Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - A year in review at the Moorhead Dojo

Looking back in the year at our dojo, I would have to say it was a pretty good one - for several reasons:

We increased our "consistent" membership from three members to eight. It's pretty neat for me to see everyone on the line in their white hakamas doing suburi in sync - very cool! I have a good feeling about this group - everyone seems to be grasping the concepts of iaido and making the art personal for them. That's one of the great joys for me in teaching, is seeing students start to "get it" and not only progress in their technique, but also in their spirit as well.

Continuing members Paul, Kelly, and Bert were joined by Joey, Molly, Erik, Tyler, and Greg. Welcome all!

We increased our public exposure of the dojo and iaido in general through performing several public demonstrations. We attended or presented at:
  • Core Con
  • Red River Valley Fair
  • Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar and Cancer Benefit
  • Pangea Culture festival
If possible, we'll attend all of these again in 2011 and also will be hosting our own Midwest Kendo Federation sponsored kendo / iaido seminar sometime this summer. That's going to be big and exciting!

We held our first tameshigiri (test cutting) class. All members of the dojo were able to cut several targets of rolled tatami mats. It was a great learning experience, and I think they could better understand why we stress the things we do about grip, stance, and our swings. I hope to be able to continue this again in 2011.

I personally had a chance to go to Guelph, Ontario in the spring to attend their annual iaido / jodo seminar. It was quite an excellent refresher, and we had an impressive lineup of sensei from all around the world to work with us. Presenting was Chihiro Kishimoto, a hanshi hachidan in iaido and also the chairman of the All Japan Kendo Federation (ZNKR) iaido committee. He brought with him, Atsumi Hatakenaka, kyoshi nanadan, and Fumio Tsubaki, kyoshi nanadan. Canadian sensei included Goyo Ohmi, renshi nanadan, Stephen Cruise, renshi nanadan, and Kim Taylor, renshi nanadan. I spent three days from 9 to 5 practicing seitei iaido with the "testing" group, and was able to receive some personal attention and comments from Kishimoto sensei. We learned some good ki-ken-tai-ichi drills that I've started my own students on, and a few basic changes to the seitei kata. I got to spend a bit of time with Cruise sensei reviewing some Musoshindenryu, and comparing some of the differences in our styles. It was a great seminar!

Looking forward to 2011 makes me excited for a couple of things.

First, possibly the chance to test for 5dan at either Guelph or the AUSKF summer camp. I know that I have a lot of reviewing to do of my own seitei, but what makes me most nervous is performing my first test in North America. Up to now, I've only had experience testing in Japan, so I'm not sure what to expect. I haven't had the opportunity to attend the summer camp yet, and I'm really looking forward to heading to Cleveland in June for that. Hopefully Yamazaki sensei from Shizuoka will be attending again this year - I'd love to say hi and catch up with him again. Mr. Yamazaki was our Tobu region kind of lead sensei at my former dojo in Numazu, Japan. He and several other high-ranking sensei came to our dojo every month to lead in a practice and give us a review and pointers on seitei iai.

Also, I'm looking forward to hosting our first iaido seminar here in Fargo-Moorhead. I'm working with the MWKF to get some higher ranked sensei in for instruction in iaido and maybe a bit of kendo as well. It will likely be a two day weekend event with some Friday evening kendo keiko mixed in. It would be great to get some national or even international attendees if we can.

I also look forward to seeing some of my own students start to progress to the level where they may be able to attend some of these events, and test for their dan ranks as well. I would really like to see some representation by Moorhead Dojo members at these regional and national events!

It's going to be an exciting year!
Brad

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tameshigiri - a great experience for everyone

Last class we had our first experience with tameshigiri, or test cutting with a live blade.

We ordered 80 mats with the money we received from the demo we did this fall, and over the last few weeks, we've been practicing the different "cuts" used in tameshigiri. During our breaks, we rolled the targets from the mats - mostly single mats, along with one double-mat target for each member to try. We had to soak them in water for over 24 hours, and then let them drip dry for another 6 or so. It was a lot of work in preparation, but it made for a good cutting session.

One of the things we learned is that we need to cut the same as we do in our iaido class. The movement of the kissaki through the air and the slicing motion of the blade is what cuts the mat, not strength. Tenouchi and using hara in our cut is very important as well.

Members of all experience levels were able to cut successfully, and I enjoyed seeing the satisfaction as each of the members made at least one perfect cut.

Student Joey put together a holiday greetings video with some of our cuts. It's pretty funny, and you can see it below.

We'll be putting more links up with everyone's favorite cuts.

Good work everyone!

Brad

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December Newsletter

Moorhead Dojo News

Happy Holidays!


I hope this newsletter finds you warm and comfy and ready to enjoy the Christmas holiday.

Dojo News: Tameshigiri - our first attempt!

We'll be trying tameshigiri (test cutting) for the first time tomorrow (the 22nd). We take rolled up tatami (reed) mats, soak them in water for at least 24 hours, let them drip for another 6 or so, and then cut them with a shinken (sharp sword). For the last few weeks, the members have been practicing the specialized cuts they're going to attempt. It involves v-shaped cuts from above, and also below and some horizontal cuts too. Of course safety is our first priority, and we've been covering that as well.

If a person cuts well, the "cut" portion of the mat may actually not fall off for a second or two, giving the person a chance to make another cut on that piece. I've seen some video of this (check our blog for some Youtube) and it's pretty amazing. Some even attempt 2 cuts on the portion that's still standing.

Guests are welcome to come and watch - we should be finished with our warmups and ready to begin around 7pm on Wednesday at the dojo.

Rank Testing
We'll be tentatively testing some members for rank on Wednesday, January 19th. We should have two candidates for 2-kyu, and 3 or 4 for 4-kyu. The ranking system starts at 4kyu, then progresses up. 4kyu, 3kyu, 2kyu, Shodan (equivalent to the American "black belt"), 2dan, 3dan, etc. The highest that I can test members for rank in our dojo is 2kyu, and after that they need to go to either a regional or national US Kendo Association approved event. Fortunately, there are a few in both the US and Canada where we can do this. I myself hope to take (and pass) my 5dan test sometime this year.

Pangea photos:
I got some nice photos and a short, short video from the Pangea demonstration. I'll be putting those up on the website and blog sometime over the holiday. Please do check out the blog: www.msr-iaido.blogspot.com.

Moorhead Dojo Iaido/kendo seminar and keiko
I'm working with the Midwest Kendo Federation on hosting an annual (hopefully) iaido seminar and kendo keiko event. It would consist of a Friday evening kendo keiko for the early arrivals, Saturday morning iaido seminar, noon kendo keiko, and then afternoon iaido again until 5pm or so. Saturday evening dinner, and then a Sunday morning iaido session until around noon. It would have focus for kendo people interested in learning iaido, as well as current iaido practitioners. We hope to have at least one or two high ranked sensei come in (courtesy of the US Kendo Federation) and present/teach. If the turnout is good, we can make this an annual event and (hopefully) get the appropriate funding from the kendo federation as well.
I'm VERY excited about this, and am hoping to find a good venue somewhere in the FM area to host this. We need a place with at least 11 foot ceilings, and hopefully a wood or tile floor. We would need that for both Saturday all day and Sunday to early afternoon. If anybody has any ideas, please PM me.

General Calendar of Events
This is a general list of iaido-related events that we can look forward to.

May - Kim Taylor's annual iaido/jodo seminar in Guelph, ON. Excellent seminar! Opportunity to test for rank. (2-4 days)
June - Annual AUSKF (US Kendo Federation) summer camp. 2011 will be in Cleveland. Excellent seminar and an opportunity to test for rank. (3-4 days)
July - Red River Valley fair. Not completely sure if we are going to be there again, but I hope to be able to give at least one demo on their side stage.
Sometime July to September - Our FIRST and hopefully Annual Moorhead Dojo kendo/iaido seminar and keiko. This is going to be big! (2 days) See notes above.
October - Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar and Cancer benefit. This will be our 3rd annual. Lots of schools and styles will be there! (2 days)
October - Thunder Bay iaido seminar. Usually 2 days, and good content! Within driving distance.
November - Possibly a demo at the Japan Club event.
November - Pangea culture festival (demo).

Well, that's about it for now. I wish everyone a happy and healthy holidays.
Merry Christmas!
Brad

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yagyu Shinkage ryu kenjutsu

This one is of a very unique style - Yagyu Shinkage ryu. Kenjutsu, unlike iaido, starts with the sword (or in this case bokuto) out of the saya. The techniques are usually done in pairs, and involve strikes and counter-strikes at full speed and intensity.

Here's another kendo favorite. This fellow in white is an 82 year old 9 dan. He goes up against a couple of 7 and 8 dans. Pretty amazing!

Pretty good kendo and an interesting kiai!

Here's a good find that was referenced in Kendo World. Note the experience and intensity of the first three that go against the sensei, and then note the change that's evident once that sensei goes against someone who's also very experienced. The new sensei enters around 6:45.
Enjoy!