Rare video: Junichi Haga, Genius Swordsman who challenged Morihei Ueshiba to a match

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This is an excellent video of famous Japanese swordsman Junichi Haga who once challenged Morihei Ueshiba to a match. His iaido skills are of the highest level.

This is an excellent video of famous Japanese swordsman Junichi Haga who once challenged Morihei Ueshiba to a match. His iaido skills are of the highest level.

In 1932, Morihei Ueshiba’s daughter Matsuko married a famous kendoka named Kiyoshi Nakakura. Upon becoming Morihei’s son-in-law, as is the Japanese custom, Nakakura assumed a new name. He was called “Morihiro Ueshiba.” In Japan at that time, three famous young swordsmen nicknamed “Samba Garasu,” were Nakakura, Gorozo Nakajima, and the subject of this video, Junichi Haga. All of these three were close friends and competitors being leading students of famous swordmaster Hakudo Nakayama.

Junichi Haga was a physically powerful man with a quick temper. Around 1933, Haga challenged Morihei Ueshiba to a match. Nobuyoshi Tamura describes the circumstances in an interview by Stanley Pranin:

“Haga Sensei was an All-Japan champion in Kendo when he was around 24 or 25 years old. At that time, I understand that he was a Kendo instructor of the Imperial Guard. He often visited the aikikai and was invited to meals by O-Sensei. He said that he thought O-Sensei must have been a phony because he was hospitable to a young man like himself. It seems that there was a time when he decided to make the rounds drinking in Shinjuku late one night and even asked Mrs. Ueshiba to lend him O-Sensei’s clothes since it would have been inappropriate for him to go out in his Imperial Guard uniform. At the time, he was to be transferred to a police department in Korea, and he thought he would force O-Sensei to show his real ability before leaving Japan. So he challenged O-Sensei to a match. O-Sensei immediately accepted his challenge and both of them went into the dojo. O-Sensei said to him, ‘Take any wooden sword and come to strike me.’ Then O-Sensei is supposed to have begun to walk around the dojo. Haga Sensei was said to have tried to strike him but was totally unable to succeed and finally gave up. He laughed when describing this incident and said that he regretted then not to have learned anything after a year and a half of practice. He finally realized who O-Sensei really was after it was too late.”

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2 Comments
  1. Roberto Orio says:
    Posted March 20, 2014 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    Hi Stan! I have a question.
    Haga challenged Ueshiba in 1933. The story is told by Tamura sensei, who just started training around 1950. So, where did Tamura get to know the story? Reading the article I had the impression that Tamura knew about the challenge with details, more detailed than (I suppose) he would know from hearing about it at Hombu 20 years later. Did he have a somewhat “close” relationship with Haga?
    Thanks!
    Roberto.

    • admin says:
      Posted March 24, 2014 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know where he heard the story. He could have heard it at Hombu from Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and he also was in iaido circles and may have heard the story from there. Also, remember that Haga Sensei sometimes visited the Aikikai dojo so it’s possible that he heard the story directly from him.

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