Okay, so it is almost the last day of April, but here’s the April newsletter anyway!
In April we performed a demonstration at the Fargo CoreCon convention. I knew it was going to be fun when I saw two kids running around outside with their newly aquired magic wands repeatedly yelling, “Stupify” at each other. It didn’t stick around to see who beat who, but it looked like they wer having fun.
The demo was a good chance for some of the newer members of the dojo to perform their kata in front of people for the first time, and to expose more people to this unique art that we do. One of the coordinators of the event said that we had the biggest attendance for a Sunday event ever, so that shows that at least people were interested in seeing what we do. Thank you to Kelly, Joey, Erik, Tyler, and Sarah for coming out and participating. We did a variety of seitei and Musoshindenryu kata, and some partner work with bokuto to further explain the techniques found in the kata.
Next year it’s in May, and hopefully they’ll have Butterbeer again – that was yummy!
June rank testing
We’ll be having rank testing in June for dojo members. There should be a couple of people able to try for their first rank of 4kyu, as well as a couple more going for 3kyu. I’d like to have testing in Early June to keep in line with the AUSKF Iaido summer camp, also held in June. Members wishing to test for 1kyu or above must do so at such an event – I’m only allowed to test up to 2kyu in the dojo myself.
Testing for the next rank requires a “time-in-rank” before attempting the next level, and so I want to get in synch with the camp for future tests. 1kyu to Shodan is 6 months, Shodan to (2) Nidan is 1 year, Nidan to (3) Sandan is 2 years, and so on. Basically, whatever dan level you are is the number of years you must wait to test for the next rank.
Testing requires a performance of 5 selected kata from the seitei series for ranks up to 3 dan, and then 4 seitei plus one koryu kata for ranks 4 dan and above. This can vary by federation, but that’s generally the schedule.
Another requirement of testing is a written test. For national events, applicants must choose 2 of 3 questions to write answers / essays for. Questions consist of terminology or concepts consistent with studying kendo or iaido and it’s underlying philosophy. I incorporate these kinds of questions in my rank testing at the Moorhead Dojo as well.
Myself and Kelly will both be testing at the Summer Camp in June, and are getting very excited about that event! It will be my first time to test in the US for rank, and I’m anxious to see the similarities and differences to what I experienced in Japan. Luckily, one of the attending sensei from Japan was also my regional sensei back in Shizuoka, a Mr. Yamazaki sensei. I’m looking forward to catching up with him too!
Better start hitting the books and the dojo in preparation for that!
Speaking of the philosophy of budo, I’m always impressed with the kenshi247.net site. The writers there often translate writings that are unique and some quite old by masters of the sword. One recent article that I really enjoyed was written by a high school student in Japan. I’m reprinting it here with the author’s permission. The complete article and subsequent comments, etc can be found here: kenshi247.net/blog/2011/03/25/i-am-a-deshi/
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Even if Japanese is not our main language, in a kendo environment we often use the Japanese term “sensei” to mean teacher. What about the other 1/2 of the equation, the student? I can’t recall any Japanese terms being used in any of the 10+ countries I’ve had the fortune to do kendo in.
Traditionally, when someone joins a dojo there are a couple of terms used to express “student”: monkasei (門下生) and deshi (弟子). There are some other terms (e.g. 門弟 or 門人), but those two seem to be the main ones used. Unless you are part of a koryu dojo, or watch and read anime/manga, you will probably never come across the first term. The second term, however, is still used – though uncommonly I must admit – in the Japanese kendo community today.
As regular readers probably know, I run a high school kendo club here in Osaka. When I first started teaching my sensei turned to me and said:
Now you’ve got your own deshi.
This kind of stopped me on my tracks: “deshi… what should I do?” I thought.
Rather than attempt to explain the meaning of “deshi” myself, let me translate a piece from a 13 year old kendoka from Kyushu that I found in this months Kendo Jidai.
p.s. Please check out this old article after you read the one below.
The following essay was awarded the kantosho prize in the Junior High School section of the “32nd kendo youth research seminar.”
I am a deshi
Written by: Hasuda Tomoka
1st year Junior high school student (approx. 13yrs old)
Miyazaki prefecture, Miyazaki city, Shujakukan dojo
Suddenly, after keiko one day my sensei said “you are my deshi.” I was surprised at the suddenness of words, but I was also happy that he called me “deshi.” However, I somehow felt strange. Its because I didn’t actually understand the word “deshi” or what being one means or involves. I thought hard about the meaning of the word and searched out information about it in books and dictionaries. I discovered that “deshi” is part of a “teacher-student” relationship (師弟の関係). On one side of the coin we have the teacher – one with technical skill based on, and knowledge cultivated through experience – who imparts this through instruction; and on the other side we have the deshi, who learns from and studies under the teacher. In a dojo environment, the sensei are the teachers, and we are are the deshi.
So, what is a deshi’s job? What is a deshi supposed to do? A deshi has many various jobs to learn, including seeing off and meeting the sensei when they come to the dojo (shiai), getting any shopping thats needed (for the dojo and/or sensei), taking care of various things around the sensei (to do with the dojo) etc. In kendo, for example, tidying up/putting away the sensei’s bogu and making sure he is comfortable are both part of the deshi’s job.
I started taking tea to the sensei after keiko when I was a 6th grade primary school student (11/12yrs old). This started because my sensei said “bring me tea,” but now it just natural happens. During that short interval, sensei gives me praise, or brings my bad points to attention.
We also talk a lot about non-kendo things as well. What my future dreams are, whats going on at school, the taikai my sensei goes to, the change in seasons, etc all of these are valuable conversations for me. On the occasion that visitors came to keiko, I brought them tea as well. At that time I was told to sit in the corner and listen to the conversation (between the adults). I couldn’t really understand what was being talked about but my sensei said later “even if you can’t understand whats being said, even if you are not part of the conversation, listening to other peoples stories and conversation is important. There will come a time when you will understand.” When he said this to me I pondered that the chance to listen in on these conversations was something different when compared to my usual daily life, and approached these chats with a new feeling.
Another thing that I pay attention to is when my sensei leaves by car (after keiko). When I see him off, I wait until I can no longer see his car before turning away. I learned this after watching how the Riot Squad Police treated their sensei (its possible she is talking about the elite tokuren kenshi in her prefecture).
By continuing to be a deshi like this I have learned some good things, for example: how to use language properly (i.e. learning to by polite in Japanese) and how to be sensitive to nuances in peoples conversations, so now I am at ease with speaking to people who are my superior (i.e. by rank, age, profession, etc). There are other things as well, for example I am able to think and predict what sensei will say/want next, and am already in motion before anything is actually said.
At one time, my sensei told me that deshi have responsibilities. I didn’t really understand what these could be and I thought about it to myself. I think a deshi’s responsibility/job is to keep whats taught to them by their sensei and act within there limits, and to pass these teachings onto their kohai. I still don’t have the ability to do this, so in the meantime I will try my best at keiko, and aim to become a good sempai in the future.
At first I didn’t really know what it means to be a “deshi,” but thanks to everything that my sensei has taught me, I think I am getting closer to understanding the true meaning. Ever since becoming a deshi my sensei has shouted at me a lot; but since there few people around to scold me, I am thankful that he is there, as I know it for my own benefit.
From now on, through kendo and as a deshi/person, I want to keep learning about life.
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Now isn’t that just cool?
Moorhead Dojo / MWKF Summer Iaido Seminar
July 29 – 31
Our First Annual seminar is coming up! We’ve got Konno sensei (7dan kendo, 7dan iaido) coming and we’re still trying to get one more sensei for this great event! It’s open to kenshi who have any level of iaido experience, as well as people who want to start studying iaido. Complete details can be seen at seminar.musoshindenryu.com. For planning purposes, pre-registration is strongly encouraged, and there is a discount for early registration.
We’ll have three excellent vendors there selling iaito and gear too!
See you next month.