The 22nd Annual Guelph Iaido seminar starts on Friday, May 18th and spans the entire weekend to Victoria Day. With hours and hours of training, eating, drinking, and conversing, it's often hard to remember all the fun stuff that goes on.
The goal of this seminar diary will be to record a few experiences worth remembering.
Total Sleep Time:
Day 1 - 5.5 hours
Day 2 - 4.5 hours
Day 3 - 3.5 hours
Entries posted in reverse order:
MON 17:15 - Closing ceremonies. Too tired to post a conclusion, which is a sign in itself of how well the experience went. Thanks to everyone who made this weekend possible.
MON 16:15 - Sensei demo: Tsubaki Sensei, then Hatakenaka Sensei, then Furukawa and Kurogo Sense (Jodo).
MON 15:00 - Nearing the end of the day we had an Embu Taikai into divisions 1 Dan and below, Nidan and Sandan (who are getting two awards due to the size of the group), Yondan and Godan, Rokudan and Nanadan.
1. Yumi Onose (Mu Mon Kai),
2. Patricia McRitchie (Mu Mon Kai) and Patrick Suen (Mu Mon Kai),
3. Enore Gardonio (Mu Mon Kai),
4. Goyo Ohmi (Mu Mon Kai)
MON 13:25 - After lunch, we were grouped into their Koryu. Splits ended up being four for Muso Shinden Ryu lead by Kishimoto and Tsubaki Sensei, and about 30 for Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu lead by Hatakenaka Sensei.
MON 11:50 - Drills, then Seitei.
MON 11:00 - Hanna passed!! Congratulations Mrs. Suen for 3 Dan Iaido! Other results for our dojo include: 5 Ikkyu, 2 Shodan, 1 Nidan, and 1 Yondan.
MON 08:00 - Arrived early to get some warmup in before registration and lineup. The grading is back in Room 210 this year, and the side hallway has been opened for lining up. A desk was set up at the end of hall for Ed Chart and Chris Jarvie to register the graders and give them their numbers
MON 06:30 - Wow, actually made it up. Checkout's at 11, but we typically complete our packing in the morning and return the keys before heading to the gym for another full day's training. Hanna is nervous for her 3 Dan grading, but I'm not worried.
MON 03:05 - I lose. First to stand up to go to bed. Mike and Mike get a laugh and go as well. Not looking forward to tomorrow.
MON 02:50 - Mike talks about the differences of being a Sensei in a martial art and a primary school teacher. Interesting, but I'm too tired to record what he said and will probably forget by tomorrow. So reminder: ask again another time. Alrighty, good night!
MON 02:15 - Conversation has moved to the "good old days of Mu Mon Kai", back before my time... Reminiscing = almost time for bed.
MON 01:45 - Talking about existentialism and life in Iaido. Guys opening up... What's next?
MON 00:30 - Iaido dojo representatives meeting started a couple hours ago, and a lot has been covered. If the enthusiasm seen in the various suggestions and opinions is brought into action, the future of Iaido (at least for the coming year) looks bright. Great to see so many experienced and up-and-coming leaders communicating for the good of the art in our country.
SUN 19:30 - Off to Metro to get food for the potluck. For now enjoy this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tv666PtpD_M
SUN 18:00 - After getting refreshments and some time to recover, the few 6 Dan and up Iaidoka retreated to a secret room with Kishimoto Sensei. No doubt another senior, senior instructional class like last year. *edit* it was actually a judging class* The rest of the group from 2 Dan and up had a class lead by Hatakenaka Sensei with translations again from Yuko Nishida (what a gal)! We were lead through Seitei 9-12, followed by demonstrations from each rank group. Those attending the Shinsa tomorrow were given the option of going up twice. A major point of concern for Hatakenaka Sensei was an overly tight grip from most individuals, causing a lack of reach. So our final exercise before ending the day was suburi practice across the floor. A great way of exhausting what little energy we had left.
SUN 15:30 - Instruction for Seitei 10-12 ended at 15:00, followed by a short break.
SUN 13:50 - Afternoon session starts with all ranks together again, half watching (mitori keiko) and the other half sweating ;) Kishimoto Sensei continues the emphasis on keeping things slow and working on breath control through vocalization. Lots of holding kamae. I can feel the sweat rolling from my head all the way down to my Obi. Iaidoka may look pretty, but we sure don't smell pretty.
SUN 12:45 - While eating I asked a few of our senior club members what Kishimoto Sensei was teaching in his session. "Subtleties of foundation", "Kokyu - breath control", "Various warmup exercises", "Standing and sitting with one breath", "Seitei 1-4", "Uke Nagashi in one breath".
SUN 12:30 - Lunch was make-your-own sandwiches and was surprisingly good. I definitely prefer this over the pizza we had yesterday and will have again tomorrow. It might be worth suggesting a swap for next year.
SUN 11:50 - First break also happens to be lunch time. Our morning session (2-3 Dan) had a good mix of instruction and practice as Hatakenaka Sensei reviewed the main points from yesterday. "Aligning the feet, knees, and hips properly", "Setting up the correct blade angle with left hand and sayabiki", and above all, "practice slowly so you can check and correct yourself, speed and power will come later".
SUN 09:30 - Class starts today with a splitting into groups. Tsubaki Sensei leads 1 Dan and below (translations by Yumi Pedoe), Hatakenaka Sensei leads 2 Dan and 3 Dan (translations by Yuko Nishida), and Kishimoto Sensei leads 4 Dan and above (translations by Ohmi Sensei).
SUN 07:30 - Wow, was it tough to wake up! We made it though and served breakfast, on-time, to 15 hungry Iaidoka.
SUN 02:02 - Mike Gan: "awww stayed up even later again. Blog that.", Patrick: "ok".
SUN 01:20 - Scotch is being passed around. Salted almonds. Talking about relationships and childbirth after age 40, 50, and over....
SUN 00:25 - Hanging around the common room now with our affiliated dojo friends from Rochester.
SAT 22:25 - The visiting Sensei have been very generous in their donations to the auction, including a design cloth from Hatakenaka Sensei, a fifty year old wood doll from Kishimoto Sensei, and calligraphy from Furukawa Sensei and Kurogo Sensei.
SAT 21:45 - Auction started a few minutes ago and the entertainment looks like it'll just keep getting better. The crew of Matthew Swisher, Clint Cross, Tak Furuta, and Kevin Thibedeau, is keeping the it lively and exciting. As usual, Hanna laid eyes on a special item from the Japanese Sensei and successfully bullied her way to a $115 win of a Juban commissioned by Tsubaki Sensei that is made completely of Tenogui with calligraphy from events like the 29th Tokyo Iaido Taikai.
SAT 21:00 - Following an amazing violin performance from Taylor Sensei's talented daughter, we were treated to the presentation of a gift to Hatakenaka Sensei. Several top members of Canadian Iaido congratulated her for achieving 8 Dan and described our appreciation for her long time support of our country. Sandra Jorgenson Sensei gave a recap of how we were introduced to her through her eldest son who was working in Toronto for a year and trained at the JCCC. When Ohmi Sensei heard that she will be visiting him along with Kikkawa Sensei, he immediately requested Dave Green Sensei adjust the regularly scheduled Ottawa Iaido Seminar to include the two visitors. The rest, you can say, is history.
SAT 20:05 - Dinner this year is in the East Residence Lounge, and with extra tables and couches, you'd think there'd be enough seats. Not this year. =P I guess it's more cozy this way. The food lineup is winding around the auction table, giving everyone a chance to see and decide how much they are willing to bid. Good thing we had some snacks earlier, cause I think it's gonna be a while.
SAT 18:45 - Enjoying some downtime in our common room while suite mates take turns using the two showers. The layout is quite efficient with three toilets, two showers and one kitchen to share among 10 people. Time to take it easy before the excitement of the dinner and auction tonight. The Japanese Sensei seem to enjoy this event as well as the participants bid on donated items including stuff they personally signed.
SAT 17:25 - We continue with Ganmen Ate and Soete Tsuki with footwork and cut positions, then vocalization.
SAT 16:50 - Rotation to my group (B) starts with Matawari keiko again, breath control and really sinking the hips. We must have been in horse stance for over 10 minutes while Kishimoto Sensei repeated the need for solid foundation. We demo'd 1-4 with vocalization, then moved onto Kesa Giri and Morote Tsuki. I'm sweating profusely again. With just over an hour to go, it's group A's turn to start on Sanpo Giri.
SAT 15:55 - After watching group A demo Seitei 1-4 at their own speed, Kishimoto Sensei gave the following lecture: "Most of you were unable to do your own Iaido. That is because I haven't taught you how to do your own. You continued to do the timing of this morning and this afternoon; our focus on breath control and Ki ken tai Ichi. That is why the Kihon are so important. You must practice it so much that it becomes your own. At home you may try to copy your Sensei's timing and feeling. I am here to help your Sensei develop and deepen their understanding. That is why I've made you work on the Kihon you are lacking, so that your Sensei may help you grow from there. You may want to go faster, forgoing the Kihon that you are really missing. So let's go back to Matawari keiko."
SAT 15:30 - Well needed break time. More ideas for Gan-Ryu have been developed. We test them out tonight!
SAT 14:40 - My group just completed our round on the floor, which included Matawari keiko, and vocalizing while doing Mae and Ushiro. The goal is to use breath control and Ki ken tai Ichi. I've sweated so much, I feel like I had a dunk in a pool; which would doesn't sound too bad right about now.
SAT 14:05 - Kishimoto Sensei "Basic movements are important, but you must also understand the reason for each movement. What is the scenario, where is the opponent, and what is he/she doing. Must think that your opponent is more skilled than you, then what can/will you do?"
SAT 13:45 - Class started again at 13:20 by separating into two groups. Kishimoto Sensei began with a lecture on understanding and performing the techniques and basics slowly. Going fast is easy and often masks errors and inefficiencies in a one's Iaido. You must realize the importance of trying out things slowly, only then will you understand the depth in Iaido training and from this you will find enjoyment in your training.
SAT 13:15 - What a pleasant surprise! Who were we to see here, but Youri Taillefer from the Shinjuku dojo we visited in 2007. A student of Kikkawa Sensei and an impressive example of a Canadian Ex-Pat working and training in Japan. Unfortunately, the events of March 2011 forced his decision to move back to Montreal with his wife, forgoing a promising job and longer stay in Asia. Their loss is our gain I guess, as I look forward to picking his brain on the training methods and culture of the Japanese Iaido dojo.
SAT 13:05 - Unfortunately we could not find an empty room to work the magic, but a concept had formed and will be fleshed out tonight. If all goes well Gan-Ryu will rise again.
SAT 12:30 - With stomachs full we decide to go looking for space to film this season's Gan-Ryu. We have no idea what the concept is, but trust that our spontaneous creativity will answer the call.
SAT 11:50 - Lunch time! Pizza. We normally just sit in the gym with everyone else who's eating in. Surprised how many people cleared out already.
SAT 11:30 - In Japan, the most used kata is Morote Tsuki, if they cannot show te difference between Hiki nuki and Uke Nagashi, they will fail. This must start with proper Tenouchi. This point is heavily emphasized as we've gone back to repetitive Matawari practice. If we can keep this up and do with proper Ki Ken Tai Ichi, then we can succeed.
SAT 11:10 - Kesa Giri (big cuts and grab koiguchi at same time as chiburi.), Morote Tsuki (wow! Hatakenaka Sensei 's demo was amazing! Hiki nuki feeling after suki and uke nagashi feeling after 1st cut, correct foot position and kensen height at chudan <-- to do this properly you must have correct Tenouchi. This can be practiced by doing Matawari practice correctly)
SAT 11:00 - One hour (30 min per group) of Seiteigata 1-4, instruction and repetitive practice. Key points include Mae (strong nukitsuke+sayabiki), Ushiro (sayabanare at same time as left foot shift left; right foot should already be in place), Uke Nagashi (continuous draw, foot and cut on correct line), Tsuka Ate (hit correct targets and furikaburi with uke nagashi feeling.
SAT 10:00 - Seitei starts with demonstration from Hatakenaka Sensei. She's looking very strong this year. Kishimoto Sensei instruction with translation by Ohmi Sensei. Even with this responsibility, he still finds time to practice with the group and receive instruction from Hatakenaka Sensei. A great example of dedication and commitment from the top Iaido Sensei in Canada.
SAT 09:45 - Kishimoto Sensei leads Matawari warmups in two groups. The days when everyone can fit into the gym and practice together seems to have passed. An excellent sign of growth in Iaido.
SAT 09:30 - Welcoming ceremony with introduction from Ohmi Sensei followed by speeches from Kishimoto Sensei and Furukawa Sensei. Congratulations message to Hatakenaka Sensei for passing 8th Dan and Edward Chart (Ottawa, Canada) for passing 5 Dan Jodo in Japan last month. Schedule for the day was announced by Kim Taylor Sensei.
SAT 08:30- Great turn out at breakfast today. Made over 15 servings of bacon, eggs, and potatoes, fruits, juice, and bread. Changed and ready to go! Heading to the gym now, a 7 minute walk. Then need to find a clear spot on the floor to keep out bags.
SAT 06:30- Just over 5 hours sleep, but feel surprisingly awake. Perhaps it's the adrenalin. Hope it lasts the entire day! Our breakfast crew today includes: Mike and Michael (eggs and potatoes), Hanna (coffee delivery), Yumi (fruit), and myself (bacon and potatoes).
SAT 01:00 - Mike just went to bed. I'm left alone in the common room now. Hanna's calling, time for bed!
FRI 00:15 - The hour grows late. Our banter is getting a little nonsensical as exhaustion induced hysteria settles in.
FRI 22:30 - With stomach full and expectations for the coming weekend high, we settled in to some fun conversations with a pleasant, but brief appearance from Ohmi Sensei. He gave us some words of encouragement for the upcoming session and signed our letter of intention for training in Japan this summer. Feels good to have the big guys support. ^_^
FRI 21:30 - After checking in, we did our customary shopping trip at Metro and dinner at Swiss Chalet. We tried to get enough breakfast ingredients for the weekend, but it'll probably be like previous years, with the last morning consisting of cookies, cake, and chips.
FRI 20:15 - We waited outside for the room to clear which gave us the chance to say hi to those we haven't seen in a while. It was great to see our American friends Nancy James Sensei and Bella Church from New York. We were also able to greet the Japanese Sensei who will hopefully let us off easy tomorrow =D
FRI 20:05 - Seitei practice was focused again on Kihon with more emphasis on footwork and cutting/sukiing positions (ie. opponent positions and targets on their bodies). As the session wound down, Kishimoto Sensei gave a speech on the expectations of an instructor. While it is not necessary to be an expert practitioner, a mastery of the basics is necessary to allow your students to improve. In the end, you should not be satisfied until your students surpass you.
FRI 19:20 - Kishimoto Sensei has barely paused for breath, instructing on Kihon like Tenouchi, Kokyu through vocalization, and Ki-Ken-Tai-Ichi. An hour and twenty minutes in and it's time to move onto Zen Ken Ren Iai. His instruction was passed on through the excellent work of translator extraordinaire, Yuko Nishida.
FRI 18:40 - Made it! We arrived only to realize that they've moved the session to the grading room (302) and limiting to 15 participants. This meant that the only 5th Dan and up were allowed on the floor. Spacing became much better, and there's always something to learn while watching.
FRI 17:30 - Heading out now. The ride is just over an hour long, which should place us there in time for the ending of the session. Traffic in the Greater Toronto Area is considered some of the worst in the world, especially at the beginning of the long weekend. Alright, let's do this!
FRI 16:00 - Finished washing the pots, pans, spatula, and utensils that we'll need for the weekend. Although lunch can be bought at the gym and there's always something going on for dinner, participants must fend for themselves when breakfast is concerned. This is not a problem as the last few years we've prepared a spread of bacon, eggs, and potatoes; with the Sensei eating for free.
FRI 15:30 - First car heads up as Mike is scheduled to attend the dojo leader's class from 6pm-8pm. Hanna and I will follow shortly after with Yumi and Daniel.
FRI 13:30 - Followed a satisfying lunch on the patio, we head to Darkhorse for some coffee to fight the haze of an afternoon of lounging.
FRI 12:00 - Heading to the Burger's Priest for lunch with the "Gan-Ryu" crew consisting of Mike Gan (star), Kev Adams (director of photography), Michael (director), and myself (producer).
FRI 09:00 - ahhh, a nice lazy morning. I took the day off to pack and mentally prepare for the weekend only to realize I had already done that! What a sham*Diablo3*e. Now what am I suppos*Diablo3*ed to do now? .......Must resist!
Fortunately, we get to pack light this year, as the season's mild temperatures has carried forward into a warmer than usual Victoria Day long weekend (also known was the May 2-4). TODO list: Clean and load the car, get gas, get ice pack, and Diablo3?
Monday, 7 May 2012
Wednesday, 2 May 2012
A friend and fellow Iaidoka, Mr. Shin (from New York) gave two of his opinions on grading in the comments of my last post. I very much respect both his ability and understanding of Iaido, so would like to include those here:
5. Japanese Society
The martial arts -- in particular, Japanese martial arts -- grew out of a very hierarchical social structure. If you started learning with a group of peers, it's important that you "keep pace" with your peers in terms of grading, otherwise you can create awkward situations when former kohai become your sempai. Now, you can mitigate some of these awkward topsey turvey situations with grace and humility, but it's easier if the peer groups advance relatively together.
As you progress in grade, your responsibilities increase in the dojo. Avoiding gradings is in some ways shirking this responsibility. (The kind of thinking that goes: "Oh, I'm not interested in grading. I just want to practice," is ultimately, in this context, a very selfish approach.) A corollary to this is that as you progress in grade, you start to take on more teaching responsibilities -- and when you teach, you begin to understand things about your own practice that you hadn't thought about before. And the higher the rank of the student you have to teach, the deeper you have to go into your own practice.The other day, Michael gave me another one, which was mirrored in a comment by Mr. Watson (from England).:
7. Milestone indicator
Since a martial artist is always training to continuously be better, a static rank has very little meaning. The individual's performance of Iaido one day can be vastly different than the next. A first year 5 Dan Iaidoka will be vastly inferior to one that is about to challenge their 6 Dan exam. So what does the rank tell you about an individual? Right now, nothing. Look over the lifetime of one's training and it starts to have some meaning.
Where you have been? What have you learned? The specific criteria at each Dan level provides a glimpse of what should be focused on in a predefined arc of progression. The seniors that came before us discussed long and hard on these indicators of performance and understanding, so that we may achieve our potential that only the highest levels can perceive, and hopefully for us to surpass.
To ignore these indicators is to hinder our own progress in the arts.