|Kiyama Hiroshi Shihan. Photo Copyright Yamada Kumiko 2022
It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of our teacher, Kiyama Hiroshi Sensei, on September 26th at the age of 97.
Kiyama Sensei was born in 1925 in Shiga, Japan. A lifelong student of budo, Sensei’s grandfather introduced him to a branch of Yoshin Ryu jujutsu at the age of five. In elementary school he also studied Shito Ryu karate. In Japan in the 1930’s opportunities to study budo were everywhere, and by the time Sensei was in junior high school he was studying kendo, iaido and jukendo.
In addition to his budo activities, Sensei played outfield in his school’s baseball club. He maintained a lifetime affection for the game, and was an avid Seibu Lions fan.
|Photo Copyright Yamada Kumiko
In 1942 Sensei entered the air division of the Japanese Imperial Army and served as a pilot on the Korean peninsula until the end of the war in 1945.
In 1952, after the GHQ ban on kendo was lifted, Sensei resumed practice. He trained in both gendai and koryu budo from then on. He trained and taught kendo under Noda Shigeyuki Sensei, from whom he also learned Shinto Hatakage Ryu Iai Heiho, a small but vibrant form of iaido. He also studied Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu intensively with Ito Hakuen Sensei. In addition, he studied Shinto Muso Ryu Jodo with Nakajima Asakichi Sensei.
After returning from the war, Kiyama Sensei settled in Kusatsu, married Emiko, and started a family. He found work in the Kyoto City planning office, where he worked until his retirement.
Kiyama Sensei earned the rank of 7th dan kyoshi from the All Japan Kendo Federation in Kendo, Iaido and Jodo. He taught kendo and iaido at the Kusatsu City Kendo Federation for over 50 years, and had innumerable students. He continued teaching and training well into his 90s. He credited his long, healthy life to growing his own vegetables in a small plot outside his home in Kusatsu. He was especially happy with a large persimmon tree - the coffee table in his living room never failed to have cut persimmons in a small dish when they were in season.
|Photo copyright Yamada Kumiko 2022
A few personal recollections give a faint idea of the strength of Sensei’s personality:
From Peter Boylan:
I met Kiyama Sensei in 1994. I was studying Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu with Takada Shigeo Sensei at the time, and he sent me to attend a Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Chuden seminar that Kiyama Sensei was teaching. Kiyama Sensei was so focused and had so much presence that it wasn’t until quite a while later that I realized that he was less than 5 ft. (152 cm) tall. He filled the space with his presence. When Takada Sensei passed away, Kiyama Sensei accepted me as his student. He and Takada Sensei had been kyodai deshi under Ito Sensei. It was during an iaido seminar that I first saw Kiyama Sensei doing a strange, flippy thing with his sword. When I asked him about it, Kiyama Sensei said “That’s just Shinto Ryu. You don’t want to do that.” After that I pressed him to teach it to me, and one night he finally agreed to teach Shinto Hatakage Ryu to me. I will forever be in Sensei’s debt for this.
From Deborah Klens-Bigman:
Peter first introduced me to Kiyama Sensei around 2008. I had been doing Muso Shinden Ryu iaido for many years at the time, but I was immediately struck by the beauty and fluidity of Shinto Hatakage Ryu Iai Heiho. I was even more impressed by Kiyama Sensei’s energy and timing. By the second or third training session with him, my whole concept of iaido had changed. I remember thinking, “I want to be like him when I grow up,” and, in addition to practicing the kata I learned from him, I began to modify the ma of my Muso Shinden forms to echo the energetic jo-ha-kyu feel of Sensei’s approach to iai kata.
My original Muso Shinden ryu teacher, OtaniYoshiteru, died in 2004, and I had practiced by myself since that time. One of the most moving sessions I ever had with Kiyama Sensei was when he asked me to perform all of the Muso Shinden ryu kata for him. I did my best, sweating through my gi the whole time, and felt a connection to Otani Sensei that I had not felt in a very long time. I was in the presence of someone of the same generation, and I could feel the deep affection Kiyama sensei had for my MSR practice, even though it was not a style that he personally taught.
As Jun Shihan of Shinto Hatakage ryu iai heiho, we will endeavor to continue to teach, as well as expand our understanding of what Sensei taught us. While we miss him dearly and mourn his passing, we are grateful for the time and care he took to give us the best of himself and his long lifetime of knowledge and keen insight. We will strive to live up to his expectations for us and honor his legacy.
Deborah Klens-Bigman, Shinto Hatakage Ryu Shihan
Peter Boylan, Shinto Hatakage Ryu Shihan