About Moses Becerra
Japanese Kendo was my first passion. I began studying Kendo at the age of 15, at the Ken Zen Institute in New York City. My teacher was a 3rd generation Buddhist monk by the name of Kan Sensei. That was what I called him for many years even as a young man. I always looked up to him. Because of my Kendo connections I was able to travel to Japan at a young age.
My first trip to Japan was to study Kendo not sword polishing. During my visit I was introduced to a Sayashi (scabbard maker) his name is Mr. Ota. Ota Sensei later on that day introduced me to a friend of his that lived only a few train stops away. His friend was a sword polisher Mr. Okazaki. I was young and very impressionable and found the work they did fascinating. I almost immediately had visions of becoming an apprentice, and asked if they would teach me. I was told that in Japan you can’t do both, you have to choose one craft and study that only. Little did they know at the time my passion and dedication when I had a goal. You see my father was a carpenter and wood working interested me, but polishing swords was the challenge and one that I did not take lightly.
The moment I came home I chewed my dad’s ear off with my plans and ideas. I soon realized that I was back in the real world again and was instructed to remember that I was young and still had to finish school. With a little coaching from my Kendo Sensei my dad agreed to let me study in Japan every summer. I would go for one to two months at a time, sometimes longer. In the years that followed I met many craftsmen old and young, average and great, and have gained a wealth of knowledge. My highest point was my introduction to Yoshikawa Sensei. Again my introduction was thru Kendo. I knew of Yoshikawa Sensei’s reputation, and asked Ebihara Sensei from the Ken Zen Institute if he could write a letter of introduction for me, asking if Yoshikawa Sensei would take me on as a student. At this time I was already a professional and making a humble living at polishing and shirasaya making, but I still wanted more knowledge including from such a highly respected polisher.
For the collectors out there who may not be familiar with Kentaro Yoshikawa let me tell you a little about him. He is a third generation sword polisher of the Honami School of polishing. His father was even more famous, entrusted with the responsibility of polisher and care taker of the Japanese sword collection of the Emperor of Japan. This responsibility was later carried out by Yoshikawa sensei, and since the loss of Sensei, it is now the responsibility of his son Eiichi Yoshikawa. He was awarded the prize of “Above Contest Level” in polishing at the NBTHK (Nihon Bijitsu Token Hozon Kai). The NBTHK is a respected and well known sword organization. Kentaro Yoshikawa was one of the old school appraisers of the Nihon-to in Japan, and will be missed.
In the end he accepted me as a student. I would travel to Japan and study with him and his son Eiichi Yoshikawa who I consider my friend. The interesting thing is that I knew how to polish swords but what I learned at Yoshikawa Sensei’s home was what exactly made for a quality polish. Also the general rules of sword polishing, such as understanding Koto, Shinto, the differences in schools of sword smiths. I was his last student and I owe a debt of gratitude to the Yoshikawa family that I can never repay. The only thing I can do is help and encourage collectors in the US. Offer my services and have a good reputation of honesty and integrity.
I am not an expert I am a student. To me an expert is done learning, and can go no further. I am a student and will die a student at heart. But through handling and appraising as many swords as possible is the best way of understanding swords, not through books only. Most experienced sword collectors will agree, books play a very large role for reference material but I am not impressed with people that are walking dictionaries. There is much more to the Japanese sword than is written in books. Looking at swords subtleties and understanding how they got there is a lot different than labeling what a particular subtlety is. I enjoy what I do, it’s not just a job as you can see and much sacrifice has gone into my career. But in the end I have been very fortunate and find my work extremely rewarding in many ways.
- At 20 years old started training in Japanese sword Polishing, Scabbard making and other related sword art work in Japan under professional instructors.
- Kentaro Yoshikawa (Polisher for the imperial household)
- T. Okazaki (Sayashi)
- Ichinose sensei (Tsukamaki)
- Kato Yamada/ T. Ando/ A. Mizuno
- Featured in a documentary about the Samurai and the Japanese sword. On the History Channel (“The Samurai Tradition”) 1999.
- Article written by Kentaro Yoshikawa in the Nihon To Ken Rekishi.
- Article written in a Japanese magazine published and distributed in Japan 2000.(“Japanese Sword polisher in the US trained in Japan”)
- Featured on news 12 in Long Island news. (“Japanese Kendo Teacher and Art Sword Polisher”) 2001.
- Qualified and competed at the 9th International Kendo tournament in Paris as a member of the USA TEAM.
- Coached the Venezuelan Kendo team at the 10th International Kendo tournament in Kiyoto, Japan
- Kendo Dojo established in Long Island in 1992
- Kendo Roku-Dan (6th degree)
- Trained in Kendo in Japan and the US.