Monday, 28 November 2011

Funday Monday! Series #3-6 Returning Scales

The forest of Ku was full of life. Calls of exotic birds and the howling of much larger animals could easily be heard from as far away as Mt. Kuya. A place that, for now, was the only thing that existed for two people sitting at the edge, looking over the vast land of the Gan. The constant sounds and motions presented a stark contrast to the figures sitting motionless, as if they were statues carved by the very rock they rested on. An onlooker would easily be fooled if not for the tension that permeated the air around them. 

Suddenly, with a flash of movement, it was all over. Mixed in with the sounds of the wild, one could hear a man's scream as he plummeted 3,478 meters into the valley below.

It started like Yokogumo, the Gan easily avoided Hiroshi's initial strikes to the head, somehow stopping the blade through pure thought alone. As the apparent finishing blow came across, it turned out that the Gan was not the only warrior trained in the power of the ancients. Hiroshi was able to summon his own phantom sword to save his life, unfortunately, he relaxed too soon. With a swift push of his hand, the Gan summoned what could only be describe as a "force" that sent the hapless samurai over the cliff.

And just like that, the mountain was quiet again. With nothing but the wind whistling across it's wide expanse, no signs remained of the two warriors who challenged their own destiny this day.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

MMKDG - Session #6 Our mindsets during Keiko

Date: Sunday, November 20 starting at 11:30am in the Heritage Lounge at the JCCC
Participants (6): P. Schramek [5D], N. Chau [3D], M. Suen [3D], P. Suen [3D], Yunle [2K]
Topic(s): Our mindsets during Keiko

We began with a generalization of what it is we are doing in class. While it is important to strive for perfecting each and every movement, we should also be aware of how our body feels and what our body is telling us. This is not easy, and requires great effort of body and mind.

For example: Balance - The body is most efficient when everything is in balance. In this state, your body can relax fully, allowing you to be flexible to move and to think.  So whenever you are struggling with something, try to analyze yourself. Are you in balance?  

In the discussion, each brought up instances where we felt our balance was off and required further examination:
  • Simply standing
  • During Kamae (Jodan, Chudan, etc..)
  • Taking first two steps in a standing kata
  • Stepping backwards after chiburi or setting up kamae.

To maintain an overall balanced stance, we can think of our lower body (hips and down) as a platform that our upper bodies are resting on, but not attached.  Like a spinning top balancing on a point, a lean, even slightly, will cause it to topple over.  Using the same mindset, we must keep our upper body straight, so that we do not topple over. We must also keep our lower body moving in such a way that it does not cause our body to lean. For example, if you were spinning the top on a book and you suddenly jerk the book to one side, the top will fall over. But if you start slowly and gradually accelerate, the top will remain standing.

What is a reason for this? Nature.  When the body is misaligned and off balance, you either fall over, or muscles tighten up to keep you in position. When your muscles are not relaxed, your body is not free to move and not able to attain it's maximum potential in power and range.

Each person must think about this deeply and constantly. Only you are able to know how you feel, even if it is difficult at first.

Different people learn better in different ways. Some prefer to analyze more and be precise in each movement. Others prefer to just go at it, and let what feels right come out of the repeat practice. Neither way is wrong, but like all things, balance is the key.  Being from a high education population like Toronto, our tendencies would be towards the analytical, so how do we not let our minds get in the way? Are there examples of this type of learning? 

As it turns out, yes! Almost everything we know about how to move our bodies come from repeat trial and error, and letting it come.  It's like:
  • Learning to swim when you're a kid (just throw you in the water)
  • Learning to ride a bike (parents holding on, kid says "don't let go!", parent says "I've already let go 10 meters back")
  • Learning to play tennis (hit this ball back to me)
  • ..and countless other physical activities.

If we can just let our bodies figure it out, why do we need instruction?
Because it is important to start out right! This was stressed to us very heavily by a Hanshi 8 Dan Kyudo Sensei:
Doing things incorrectly is like a creating stain, and while a stain on your shirt can be washed, a stain on your heart stays forever. When you're learning  a martial art, the right basics keep you clean. The wrong basics create a stain in your heart. You must not create this stain in the beginning or it will stay and grow, and you will be stuck with it years and decades down the road.
What are these basics then? Is it technical? It is physical? Is it mental?

The method of transmission of the martial arts and the definition of "keiko" infer that we are to maintain the teachings of the ancients. To feel and understand what the originators of the arts were thinking when they created them.  To maintain this connection.

According to the AJKF Kendo Dictionary, the definition of Keiko is:
The term "keiko" is often used to denote the practice or training of budo (martial arts) and geido (arts). It originally meant to study or consider (kei) ancient times (ko), which implies contemplating and researching the teachings of the ancients. Furthermore, historically speaking keiko also contains nuances of aesthetic training to forge the body and mind (shugyo). Thus keiko in kendo does not mean simply improving one's technical skills and getting physically stronger, but also has the objective of reaching the ideals of "finding the truth that underpins all of the 'Ways', and contemplating how one should be as a human being"
To this end, we must keep our minds open and try to understand other perspectives and other ways of doing the art.   That is one of the goals of this the MMKDG.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Funday Monday! ...and now a word from our sponsors

We interrupt the Gan-Ryu, Eishin series, to bring you an important message from our corporate masters:

(Please drink responsibly)

Friday, 18 November 2011

MMKDG - Session #5 The feeling in a kata's scenario

Date: Sunday, November 13 starting at 11:30am in the Heritage Lounge at the JCCC
Participants (6): P. Schramek [5D], N. Chau [3D], M. Suen [3D], P. Suen [3D], K. Adams [3D]
Topic(s): The feeling in a kata's scenario

From the ZNKR Manual for Mae: 

Detecting the harmful intention of the person in front of you, forestall it by using the sword tip to cut their temple in a horizontal action and then bring the sword downwards from above the head in a vertical action.

What is this "detecting" of a harmful intention? It might be easy to conceptualize, but really difficult to put into practice. Are there ways we can practice it?
  • Try having a conversation with someone and read his/her feelings, intentions, and reactions
  • Try reading yourself. How do you feel and How would you act in a situation. At work. At home. At the dojo.

In terms of Mae, does the harmful intention lie in physical movement?
  • Do you draw when your opponent's eyes show action?
  • Do you draw when your opponent's body weight shifts?
  • Do you draw when your opponent's hands start to rise?
  • Do you draw when your opponent's hands touch their tsuka?

So does the "harmful intention" result from one of these actions, or is it even harder to describe? Perhaps there are senses that cannot be explained. Perhaps how you act and how you detect action involves your whole being.

What is the point of no return? When the "intention" turns into "action". There is a reason why you are "forestalling" your opponent's movements on detection of intent. If your opponent was "acting" already, it'd be too late.

Ohmi Sensei has said that a samurai does not touch their sword unless they intend to use it. He told us a story to lend context to this saying:

A samurai was being picked on by some hooligans. To scare them away, he drew his sword. When they ran, he re-sheathed his sword and continued on his way. Hearing about this, his Daimyo stripped him of his title for he lacked the discipline of his position.

Now what is our perception of the entire kata?
  • Do you perform the scenario as written and show the audience what you are doing? In this case, most people should look pretty much the same, or
  • Do you perform the kata with the scenario in mind and encompassing your whole self in each movement? As a result, the audience will interpret your performance from their perspective. In this case, most people should look different as their personality, character, and body type are taken into account.

These alternatives brought us to the comparison of whether an Iaido demonstration is meant to be "Ceremonial" or "Realistic". We would argue that, if you could put your full self into your demonstration, then both perspectives are correct. 

But then, how would you judge?  In the sword-smithing industry in Japan, there is a title called "Mukansa" which translates to "Person who cannot be judged".  Perhaps our understanding of these seemly contradictory aspects of Iaido eventually merge as one into the same category as the Mukansa.

It seems we require more investigation in this matter. 
  • Alter how you move and how you feel and see what results
  • Keep thinking about what you are doing in terms of the technical movements and the scenario
  • Use the ZNKR manual as a guide 
  • The higher the level, the less you can use words to explain. Must keep training and let your body figure out it out.

In our training, we must let our minds be flexible, allowing us to experiment from all perspectives to find our own Iai. It is like the exercises where you do each kata extremely slow, followed by extremely fast, and finally regular speed. This allows you to test and push your own physical boundaries. Don't be surprised if sometimes, your body figures it out before you mind does. That moment when you realize you've just achieved something, without actively thinking about it, is very rewarding.

So how do we stretch our mental boundaries? We could watch those that are at a much higher level. Most of the time, we are not aware of the possibilities until we've seen them. Just like at a concert, there are so much exchanges that are unexplained:
  • A feeling of give-and-take
  • Energies flow from the crowd to the performer and back
  • The energy is shared, but also
  • The energy is expanded as each individual feeds off of others

In this sense, perhaps the mindset of the judges could affect what happens at gradings?
  • Are they looking to pass people?
  • Are they looking to fail people?
  • What is their posture?
  • What kind of vibe/energy to they give off?

 In order to see the best, you must expect the best. You must also give your best as an onlooker.  This is what we see from the high level Japanese Sensei who come to North America. They give their all in their demonstrations. They give their all in their judging.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Seikyu Kai: Appreciating where we came from

This Saturday, Seikyu Kai (the JCCC Kyudo Club) will be starting our 4th Introductory Kyudo Course, welcoming a new group of students to the world of Japanese archery. It's pretty amazing, when you think back, how quickly we have expanded as a club and as an organization. Who would have imagined that in a mere three years we would grow from 15 novice Kyudoka to a class of 30+. Our first attendance at an international seminar this year was an overwhelming success, coming back with one new Sandan, 14 Shodans, and two Ikkyus.  It's good times like these that we must remember and appreciated where it all started.

Seikyu Kai 1st Introductory Course

Last weekend, Michael Tanaka (3 Dan) from the Vancouver Kyudo Club dropped by to visit us at the JCCC. His decision to extend a business trip from earlier in the week gave us the perfect opportunity to meet and learn from one of the founding members of the Kyudo Association of Canada (KAC); who is also the highest ranking Canadian-raised and trained Kyudoka in the organization. It was a pleasure to have him join our regular shooting and taihai practice, and he definitely looked like he enjoyed our hospitality.

As the class came to an end he presented us with a kind speech, complementing our technical abilities while providing guidance on improving our actions and demeanor to align with Japanese standards. His words were both compassionate and experienced, and reinforced how important it was for us to follow the examples that Mie and Yukiko put forth. After class, we proceeded to Jack Astor's at the Shops at Don Mills for a late lunch, where we listened raptly as he recounted the birth of the KAC.

The recent history of Kyudo in our nation consisted of a small group lead by Mike Nakatsu in British Columbia. In 2005, they moved to the VancouverJapanese Language Hall and with the assistance of Motomasa Mori (current KAC president) and Michael Tanaka, started laying the groundwork to renmeihood. The road ahead was eventful to say the least, and made us all the more grateful for their struggle over the years to bring legitimacy to Kyudo in Canada. In 2008, they officially incorporated the KAC as a Society in British Columbia and petitioned for membership in the IKYF (International Kyudo Federation).  With their help, we in Toronto were able to host our first official seminar with Carly Born Sensei (Renshi 5 Dan) from the American Kyudo Renmei (AKR) in 2010, culminating with our first grading at the AKR Seminar in Minnesota this year.

As a new club in the international Kyudo society, we have so many people to thank for our prosperty. The KAC, the AKR, Salvatore Gianfreda, and of course Mie and Yukiko have done an amazing job in confirming Toronto as a great place to do Kyudo.  Each of our members, as well, have shown great enthusiasm and motivation to contribute to the club's well-being and growth; coming up with newsletter articles, seminar activities, and Kyudo equipment of exceptional quality.

And so, with 25 eager individuals looking to join our community, we can think back to our humble beginnings and be encouraged that, with strong leadership in both Vancouver and Toronto, there is much to be optimistic about the future of Kyudo in Canada.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Funday Monday! Series #3-5 Mountain Wind

...The failure of Ukigumo was astounding! The Gan had lost his advantage when his grab was avoided and it became a two-on-one scenario. I racked my brain trying to find a rational explanation for the turn around when it suddenly came to me.  One of the local villagers had retrieved a video along the shore of the river Hamasaki. The winter had been rough and the resultant spring melt washed down many things from the mountains that surrounded Gan territory.

A scattering of clothes and weapons were all that was left of the expedition until now. I was excited to get another opportunity to examine real footage of the encounters with the legend, but feared what I might uncover.

Sid was a well-toned samurai of medium height. His features were not unlike any of the previous members of the company who's fate he will soon share.  I was optimistic when the video started. Sid was resting in tatehiza when the Gan suddenly appeared to his right and attempted to grab his sword. A quick flick of the wrists and shift of weight was enough for Sid to avoid this attempt and to strike back. 

A solid hit between his eyes from the pommel of his sword was enough to knock him back. Sid's follow through was brilliant! Cutting down along the Gan's shoulder and forcing him into the ground. All that was necessary was finishing cut.  Even if he was to fail in the last attempt, Sid felt comfort that his partner Yoshi would be able to complete the job.  Yoshi was always dependable. He was always nearby....

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Welcome! ...part 5 of 6

Part 4 can be found here:

July 2010 was also our first year visiting Thunder Bay and the Tribe family. With roughly 120,000 residents, the city is nestled along the north shore of Lake Superior, and is not far from the border to the state of Minnesota. Due to its proximity to large expanses of water, forests and the hills and mountains of the Canadian Shield, the locals enjoy a very active lifestyle and fondness with nature. 

Eric Tribe (Iaido Renshi 6 Dan, Jodo 5 Dan) and his wife Christine moved up from the Greater Toronto Area almost two decades ago and, over the years, have been able to establish a small, yet tight Iaido and Jodo following.  His club, the Rai Un Kai, hosts an Iaido seminar every fall or winter, with instruction from Ohmi Sensei. As we have always enjoyed conversations with Eric at the annual Guelph Seminar, and with the promise of good friends, Iaido training, and hiking, we couldn't think of a better way to spend a summer weekend.

We had an incredible time thanks to the Tribe family for being such good hosts!

Rai Un Kai, Thunder Bay
Mount McKay, Thunder Bay

Tribe backyard, Thunder Bay
Ohmi Sensei building a Dam

August - It seems this year would also be one of travelling to the same place twice. After an exciting trip in January to the GNEUSKF Iaido seminar in Newark, NJ, we decided to make another visit down to Manhattan and train with our friends at the Ken Zen Institute and Shidogakuin.  While it is not in my genes to brave the 750 kilometers by car in the winter time, the nine hours it takes to drive down is actually quite pleasant in early August.

The weather was excellent, and when we weren't walking our feet off site-seeing, we had great company to talk to and delicious food to eat.  

Ken Zen Institute, New York

Shidogakuin, New York

October - The annual Rai Un Kai seminar with Ohmi Sensei was held on the third weekend of October. After the time we had in July, there was no way we were missing out on another chance to visit. The turnout this year was much smaller due to various scheduling conflicts and the poor economy. Those who were able to attend took full advantage of the low instructor-student ratio and still had a blast catching up with Pam and Liz, also from southern Ontario. Overall, the agenda was pretty much the same as the 2011 seminar that I wrote about here: 


December - An annual tradition at the Aikido Yoshinkan of Canada dojo in Toronto is to hold a "Toshi-Koshi Keiko", or New Years celebration class.  After a brief practice, each rank performed an embu. From there, the food comes out and the party begins ^_^

Unfortunately, all memory and evidence of the events to follow were wiped clean. =P

Aikido Yoshinkan of Canada, Toronto

Monday, 7 November 2011

Funday Monday! Series #3-4 Drifting Clouds

I continued my journey through the beautiful wilderness - taking in the sounds and smells of the natural forest surrounding Gan territory.  The sun was barely over the horizon and the morning mist was still thick, creating an aura of mystery and the sense that there is something about to be discovered.

The natives had told me of an abandoned campsite that might provide me more insight into the circumstances that resulted in the loss of some of the Japanese emperor's best samurai.  An incomplete log was recovered a few days earlier detailing a possible truce with the Gan. The results were disastrous.....

Captain Kobayashi, I regret to inform you that our attempt to negotiate a treaty between our empire and the legendary Gan was  unsuccessful. It seemed we were making progress. Hosaki and I had him over for a tea ceremony and our talks were mostly positive. It was only due to the training you had provided us that I noticed something was wrong.

Hosaki was sitting between us and was unarmed as a sign of good faith. Taking advantage of this, the Gan reached across him for my sword. I was able to pull it away just in time, and with Hosaki holding him off, I proceeded to push my friend aside to attack the Gan's shoulder. Except that wasn't what happened! Somehow, someway, Hosaki was back in front. As I watched him go down from my own blade, I was myself, gravely wounded. It pains me to have to send you this news my captain. I hope that in death, I may regain my honour.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

MMKDG - Session #4 Video Analysis of three Hachidans

Date: Sunday, October 30 starting at 11:30am in the Heritage Lounge at the JCCC
Participants (6): P. Schramek [5D], N. Chau [3D], M. Suen [3D], P. Suen [3D], K. Adams [3D], P. Anderson [2D]
Topic(s): Video Analysis of three Hachidans
Our discussion started with a recap of a lesson we learned during the Thunder Bay seminar last week, then we proceeded to watch a couple of demonstrations and discussed what we thought of them. These ranged from some old Haruna sensei Kyoto taikai videos, to more recent Hakone 8 Dan taikai videos of Sato and Oshita sensei.

1. Haruna Matsuo sensei (Kyoshi 8 Dan)
2. Sato Yosoichi sensei (Kyoshi 8 Dan)
3. Oshita Masakazu sensei (Kyoshi 8 Dan)

The initial impression of these three sensei, besides their extraordinary abilities as Iaidoka, was how much their performances could vary on the same kata, and coming from pretty much the same lineage.

I was thinking about this difference later, and wondered if this was, in fact, Aji? (taste, flavour). As mentioned in a previous discussion group session:

As our discussion progressed, we explored the paths one might take to achieving our own unique flavour:

1. It could be something you explore over time. Analysis and practice, leading to Iai that comes from your own physical and mental self.

2. It could be something you see in someone else. Through mitori-keiko, you watch and learn from others and incorporate what you like about their Iai into your own.

3. It could also be something that you are taught. A sensei or sempai may provide a piece of advice, or communicate their opinion on a subject that you realize will work for you.

Whatever the method, as you gain details in your understanding, you can pick and choose until you're able to combine all your insights into a whole. A representative version of a kata that represents yourself.

But, perhaps it's not a conscious decision? Sometimes it might just evolve on it's own through repetitive practice. Perhaps, the subconscious learning that everyone does to fit into society also provides a means to grow in Iaido.

A few of us certainly felt that way when training in Japan. Even being in the presence of high-level Iaidoka during warm-ups or casual conversation, you get a feeling of relaxation, and yet, also a feeling of strength. It reached a point where we started to feel it in ourselves.

A final angle was brought up that suggested that the scenario, and how you react to it, will provide this feeling. While your training is focused primarily on basics. 

Examples of this case included:

Basketball, where you would work on repetitive shooting drills, running, and passing, before combining them all into a game situation without the need to think.

Muay Thai, doing lots of punching exercises until fight, then you work on spacing, and timing.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

2011 Rai Un Kai Iaido Seminar (Thunder Bay)

The month of October has been exhausting. Starting with back-to-back weekend trips to Ottawa and New York while suffering through a nagging cough, I was having difficulty getting ready for another trip to Pearson International Airport.

Now don't get me wrong. I was very excited about the October 21st seminar in Thunder Bay and visiting with the Tribe family again. My body just wasn't responding well to the constant travel. Those close to me know that I have a serious problem with motion sickness. It's gotten to the point that I feel nauseous just thinking about long rides in a car, train, boat or plane. I tried to keep my body in tact for one last adventure this month, and am so grateful for the concern and support from my wife and brother.

Our flight out of Toronto was scheduled for 7:40pm, so it gave us time to go home after work before heading to the airport. We picked up Ohmi Sensei at the JCCC around 5:45pm and proceed across town on the 401. If you're familiar with this span of highway would know how treacherous it is to assume you can get anywhere in expected time. The road seems to be in a perpetual state of construction and is home to some of the worst drivers in the country.  I was able to make the best of the situation by following the signs of congestion and avoiding it through multiple changes between the Express and Collector lanes. Surprisingly, we made it to Pearson in pretty good time (~30 minutes) and checked our luggage without any trouble.

We flew out, on-time, on a Bombardier Q400 turboprop airplane that looked brand new. It was our first time on a plane like this. The wings stretched above the main cabin with a large propeller on each side providing thrust.  The take-off and landing were smooth and the overall noise level was surprisingly low considering how close we were sitting to the propellers. I tried to sleep off the feelings of illness for the hour and a half flight and only partially succeeded.

Arriving in Thunder Bay, Eric Tribe Sensei (Renshi 6 Dan) and Kim Taylor Sensei (Renshi 7 Dan) were already there to pick up Ohmi Sensei. As they headed home, we walked out to catch a shuttle to the Valhalla Inn not 10 minutes from the airport. The air was clear and brisk. Although the temperature had dropped considerably since leaving home, we spent some time outside waiting, enjoying the fresh, non-circulated air and the sight of stars previously unseen through the light pollution of Toronto.

The next morning, we were picked up by Doug Martin (4 Dan) who generously volunteered to shuttle us around during our two days in his home town.  The seminar was located at the West Arthur Community Centre, which happened to be quite close to our hotel. Entering straight into the common area of the centre, we were joined by the rest of the seminar attendees from Toronto, Guelph, Ottawa, Bolton, Winnipeg and even Moorhead, Minnesota. The space easily fit the 15 of us and was comfortably warm and inviting, a contrast to the cold and damp weather outside.

The seminar started with welcoming remarks from our host Eric Tribe Sensei and warm-ups were lead by local senior D. Martin. 

Warm-ups, Thunder Bay

Instruction was provided for three groups:

1) Beginners - Lead by Eric Tribe Sensei
2) Godan graders (D. Martin and B. Anderson) - Lead by Kim Taylor Sensei
3) Everyone else, consisting of a 4th Kyu up to Sandan - Lead by Goyo Ohmi Sensei

Ohmi Sensei lead us through the ZNKR Seitei set, emphasizing the need for training through intent and understanding of an opponent. Technical points like spacing, timing and metsuke, as well as hip movement were grilled into us as a group and occasionally individually, while everyone else watched. Ohmi Sensei stressed the need for mitori-keiko (observation keiko) in such instances. Do not think of judging the errors in the practitioner, but find actions you want to copy, or look for troubles that you might have yourself and try to correct them.

Lunch was make-your-own sandwiches and gave us a chance to relax and get to know the other participants of the seminar:
- Glen, from Winnipeg, is a member Canadian Iaido Association and practices the same koryu as us (MJER), has participated in this annual seminar for over ten years.
- A pair of twin girls dressed in Karate uniforms were trying Iaido for the first time
- A local resident, with a background in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, was also among the beginner group.

All had different reasons for coming to this seminar, and it was apparent that they really enjoyed the opportunity to learn from a few of the top Iaidoka in Canada.

After lunch, Ohmi Sensei lead us through the Shoden and Chuden sets of MJER. He would occasionally stop to give corrections on style and feeling of the techniques. One interesting point  was a description of the differences between ZNKR Seitei and Koryu:

"Seitei is easy because it has the book, Seitei is difficult because it has the book"

Implying that it is easy because what you need to do is all written down and easy to find, and difficult, because you must stick to the strict guidelines. Ohmi Sensei would also ask Glen to demonstrate his version of an MJER kata and discuss the reasoning behind those differences.

The first day of the seminar ended and we all headed our separate ways to get freshened up for dinner at Tony & Adams, serving a family style, set course meal. The food was delicious and we were extremely happy to spend some quality time with the kids of Tribe Sensei, a pair of six and nine year old girls, as well as Brad's son, a five year old boy.

Stan from Ottawa took this opportunity to regale us with another tale of misfortune that seems to follow him on all his travels. This time, rather than lost baggage, it was a fire at the hotel that broke out around 5am of the first day of the seminar. As the guests were evacuated, his uniform and equipment had to be left behind. Fortunately, spares could be found for him to fully participate in the seminar and his stuff was returned without harm. Him and the other guests of the hotel were moved to another one in town. This night, his sleep was uninterrupted.

The next morning, we went down to the Timbers restaurant in the Valhalla Inn for breakfast and bumped into Glen. We had a brief, but enjoyable conversation about how each of us started and continue to train in Iaido, until it was pretty much time to start the seminar again.

This was going to be only a half day of training. As we all arrived at the community centre, Ohmi Sensei realized that he had left his sword at the house. We had our warm-ups and listened to Ohmi Sensei talk about the theory and mindset of Iaido training until Tribe Sensei returned with his sword and several cups of coffee. From there, we broke into the three groups again and worked on Seitei together until break time. We had some training on metsuke in Shiho-giri, where Ohmi Sensei asked four of us to make a square, with a fifth person performing the technique and using us as targets. We rotated until everyone had a chance to try out the kata and received individual instruction from sensei.

Ohmi Sensei also brought up a theory he has often mentioned:

"Iaido has joint, Iaido doesn't have joint"

Explaining that you must be smooth from one movement to the next, but not flow completely. You must show kime (decisiveness) and sharpness, but not stop completely. From there, the graders (Doug and Brad) would demonstrate and receive instruction.

Hanna and Ohmi Sensei taking a break

After the break, Taylor Sensei and Tribe Sensei ran us through a practical session with bokken. How to connect your core to the kissaki for maximum and correct power, or in his words "Hips to the Tips". We ran through the following scenarios:

1. Cutting down (kirioroshi) by closing the armpits and keeping elbows in:
Your hands are raised up with the sword in jodan. Your partner places his hand on your tsuka-gashira and applies pressure to prevent you from cutting down. The goal is to show proper alignment with the arms, elbows and shoulders so you are cutting with the body. (Hips to Tips)

2. Lifting the sword into jodan by following sword angle 
You have just completed a vertical cut with sword horizontal in front of you. Your partner places his hands on the top of your sword and tries to prevent you from raising it into jodan. The goals is to raise the sword by pushing forward into the kissaki and following the curvature of the blade. (Hips to Tips)

3. Furikaburi from nukitsuke by timing the wrist bend
You have just completed nukitsuke. Your partner applies pressure on your sword to the right to prevent you from performing proper Seitei furikaburi. The goal is to determine what angle of your wrist is necessary to apply body power to the sword movement. (Hips to Tips)

4. Kirioroshi by moving the tip up first, rather than tsuka-gashira forwards.
This is a common exercise where your partner pinches the tip of your sword when raised above your head and parallel to the group. The goal is to create just enough pressure to feel the direction your tip is moving when you begin the cut. Ideally, it should be heading straight upwards (engaged), rather than sliding forwards (disengaged).

5. Soete Tsuki draw to prevent opponent from stopping
Your partner places hand on the top of your tsuka to prevent you from drawing up and out towards them. Your goal is to plant your feet, keep your elbows in, and raise from the core. The exercises shows how detrimental it can be to start the draw before facing your opponent, as he can easily push it aside.

6. Soete Tsuki thrust with the hips
Your partner applies pressure to the tip of your sword, simulating the opponent you are about to tsuki. The goal is to properly align your arms and hips, and use the back leg to complete the thrust. It is important to maintain this alignment, called "The Triangle of Power" by Tribe Sensei.

The seminar ended shortly after and we all headed to Tribe Sensei's house for lunch and some rest before our flights home. Like last year, the Tribe family were the ultimate hosts, making us all feel at home.  A couple of hours of relaxing conversations before heading to the airport made for a great ending to a fun and productive weekend.