Our founder is Mr. Douglas Tong. He has been teaching kenjutsu (classical Japanese swordsmanship) since his return to Canada in 1994.
“He was taken to the East… where the War Masters would teach him the greatest secrets….”
Conan the Barbarian
Mr. Tong lived in Japan for many years and studied Japanese swordsmanship exclusively under some of the great sword masters:
- Katori Shinto Ryu under the late Master Yoshio Sugino in Kawasaki-shi
Mr. Tong learned the legendary style Katori Shinto Ryu (the Way of the War God of Katori) under the direct tutelage of the acclaimed Master Yoshio Sugino, who was the swordfight choreographer for Director Akira Kurosawa’s two most famous samurai films, Seven Samurai and Yojimbo. Mr. Tong was one of Yoshio Sugino Sensei’s last direct pupils.
Sugino Yoshio Sensei choreographing a fight scene on the set of Yojimbo with famed actor Mifune Toshiro and legendary director Akira Kurosawa (in hat and glasses)
Katori Shinto Ryu is one of the oldest styles of Japanese swordsmanship and was created during the Warring States Period (c. 1450), a dark time of civil war marked by incessant fighting. The style was created by a samurai to train other samurai for battlefield fighting. Mr. Tong was the first to introduce the style to Canada in 1994, and was the driving force in the growth of Katori Shinto Ryu in the province of Ontario. Schools in Katori Shinto Ryu have now proliferated throughout Ontario and Quebec. Mr. Tong’s former students, Dennis Wiens and Corey Reid, are ranked practitioners of Sugino-style Katori Shinto Ryu under the current headmaster and run their own dojos in Southern Ontario. While he does not publicly teach Katori Shinto Ryu anymore, Mr. Tong is one of the last remaining adepts in the world today of the Yoshio Sugino-style of swordsmanship, a fluid and highly-sophisticated brand of swordplay from a more refined, bygone era.
Mr. Tong with Sugino Yoshio Sensei at an IFNB demonstration (Kawasaki 1991)
- Ono-ha Ittō Ryu under the late Master Takemi Sasamori in Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Mr. Tong studied the style of Ono-ha Ittō Ryu (the famous One-Sword style) under the direct instruction of Master Takemi Sasamori (the 17th generation Headmaster) and his son-in-law at Reigakudo for a few years. The Ono-ha Ittō Ryu style of swordsmanship gained fame and prominence throughout Japan when its headmaster Ono Tadaaki was appointed the swordsmanship instructor to the second Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada. Ono-ha Ittō Ryū became an official kenjutsu school of the Tokugawa shogunate. Modern kendo grew out of Ittō Ryu and many of the techniques used and principles observed in kendo derive from this style. It is not surprising that in Japan, many senior kendo practitioners also study Ittō Ryu. Master Sasamori’s generosity allowed Mr. Tong the unique opportunity to study this renowned style through private one-on-one lessons with only the teacher and himself and developed in him a great appreciation for the beauty of this art.
Mr. Tong with Sasamori Sensei and members of Reigakudo (Tokyo 2008)
- Muso Shinden Eishin Ryu under Master Toshihiko Izawa in Fujisawa-shi
Mr. Tong studied the beautiful art of Muso Shinden Eishin Ryu iaido as a direct student of Master Toshihiko Izawa (7th dan kendo, 7th dan iaido). Iaido is a sword art that emphasizes being aware and capable of quickly drawing the sword and responding to a sudden attack. Because it is associated with the smooth, controlled movements of drawing the sword, cutting the opponent down, and then replacing the sword in the scabbard, iaido has been coined “the art of the draw and cut”. Mr. Tong has a nidan (2nd degree black belt) in iaido. He was tested at the Kanagawa Prefectural Gradings in Yokohama. Being fortunate to be a member of a small class of only 4 students, Mr. Tong received very personalized instruction for many years directly from Izawa Sensei.
Mr. Tong with Izawa Sensei (2nd from the right) (Fujisawa 1992)
- Yagyu Shinkage Ryu under the late Master Masao Mutoh in Zushi-shi
Mr. Tong began his study of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu (the New Shadow style of the Yagyu) under the late Master Masao Mutoh, the 10th soke of Yagyu Shingan Ryu Taijutsu (Edo-Line) and 2nd headmaster of the Ohtsubo Branch of the Owari Line of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu. Yagyu Shinkage Ryu is famous as the Shogun’s style. It is also famous as the first style to fuse Zen Buddhism with swordsmanship, transforming a killing sword into a “life-giving sword”, a sword of peace. Through his kindness, Mr. Tong was allowed the rare chance to study and research this most unique and prestigious of Japanese sword styles.
Mr. Tong with Mutoh Sensei (Zushi 1993)
He now continues his studies under Mutoh Sensei’s successor, Master Yasushi Kajitsuka, the 11th soke of Yagyu Shingan Ryu Taijutsu (Edo-Line) and 3rd headmaster of the Ohtsubo Branch of the Owari Line of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu. Mr. Tong is the leader of the official study group (keiko-kai) for Yagyu Shinkage Ryu (Ohtsubo Branch) in Canada under Master Kajitsuka.
Mr. Tong with Kajitsuka Soke and members of Arakido (Tokyo 2008)
Like his teachers before him, Mr. Tong continues to train and study, to deepen his understanding of the Way of the Sword. From his apprenticeship in Japan and over 28 years of study and research, Mr. Tong brings a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of the ancient art of classical Japanese sword fighting.
Mr. Tong is regularly featured in the media. He was interviewed by the CBC, Canada’s national network, in a gorgeous documentary on high-level but little-known martial arts teachers teaching reclusively somewhere in the Greater Toronto Metropolitan Area. Please watch it. It is a beautiful interview.
Tong Sensei has been featured in numerous interviews in print magazines and newspapers. You can read them on our Media page.
The online version of the interview with Tong Sensei in the Richmond Hill Liberal
He has been featured on television shows. You can watch them on our Media page.
Tong Sensei featured on Hola Californias, a morning show shown in Tijuana and the San Diego Area
And even for promotional and publicity shots.
In terms of being actively involved in the community, Mr. Tong teaches classes and conducts seminars in kenjutsu at various dojos in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). He also runs workshops at martial arts expos like MMA Expo and at fan conventions such as Anime North, and he runs special programs in Japanese swordsmanship for organizations such as Rapier Wit Stage Combat School.
Tong Sensei’s bio on Rapier Wit’s website
Mr. Tong is also involved with the Japanese community in Toronto, serving for years as one of the assistant kendo instructors at the Nikka Gakuen Kendo Club, as well as volunteering and helping out at the Nikka Gakuen Japanese School.
Kendo instructors at the Nikka Gakuen Kendo Club in Toronto. From left to right: Hamaba Sensei (JCCC), Sumi Sensei (JCCC), Matsuhashi Sensei, Tong Sensei.
In his professional life, Mr. Tong has a Master’s Degree in Education. He taught overseas for many years in Japan. When he returned to Canada, he was employed as a lecturer and course instructor in the Department of Applied Linguistics at Brock University. Offered the opportunity to pursue doctoral studies (Ph.D.) by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, he declined in order to pursue his passion and his true calling: mastering the art of teaching real students in real classrooms and making a real difference in their lives rather than following a more detached life of research and academia. He is currently a public schoolteacher with the Peel District School Board, the second largest school board in Canada. An experienced Master Teacher, Mr. Tong has served for years as an Associate Teacher for many Teacher-Candidates (interns), mentoring and instructing young teachers who are just entering the profession. Mr. Tong is also dedicated to making a difference in the schools that he works in, serving in various administrative committees to do with staffing, culture and climate, and leadership. He is furthermore dedicated to improving the lives of the teachers he works with. Serving as Union Steward at his school, he safeguards the rights of, mediates for, and counsels teachers. Finally, Mr. Tong is a member of the Ontario College of Teachers in good standing.
Mr. Tong lives with his wife Tazuko and their two sons in the Greater Toronto Area.
What is Mr. Tong’s favourite quote?
My favourite quote comes from my master, Kajitsuka Sensei. He said:
“Budo is like climbing a mountain. Everyone is climbing up the same mountain. We are all mountain climbers in the same group. I am just farther up the mountain than you. But, I am not a guide telling you where you should go. I have seen the path that you will take. So, I can point out some of the pitfalls that I have already encountered on my journey up this mountain. However, you must realize that I am still myself going up this mountain…”
That’s humility. And the spirit of budo.
Master and Disciple: Kajitsuka Soke and Mr. Tong (Toronto 2016)
What philosophy guides Mr. Tong’s practice?
It can be encapsulated in the photo below:
* Mr. Tong is pictured here in “mu-gamae” (literally “no-stance” or “empty stance”), the stance of no-stance. The quintessential stance of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, it is a stance and not a stance; a paradox. It is a mindset and a principle. Emptiness is an important concept in Zen Buddhism, found in such famous Zen aphorisms as “munen muso” (no thought, no reflection). Breaking free from the bonds of limited action and limited thinking found in earlier styles of swordsmanship, epitomized by their heavy reliance on kamae (stances, positions), mugamae is true freedom: freedom of action, freedom from being fixed or stuck. A living sword, like a living animal, has freedom of action and freedom of purpose. We can move freely, spontaneously, flowing and adapting to the moment. Like the Zen Master Takuan Soho taught Yagyu Munenori, “it is like a ball in a swift-moving current: we respect the mind that flows on like this and does not stop for an instant in any place.” Mu-gamae is the perfect embodiment of the philosophy of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, the consummate coalescense of thought and action.