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

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