purpose if it was accurately passed on to others. I and many of my martial arts students were impacted by not only his words but his actions and mannerisms. In each action he took, we found that he fulfilled all we had read about the bugei and the samurai way, with a quick mind for decisions yet a calm, deliberate body of motion. Our school was based on maintaining calmness within ourselves in every moment of every day, of which he made a calligraphy that hangs in our training hall. These traits could be seen in all that Headmaster Matsuno did and most of all became clear when he donned his sword and practiced or taught Iaido. His samurai sword moved through the air with the grace and lightness of a butterfly’s wing and the cutting precision of a minute laser beam. I could not help but stand in awe of his conscious and subconscious mental unity with such physical flow, all combined with a focused will. Moments I remember with such detailed recollection were also the ones that reinforced my values and purpose. One day Headmaster and I with our wives Masako and Jill were out on a trip. Travel was always a good opportunity for Headmaster Matsuno and I to share thoughts of
life. In the middle of a normal discussion of teaching techniques and how people learn best he asked “Do you have a religion and a belief in God.” I paused for a second thinking of his strong beliefs in Buda and responded yes. I am what some would call an old fashion Catholic and I believe and practice my commitment to God the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. He paused and then smiled. This is good, he said, for to be samurai you must know there is greater than you and that you have accountability to that greatness. A second such learning was one day when he called from Japan and announced he was coming to see me in June. It was unexpected and I was myself planning to go see him in the near future. Although it was a sudden decision to me but an exciting one I realized later it was well planned on his part. He and his lovely wife Masako arrived in mid-June and after a few days he asked if I would be interested in teaching Iaido. I had been under his instruction for over 12 years as a student and felt honored to train. Teaching this ancient art had been beyond my thoughts, yet now it was being offered. I responded as my father’s father would have said. I would wish to sleep on this great honor and answer in the morning. With the light of a new day there was still no doubt in my mind that I wished with both mind and spirit to take on this responsibility. It was with my answer that Headmaster Matsuno explained that I had just had my birthday a week and a half ago and had turned fifty. He explained that he had waited for me to turn fifty for without at least fifty years of life experience and decision making I could not be considered to hold the title of master in Iaido which would allow me to teach this art so richly woven with cultural and social responsibilities. I had seen through his actions his practice of patience, and although it is an intangible aspect, it is an essential building block for training and learning. This and the importance of humility in our thoughts; especially when those around us see no reason for us to be humble and wish to spotlight us as the best. Headmaster Tsuneyoshi Matsuno was a man of character, honor, values, loyalty, as well as love of life and of those around him. He had the strength of clear decision-making and the shoulders to carry the outcome of those decisions. He was all that I know a true samurai should be.