Home judo In Normandy, Max Lemonnier is one of the rare French samurai

In Normandy, Max Lemonnier is one of the rare French samurai

by archysport

He started with karate at the age of nine and, upon returning from his military service in Germany, Max Lemonnier sharpened his passion for martial arts and find out the sword, “I’ve been learning for forty-five years” explains the 67-year-old Eurois who practices the iaido, “the art of the saber to take out the saber and cut while taking it out”, the iaijutsu, “the art of defending and attacking with the sword drawn by taking well-defined positions”, le kyudo “archery with an eccentric arch of 2.05 meters which allows shooting on the knees, standing or on horseback” and le naginata “the spear with the short blade that Japanese women used during the Middle Ages” he explains before going on: “Knowing how to dress, to do ikebana (the floral arrangement, Editor’s note), the art of folding, the art of tea, use two sabers, a fan, you learn all that to become a real samurai, there is not only the sword that exists“.

The sword is the continuity of your mind and your being. You have a relationship with heaven and earth – Max Lemonnier

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A passion that came to him, “by reading, by a few black and white films such as Akira Kurozawa’s The Seven Samurai with which Toshino Mifune has become a star of Japanese cinema” before a meeting with the one who will become his master, his teacher, his “sensei” Kenzo Fukuma “to make my dream come true” in the 70s. “I have a huge library on the whole history of Japan, I have parchments, I have prints” he explains. Moreover, in his living room, a replica of14th century samurai armor. He is also still in contact with Kenzo Fukuma’s family: “They follow my adventures in France”.

The precious 14th century replica of armor in Max Lemonnier’s living room (detail) © Radio France
Laurent Philippot

Becoming a samurai, a long apprenticeship

Patience and rigor were the key words of Max Lemonnier’s training, “I received a few hits with a stick at the start“, before passing on his knowledge in turn: “I had a school for twenty-five years” he advances, he also has the logo of his school tattooed on his back, before explaining what a samurai is: “It is the man who serves and there are several categories of samurai: the basic man with one sword, the slightly higher samurai with two and the samurai who serves the lord and who is to his right”.

One day I said to my teacher: “But when do we stop learning?” He told me the day you died. ”I am not going to reach the end of the road – Max Lemonnier

A trip to Japan in 2023

For five years, Max Lemonnier has been planning to go to Japan, on the island of Hokkaido to pass his technical fifth dan. The trip is scheduled for 2023, with his wife. An opportunity to see their son settled in Japan where he found love. But first the Norman samurai will have to dust off his technique and rediscover the gestures. The City of Bernay has offered to make available the restaurateur, who has just opened his home chef business, a dojo one to two hours per week, to resume training.

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