Monday, 30 April 2012

Funday Monday! Guelph T-Shirt Commercial

With less than a month before the Guelph Seminar, I thought I'd start posting some of the other fun videos we've created over the years.

Let the shenanigans and hijinks ensue!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Funday Monday! Training Video

Ever wondered how to do a proper Kirioroshi?
Ever hoped for such a powerful Nukitsuke that you make your opponent go flying?
Ever thought "how do I show Seme"?

Well now you CAN!

Brought to you by the makers of "Gan-Ryu". This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn how to correctly perform some of the most basic (and most difficult) techniques in Iaido.

Each movement is split into two parts, 1) Regular Speed, followed by 2) Slow Motion, so you can see what's really going on!

All this for the mere price of $100 Million Canadian Dollars!!

But, wait! There's more!

Buy now, and you also get a bonus clip on how to perform Tanashita from the Oku-Iai, Iwaza set of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu!


Friday, 13 April 2012

Grading Season

"Why do we grade?"

A question that always seems to crop up around this time. Some people enjoy challenging themselves. Other's feel it's unnecessary in a martial art. So let's check out some of the reasons I've encountered.

1. You test for the sake of testing
In the spirit of the martial way, one must continuously challenge one's own physical and mental abilities, as well as one's perceptions of the way things are, and should be.

I like this one, but with one caveat: While the experience of testing is the reason for testing itself, one should not forget that the goal of testing is to pass. One should strive for and want this outcome. For if there was no desire for a final result, then the test itself is meaningless.

2. You test to get instruction at the next level
When attending large seminars, or even being in a large class, the ratio of instructors to students makes personalized attention near impossible. To allow the appropriate knowledge to be passed on, the students are grouped by skill and understanding = rank.

I used to subscribe soley to this point of view, but from experience, have realized that it's really not a necessity. If one is dedicated and committed to progress, the instruction will come. For example, the best time for learning at the annual Guelph Iaido Seminar is on Monday. All participants are given free practice, while the visiting Sensei look on.

Sometimes they may practice on their own, and when they do, watch them! There's so much to learn from watching the elite do their thing. 

When they're not busy, go up to them and ask them to watch you (that's what they're here for)!

You don't need to know Japanese, just do this:

3. You test because Sensei tells you to

When we were children, we did stuff our parents told us to do without question. We trusted that they knew what was in our best interests. Your Sensei's role in your martial arts development is extremely comparable. Both groups guide through experience. They understand what got them to where they are and are here to guide you to the same result.

So do what Sensei tells you and grade. Not, because they hold authority over you, but because you trust that they have your best interests in mind.

4. You test because you deserve the rank

This is a very touchy subject, so let me try to clarify the point. In my opinion, it is not one's place to claim they deserve anything. Martial arts should be mirrored in your life, and vice versa. You go about your training and your daily duties trying to improve yourself, help out others, and chip away at all the various weaknesses in your body and character. The judging panel and your Sensei will determine whether or not you deserve the next rank.

Try this primer:
If your Sensei asks you to test, do not argue your worthiness. To do so would show arroganc (assuming you know better), or a lack of trust. The Sensei-Student relationship works both ways. By showing their trust in your ability to test, and pass, you should reciprocate. Showing trust in other people and your own abilities. That's how you build character.
If your Sensei asks you not to test, do not argue. Like any challenges in life, there is a right time and place. Perhaps the focus on grading points will interrupt your existing progress. Perhaps they feel a lack of success may affect your confidence. Understanding your own weaknesses and accepting them. That's how you build character.
So what are other reasons for grading the martial arts? I'd like to hear them.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Martial Arts: What is our goal?

The martial arts are about training. Going to the dojo and working your butt off. Practicing technique and feeling. Working on the physical and the mental.

Above all, the martial arts are about training your spirit. A spirit, not to over-power an opponent, but to make them a friend. Not to seek revenge, but to express forgiveness. To live fully with the purest form of the human spirit.

I just finished reading a book called "tuesdays with Morrie". It details a series of discussions the author had with his old college professor who was suffering the final stages of ALS. The book talks about life, love, and how your perspective changes when death is near.

This story spoke to me as I realized how close the concepts are to the goals of martial arts training. While we train to forge our spirit, we chip away at the deficiencies in ourselves. The selfishness that keeps us from being truly Compassionate, Kind, and Loving for all life, not just our own.

I'm ashamed to say these concepts were quite foreign to me even just a few years ago. I was confident in my own path and others were either stepping stones or barriers. Why should I care about those I didn't know?

Then I met my future wife and a whole new perspective was opened to me. She exuded compassion and kindness to everyone. I didn't understand it. She often felt worse for people who were picked on or left out; more than the individuals themselves felt it. Why was she torturing herself that way? I hated seeing her like that, it made me feel sick. 

Wait, what? When did I start changing?

I guess I forgot to mention the flipside. I've not known the immense feelings of joy like that of my wife's happiness. When she's overcome with laughter (often the case when she's playing "hanafuda" with her mother and sisters), I would listen in the other room and feel fantastic. When she tells me how loved she feels when her friends wish her happy birthday, I feel happier than when I receive birthday wishes.

The last couple of years, she's taught me many things. Her disappointment with my actions or in other cases, lack of action, has helped me realize how everything I do can affect other people. Self-awareness gained through my Iaido and Kyudo training have allowed me to realize situations where I can change my natural responses.

Since last spring, I've put more effort into the community. Helping create better communication. Better support. But, still, the training continues...


It's late now and I'm tired. Hanna's asleep in the bedroom, but I really wanted to get this written down. I have more to say, but that'll wait for another post. Our lives are so hectic these days that we forget to appreciate the quiet times we can have in the company of close friends and family. Books like "tuesdays with Morrie" and "The Last Lecture" teach us to cherish each moment as if it were our last. The same goes with martial arts training. The hard part is putting it into practice. One can train a lifetime and not realize this ultimate goal.

And if this night were to be my last, I think I'd want as much time next to my wife as possible. Goodnight.