Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December Newsletter

Motivating to Practice

As we move through December, I find myself feeling tired, stressed, and busy. I suppose it's the holiday shopping, plans and preparations, school programs, work and social events and parties, and the North Dakota sub-zero temperatures that all contribute to that.

When I feel this way, I tend to want to just sit down, relax, veg in front of the TV and turn off my brain for awhile. BUT, I know that by going to the dojo, putting on the hakama, and having a good focused practice works pretty well to get me out of my "holiday funk."

It can take a lot of effort to get myself there, but once I've finished a good practice, I feel so much better. All of my stress is gone, and the tiredness I feel is a physical one that follows from a good workout. So, if you find yourself feeling this "funk", get thee to the dojo! I promise you won't regret it.

Dojo Move

As I've mentioned in previous newsletters, we're going to be moving out of Moorhead, MN into Fargo, ND. The temporary space we're in now has been a good setting, but we're moving into a newly refurbished building just over the river in Fargo. We'll still continue to share the facility with Kyoshi Mike Cline and the Hidden Teachings of RyuTe Karate school as we do now. Practice nights will still be Wednesday from 6:30 to 9:30 with the occasional Saturday morning.

I'm not sure when the new space will be finished, but I've heard that we'll be in early in the new year.

Of course, now we really can't call ourselves the "Moorhead Dojo" anymore, can we? Should we be the F/M dojo? Red River dojo? (Grins) MoFa dojo? After much thought, some discussion, and more thought, I've decided to rename our dojo to the, "Musoshindenryu Iaido - AGGASIZ dojo."

For people not from this area, that may raise a few eyebrows and the question of "Where the heck is Aggasiz?" Well, if you check Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Agassiz you'll see that Lake Aggasiz was actually a glacial lake left from the last ice age that covered a huge area of Central North America. Its area was larger than all of the modern Great Lakes combined, and it held more water than contained by all lakes in the world today. (Really!)

Our Fargo-Moorhead region falls into the Southern tip of that glacial area, and so I thought it was a good name. I suppose in Japanese, we could call it Aggasiz-ko Dojo, though I doubt I'd be able to find a kanji that would be appropriate. Maybe there's a kanji that refers to glaciers? Hmmm….

Anyway, welcome to the first Aggasiz dojo newsletter!

Koryu is fun!

On Saturday I had a chance to run through the Musoshindenryu Okuden suwari-waza down at the dojo.

It had been a while since I've performed those kata, and I really enjoyed going through the base set, and then the variations that I know as well.

I can't say that I have a favorite kata in the set, but tanashita is always popular when I do it at demos. The scenario is that you're under a bridge and there's a sentry near the opening that you have to dispatch. Another version I've heard of is sneaking under a house that's raised on stilts.

Being a bit taller, when I perform this kata, it doesn't have the same "cool" look as with a smaller statured person. When my sensei, Mr. Takeda performs it, it's really a fun kata to watch.

It wasn't until last October when I was exposed to the paired kumitachi kata of MSR/MJER called "Tachi uchi no kurai." During the Thunder Bay seminar, Kim Taylor sensei showed a couple of us the first ten of these kata, and we were able to practice the first two. What a lot of fun! Since then I've been reviewing some of the video and images I have of these kata, and hope to be able to work on them with my own students.

Paired kata like these not only teach "ma-ii" or distance between opponents, but also allow us to practice "seme," or (psychological) pressure as we move and push the other opponent backwards with our "ki" and presence. Plus, it's just a lot of fun to do kata where we can whack at each other with bokuto (in a safe and controlled manner of course)!

While I do enjoy seitei iai, and the opportunity it affords us to compete and test for rank, I really do enjoy the koryu aspect of my training more. It seems to be more cohesive as we move through the different kata, and they seem to complement each other more than the kata in seitei.

I found some information from Wayne Muramoto about the history and origin of the seitei kata we perform. Paraphrasing.

The first seven seitei kata, were derived from various koryu iai schools. The first two kata, Mae and Ushiro, came from the Omori-ryu. The third, Ukenagashi, was from kata found in the Omori-ryu and the Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu. The fourth kata, Tsukaatte, was similar to tate hiza techniques of the Eishin-ryu. Then the next kata, Kesagiri, was derived from the Hoki-ryu. The Morotezuki kata was a thrusting technique found in many different iai schools.

As the teaching of the seitei iai was refined, it was decided to add three more kata to further round out a student's training. The eighth kata, Ganmenatte, was derived from the Muso Shinden-ryu oku iai methods. Soetezuki came from a famous Hoki-ryu technique, and the tenth kata, Shihogiri, was also from a Hoki-ryu kata. Two more were then added again later. Number eleven, Sougiri is from MJER/MSR Soumakuri, and number twelve, Nukiuchi is from a Mugai ryu waza called Gyokkou.

Maybe it's because of this variety of origins and styles for the twelve seitei kata, I feel the transitions between the MSR kata (when done in order) to be more natural.

I've read different places where people say that the paired kata should be taught to a much higher level of student - to one who has had experience learning the standard suwari-waza and tate-hiza kata. Based on my experience from kendo, I think I would have to disagree. We learned kendo kata from the beginning of our training, and it was in fact a requirement for rank testing. The two aspects I mentioned earlier about maii and seme are something that the iai practitioner is weak in, simply because there isn't an opponent there to practice against. The paired kata can lend this missing element to our training to complement and complete it.

Plus, it's a lot of fun whacking at each other with bokuto.

Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar

Members of the (then) Moorhead dojo participated in the Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar and Cancer Beneift in November. It was a very interesting seminar with lots of opportunities for participants and audience members to try some "hands-on" technique.

We demonstrated some Seitei and Musoshindenryu kata, and then invited members of the audience to come up and cut newspaper with bokuto. Everyone enjoyed that, and we had some pretty good cutters!

I attended the rest of Saturday's seminar and really enjoyed trying some of the self-defense techniques firsthand. We learned some very good, practical techniques to use against common "attacks" or situations that people might find themselves in.

Good job to Paul Dyer who organized this worthwhile event. It was interesting and fun to attend and be a part of.

Upcoming stuff

New Year's party. The details will be announced later, but we'll be having our dojo member's party in early-mid January. Likely it will be a potluck like last year, and we'll probably watch a sword/culture again. Last year we saw the most awesome, Highlander. "There can be only one!"

Maybe this year we'll go with 13 Assassins, or even Mr. Baseball, a very funny but Japanese culturally significant movie.

Rank Testing. This also will likely be in early-mid January during a regular class. I think that the majority of our members will be testing this round, so it will likely take all class. Tentatively I'm thinking

CoreCon in April - Moorhead/Fargo.

AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp 2012 - Tacoma Washington in Late June

Aggasiz Dojo Annual Seminar - Maybe July or August

That's about it for now. I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Brad

Thursday, November 3, 2011

October Newsletter (I know)

Since I started writing this on the 31st, can I still call it an October Newsletter?
Well, it was a busy month.

In the dojo we've been working on several things: seitei, Musoshindenryu, kendo kata, and of course kihon. In addition to that, I'd like to learn and show the Musoshindenryu / Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu "Tachi uchi no kurai" paired kata to everyone.

Kim Taylor sensei demonstrated these and taught me the first two kata (with two variations each) at the seminar in Thunder Bay a couple of weeks ago. I had always been curious to see and learn these "mysterious" kata, and I finally found someone who knows them.

I say mysterious, because even while in Japan, I had never seen them in the dojo. My instructor hadn't learned them himself, and none of the other dojo members knew them either. I gather from this that not all branches or dojo of MSR and MJER have them as part of their regular curriculum. I'm looking forward to it anyway!

Speaking of Thunder Bay, Eric Tribe sensei hosted another excellent seminar. This year, Ohmi and Taylor sensei came and ran us through seitei, koryu, and the aforementioned paired kata. I was very lucky to work together with another 4dan Doug and Taylor sensei for the whole day on Saturday, checking and correcting on some of the finer points of kihon and applying them to our seitei practice.

We discussed a lot about the "vectors and lines of power," and making all of our cuts and movements powerful, without adding "power" or "tension" to our body. These refinements came in the form of posture, grip, and utilizing our lower body and belly (hara).

A buzzword of Tribe sensei's was the "triangle of power," which is basically the triangle formed by our hips and hands - for instance when standing in a chudan stance. If one side of the triangle becomes longer than the other two, it results in a weakening of power in our movement and strikes. It's hard to explain, but once you've seen it in use, it becomes evident. If you can visualize moving from waki-gamae in seitei shihogiri, by placing the tsuka behind your right hip instead of having it centered on your hara, you potentially remove power when pushed or resisted against.

We did some interesting related exercises that made me start to think about how to better move my body and increase the power behind my cuts.

Sunday brought me and Doug the opportunity to perform our kata in front of everyone and get a critique by Ohmi sensei. I was kind of expecting this to happen after spending the whole day Saturday in review, and was a good reminder of some of the things I need to improve and work on.

More review of the seminar can be seen on Patrick Suen's blog: http://sueniaidokyudo.blogspot.com/2011/10/2011-rai-un-kai-iaido-seminar-thunder.html

Upcoming Events and Demonstrations

Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar
We will be participating in the Annual Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar and Cancer Benefit on Saturday November 12th. We're scheduled for our demo at 11am, but there are several other schools participating throughout the weekend. Here's the blurb.

The event is being held at the Fargo Holiday Inn, at 3803 13th Avenue S, Fargo, ND.
It will be a two day event on Saturday, November 12, and Sunday November 13th.

There is an entrance fee, with all proceeds going to the Roger Maris Cancer Center located in Fargo, ND. It is our goal to come together as a Martial Arts Community to fight cancer.

We will have an open Silent Auction running all day Saturday that you can check out and bid on. Auction winners will be announced Saturday evening during the Banquet. But you do not need to be present to win. If you are able to bring any items to put in the Silent Auction, that would be greatly appreciated and would help us in our effort to raise as much money as possible to fight cancer. Please let us know what you can contribute and we can get it on our list.

DAY 1: Saturday November 12
Meet & Greet: 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m.
9:00am Red River Tae Kwon Do
10:00am Jeet Kun Do
11:00am Japanese Swordsmanship
1:00pm Okinawan Karate
2:00pm Combat Police Tactics
3:00pm Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu & Shaolin Kenpo

Saturday Evening Banquet Dinner/Band/DJ/Silent Auction - Please call and reserve your spot for the Saturday evening Banquet Dinner.

DAY 2: Sunday November 13
9:00am Boxing
10:00am MMA
11.00am Kenpo
1:00pm Hapkido
2:00pm Judo

Please contact Paul Dyer with any questions. For contact information check the www.fargoallmartialarts.com site Contact page.

Pangea Cultural Festival
We had initially planned to attend this event, but unfortunately it falls on the same Saturday as the FAMAS seminar above. We'll try again next year.

New member
Welcome goes out to Kyle who has recently joined our dojo. Kyle has a broad background in various martial arts and fitness, and I look forward to training with him.

Coming Up!
There are a few things to look forward to in the next few months.
One is the introduction of the paired standing kata that I mentioned earlier.
Another is our second attempt at tameshigiri (test cutting).
And also our next rank testing, tentatively scheduled for Dec/Jan.

See you next month!
Brad

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

September Newsletter

Moorhead Dojo News


Dojo Move

Brrrr… It has been cold recently! We had the first MN hard frost reminding me that the seasons are changing again and I have to start wearing the shitage (undershirt) along with my gi as I train.

During the winter, the landlord who owns the building that our dojo is located in doesn't like to spend the extra money to keep the place heated to a steady 65 degrees, so on the days we or the Karate school are not there, he drops the temperature down to 50. That's pretty cold coming in off the street in the middle of winter, and hoping that the snow will at least melt off your boots before the end of practice. We set the timer to start warming the place up in the early afternoon, but that still only brings the temp up to a nice toasty 60 or so. By the end of practice, it's usually 65 though.

Well, that's finally coming to an end. We're moving to a temporary location for a couple of months while we prepare for a new permanent home. Kyoshi Cline, the owner of the Karate school has had enough of the rent increases and general BS that the landlord has given him over the last several years, and quit the lease.

From October 5th, our new location will be at the F-M Youth Boys & Girls Club at 215 10th Street N, Moorhead. We'll still be keeping our Wednesday 6:30 - 9:30 schedule, just at a new place. It's going to be about 1/3 smaller, but we'll be moving to tile floors instead of the neoprene mats, so bring your knee pads!

About the only disadvantage I can think of is that we won't be able to keep our stuff "out" in the dojo because the space is also used on other days by other parties. Oh, and the 250 business cards that I had printed recently all have the old dojo's address on them, but shoganai (it can't be helped).

The good news is, this will ALSO only be a temporary move. Mike has found a new permanent home for the dojo in Fargo, not far from the Civic Auditorium downtown. It's a lot bigger (30x60ft), warehouse style building to which Mike is going to do some painting and upgrading, and move into in December or January. It sounds like he's getting a place where he can remake it however he likes, so he'll probably be looking for some input and help in the re-construction and painting phases of this. I'll keep everyone more informed as we learn more.

Darn, now we'll be the Musoshindenryu Iaido - Fargo Dojo. I guess that means another new set of business cards. Maybe we should be the … Red River Dojo? Any other suggestions?

Cutting

Last class we tried a new cutting technique. We hung a single piece of thread from a high stand, and tried to cut it with the dojo shinken. I'm not sure exactly how sharp that blade is, because we haven't tested it on tatami, but it was sharp enough to cut through if we followed good technique. I did notice that my own shinken did cut slightly better, but both were good enough to indicate what was good technique and what wasn't. It was a very inexpensive way to try and cut something, and educational as well!

Pangea Cultural Festival

I contacted the Moorhead Pangea Cultural festival people, and though we're a bit late to get in a main-floor demonstration, I am working to get us a side room where we can do some kata demonstration and newspaper cutting for the kids. Like last year, we'll also have a cultural "booth" set up where people can come around and see what we do, and learn a bit about Japanese culture and how the sword played a big part of the history of Japan.

That festival is on Saturday, November 12, 2011 from 10:00am - 4:00pm. Check the website for details at: http://www.hcscconline.org/events.html. More details will follow about the specifics of our demonstration and activities. Students interested in attending and helping with the demonstrations and manning the booth, please let me know so I can make a schedule.

Thunder Bay Seminar - Sensei Eric Tribe's dojo

Most of you met Tribe sensei here at our own summer seminar. He's hosting an annual iaido seminar at his dojo in Thunder Bay, ON on October 22-23. Joining Ohmi Sensei this year will be Kim Taylor Sensei, Iaido Renshi 7-Dan who also attended and participated in our July seminar. This year there will be a grading to 2-Dan on Sunday starting at 1pm. REGISTRATION IS THROUGH THE CKF. See http://my.tbaytel.net/etribe/Seminars.html for scheduling information and registration. I recommend this seminar and hope we can have at least a couple of people attend from our dojo.

Mata ne!

I'd like to wish good luck and safe travels to Alison! She'll be spending the next year living and working in Japan in a suburb of Tokyo. Hopefully she'll have the chance to find a good dojo to continue her iaido or learn something else new and exciting! Take care and hope to see you back!

July Seminar Photos

I've gotten a WHOLE BUNCH of photos from our July seminar. The two photographers that I asked to document our event took near 1000 images between the two of them. Also, one of the participants contributed a couple hundred as well. It's been a time-consuming process just getting them all organized and cleaned up. I am continuing on that, and hopefully will have something ready for viewing and uploaded into Picasa soon. I'll let everyone know the url once it's all done and ready to go.

Traditional or mixed?

In the Kendo World forum I often read, I recently saw a posting discussing the "resurrection" of an instructor in the Minneapolis, St. Paul area who teaches what he claims to be authentic Japanese swordsmanship and Kenjutsu. His dojo has changed names a number of times, but he's remained active and he has a new dojo now again in the same area. He says he's studied a traditional koryu art, and teaches kata as well as practical bokuto drilling and sparring. Pretty much everyone in the legitimate JSA (Japanese Sword Art) community has the opinion that he's a fake, and is just making stuff up (to which he has admitted) and passing it off as legitimate.

In my opinion, he's also dangerous. During a public cutting (tameshigiri) demonstration, he lost control of his sword on a cut, and it went flying into the audience. Unbelievable.

Watching various videos of their demos on YouTube, a person can see some basics common in all sword arts, but the kata in that video don't seem to resemble the koryu he's claiming they are derived from at all. It may be his students think they're studying something traditional.

There are a lot of these "McDojos" out there who are not members of a legitimate National / International association along with their instructors who don't hold any legitimate rank in them. Often these schools don't have continuing ties with a dojo or instructor in Japan, nor a documented lineage of their art.

While there are some koryu arts who don't belong to a national association, a large number of styles do. The two major national associations in Japan are the Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei (All Japan Kendo Federation) and it's sister Iaido Federation. These associations branch out worldwide, as well. Here in the US, we have the AUSKF which then is further broken down by region. Our dojo is in the Midwest Kendo Federation.

I think if an instructor is up front that what they're teaching is something they've made up, and the students are aware of that when they sign up, that's fine. It's when they try to pass it off as a traditional koryu or something legitimate that I and most other serious JSA practitioners have a problem with. Even here in our own Fargo, ND there's an instructor at one of the big fitness clubs, who teaches Ninjutsu and Sword classes. After viewing one of his classes, I would liken his teachings more to "movie style sword play," than anything resembling JSA. It's unfortunate, because I think that his students really think they're studying something traditional.

If you're thinking of starting up martial arts as a hobby, please take time to do your research before deciding to join a dojo.
  • Beware of schools who require contracts or long-term obligations.
  • Watch a class or two and see how the instructor teaches, and how he relates to the students. Is this a style of teaching / learning that is compatible with you?
  • Talk to the students and ask them about the history and tradition of the art they're studying. Also ask them what kind of pace they are progressing through learning the basics and continuing into kata.
  • Ask for and expect to see legitimate credentials or teaching experience for the instructors. Are they ranked in national / international associations? Do they maintain ties with their instructor's home dojo and/or sensei?
  • Rank certificates can be forged, so ask what kind of continuing training the sensei is doing themselves to progress in their own learning? Do they ever offer seminars with outside instructors?
  • Watch and expect to see kata. This is the basis of pretty much any organized and legitimate MA. If the school is a member of an organization, Kata A in this school should be the same or very similar to Kata A in a member school. You can also search for the same style and kata on YouTube and compare there.
  • The kata taught (unless you enroll in a secret ninja school in some hidden valley in Japan) should be documented and available - or at least the names are. Again, you should be able to compare somewhere.
  • Google the school and it's instructor. Check to see what past students are saying in forums about the school. McDojo's and their instructors are very frequently mentioned and documented in various forums.
These are just a few things off the top of my head, and I'm sure you have your own criteria as well.

Do your research before you dedicate your time and money to something to make sure it's the "real deal."

(Getting off my soap box now)

Have a good month!
Brad

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August Newsletter

Moorhead Dojo News
Well, we're halfway through August and in need of an update.

July Seminar

Our July Seminar went really well! We had a total of 26 participants plus the two AUSKF sensei that we invited. We had people from all over Canada, the Midwest region of the US, and even Alaska.

The instruction was excellent, and a special thank you goes out to Konno and Parker sensei for leading the seminar, and also to Taylor and Tribe sensei for stepping in and helping instruct all of the different levels of participants we had.

And we did have ALL levels of iaido experience represented. There were some people who had never done iai before at all. Some who had only done kendo, and some with years of iaido practice. Regardless of rank or experience, we ALL learned something new and valuable - it was a great experience!

One of the things I took away from this seminar included a new way of thinking about and executing "Iai-goshi," making sure our hips are turned properly to point our belly button either straight ahead or angled upwards as we rise and execute the first step of kata like mae.

Also, a refining of how to do proper tenouchi with less "wringing" and more control with your small fingers on the tsuka. Konno sensei also explained about "kiri-te" or cutting hand, and how to move and draw nukitsuke in a better way.

There were many other basic kihon items that we covered, and my notebook is filling up as I try to remember and jot them all down for continuing practice and review.

We also had an excellent demonstration of seitei jodo by Taylor and Tribe sensei, along with a basic explanation of what is happening in each kata. I'm hoping to introduce some jodo sometime in the future - it's a very nice addition to training in iaido.

The Olson Forum was very nice and roomy, and the floors were pretty good for iai. Dormitory accommodations brought back memories of the hot, arid evenings without air conditioning, but the price was right, and they were located within 3 minutes walk of the venue.

The dinner in Downtown Fargo at the Green Market Kitchen was very tasty, and they did the best they could (considering they have a single chef) to get everything out to us hot and in a timely manner.

I'd like to thank the members of my dojo and also Ron Fox who helped out with the organization and execution of the seminar. I couldn't have done it without you, and the success of this seminar will hopefully lead to becoming an annual event for us. Thanks again!

Summer practice

In addition to our standard seitei and Musoshindenryu kata, we've been practicing some new (paired) kendo kata in our class this summer. It's been a (re)learning process for me - I haven't done kendo kata since about 1999, and we've all been picking it up pretty well.

Kendo kata is a great supplement to iai kata in that it teaches the kenshi about timing, sen, metsuke, and seme. All of the kamae (stances) are the same as what we perform in our regular kata, and learning to work with and time your movements with a partner is a wonderful learning tool. I look forward to some "professional review" by a better qualified sensei somewhere down the road to make sure we're not doing anything obviously wrong. At the seminar we did have an opportunity to see Konno and Fox sensei perform the kata for us - very nice, and it shows we still have a long way to go in refining our technique!

RRV Fair

A few members of the dojo gave some demos at the Red River Valley Fair in July. We had 3 demos at the Scheels stage, where we performed kata, explained about the history and theory of iaido, showed our iaito and bokuto, and had the children do some practice cutting of newspaper with bokuto.

Thanks goes to Paul, Gary, and Tyler for participating in this and showing the attendees a bit of Japanese culture (and how to be an awesome newspaper cutter).

You may laugh and think, "Cut newspaper with a wooden sword??" Actually it's not as easy as you might think. The "blade" of the bokuto is dull and rounded, and only with good swinging technique and speed of the blade will you be able to cut cleanly and straight.

We sometimes practice this in the dojo, and it is a cheap way to test your cutting technique. The dojo record for most layers of newspaper cut cleanly with a single cut is 32. Pretty cool!

Rank Testing

We held rank testing in the dojo in June for 3 and 4kyu students. Congratulations goes to Tyler, Gary, and Sarah who achieved their first rank of 4kyu, and also to Erik and Joey who achieved their 3kyu.

The requirements for 3kyu are for a student to perform 5 selected kata from the seitei series. Beyond just performing the movements correctly, they must show some indication of timing and smoothness in their execution, and a beginner's understanding of jo-ha-ku.

Again, congratulations to all who tested!

Upcoming Events

We don't have anything in particular on the schedule for our dojo for the rest of the year. We may be invited back to the Pangea festival in November, so that might be a possible demonstration we'll have. Beyond that, we'll keep you posted if something comes up.

In Thunder Bay, Ontario, there is an excellent annual seminar being hosted by Eric Tribe sensei on October 22-23. Instruction will be led by Ohmi and Taylor sensei and there will be a rank testing opportunity available as well. More information can be found about that at: http://my.tbaytel.net/etribe/Seminars.html

The 3rd Annual Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar and Cancer benefit will be held on November 12-13. We're still looking for martial arts groups and dojo to come and participate. The proceeds go to the Roger Maris Cancer Center. People interested participating in or contributing to this seminar should contact Paul Dyer at paul(at)fargoallmartialarts(dot)com.

That's about it - enjoy the rest of your summer!
Brad

Friday, June 17, 2011

2011 AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp

Camp 2011

My student Kelly and I spent last weekend in Cleveland for the 2011 AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp. There were several high ranked sensei there, and the guests from Japan were Kishimoto and Yamazaki sensei. It was my second time to meet and study with Mr. Kishimoto, and I enjoyed his humor and kind, but very thorough way of instruction. Yamazaki sensei I have met and trained with several times. While living in Numazu city in Shizuoka, Yamazaki sensei would come to our dojo every month along with several other 7 and 8 dans from the Tobu region to help "tune" us up on our seitei. It was very nice to see him again, and catch up a bit on things happening in Shizuoka.

The USKF representatives included Murakami, Yamaguchi, Kato, and Konno sensei, and a whole bunch of others who helped with the taikai and shinsa. It was great to see so many high-ranked sensei in the same place at the same time - what a roomful of talent!

This being my first AUSKF event, I had no idea what it would be like. We had two days of excellent instruction / embu and keiko. Then there was a day of competition for people who wanted to compete. I think that almost 60% percent of the people participated, and I was recruited to be a shinpan (judge) for the 3dan and lower divisions. Sunday was the dreaded rank testing, where we had a chance to try and apply all of the teachings we received along with our technique and waza.

Kishimoto sensei wanted to be sure everyone understands about reiho, and is performing the basics correctly. He kept stressing reiho and kihon as the main points. Being "good" at the kihon was less important than understanding what is correct and trying to achieve that. These finer points of iaido were extremely important in the taikai and shinsa as well. For my first round of competition, I blew my 11th kata (sougiri) by stepping out of bounds on my last cut. Chalk that one up for learning.

The last two times I've seen Kishimoto sensei at seminars, he's indicated that there is a perception that testing in the US and Canada is not as stringent as Japan, and that he's trying to correct that and make gradings consistent everywhere in the IKF.

This year I attempted 5 dan, and Of the 9 people who tested for 5 dan, only one passed (not me) and both of the 6dan candidates failed as well. Testing was tough this year - the pass percentages was about 75% shodan pass, 50% nidan, 25% sandan, and 25% yondan. Brutal, but hopefully more in line with what Japan's testing requirements so everyone will stop saying the US has a lower level of iai. Kelly did pass his ikkyu, and is very happy about that.

New this year to the Camp was the introduction of Jodo. We did some jodo Sunday after testing for the first time, and that was fun. We learned a few different basic stances. They were going to continue on Monday with strikes and maybe introduce the first kata.

It was exhausting standing and sitting so much during the week. The instructors in their thoroughness tried to make sure everyone knew what points in the waza and kihon are expected and how they are to be executed. As a result, we stood and watched a lot. The learning was invaluable, but my feet, legs, and back suffered for it. Thank goodness for ibuprofen and some stretch time before bed!

We also had a chance to hang with some of the Canadians from Kim Taylor and Eric Tribe's group. It was a lot of fun to dine and drink together, and I look forward to seeing some of them again in July for our seminar. Taylor and Tribe sensei offered good advice and guidance on some of the finer points for testing - thank you for that!

The Cleveland iaido club that was hosting did a wonderful job, and really went out of their way to make sure we were taken care of for lunches, etc, and that we had rides to and from the venue from our hotel. Our driver really went the extra mile for us to get us to the places we needed to be!

Matt Swisher of Cleveland and his group were a lot of fun to hang with, and I enjoyed meeting a fellow 5 dan candidate to compare notes in teaching and experiences. It's funny, both Matt and I spent time living in the same small town of Toyama in Northern Japan. We shared stories of that place as well - it's a small world!

Next year's 2012 camp will be held in Tacoma Washington. I'm already looking forward to that! With any luck, we'll be hosting the 2013 AUSKF summer camp right here in Moorhead Minnesota. Yes, you read that correctly!

Moorhead Dojo July Seminar

At the Camp, I spoke to a lot of people who said they were interested in coming. I was surprised that so many people outside of the MWKF had heard about it, and hopefully we'll get some more attendees!

We did secure a second sensei for our seminar - Pam Parker, 6dan Renshi in iaido. She has very nice iaido, and it will be great to have a second sensei to work with the participants.

People planning to come who haven't registered yet, please fill out the online application and submit it along with payment as soon as possible. The housing and restaurant would like a firm number of people planning to come.

Friday, May 27, 2011

May Newsletter

Moorhead Dojo News

Well, May is almost gone, and as I sit here looking out the window and seeing the rain fall, it's given me some inspiration. Strange that, but maybe it has something to do with things growing, getting green, and the necessary ingredient to that being included in the rain.

I've been feeling a little stress lately - excited in a good way, but stress nonetheless. I've got my 5dan rank test coming up in just over two weeks and it's foremost in my mind. I have to perform 3 seitei and 2 koryu (which for me is Musoshindenryu) katas.

This will be a first of several things for me:
  • First time testing in the US.
  • First time testing with a shinken.
  • First time taking the test without having any kind of review by my sensei beforehand.
  • First time going to Cleveland (and first time staying in a Holiday Inn Express).
I'm not so worried about the last one on the list, but the first three are causing me some excitement, and as I said, stress.

I've heard from my sensei in Japan, Mr. Takeda, that my fellow student (dokyusei) Mr. Hasegawa has attempted and failed his 5dan twice now. The gradings 4th, 5th, and 6th dan have markedly become more difficult in the last couple of years, and the standards within Japan for aquiring rank have risen is what he's saying.

I guess the only thing I can do is practice with spirit and without distraction, consider technique and timing, and do my best. I don't consider this "cramming" in any way, because I try to do my best kata every time I'm on the floor anyway, though I am going to try and get "on the floor" a few extra times over the next couple of weeks.

Enough about me.

Kelly will also be accompanying me to Cleveland and will be testing for his 1kyu. I wish him luck in that as well!

New Faces

We've got a couple of new faces in the dojo. Welcome to Carl and Alison who've just joined up. They both have enthusiasm and a positive attitude for learning, and I look forward to working with them.

It's kind of neat to see eight people dressed in hakama standing in a line at the same time. This is the most students we've had at one time in the dojo, and it's cool to see everyone doing suburi in sync.

Moorhead Dojo Iaido Seminar

Our July Iaido Seminar is fast approaching. See http://seminar.musoshindenryu.com for details. People interested in attending please pre-register so I have a firm number for accomodations and meals. It's going to be awesome!

Dojo Kyu Rank Testing

We'll be having 4kyu and 3kyu testing on June 29th. That will give everyone a chance to practice for another month. We should have at least 5 people taking these two tests. Good luck everyone!

Interesting article

This is the second article that follows the "I am a Deshi" one I posted last month from kenshi247.net. It can be found in it's entirety at: http://kenshi247.net/blog/2011/04/08/what-is-the-true-meaning-of-gratitude/

I'm reprinting it here with the author's permission.
----------------------------------- Begin ------------------------------------

As a follow-up/tie-in to the popular I am a Deshi translation I would like to present the following piece to readers. Although both this article and the deshi one were written by children, I believe there is something worthy of study for all kendoka, irrespective of age. Enjoy!

What Is the True Meaning Of Gratitude?
Written by Furukawa Rei (14 years old)
The Best Award at the All Japan Dojo renmei Junior high school kendo speech contest
Translated by George Owaki and passed to kenshi247.net by Jeff Marsten

It has been 7 years since I started kendo. Over these years I have met many people including teachers, seniors, juniors, my family, friends, and my kendo coaches. They all taught me something and I really appreciate it. But I started to wonder if it is enough to just appreciate them and not return my gratitude back to them. It was very hard questioning how I could return their gratitude. This question was especially difficult when considering my coaches- even though we receive many things from them, I could not come up with a way to express and show my gratitude.

This summer, I heard a comment from a high school player who was on the national high school baseball championship team. He said “we were able to return to our coaches and teachers our gratitude by winning this tournament.” From this comment, I thought that I could do the same for my supporters by demonstrating my appreciation for them by winning the tournament. This was because they are responsible for our success by teaching us so many skills and techniques to be successful.

Last year I placed third at the kendo tournament and the coaches seemed really happy about the result. At the time I was really happy because I thought I could finally demonstrate my gratitude to the coaches who worked really hard to train us. I began asking myself how those people who lost in the tournament would also be able to return their gratitude to their coaches. If returning gratitude can be expressed by only winning tournaments, then those people who lost cannot return their appreciation to their coaches in this fashion. At that time, I recognized a friend who was also participating but was not fortunate enough to win. He expressed sadness because he lost and was not able to return the coaches the appreciation, although his thoughts and feelings seemed to have been the same as mine.

Summer came and I still couldn’t find an answer to my question. At the time the kendo club’s senior members were practicing really hard for their final junior high school tournament. They also were practicing at home. As a result, they exhibited great skill and teamwork. The advisor said with satisfactory smile- “thank you all for working hard from the beginning of junior high, showing effort and supporting each other with great team work.” Even though the final result was not as expected, the senior kenshis’ hard work touched my heart and it made our coaches happy. By looking at the advisor’s expression, I think I now understood what it meant to return gratitude. The coaches in the club were not just teaching us techniques in kendo. They were also teaching us how to grow to be good, upstanding and moral citizens of the future.

I made a resolution that returning gratitude can be accomplished by achieving success, but that this is just one part of the ultimate goal. Isn’t the true meaning of returning gratitude to work really hard to achieve and grow to become a good person of character?

I have learned many things about life from kendo. This includes taking things seriously and actively participating, always trying to keep promises, always performing duties as requested, working hard to accept and get along with others, contributing to the world by helping the other people, and not forgetting to show appreciation.

By looking back at myself, I think I still have a long way to go. Even though I started kendo seven years ago, I think I just now recognized what I was learning from kendo. I might make many mistakes in the future but I want to try to learn something from the mistakes. I would like to try hard to be a good person of character and return true gratitude and appreciation to those who supported me.

----------------------- End -------------------------

Pretty insightful for a 14 year old.
Have a good weekend!
Brad

Friday, April 29, 2011

April Newsletter

Moorhead Dojo News

Okay, so it is almost the last day of April, but here's the April newsletter anyway!

CoreCon Demo

In April we performed a demonstration at the Fargo CoreCon convention. I knew it was going to be fun when I saw two kids running around outside with their newly aquired magic wands repeatedly yelling, "Stupify" at each other. It didn't stick around to see who beat who, but it looked like they wer having fun.
The demo was a good chance for some of the newer members of the dojo to perform their kata in front of people for the first time, and to expose more people to this unique art that we do. One of the coordinators of the event said that we had the biggest attendance for a Sunday event ever, so that shows that at least people were interested in seeing what we do. Thank you to Kelly, Joey, Erik, Tyler, and Sarah for coming out and participating. We did a variety of seitei and Musoshindenryu kata, and some partner work with bokuto to further explain the techniques found in the kata.
Next year it's in May, and hopefully they'll have Butterbeer again - that was yummy!

June rank testing

We'll be having rank testing in June for dojo members. There should be a couple of people able to try for their first rank of 4kyu, as well as a couple more going for 3kyu. I'd like to have testing in Early June to keep in line with the AUSKF Iaido summer camp, also held in June. Members wishing to test for 1kyu or above must do so at such an event - I'm only allowed to test up to 2kyu in the dojo myself.
Testing for the next rank requires a "time-in-rank" before attempting the next level, and so I want to get in synch with the camp for future tests. 1kyu to Shodan is 6 months, Shodan to (2) Nidan is 1 year, Nidan to (3) Sandan is 2 years, and so on. Basically, whatever dan level you are is the number of years you must wait to test for the next rank.
Testing requires a performance of 5 selected kata from the seitei series for ranks up to 3 dan, and then 4 seitei plus one koryu kata for ranks 4 dan and above. This can vary by federation, but that's generally the schedule.
Another requirement of testing is a written test. For national events, applicants must choose 2 of 3 questions to write answers / essays for. Questions consist of terminology or concepts consistent with studying kendo or iaido and it's underlying philosophy. I incorporate these kinds of questions in my rank testing at the Moorhead Dojo as well.
Myself and Kelly will both be testing at the Summer Camp in June, and are getting very excited about that event! It will be my first time to test in the US for rank, and I'm anxious to see the similarities and differences to what I experienced in Japan. Luckily, one of the attending sensei from Japan was also my regional sensei back in Shizuoka, a Mr. Yamazaki sensei. I'm looking forward to catching up with him too!
Better start hitting the books and the dojo in preparation for that!
 Speaking of the philosophy of budo, I'm always impressed with the kenshi247.net site. The writers there often translate writings that are unique and some quite old by masters of the sword. One recent article that I really enjoyed was written by a high school student in Japan. I'm reprinting it here with the author's permission. The complete article and subsequent comments, etc can be found here: kenshi247.net/blog/2011/03/25/i-am-a-deshi/
-------------- Start --------------
Even if Japanese is not our main language, in a kendo environment we often use the Japanese term “sensei” to mean teacher. What about the other 1/2 of the equation, the student? I can’t recall any Japanese terms being used in any of the 10+ countries I’ve had the fortune to do kendo in.
Traditionally, when someone joins a dojo there are a couple of terms used to express “student”: monkasei (門下生) and deshi (弟子). There are some other terms (e.g. 門弟 or 門人), but those two seem to be the main ones used. Unless you are part of a koryu dojo, or watch and read anime/manga, you will probably never come across the first term. The second term, however, is still used – though uncommonly I must admit – in the Japanese kendo community today.
As regular readers probably know, I run a high school kendo club here in Osaka. When I first started teaching my sensei turned to me and said:
お前も弟子がおるぞ
Now you’ve got your own deshi.
This kind of stopped me on my tracks: “deshi… what should I do?” I thought.
Rather than attempt to explain the meaning of “deshi” myself, let me translate a piece from a 13 year old kendoka from Kyushu that I found in this months Kendo Jidai.
p.s. Please check out this old article after you read the one below.

The following essay was awarded the kantosho prize in the Junior High School section of the “32nd kendo youth research seminar.”
I am a deshi
Written by: Hasuda Tomoka
1st year Junior high school student (approx. 13yrs old)
Miyazaki prefecture, Miyazaki city, Shujakukan dojo
Suddenly, after keiko one day my sensei said “you are my deshi.” I was surprised at the suddenness of words, but I was also happy that he called me “deshi.” However, I somehow felt strange. Its because I didn’t actually understand the word “deshi” or what being one means or involves. I thought hard about the meaning of the word and searched out information about it in books and dictionaries. I discovered that “deshi” is part of a “teacher-student” relationship (師弟の関係). On one side of the coin we have the teacher – one with technical skill based on, and knowledge cultivated through experience – who imparts this through instruction; and on the other side we have the deshi, who learns from and studies under the teacher. In a dojo environment, the sensei are the teachers, and we are are the deshi.
So, what is a deshi’s job? What is a deshi supposed to do? A deshi has many various jobs to learn, including seeing off and meeting the sensei when they come to the dojo (shiai), getting any shopping thats needed (for the dojo and/or sensei), taking care of various things around the sensei (to do with the dojo) etc. In kendo, for example, tidying up/putting away the sensei’s bogu and making sure he is comfortable are both part of the deshi’s job.
I started taking tea to the sensei after keiko when I was a 6th grade primary school student (11/12yrs old). This started because my sensei said “bring me tea,” but now it just natural happens. During that short interval, sensei gives me praise, or brings my bad points to attention.
We also talk a lot about non-kendo things as well. What my future dreams are, whats going on at school, the taikai my sensei goes to, the change in seasons, etc all of these are valuable conversations for me. On the occasion that visitors came to keiko, I brought them tea as well. At that time I was told to sit in the corner and listen to the conversation (between the adults). I couldn’t really understand what was being talked about but my sensei said later “even if you can’t understand whats being said, even if you are not part of the conversation, listening to other peoples stories and conversation is important. There will come a time when you will understand.” When he said this to me I pondered that the chance to listen in on these conversations was something different when compared to my usual daily life, and approached these chats with a new feeling.
Another thing that I pay attention to is when my sensei leaves by car (after keiko). When I see him off, I wait until I can no longer see his car before turning away. I learned this after watching how the Riot Squad Police treated their sensei (its possible she is talking about the elite tokuren kenshi in her prefecture).
By continuing to be a deshi like this I have learned some good things, for example: how to use language properly (i.e. learning to by polite in Japanese) and how to be sensitive to nuances in peoples conversations, so now I am at ease with speaking to people who are my superior (i.e. by rank, age, profession, etc). There are other things as well, for example I am able to think and predict what sensei will say/want next, and am already in motion before anything is actually said.
At one time, my sensei told me that deshi have responsibilities. I didn’t really understand what these could be and I thought about it to myself. I think a deshi’s responsibility/job is to keep whats taught to them by their sensei and act within there limits, and to pass these teachings onto their kohai. I still don’t have the ability to do this, so in the meantime I will try my best at keiko, and aim to become a good sempai in the future.
At first I didn’t really know what it means to be a “deshi,” but thanks to everything that my sensei has taught me, I think I am getting closer to understanding the true meaning. Ever since becoming a deshi my sensei has shouted at me a lot; but since there few people around to scold me, I am thankful that he is there, as I know it for my own benefit.
From now on, through kendo and as a deshi/person, I want to keep learning about life.

Source

剣道時代2011年4月。「私は弟子です」。蓮田和佳。

--------------------------------- End of article ------------------------
Now isn't that just cool?

Moorhead Dojo / MWKF Summer Iaido Seminar

July 29 - 31

Our First Annual seminar is coming up! We've got Konno sensei (7dan kendo, 7dan iaido) coming and we're still trying to get one more sensei for this great event! It's open to kenshi who have any level of iaido experience, as well as people who want to start studying iaido. Complete details can be seen at seminar.musoshindenryu.com. For planning purposes, pre-registration is strongly encouraged, and there is a discount for early registration.
We'll have three excellent vendors there selling iaito and gear too!
See you next month.
Brad

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Iaido - How to take it to the next level?

At the end of last summer, I had a phone conversation with my sensei in Japan, Mr. Takeda. It had been a while since we had spoken, and it was really nice to catch up on news with him and my home dojo in Numazu. I knew that August was when they have their rank testing (shinsa) and asked him how it went for my dojo mates.
I guess that several of my former dojo-mates had tested for rank, and for 4 dan and above, about half had passed. I guess that's pretty consistent with when I tested. For my 4dan rank test, 3 of the 5 people testing passed.

I was glad to hear that Sano sensei passed his 6 dan, and also Mr. Takato, whom I received a very nice iaito from when I left Japan, passed his 5 dan. However, my classmate, Mr. Hasegawa who started the same time as I did and always tested together, did not pass his 5th dan test. According to Takeda sensei, the higher rank testing requirements have stiffened up over the last few years, and the testing board is passing a lower percentage of applicants even at the 3 and 4dan levels.

So I got to thinking how I could try to improve and check my own technique for my own upcoming shinsa. There are no upper ranked sensei nearby to compare notes with, and short of sending a video of myself doing kata to someone, I was pretty much on my own.

Later, I read this interesting article http://social-issues.org/community/node/255 in which 8dan Hanshi Ogura sensei talks about when he was preparing to make his third attempt for 8dan. After his regular practice session, he would go back in alone, turn off the lights, and practice in the dojo in the dark for an additional couple of hours.

So, I decided to try this. It was pretty hard to get the dojo to be completely dark - there was some light bleeding in through the outside window above the door, and also from the exit sign, but it was still pretty dark. After all, it was the middle of winter in MN, and the sun had long since gone down.

I went in, sat down, and proceeded to start through the first few seitei kata. It was an experience that was unlike any I had before. I found that the kata in seiza were okay - I had started in the middle of the floor, and knew that I wouldn't be getting too close to any walls. Starting with the standing kata kesagiri was a bit different. I became much more conscious of how big my steps were, and I kept thinking how close I might be getting to the front of the dojo. It was really difficult!

The other thing I noticed was my nukitsuke and noto had reverted back to being extremely slow. I felt like it was the first time using my shinken again and feared for cutting myself on my nukitsuke and noto movements. Again, very difficult.

I only tried this for a short time, my regular practice was about to start, but it's a different type of practice that I think is valuable and I'd really like to do again - maybe this time after a practice sometime.

Also in that article, Ogura sensei gives some of what he felt are grading requirements for rank. What he states for 5dan (my next attempt) are as follows:
  • Being able to perform all the kata nearly perfectly; having learned the basics of position(s) of the imaginary opponent(s) and suitable distance(s), based on learning from written references and teachings from one’s Master.
  • Being able to show an extension of your soul in the sword movements, facing the imaginary opponents; instilled calmness, metsuke, kihaku (unmistakable determination to vanquish); the harmonious unity of ki (energy) - ken (sword) - tai (body); smooth and controlled movements; mastering in both kokoro and waza (mind/heart/soul and techniques).

Wow. "Being able to show an extension of your soul in the sword movements." Now I guess that I have something additional to think about when I'm practicing.
 
Iaido - it's truly a lifetime of learning.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Core Con and Other Upcoming Events

Hello everyone! Spring melt is starting up, and I sincerely hope that wherever you are, you won't have to deal with any flooding. I know they're estimating Fargo - Moorhead Red River levels to be pretty high again, and the community is moving well towards it's sandbagging goal.

We've got a few events coming up. I've got some detail updates for you.

2011 CoreCon - April 15- 17th
The Musoshindenryu Iaido - Moorhead Dojo group (us) will be doing a demonstration on Sunday the 17th.

1PM-3PM Sunday, April 17th
Japanese Swordsmanship
Presented by Moorhead Iaido Dojo
Woods Room

The Moorhead Dojo will present a two hour discussion on the history and traditions of iaido (Japanese swordsmanship), followed by a demonstration of kata, some of which have origins dating back over 400 years ago. There will be an opportunity for attendees to ask questions, and view the Dojo Members' various katana (swords). More information can be found at the dojo website: http://www.musoshindenryu.com/.

CoreCon 2011 will take place at the AmericInn Lodge & Suites and Event Center in Moorhead, MN - the same as last year.

The CoreCon's website is: http://fargocorecon.org/ and the theme this year is "Myth and Magic." Sounds interesting, and I would encourage intersted people to check out the whole Con.

THE 2011 SEI DO KAI SPRING JODO and IAIDO SEMINAR
University of Guelph, Ontario Canada, May 20 to 23

This is Kim Taylor Sensei's annual seminar. Excellent and with some of the top iaido people from Japan coming in to instruct. More details can be seen at: http://www.uoguelph.ca/~iaido/iai.seminar.html


2011 AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp - June 9 - 12th
The dates have been confirmed, all else is tentative right now.

Dates: Thursday, June 9 - Friday, June 10 AUSKF Iaido Seminar
Saturday, June 11 AUSKF Iaido Championships
Sunday, June 12 (morning) AUSKF Iaido Shinsa
Sunday, June 12 (afternoon) AUSKF Jodo Seminar
Monday, June 13 AUSKF Jodo Seminar

Location: Mac Center Gymnasium, Kent State University (KSU), 800 East Summit Street, Kent, OH (pending confirmation in April 2011 after approval of camp budget and submission of deposit to KSU)

Lodging and more details to be announced.


2011 Moorhead Dojo / AUSKF Iaido Seminar (1st Annual) - July 29-31

This is our iaido seminar. We've got an application in for two 7dan iaido sensei, and are awaiting their confirmation. The venue and pricing has been set, and we are taking pre-registrations at this time!

This will be an excellent opportunity to see some top notch AUSKF iaido instructors, and brush up on your skills.

We've got three, yes THREE excellent vendors coming with iaito, and iaido gear for sale.

Check out the website for registration and seminar information: http://seminar.musoshindenryu.com/

Pre-registration is encouraged!


Thundar Bay - Annual Fall Seminar - October 22nd and 23rd
with Ohmi Goyo Sensei Iaido 7-Dan Renshi

This is another excellent seminar, from our neighbors to the North. Eric Tribe's dojo hosts this event, and is another great refresher on seitei iaido and some koryu. More information can be seen at: http://my.tbaytel.net/etribe/index.html

So you can see, there's a bunch of stuff coming up! Hope to see you there!

Brad

Monday, February 28, 2011

February Newsletter

Moorhead Dojo News

Well February is almost done, so I guess I'm a little late in getting this out, but it's been a busy month.

2011 Moorhead Dojo / MWKF (Midwest Kendo Federation) Summer Iaido Seminar

This has been the big thing that I've been spending a lot of time workinig on. Together with the VP of education for the MWKF, we've been hashing out details and requesting sensei from the AUSKF. Here's what we know so far:

The seminar will be held on July 29, 30, 31 at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. I've started a website with the TENTATIVE details on it. 2011 Moorhead Dojo Iaido Seminar page. Keep in mind that the rates and schedule may be subject to change.

We asked for two high ranked sensei from the AUSKF to lead the seminar. With two, we would be able to host concurrent sessions for practitioners of all levels. In short, AWESOME.

The seminar will have a Friday evening practice session including kendo keiko for those who practice kendo and also some iaido.

Saturday will be a full day of iaido, again with some optional kendo mixed in. Sunday is a half day of iaido.

Continental breakfasts and lunches for both days are included in the seminar registration fees.

Concordia College is offering lodging at LESS THAN $25 per night on campus. We'll need initial numbers for those interested in this.

All of this information and more can be seen on the abovementioned site, so please check it out. PRE-REGISTRATION IS STRONGLY ENCOURAGED so we can have an accurate number of participants who will need lodging and meals.


This seminar won't offer rank testing this year, but in future seminars that may be a possibility.

Other upcoming events

Core con - April 15-17

We'll be doing another demo at the Core Con this year. The date and time has yet to be determined, but be assured, it will be AWESOME.

Kim Taylor's Iaido seminar - Guelph, ON - May

I went last year to this awesome seminar. I'm hoping to reserve the time and money to go again. Well worth the time and the sensei in attendance were all high-ranking people from Japan and Canada. More details once I know the dates for sure.

AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp - Cleveland, OH - June 9-12

Myself and Kelly will be heading there for the summer camp and rank testing this year. I don't have the details yet, but these are the dates they're saying for the camp. From what I've heard in the past, it's AWESOME. I'll be trying for my 5dan and Kelly for his 1kyu.

Red River Valley Fair - July

The RRV fair has asked us to provide a demo again this year. Due to the (not) huge number of people who came last year, we'll likely limit our time to once or twice. It got pretty hot last year, and though it was great to be there, it was a lot of time for a handful of viewers. More details to come once I know the dates on that.

Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar - October 8, 9

This will be the third year running for this wonderful seminar and charity event. All the proceeds to to the Roger Maris Cancer center here in Fargo, and you get to participate in many of the different area martial arts practice sessions. Last year we had many different schools and styles, and people were welcome and encouraged to participate as well for these "introductory teaching" sessions. AWESOME.

Welcome

We've gotten a couple of new faces in our dojo here in Moorhead. Welcome to Sarah and Antonio. We hope you enjoy learning iaido as much as we do!

The Aikido Shimboku Dojo

This group has joined our iaido dojo's membership for the MWKF. Why Moorhead? Because it's their first year in petitioning for membership, they need a sensei of 4dan or above to "mentor" them. I too had to do the same thing before my dojo was accpted for membership - I was a member of a group down in Rochester, MN. This will get them on the rolls for both the AUSKF and the MWKF, and it also shows both associations that we are serious about iaido here in the Midwest as well, so it's a win-win for both of our schools.
Their head instructor, Lisa, studied both aikido and iaido during her stay in Japan, and now leads the iaido group down there. More information about their school can be seen at http://www.aikidoshimbokudojo.com/index.htm I'll likely be heading to their dojo sometime this year to say hi and have a refresher class with them on seitei gata, and maybe a few of them will attend our seminar in July as well.
So Welcome to Lisa and your members!

LINKS

Here's a couple of interesting links I've found. I love the kenshi247 site!
Excellent article on tameshigiri http://kenshi247.net/blog/2011/01/28/thoughts-on-tameshigiri-from-famous-swordsmen/
That's about it for now, until next month.
Brad

Monday, February 14, 2011

2011 Moorhead Dojo / MWKF Iaido Seminar

We'll be hosting our first annual MWKF / AUSKF iaido seminar in July. The unconfirmed dates are July 29 - 31. We have the venue booked, just waiting on confirmation from the kendo federation on the sensei schedule.
A web page describing the event details is under construction, and should be up soon! Watch this space for more details, but mark those calendars now for July 29-31 to come to Moorhead MN.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Iaito

My Christmas present finally arrived! On January 26, 2011, I became the proud owner of a Ajiro Koshiare Iaito. The Iaito was exactly how it was described on the Tozondoshop.com website. I chose this Iaito because it has a bamboo theme. My Sensei's family crest is three bamboo leaves so I thought that was neat. Interestingly enough, the Menuki is the same design as is on his Katana. The Tsuka is wrapped in black cotton with a bamboo theme on the Fuchi. The Tsuba has a nice bamboo theme also. The blade itself has a straight Hamon which I think gives it a simple but classy appearance. A rich, black high gloss on the Saya gives it a real sharp-looking finish. In addition, the Iaito came with a nice purple bag.

Overall, I am very satisfied with my purchase. It is lighter than the one I was previously using however seems pretty well balanced and it fits nicely into the Saya, not too tight or too loose. I would say the only negative is the length of time it took to ship the Iaito to me and the fact that it didn't come with any oils. I presume that with the holiday special at Tozondo, production got backed up. Perfectly understandable however communication as to why it took nearly 6 wks from order to delivery would have been nice.

Erik Ness
Musoshindenryu Iaito
Dojo-Moorhead, MN

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tameshigiri video compilation

Our recently ranked 4kyu member Joey put together a nice video compilation of our recent tameshigiri experience. It was our first time, so we still have a lot to learn, but it was an excellent exercise.

Thank you Joey!


Should it matter or not?

This article was written by one of the Moorhead Dojo students, Paul Dyer. Paul has been with our dojo since 2007, and Paul recently acquired a 2kyu in AUSKF iaido. He has a broad background in several martial arts. Paul is the founder of the Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar and Cancer Benefit.

Should It Matter or Not

The statement of nature vs. nurture is a question of questionable debates. The mind, the soul, the universal particles, the whole who and what we are. One day we shall get into that but for now the first question is, should it matter or not? It is a thought I must ask you as I have asked myself countless times in my own personal journey as a martial artist and as a human being. When you first entered the dojo as a young student, I shall say young student because it does not matter what age we start, we are all that young student entering a world of unknown.  Many thoughts enter our young minds.  I can say what I now know, the thoughts were wrong from the start until I was set straight by my Sensei/Sifu.

The question still rings high to this day, what does it matter?  What type of house hold you grew up in, does it matter? What type of environment you were raised around or should it matter how much economic wealth you may or may not have, or what skin color, or religion you practice.  Did it matter as you entered the dojo?  As a young student when you first started in the 60’s or 70’s, all the schools open in the cities were of Asian decent. Without getting into the climate of the United States and around the world, all I can say is that it was a hostile time for Asian decent /Americans in the United States. The schools that you can go into now are of many diverse climates and that is a just change but the question still remains, does it or should it matter?

Another question, what was the purpose of you embarking on the dojo’s door step? And should it matter or not? From your first day to your second day, and until the time of now, you have to ask yourself the question should it matter what I am? Well I have to say it does matter and it did matter at one time. It mattered then and only then, but when does it stop? Only when you realize the reason it matters no longer exist in your life. As I was told once by one of my seniors “what drives you to be the best is not what is going to get you there”. At the time I had no idea what that meant. Frankly I don’t think I could have cared less. So I remind you should it matter or not? After countless hours of being bruised mentally and physically it all breaks down. All the education that has been given to you finally strikes you like a large clap of thunder in a world of silenced mind. The act of enlightenment starts from that day on, and then when you find yourself in a dojo, it is not just a room of mats and funny writing on the wall with many sayings. You are for the first time not just in a school but a home.

It is not often or at all that we find this awakening in our lives. At this time you can now ask questions and be inquisitive to all actions and start to become part of a history, a life of a destination of endless travel. You were once lost but now found yourself on a journey of peace and comfort with a strong mind and body and now that you are open you begin to understand it never really mattered at all. Now as we grow, we never leave the dojo, the home, even though we might leave the room we never leave the dojo for it is who we are and the path of where it was going all along, and we are now part of the past and the future.

Paul Dyer
Dakota Dragon Defense
dakotadragondefense@gmail.com
www.blackbelt.us/dakotadragon

Saturday, January 22, 2011

January Newsletter

January Newsletter

Happy New Year!
I know it's a little late, but it's been a busy couple of weeks.
We celebrated the new year with a member's party at my house last weekend. It was a lot of fun, and we had quite a buffet of foods - everyone brought something delicious, and everyone went home FULL. I'm still enjoying a bit of leftover sake!
A couple of people played the traditional game of GO, and a few of us watched the director's cut of the original Highlander movie. "There can be only one!"

Dojo News

Testing - everyone passed!

Last week, we had 2 candidates for 4kyu (our first rank) and 2 candidates for 2kyu, and all people passed. Congratulations goes to Erik, Joey for their 4kyu, as well as Kelly and Paul for their 2kyu. Omedetto gozaimasu! We still have a couple of people to test for 4kyu, and will probably do that sometime within the next month as well. Members can test up to 2kyu in the dojo, and after that must attend a Kendo Federation event either at the regional or national level to test further. I and possibly a couple of other members will be heading to Cleveland in June for the national iaido summer camp. It should be great!

New cutting blade

We ordered a cutting blade from Nishijin for 56,000 yen. It's got a Chinese made carbon steel blade with traditional Japanese made fittings. It's a bit tip heavy and weighs around 1200g. Can't wait to cut with it! 

Upcoming Events


April- Core Con demonstration
May - Guelph seminar
June 2- AUSKF Iaido summer camp
Mid July or Early August - Moorhead dojo (first annual) MWKF iaido seminar
October - 3rd annual Fargo All Martial arts seminar and cancer benefit

Interesting reading:

I found this article from Kim Taylor sensei about reishiki and thought it was a good read.
Have a good month!
Brad

REISHIKI / ETIQUETTE

Kim Taylor

Just why, exactly, do we bow to the instructor and to our fellow students when we practice the Japanese martial arts. Is there something here that we as free, equal, democratic Canadians should be offended by. After all, many Canadians will no longer consider bowing down to the Royal family, why should we bow to anyone else. To make matters worse, in some arts we bow down to a picture or even crazier, to a wall. Where did this behavior come from.
Right off, let's make it clear that bowing and the other forms of etiquette in the martial arts do not indicate subservience. They indicate respect which is entirely different. The forms of polite action in the dojo have meaning beyond an acknowledgement of the Japanese root of the arts.


ORIGINS OF REISHIKI IN NORTH AMERICA
It is, of course from their Japanese roots that the etiquette of the martial arts derive. The men and women who first introduced budo to the west also brought the methods of teaching that they were given by their instructors. These methods included reishiki.
After a generation or two in North America the bowing and scraping may be getting to seem a bit artificial. This is only natural since we express our politeness in ways other than the bow. We shake hands, and call people "sir". We open doors for people. We have dozens of ways to express politeness and respect that we think of about as often as a Japanese would think of bowing, not often.
Perhaps we should examine in further detail just what it is that we are doing when we bow in such a perfunctory way, and how we, as Canadians can use these transplanted rituals to our own advantage.

ORIGINS IN JAPAN

In Japan itself reishiki was developed to a high degree in the Tokugawa period (1603-1868) with various schools of the art arising. The great neo-confucian movement of the age was a major impetus, infusing the act with the hierarchical meaning that it carries today. The idea that all authority came from above and that everyone had his or her own place in the order of things was reinforced by the degree of bowing between people.
The Imperial court had, from earliest history, always stressed reishiki and the bushi (who were originally country bumpkins) had in the course of association picked up the habit. The court of the Shogunate adopted these manners and from them the samurai throughout the country began to use the forms.

REISHIKI FOR THE SAMURAI
It did not take long, however for the bushi to create their own, distinctive forms of etiquette. Even in the Tokugawa era the action of bowing went beyond a simple acknowledgement of authority into the realm of how to act properly at all times.
Put simply, it was reishiki that allowed the Edo samurai to go about his business without giving or taking offence and without letting his alertness drop for a moment. It was a matter of safety as much as a matter of correct action and courtesy. With constant attention paid to each outward movement, the mind of the warrior could not be other than awake at all times. With no daydreaming the possibility of accidents was reduced and no actions were taken (or accepted) that were not intentional.
It is this aspect of the samurai etiquette that is "appended" to the martial arts in this country. The bows are not a form of submission, but a way of practicing safely and with alertness. "Budo begins and ends with Reishiki". This does not mean that we bob our heads at the start and the finish of a class, it means that Budo is Reishiki. Manners are not "added on", they are part and parcel of the art.

REISHIKI IN NORTH AMERICA
There is nothing wrong with bowing to your instructor for no other reason than to say thank you. He or she has worked hard for many years to achieve the level of skill that can now be passed on to you. That commitment should be appreciated since the work that has gone before makes your learning easier. The bows and the other forms of politeness then, tell the teacher and yourself that you appreciate the effort and that you respect it enough to give your best effort to learn what you can. In this manner, reishiki has the purpose of forcing you to concentrate on what you are doing.
One of the reasons to take up martial arts training is to lose the ego. If you cannot bow to someone else without feeling as if you are submitting somehow to them, then you have no chance of obtaining egolessness. In this case, the bow is a shock on a fundamental level to the idea of yourself as a distinct entity. This shock is even greater in a society that does not bow any more. The greater the shock to the idea of a distinct self, the more open you will be to new ideas and the greater the chance that you will learn something.
Reishiki goes beyond simply bowing in the modern dojo, just as it did two hundred years ago. Etiquette defines how you enter and leave the room, how you move past your fellow students, how you sit or stand and how you practice. If everyone is following the same code of behavior, everyone will know what to expect in a class. What this means, simply, is that nobody is going to step in front of you when you least expect it and you can worry about other things instead. At the same time, the specific actions of reishiki have the effect of giving you a more alert position so that when the unexpected does occur you can deal with it.

SPECIFIC REISHIKI
Each art and each instructor in the art will establish a distinct code of behavior for the students. The main thing to remember is to act at all times with full awareness of what you are doing and why. What follows is a discussion of several forms of Reishiki that are common to most Japanese dojo.

BOW AT DOJO ENTRANCE
As you enter and leave the specific room or practice area you stop, put your feet together and bow toward the practice surface. This is often described as a prayer to the dojo that you will practice well and hard. If you don't want to pray to a wood and cement structure, make it a small meditation to yourself. You leave the busy and confused world outside and enter the wholly concentrated world of the dojo. This is the first step and is followed by a series of actions that remind you on a subconscious level that the outside world should be left outside.
On a more mundane level, stopping before you step onto the practice surface is simply good sense. Stepping out without looking can get you hit over the head with a sharp object.


BOW TO SHOMEN
This is a bow performed at the start and end of each class which is directed toward the high point in the room, or perhaps at a photograph, scroll, or even toward a Shinto shrine. The bow is another transition step from the outside world to the dojo. It is also a moment wherein students can reflect on the history of their art since this is the time when gratitude is expressed toward the founder and the previous instructors of the art. Bowing to shomen also reminds you where it is, this is important in how you move around in the dojo.

BOW TO SENSEI
At the start and end of a class, students have a chance to make a formal bow to the instructor. This should be done carefully and with full attention since this is your chance to show your gratitude for the patience and ability of the sensei. It also expresses your willingness to learn and your request to be instructed.
At many times during a class you will have a chance to thank the instructor for advice or correction. By making this bow with full awareness you will ensure that you are paying full attention to what is being said. It is all too easy to half listen and say "thanks" and then go right on practicing something badly.

BOW TO PARTNER
If you have the opportunity to work with a partner, you will bow to each other. Again, bow carefully and with attention. You are saying to your partner, "please practice with me" and "thank you for your cooperation". A sloppy bow will lead to sloppy practice and the potential for accidents as one student bows while the other attacks.
Always remember that the senior students, and the instructors can tell a lot about your attitude by how you observe the etiquette of the dojo.

SHOES
Shoes or slippers should be worn on the way to the dojo to avoid picking up infections and passing them on to your fellow
students. These shoes are taken off at the practice area and should be lined up neatly facing away from the dojo floor. They are lined up neatly and out of the way simply to prevent someone tripping over your mess. They are lined up ready to be put on as you leave so that there is little fuss at the end of the class. By placing the shoes so that you are ready to leave the class you are showing that you intend to pay attention and learn. If you don't learn, you can't leave.

WALKING
All movement in the dojo should be done with full awareness and control at all times. It is considered rude to flap your arms around and swivel your head about as you look at everything except what you should watch. Look where you are going at all times and you will be safe as well as polite.
Walking politely means being able to stop without falling over at any point in your stride, under control. If you pass other students who are practicing, wait until they are finished and see you, don't disturb them. This is a safety rule as well. If you are moving down a line of seated students, move along behind them, not in front between them and the instructor. This cuts their view and also exposes yourself to attack. In effect you are daring them to attack. This shows that you are not paying attention. If you must pass in front of them extend your right hand and bow forward slightly to apologize for your blocking their view. This places your hand in their view before your body so that they have a chance to stop any potentially dangerous actions. Better to lose a finger than an eye.
A common rule is never to expose your back to the shomen or highest point in the room. High ranking visitors will be seated close to this point and it would be rude to show them your backside. More importantly the rule is an exercise in knowing where you are in relation to the environment at all times.

STANDING
When you are standing it is impolite to slouch against a wall, put your hands in your pockets, cross your legs or generally to be slovenly. All of these prohibitions are to prevent you from moving into a position that exposes you to attack and injury. It would be paranoid to assume that someone is going to sneak up behind you and attack, even during a martial arts class. It is not paranoid to assume that someone might fall into you from behind. By being polite when you stand you are in the best position to prevent an injury to yourself.

SITTING
You should be no less polite when you sit down. In Japan it is generally considered rude and ugly to have your limbs spread out away from your body. Think about this cultural foible in terms of sitting with your legs out in front of yourself during a class. Now think what would happen to your knees if someone were to land on them during a practice. On the other hand think how you would feel if you were to trip and injure a fellow student. Again a rule of etiquette is in reality a safety rule. Your legs and arms should always be tucked in and protected from injury.
The idea that it is rude and unsightly to have your elbows sticking out at the sides is also more than a safety rule, it is a good posture training rule. In almost no case is it of
advantage for a martial artist to have their elbows out away from the centre of the body, so why allow students to get into the habit.

WEAPONS
The majority of the rules of etiquette in the modern Japanese budo can be traced to the use and practice of the sword. With several students swinging very sharp blades at the same time, certain modes of behavior were developed for the sake of safety. When the swordsman moved out of the dojo the need for a code of behavior that kept the swords inside the scabbards was even more obvious. In fact, one of the excuses for a fight was the practice of saya ate or hitting someone's scabbard with your own as you passed. Passing on the right side of another swordsman thus became a dangerous (and then rude) practice. One passed so that one's sword was out of reach. It also became polite behavior to place your sword a certain way at certain times since this showed your intent, either peaceful or otherwise. The act of touching someone's blade or even of stepping over it was not only impolite but an act of aggression.
Most of the elaborate rules for handling the katana can be traced to the simple need to keep it under control and to make it plain to others that your intentions were peaceful.
Next time you begin to bow during class, take a moment and think just why you are bowing and what purpose the act holds.

Inserted from <http://www.uoguelph.ca/~kataylor/13TIN91.htm

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 Pangea Photos

Here are some of the photos we got back from the 2010 Pangea culture festival. Thank you Greg for the photos!