Monday, 31 October 2011

Funday Monday! Series #3-3 Tiger's Step

A dual between martial arts masters often end the same way. The person that attacks first, loses......

What!? Let me explain:

A the highest level of combat, it is all about finding the openings and exploiting said weak points. The problem is, masters are able to control themselves so that they are ready for anything while keeping their bodies and their minds completely still. An "attack" requires a decision and a movement which, temporarily, creates an opening. It is this instance that an opponent can maneuver to their own advantage.

So far we've seen both defeated expedition members suffer from taking the initiative. It is completely plausible that the mysterious Gan was able to counter their attacks with pure skill. This line of thinking lead me to the recovered footage of the Eishin-Ryu technique: Tora no Issoku.

One of the leaders of the expedition was also one of the greatest Iaidoka of our generation. His ability to show not openings, no weaknesses, was legendary. It was even clear from the video that the Gan had no choice but to initiate the attack. This was as planned. The expedition leader blocked the initial attack beautifully and there was the opening! All he had to do was follow through into a vertical cut. The Gan would not see it coming...... 

We would not see it coming....

Friday, 28 October 2011

Grading Requirements - A Dilemma in Prioritizing

My brother recently made a blog post describing and analyzing the basic grading requirements of the Canadian Kendo Federation (CKF). The article can be found here:

While reading, it came to me that it might actually be more challenging to decide whether a person has the ability right to take the examination, than to judge in the examination itself.  It is definitely more important for the sensei who's student is grading, than the sensei who's judging said student. The latter simply decides whether the pre-determined bar has been reached, while the former must take into account the student's motivations, goals, and other emotional and psychological needs. 

From my experiences in Iaido and Kyudo, there exists several aspects of training that can be judged:

1. Exterior Physical - The ability to perform the movements and actions as required by the art. Strength, speed, timing, and distance are all important characteristics.

2. Mental - The understanding one has of the circumstance and reason behind the Exterior Physical movements. A written exam is meant to test this understanding of the concepts and theory that are a result of training and thinking about your actions.

3. Interior Physical - This can also be described as "Depth of Practice", and is a direct result of hours, months, and years of training. Internally, one can feel this aspect when a movement is performed without conscious thought, like breathing, walking or grabbing a mug of coffee. Externally, you can notice this in a martial arts practitioner when they perform the techniques with minimum effort and maximum efficiency.

4. Spiritual - I would describe this aspect as the inherent attitudes that are gained through the culture of the dojo, the people, and the etiquette of the martial art. Respect for the place of practice, the equipment and your fellow practitioners translates to a respect for oneself, and finally the understanding of one's place in society as a whole.

A student with a clean slate (an empty cup?) would naturally move from one down to four as they progress in their training, as each aspect takes cumulatively more time to attain. The situation becomes muddled when people come into a martial art with previous experience.

The natural athlete would be able to nail the Exterior Physical aspect to a much higher level than normal, and in a much shorter time. They may exhibit a preciseness of movement beyond even the seniors of a dojo.

The scholarly type would have a head start in the Mental Aspect but, perhaps, may have no physical prowess. Through study, they're overall understanding of the martial aspects will be superior to all who treat the training as mere exercise or a hobby.

The long-time martial artist may not learn the "dance steps" as quickly as the natural athlete, but will show the Interior Physical aspect much sooner, even when their movements are rough. Appropriate use of breath control and Ki flow will be evident.

And finally, a buddhist monk or, in the case of Iaido and Kyudo, any Japan raised practitioner will have a head start in understanding the Spiritual aspect that comes from all the etiquette surrounding the training.

So how does one prioritize these aspects when determining the requirements for a grade?

What is the goal of the organization? of the instructors? off the practitioners?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

2011 MMK Fall Koryu Seminar

As a member of the CKF, our club's primary focus is on the standardized kata determined by the All Japan Kendo Federation. However, it is in the koryu where we truly connect with the people who passed down the art of Iaido from one generation to the next.

The Mu Mon Kai Fall Koryu Seminar was held at the JCCC on Saturday, October 15. 

Participants included:
- Mu Mon Kai (home dojo, Toronto)
- Aikido Yoshinkan of Canada (former affiliate, Toronto)
- Kenshokan (former affiliate, Peterborough)
- Kaigen Kai (affiliated dojo, St. Catharines)
- University of Rochester (affiliated dojo, Rochester)
- Ittokai (affiliated dojo, Rochester)

The seminar was organized by Hanna Ikeda-Suen who showed great spirit in maintaining order throughout the seminar while fighting through illness. The dojo was booked from 3pm - 8pm and refreshments were served during the break. Reservations were made for 20+ people at Tako Sushi for dinner. Even though she was unable to participate, her efforts in making everyone's experience the best it could be was very much appreciated.

Ohmi Sensei's opening statement was very illuminating. Paraphrasing:

"To me, Seitei and Koryu are the same thing. In Iaido, you must have an opponent. Everything you do comes from this understanding. Is your blade angle correct? Is your sword tip at the right location? All this comes from knowing the scenario and facing your opponent. "

Agenda as follows:
1. Etiquette: Holding the sageo. Shomen Rei. To Rei. Tying sageo.
2. Nukitsuke: Blade angle when drawing. Wide. Tsuka-gashira center. Harusuke angle. Ohmi straight.
3. Noto (Omori, Eishin, MJER) options. Tsukagashira center

  • Anecdote - Oe Masamichi was a tall, big guy. However, he used a 2.35 shaku sword, the standard for Tosa Iai. It was easy for him to perform noto with Tsukagashira center. We must adjust our noto to the length of our sword. It is mandatory that it stays within body length though.

4. Fundamentals of MJER - Gokai. Technically and Mentally big. Cuts slightly down (exit body). 
5. Chiburi: Tip low front and back. Blood flow down. Not sweep around front. 

  • Anecdote - One sensei claimed that because of a samurai's top knot, chiburi was performed sweeping around the front of the body so as not to interfere. We should not make it that obvious though. Make natural angle forward and down.

6. Iaigoshi
7. Breaking Koiguchi has three ways: Show thumb. Hide thumb. Use thumb and index finger.
8. Seme is a difference between Mugai-ryu (quick, no zanshin) vs MJER

  • Anecdote - In Ohmi Sensei's opinion, in a real fight, Mugai-ryu will beat MJER. However, MJER is about Seme, about controlling the opponent with your spirit. That is the focus. If you're able to reach the highest level of this, then MJER can just as well beat Mugai-ryu.

a. Uke Nagashi - Slow or Fast?
  • Anecdote - Yamamoto Harusuke used to travel around and stay at his student's dojo. Once, when he was visiting Yamashibu sensei, Haruna sensei went to train and asked about Uke Nagashi. At that time, Harusuke sensei was already old and was doing the technique very slowly. Haruna sensei asked, "Shouldn't this be fast?". Harusuke sensei replies, "Show me how you do it.". Haruna shows him. Harusuke proceeds to say, "Yes! That is Uke Nagashi."

b. TsukeKomi: Options - Move back or not
c. Nukiuchi: Options - draw with tsuki-age, draw with tsuki-age + uke nagashi, draw with only uke nagashi

--- BREAK ---

History of MJER. Iaido federation vs Kendo federation. Ku-den transmitted through mouth only. So no way to really know if what we're doing now is the same as what they used to do it.

a. Yokogumo
  • Anecdote - We are often told that Mae has all the basics of Iaido. In Ohmi sensei once heard, and agrees, that it is really Yokogumo that has all the basics of Iaido. Not Seitei Mae. Not Omori-ryu Mae.

b. Practice Eishin-Ryu kata.
c. Hayanuki with demonstration by M. Hodge (4 Dan)

--- BREAK ---

How to have opponent

- Breath, hips, metsuke
- try movements without sword to use hip

Oku-Iai - Yukizure - Demonstrations and individual corrections

We concluded the night with great conversations at Tako Sushi.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Funday Monday! Series #3-2 Trailing Clouds

....but it can't be true! We're in the twenty-first century for pete's sake! There are no secrets anymore. What mysteries that are left in this world are only waiting for science to explain. 

I proceeded to the next incident report. This time, there was no survivor to interview. No eye witnesses to gleam some facts out of the recovered footage. The best video analysts in the world have done all their tests only to come to the same conclusion. What we're about to see really happened. Yokogumo.

"They were sitting not more than a meter away from each other. The one called Gan would not make the first move. He didn't have to. He wasn't even armed. With this knowledge, the blue man attacked! Drawing swiftly and rising to his knees, he lasered an eye-height cut across the face. It was easily avoided."

Improbable, but not impossible. The blue man had time to recover and finish with a vertical cut. This time, he wouldn't miss.

"It never landed. The blade stuck, not a couple centimeters above his head, as if an invisible force was holding it in place. What happened next was....inexplicable."

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Judges' Feedback

Found this in a thread on Kendo World Forums:
The grading panel are under no obligation to give advice to candidates, nor to report their reason for failing them. It is for their sensei/dojo leader to continue to push them to improve and hope for the best next time.
I had always wondered about this and, I realize now, haven't spent enough time actually thinking about why this is. A reply to this remark asks how the student, or his/her sensei, is supposed to know what needs to be worked on if no feedback is given?

The response by Peter West Sensei (Renshi 7 Dan):
If your teacher doesn't know what you need in order to improve, you're with the wrong teacher. Your teacher is the only person (apart from yourself) responsible for what you learn and how you learn it.
When you present for grading you present to an independent group who assess your progress and tell you whether you have or have not achieved the mark. That is your only feedback. You then go back to your dojo and work some more with your teacher, who should know what your weak points are, if he is to justify his position in the dojo.

The grading panel are not your teachers. This, after all, is budo, not 6th form college and summer school.
Makes sense to me =) 

[Additions] Further expanding on this topic from Kim Taylor Sensei (Renshi 7 Dan) 
Students tend to want to know "what I need to do to pass next time" not "how can I improve my iaido". If you failed a test, look to your sensei. It's his job to know what the panel is looking for, if he's not at every seminar and if he can't repeat what's in the standards without going and looking it up, he's not serious about you passing and so neither should you be worried about not passing. 

You have five or six judges up there, they do NOT discuss results with each other (or at least they are not supposed to) and so you have an answer from a panel who mostly are not your teachers but are seniors in the organization. 

If you don't want to accept their judgment on you, why are you in front of them? Seriously? 

Gradings are taken entirely too lightly, and.... 

Gradings are taken entirely too seriously.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

2011 American Kyudo Renmei Seminar - Andrew West Award

"Andrew West began Kyudo when he was about 21 years old. He was always dedicated in his study and in learning the bow. Four years into his study he became part of the Georgia Kyudo Renmei teaching team, bringing his own gentleness, strength and humor into his teaching. In his 6th - 7th year of study he passed to Godan ranking. Then he went on to become president of Georgia Kyudo Renmei. His contribution to kyudo was an excellent attitude to learn and the ability and interest to help others, which he did in many ways. His early death prevented many from knowing this kind and dedicated archer. However in being chosen for this award, his spirit of caring and of exactitude in the way of the bow live on in each archer who received this gift."

I want to thank the AKR and all its members for the welcome and kindness they showed us in Northfield, Minnesota. It was an honor participating and witnessing such a well organized event and meeting so many great people.

This award is a testament to the dedication and effort that Mie and Yukiko have put into our dojo. I am truly humbled to receive this recognition and will continue working hard to develop in Kyudo and contribute to it's growth in Canada.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

MMKDG - Session #3 Grading for 4th Dan

Date: Sunday, October 16 starting at 11:30am in the Heritage Lounge at the JCCC
Participants (6): P. Schramek [5D], M. Hodge [4D], N. Chau [3D], M. Suen [3D], P. Suen [3D], K. Adams [3D]
Topic(s): Requirements for 4D grading

Our discussion was based on an article written by Peter West Sensei (Renshi 7 Dan) of the British Kendo Association.

Recall that the goal of this discussion group is to compile our understanding and points of view, in hopes of coming up with the real questions that need to be asked. When analyzing Japanese terms, we leveraged the Chinese definition of their Kanji to get a wider view of meaning.


1. What is Fukaku () and how do you demonstrate it?

Definition: Character. Personality. Style. (Chinese: Charisma. Confidence. Self-Assurance.)
- How would you show this? Does it come naturally from enough keiko, or do you need to inject into your practice? Are you showing yourself in a fighting situation or in all situations?

Application: Ability to respond. Not nervous. Know that you can show your best.

- Is there a difference in your Fukaku when:

  • Performing a Demo? Show your best
  • When in a Grading? Show your level
  • When in a Taikai? Beat your opponent

- Is it all the same, or does it change?
  • Low level (Same) -> High level (Different). Is it something you control as you get better?
  • High level (Same) -> Low level (Different). Is it something that merges as you get better?

- Perhaps it is like a shell. Your inner Fukaku is the same for all encounters, while your outer Fukaku may change as naturally as the scenario.

- Who determines if you have it or not? Is it the audience? Does the audience need a level of understanding to see it? Does it change based on this understanding?


2. What is Aji () and how do you demonstrate it?

Definition: Flavour. Charm. Style. Experience. (Chinese: Taste. Feeling.)
- How do you demonstrate it? Does it only exist when you compare with another person's? What does it mean to not have Aji?

Application: Perhaps it is the essence of the technique. The Jutsu rather than the Do. To create an impression of realism and awe. All ingredients combined to define the scenario, to convince and educate the observer that what you are doing is real.

Perhaps it is the intention. 

Perhaps it is the combination, the merging of all your individual technique movements into a fluent, consistent style. By repetitive training with a certain mindset, finally developing into a person's complete Iai shown through depth of practice.


3. What is Shisei (姿勢) and how do you demonstrate it?

Definition: Posture. Attitude. Approach. (Chinese kanji breakdown: Shi (姿) = Figure. Form. Shape. and Sei (勢) = Forces. Energy

- There is both a physical and mental aspect to this term.

Application: The unifying of Ki (気) Spirit and Tai (体) Body, through the cycle of reinforcing mindset through body and body through mindset (see Ex 1)

Ex 1. A person who is confident will naturally have their chin up, their chest out, and shoulders back. A person who lacks confidence, but purposely forces their chin up, their chest out, and their shoulders back, would naturally start to feel more confident. As that feeling grows, their posture will also grow stronger. Process repeats.

Shisei can also be defined with a combination of two terms found in the AJKF's Japanese-English Dictionary of Kendo.

  • Migamae (身構え) - A physical posture where one is conscious of one's whole body, and is ready to respond to the opponent's movement.
  • Kigamae (構え) - The state where one's entire body is alert and ready to react to the moves of the opponent's body and mind preceding a strike.

4. What is Kan Kyu (緩急) timing and how do you demonstrate it?

Definition: Slow Fast. Often used in conjunction with Kyo Jaku (強弱) Strong Weak. 

Application: Used to show contrast => Life in your movements. Non-robotic.
- How do you show this? Based on scenario.
- Perhaps it can be related to Jo Ha Kyu (急) and Tame (ため). But How?

--> JoHaKyu is not a timing of slow/faster/fastest. To be stuck on this ideal of an acceleration would imply the inability to prevent it's completion.

Jo - Defined as Beginning
Ha  - Defined as to Break. Tear.
Kyu 急 - Defined as Sudden. Quick.


We also talked a little about Ma and Ma-ai, but spent very little time on it, so will save for another session.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Funday Monday! Series #3-1 The Legend of Gan-Ryu continues...

I learned of this second incursion from murmurs of the local tribesmen. Their hysteria was justified, as never in recorded history had anyone made it out of Gan territory alive. My investigation into this case began with a survivor's recount of one fateful day:

"I was sitting, waiting. I knew he would come, but I wasn't ready for his speed. His sword was out and above his head between blinks of an eye. At that moment, I knew what I had to do. Inazuma! There was no time for me to draw and fight, this was my only chance! I would slit his wrists as he brought down his sword, nullifying his attack and rending him harmless all in one motion...."

He shakes his head as if, even now, he could not believe what happened.

"My aim was true! It should have worked! The just hung there. Even if he was quick, there would be at least a second where neither of his hands were holding on. The sword should have fallen, but it didn't...."

I could not gleam anymore useful information from the man. The trauma was too great. I watched the video over a hundred times and still could not figure out what happened. Perhaps this man, this.... Gan, is the legend...

Friday, 14 October 2011

2011 Thanksgiving in NYC

Thanksgiving in Canada occurs on the first Monday of October, giving thanks for a strong harvest, and happens to coincide with Columbus Day in the United States. Canadians normally spend this long weekend gathering with family, taking their last trips to the cottage before winter, and gorging on all sorts of meat, veges, and desserts.  
With days-off at a premium for us, we decided to spend the weekend in New York City: Visiting Hanna's sister and to do some Iaido training at the local dojos:
  • The Ken Zen Institute, in lower Manhattan, is a narrow building with an elegant interior that belies a dark and plain exterior. With a beautifully laid hardwood floor and a couple of mirrors on one end, and a large, decorated shrine on the other; the space really captures the essence of an authentic Japanese dojo. Iaido is taught twice a week by Pam Parker Sensei (Renshi 6 Dan) with whom the three of us had many enlightening conversations on Iaido and Budo teachings in general. Her dedication as a student and teacher have inspired us to share the same attitude wherever we go.
  • Shidogakuin is located in midtown, just south of Grand Central Station. Iaido is taught once a week by Shozo Kato Sensei (Kyoshi 7 Dan Iaido, Kyoshi 8 Dan Kendo) with assistance from Debi Farmer Sensei (5 Dan). The 5th floor Karate dojo, in which Shidogakuin shares a space, can comfortably fit 12-15 students and sports a full-height, wall-length mirror. 
After a late arrival at La Guardia airport on Friday night, we took a 30 minute taxi ride to Cortlandt Street. The hotel gave us a closeup view of the construction of the Freedom Tower, lead building of the new World Trade Center complex, and the subway was right at our doorstep, both figuratively and literally. 
We spent the next morning walking through Chinatown before heading up to the East Village to meet up with Hanna's sister, Aya. We rendezvoused at the Starbucks on Astor Pl., then went for lunch at Otto Pizzeria, opened by Mario Batali. Unfortunately, our hopes of meeting the former Iron Chef were met with disappointment. 
Mark this -unaccomplished-

We made our way downtown again to attend the 4pm class at Ken Zen. Entering the front door and through a small foyer, one could see the dojo stretching deep into the building. The change rooms were located down a flight of stairs and had a common area with a couch and small refrigerator. Our arrival was met with smiles of many familiar faces from previous trips to NYC/Newark and more recently, at the AUSKF Summer Iaido Seminar.

The class schedule for the 10 of us went something like this:
  1. Warm-up
  2. Seitei - class divided in a 4 x 4 box facing each other with Parker- and Bressler-Sensei in the center. After a couple of forms, each box would rotate so you had a different person in front of you.
  3. Omori Ryu - same as above.
  4. Eishin Ryu - With Michael, Hanna, and I lined up on one side, and S. Sekreta, T. Fukui, and G. Hall along the other wall, we would take turns running through each form.
  5. Embu - Three groups of 3 of us chose any five kata. Hanna was matched with Parker Sensei and S. Sekreta, while Michael and I demoed with T. Fukui. 
Demonstrations are always a nice way of ending a visit to a foreign dojo. You get a pressure situation to stress your abilities and at the same time, you get to see the foreign club's Iaido style. I also got some good corrections including, keeping my back heel down in Ushiro, and relaxing the right hand through furikaburi.
After class, we all walked to a nearby French restaurant for dinner and talked about food, house renovations, and woodchucks. (yes, very random, heh). Overall, it was a wonderful experience to be able to catch up and train together again.
Ken Zen Institute, NYC

On Sunday, our hope was to have ramen for lunch. Each trip down to NYC, we'd find ourselves at Ippudo or some other noodle house slurping up the good stuff. Alas! Both Hide-Chan and Totto aren't open until after 5pm on Sundays. Instead, we decided to look up one of the places T. Fukui had mentioned to us the night before, Sarabeth's, for quiche, frittata, and pancakes. 
Class at Shidogakuin normally starts at 3pm, but as we arrived a bit early, we noticed that practice had already started for Sekreta-, and Farmer-Sensei. It looked like Kato- and Parker-Sensei were helping them prepare for their 6 Dan grading. 
The regular class started a few minutes later with the 13 of us:
  1. Warm-up, suburi lead by Farmer
  2. Seitei - Mae & Ushiro multiple times
  3. Seitei - Ukenagashi + take turns, senior side (Church, Parker, Farmer, Sekreta, Shin), then junior side with advice from the seniors
  4. Free practice -> Demo for three of us with advice
Personal corrections include - My tsuki being off-line, so try pulling shoulder in less and point center of body towards the target. My saya was also over-turning on sayabiki, and on Ukenagashi, my left foot was off-line, and could be seen when I had to adjust when kneeling during noto. 
Prior to leaving, we were notified that next year's GNEUSKF Seminar and Grading, of which we have been attending the past two years, would be in February. We'd been lucky with the lack of snow and relatively mild temperatures, and I hope it continues. 
We met Parker- and Bressler-Sensei later that night for dinner at Rockmeisha Izakaya, and had our best meal since arriving in Manhattan. We had some great discussions on learning and teaching Iaido, as well as experiences with training away from a home dojo for almost 2.5 hours before saying our thanks and goodbyes. To end the night, we met up with Aya again to have dessert at Chikalicious 
Our last day in NYC started with brunch at Chelsea Market, a place not unlike the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. Aya took us to a restaurant known for their dairy products, and we savoured each bite. I think I gained at least 5 pounds this trip. On our way to stop by Aya's work, we passed by morimoto, a restaurant by an original Iron Chef. Unfortunately, it was not open, and our hopes of meeting another Food Network regular were once again met with disappointment.
Mark this -unaccomplished-
morimoto, NYC

We said goodbye to Aya, and continued our trip around town with a walk on the High Line, a railroad turned garden along the west coast of Manhattan. From there, we headed up around Central Park to try out the desserts at Lady M. We were just finishing up when Hanna recognized a customer that had just walked in. Turns out it was Zac Young, a top 4 finalist on the first season of Top Chef: Just Desserts
Mark this -Accomplished-
with Zac Young at Lady M, NYC

What a great way to end a great trip. Visiting family? Success! Visiting Iaido friends? Success! Great training! Great conversations! AND met a Food Network celebrity! ^_^ Definitely a trip to remember.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Funday Monday! Series #2 The Legend of Gan-Ryu begins...

The Legend of Gan-Ryu begins...

It was an autumn day such as this one, many years ago, when we started that one fateful journey into the far reaches of Japan. Over rivers, under rainforest and through volcanoes we traveled to prove (or disprove) the existence of an ancient samurai-god-wizard-ghost person. The one called "GAN".

What would we find?
Armed with knowledge of the International Kendo Federation's Seitei Iaido, we made our first incursion into his territory; only to be thwarted with every move! 

Only a portion of our footage was recoved that day. We thought we were ready. We thought with such thunderous techniques as Tsuka-Ate, Morote-Tsuki, and Soete-Tsuki, that there was no chance of failure. How wrong we were:

Seitei kata Tsuka-Ate describes:

Two people, one in front and the other at the back intend to attack you. Thrust the pommel of your sword into the front opponent. Then draw and stab the rear opponent. While turning back to the front perform kirioroshi to finish the first opponent.
Seitei kata Morote-Tsuki describes:
While walking, two people in the front and one behind intend to attack you. Forestall the front opponent with a draw cut and follow with a two handed thrust. Turn and perform kirioroshi to dispatch the rear opponent, then turn back and do the same with the third opponent in front.
Seitei kata Soete-Tsuki describes:
A person suddenly attacks from your left. Turn, draw and cut diagonally from shoulder to hip, then finish with a thrust to the abdomen.
We trained even harder after this defeat. This embarassment will not stand! A year later, we would return. Armed with Eishin-Ryu (Chuden set) of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, we again tested our fate. Surely things would be different....Surely...

Friday, 7 October 2011

2011 Ottawa Iaido Seminar

This year's edition of the annual Ottawa Iaido seminar was held on a breezy, autumn day at the Albion-Heatherington Community Centre. Our nation's capital is about a four and a half hour, non-stop, drive from Toronto, but feels more like 10 hours when factoring in rush-hour traffic. The long stretches of tree-lined highway with a view of the lake on the right made for a peaceful, if not dull, journey. 

A daylight drive across Highway 401 would normally be quite pleasant this time of year, as the leaves are in their full radiance of red, yellow, and orange. Alas, it would not be so. Rain clouds blotted the sky and intermittent showers and thunderstorms followed us the entire way.

We've made this trip numerous times over the years and I've only lately realized that all of our excursions had, and continue to have, double purposes. (1) Martial arts training, and (2) Visiting with friends and family. Seeing that we would be on the road for 10 hours and only be in town for one day, I think we made out pretty well on both of these goals. ^_^

Our limo service (my 2003 Toyota Camry) had an extra passenger in the form of my cousin (mom's side), Jennifer, who would be visiting friends in Ottawa. We picked her up at Fairview station around 7pm and began our slow crawl out of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). It was about 9:45pm when we arrived in Kingston, where we normally stop for dinner.  A former Iaido student and good friend of ours was in her first year at Queen's University, and as we drove through the main campus, my wife noted how much her alma mater had changed since she roamed the halls. We settled on the Smoke's Poutinerie off Princess Street and gorged ourselves on gravy-soaked, cheese-curd loaded, french fries.

Smokes Poutinerie, Kingston, Ontario

It was another two hour drive to Ottawa, where we dropped off Jennifer and proceeded to our lodging for the night at my other cousin (dad's side), Remy's house. The basement was sufficiently furnished; with a large cot on the ground for me and Hanna, and an extra fold-out mattress for Michael, that we had left with Remy from previous trips. His place was also conveniently near the seminar location which allowed us a good night's sleep after the long drive.

Nepean, Ottawa, Ontario

It was a cool and breezy morning - hardly reaching double digits in celsius. We arrived at the community centre 30 minutes early to see a decent sized group of students already hard at work in the...field? Apparently, the doors were still locked, and not ones who stand around with an opportunity to train, the early arrivers took to a flat grass-covered area and started swinging.

Field Training

We were let inside a short time later and officially started the seminar. The gym was small, but comfortable, with a small window looking out to the previously mentioned field, and basketball nets on opposite walls.  Standing in the front, next to a lovely banner commissioned by the Tateyama dojo, were visiting sensei Goyo Ohmi (Renshi 7 Dan), Kim Taylor (Renshi 7 Dan), as well as local sensei David Green (Renshi 6 Dan) and Ed Chart (5 Dan).  Participants from Toronto, Montreal, Fredericton, Guelph, Bolton, and Ottawa lined the other side of the room.

Taylor sensei started us off with Seitei practice using the 2009 ZNKR Iaido Manual as well as personal notes. Key points on etiquette and the first seven kata were exposed and worked on until lunch time. We focused on a few points that were emphasized in recent national seminars like "hiki-nuki" and the position of opponents in turning kata.

After lunch, we were split into those who were grading and wanted to work on more Seitei, and those who wanted to learn Koryu from Ohmi sensei. A goal of these types of seminars is to get instruction that you would not normally receive in your regular class; as such, Hanna and I stuck with Taylor Sensei.  Our group worked mostly on basics. We worked hard on sinking our lower body and relaxing our upper bodies. We lined up our feet with our hips and tried making our "light swords look heavy" or "heavy swords look light".  I received some personal instruction on flowing from Nukitsuke through Furikaburi and into Kirioroshi without excessive force and tightness. I'll be working on that for a while, and it feels good! ^_^
The seminar ended late in the afternoon and we spent the rest of the evening visiting Hanna's mother and having dinner with Remy.  I was pretty exhausted after the long day, so it was fortunate that Michael could drive most of the way back to Toronto.


Although tiring, we got the most out of visiting family and friends, and doing Iaido that the short trip was definitely worth it. So what more can you ask for? Why, to do it all again the next weekend of course! =D  

Next up: Canadian Thanksgiving in New York City

Monday, 3 October 2011

MMKDG - Session #2 Iaigoshi

Date: Sunday, September 18 at noon in the Heritage Lounge at the JCCC.
Participants (5): P. Schramek, N. Chau, M. Suen, P. Suen, K. Adams
Topic(s): Iaigoshi
Notes have been posted on Michael's blog:

Session #1 can be found here:

Funday Monday! Series #1-2 Re-Enactment...

Iaido Re-Enactment in Japan... Part 2 of 2
(See part 1:

Our trip continued in Kyoto where we visited a few of the local temples and old castles; most of them beautifully restored to the glory of the past. This created a perfect setting for us to see and feel how the hundred year old techniques we've been learning would have played out in their original environment.

The Oku-Iai (MJER Okuden set) Kata called Tanashita describes:

"You're sitting under a porch watching as your enemy approaches. Staying hidden underneath, draw your sword close to your body and be ready to strike. At the right moment, step out from the porch and perform kirioroshi, dispatching him in a single blow."