Remote Dojo Learning – How’s it Going?

It’s obvious to say that we’ve all been impacted by the Covid epidemic in some shape or form. Our personal lives have been disrupted, plans changed or even cancelled, and social norms altered.

Our dojo has had quite a change in the way we’re trying to stay current in our training, retain membership, and even encourage new people to join. When the epidemic hit and we were forced to terminate training as a group, we started to explore the virtual options available. Zoom became our go-to for virtual meets and all members of the dojo were tasked with finding and sharing creative ways to continue their training, either physically or mentally.

We continued meeting virtually at least once a week, with a designated leader and a rough agenda. Some of the topics we covered over a period of a couple months included:

  1. How much Covid sucks and how our lives are impacted
  2. Tricks and techniques for studying at home with limited space and low ceilings
  3. Concepts, terminology, history of the art and budo in general
  4. Video watch and then critique of students and instructors
  5. How much Covid sucks and how our lives are impacted

We had some really great classes!

It wasn’t a substitute for in-person learning, but WAS a good practice in “mitori-geiko” or learning through watching. It WAS a good practice in critical thinking and the use of video to see mistakes we make but are unaware of. It WAS a good practice in learning some of the key philosophical concepts in Japanese swordsmanship.

And it WAS a great way to stay connected with the people you know and love in the dojo.

I learned how to use a FedEx envelope under my knee to practice sliding through furikaburi on carpet. I learned how to adapt with a kodachi bokuto when the ceilings were low and still be able to do at least the basic patterns and kata. I learned how to drop and rise more gracefully while performing the Omori-ryu chiburi. Lots of great stuff that was ALL contributed by students!

I think we under-utilize our students in our dojo classes, and now I’m going to have to re-think how to better utilize their creativity and ideas where appropriate.

Now we’re back in the dojo, though in much smaller numbers. We’re still utilizing Zoom in our practice and want remote members to continue to join and learn – even if it is a form of mitori-geiko. The challenges with the online learning is that we’re not able to easily view and offer feedback for those who actually are moving through the kata and physically practicing in some space of their own. That’s something we’re going to have to do some serious consideration and adapt until we’re ALL back in the dojo.

We’re actually opening enrollment again too! I’m cautiously excited to see how this works with instruction of new people while maintaining the appropriate distance, and with fewer in-person senpai to assist. Can a virtual senpai be utilized for new beginners? Good question.

It is a brave new world, and we’ll just have to adapt!

“We don’t want to change. Every change is a menace to stability.”
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Des Moines Iaido Seminar 2017

We had a great seminar in Des Moines last weekend with sensei Ric Flinn and the Des Moines Iaido club. Three members from our Agassiz Dojo went to get a great run-though of the seitei jo kata with Flinn sensei, a WHOLE bunch of seitei-iaido practice, some tameshigiri, and some Musoshindenryu iaido.
Top that off with an excellent sushi meal at a Japanese restaurant and some sake.
It was a great weekend!

Here are some photos from Nate Thomason.

 

8 Dan Musoshindenryu Demo

Love watching these high level sensei do Musoshindenryu iaido. It’s very interesting to see slight variations on how we do it. If you understand the picture being painted, seeing it in a different way sometimes adds insight to how you’re painting it yourself.
Very cool.

Junichi KUSAMA Sensei Iaido Hanshi 8 Dan, Noboru OGURA Sensei Iaido Hanshi 8 Dan

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fiaidoserbia%2Fvideos%2F1443773258968569%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Tachi Uchi Awesomeness!

In last night’s practice, we spent the entire time on the standing Musoshindenryu kata, Tachi-Uchi no Kurai. We managed to “see” and get the basic movements for the first three in the set. They include De-ai, Keikomi, and Ukenagashi. Thanks to an introduction  I received from Kim Taylor at the Thunder Bay seminar last fall, his detailed instruction video, and some reading materials, we were able to piece together these kata in a somewhat coherent manner.

Simply Awesome!
It was difficult to get some of the movements and timing down, but awesome nonetheless.
Kelly, Joey, and I each took turns in both the Uchidachi and Shidachi roles, two together, one modelling. It worked well, because we got a chance to practice the timing, seme, and maii with the teki across from us, and then we could also work on the technique and specifics as we modeled on the side.
We discovered how just small details like the position of a foot when performing some of the grappling and controlling movements in Keikomi were enough to make the action work or not. It’s in the details!
We also had a pretty good introduction to Ukenagashi. Wow. That’s a hard kata to perform with the timing, distancing, and still trying to maintain seme with the teki.
Oh, and not getting whacked by the Uchidachi is a challenge too.
We found that if performed improperly, it’s quite easy to get inadvertently whacked or speared by the Uchidachi’s bokuto. Again, the details makes it work or not. I think we could spend months on just that kata to get it somewhat correct!
I thoroughly enjoyed this new aspect to our koryu training, and can’t wait to work on it again.
Now, I have to get back to making my notes on these kata. There’s so much to remember! (That’s a pretty obvious hint Kelly and Joey – TAKE NOTES!)

Kim Taylor’s video may be ordered here: http://sdksupplies.com/cat_video.htm The one I’m referring to is: VIDBBI-14 Tachi Uchi no Kurai 2010

Have a good week.
Brad

Rank Testing & Class

Testing

We recently held our winter round of testing for -kyu ranks, and I’m happy to say that everyone who tested, passed!

Congratulations goes to the following:
2-kyu: Joey Heck, Erik Ness
3-kyu: Tyler Wilson, Gary Haynie, Sarah Vigstol

So, in our dojo now, we have 1- 1kyu, 3- 2kyu, 3- 3kyu, and two unranked members. We can test up to 2kyu in our dojo, and after that members have to attend an AUSKF or regional KF sponsored event in order to test. Our dojo generally offers testing in June and Dec/January in order to keep in line with the AUSKF Iaido summer camp.

Judging panels generally consist of 5 upper dan ranked members, and to pass, a majority of the judges need to give a passing mark. Participants need to perform opening reiho, 5 kata of the judges’ choice, & closing reiho all within a 6 minute window. Over time equals disqualification. Performing the reiho incorrectly even though the kata may be fine equals disqualification. Everything has to be performed according to “the book” relative to the student’s rank they are attempting.

Again congratulations!

Koryu Unleashed!

Since we have finished our rank testing, we are now going to take a few months to introduce and practice our koryu, Musoshindenryu. Some members have had exposure to some of the various Shoden teachings, and we’ll continue with that to see how far we can get in three months. I’d love for everyone to have at least tried or worked on all of the shoden kata. They include:

Shoden

The word “Shoden” can be translated as the “entry-transmission”, and was derived from the Omori-ryu Iaido. Omori-ryu was said to have been created by Hayashi Rokudayu Morimasa, the ninth headmaster of the Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu, who lived from 1661 until 1732. It has been included in the Muso Shinden Ryu at the entry level, and contains the following techniques:

  1. Shohatto (初発刀)
  2. Sato (左刀)
  3. Uto (右刀)
  4. Atarito (当刀)
  5. Inyoshintai (陰陽進退)
  6. Ryuto (流刀)
  7. Junto (順刀)
  8. Gyakuto (逆刀)
  9. Seichuto (勢中刀)
  10. Koranto (虎乱刀)
  11. Inyoshintai kaewaza (陰陽進退替技)
  12. Nukiuchi (抜打)

All of the shoden set start from seiza-bu except for the standing kata #10, Koranto. So, we’ll start back on our knees again!

In addition to these kata, we’ll also be introducing the Tachi-uchi no kurai kata or paired standing kata. It’s going to be a lot of fun!

I’ve already had one comment from Kelly following Wednesday’s practice, “Man, Koryu is awesome!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Stay warm.
Brad

December Newsletter

Motivating to Practice

As we move through December, I find myself feeling tired, stressed, and busy. I suppose it’s the holiday shopping, plans and preparations, school programs, work and social events and parties, and the North Dakota sub-zero temperatures that all contribute to that.

When I feel this way, I tend to want to just sit down, relax, veg in front of the TV and turn off my brain for awhile. BUT, I know that by going to the dojo, putting on the hakama, and having a good focused practice works pretty well to get me out of my “holiday funk.”

It can take a lot of effort to get myself there, but once I’ve finished a good practice, I feel so much better. All of my stress is gone, and the tiredness I feel is a physical one that follows from a good workout. So, if you find yourself feeling this “funk”, get thee to the dojo! I promise you won’t regret it.

Dojo Move

As I’ve mentioned in previous newsletters, we’re going to be moving out of Moorhead, MN into Fargo, ND. The temporary space we’re in now has been a good setting, but we’re moving into a newly refurbished building just over the river in Fargo. We’ll still continue to share the facility with Kyoshi Mike Cline and the Hidden Teachings of RyuTe Karate school as we do now. Practice nights will still be Wednesday from 6:30 to 9:30 with the occasional Saturday morning.

I’m not sure when the new space will be finished, but I’ve heard that we’ll be in early in the new year.

Of course, now we really can’t call ourselves the “Moorhead Dojo” anymore, can we? Should we be the F/M dojo? Red River dojo? (Grins) MoFa dojo? After much thought, some discussion, and more thought, I’ve decided to rename our dojo to the, “Musoshindenryu Iaido – AGASSIZ dojo.”

For people not from this area, that may raise a few eyebrows and the question of “Where the heck is Agassiz?” Well, if you check Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Agassiz you’ll see that Lake Agassiz was actually a glacial lake left from the last ice age that covered a huge area of Central North America. Its area was larger than all of the modern Great Lakes combined, and it held more water than contained by all lakes in the world today. (Really!)

Our Fargo-Moorhead region falls into the Southern tip of that glacial area, and so I thought it was a good name. I suppose in Japanese, we could call it Agassiz-ko Dojo, though I doubt I’d be able to find a kanji that would be appropriate. Maybe there’s a kanji that refers to glaciers? Hmmm….

Anyway, welcome to the first Agassiz dojo newsletter!

Koryu is fun!

On Saturday I had a chance to run through the Musoshindenryu Okuden suwari-waza down at the dojo.

It had been a while since I’ve performed those kata, and I really enjoyed going through the base set, and then the variations that I know as well.

I can’t say that I have a favorite kata in the set, but tanashita is always popular when I do it at demos. The scenario is that you’re under a bridge and there’s a sentry near the opening that you have to dispatch. Another version I’ve heard of is sneaking under a house that’s raised on stilts.

Being a bit taller, when I perform this kata, it doesn’t have the same “cool” look as with a smaller statured person. When my sensei, Mr. Takeda performs it, it’s really a fun kata to watch.

It wasn’t until last October when I was exposed to the paired kumitachi kata of MSR/MJER called “Tachi uchi no kurai.” During the Thunder Bay seminar, Kim Taylor sensei showed a couple of us the first ten of these kata, and we were able to practice the first two. What a lot of fun! Since then I’ve been reviewing some of the video and images I have of these kata, and hope to be able to work on them with my own students.

Paired kata like these not only teach “ma-ii” or distance between opponents, but also allow us to practice “seme,” or (psychological) pressure as we move and push the other opponent backwards with our “ki” and presence. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun to do kata where we can whack at each other with bokuto (in a safe and controlled manner of course)!

While I do enjoy seitei iai, and the opportunity it affords us to compete and test for rank, I really do enjoy the koryu aspect of my training more. It seems to be more cohesive as we move through the different kata, and they seem to complement each other more than the kata in seitei.

I found some information from Wayne Muramoto about the history and origin of the seitei kata we perform. Paraphrasing.

The first seven seitei kata, were derived from various koryu iai schools. The first two kata, Mae and Ushiro, came from the Omori-ryu. The third, Ukenagashi, was from kata found in the Omori-ryu and the Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu. The fourth kata, Tsukaatte, was similar to tate hiza techniques of the Eishin-ryu. Then the next kata, Kesagiri, was derived from the Hoki-ryu. The Morotezuki kata was a thrusting technique found in many different iai schools.

As the teaching of the seitei iai was refined, it was decided to add three more kata to further round out a student’s training. The eighth kata, Ganmenatte, was derived from the Muso Shinden-ryu oku iai methods. Soetezuki came from a famous Hoki-ryu technique, and the tenth kata, Shihogiri, was also from a Hoki-ryu kata. Two more were then added again later. Number eleven, Sougiri is from MJER/MSR Soumakuri, and number twelve, Nukiuchi is from a Mugai ryu waza called Gyokkou.

Maybe it’s because of this variety of origins and styles for the twelve seitei kata, I feel the transitions between the MSR kata (when done in order) to be more natural.

I’ve read different places where people say that the paired kata should be taught to a much higher level of student – to one who has had experience learning the standard suwari-waza and tate-hiza kata. Based on my experience from kendo, I think I would have to disagree. We learned kendo kata from the beginning of our training, and it was in fact a requirement for rank testing. The two aspects I mentioned earlier about maii and seme are something that the iai practitioner is weak in, simply because there isn’t an opponent there to practice against. The paired kata can lend this missing element to our training to complement and complete it.

Plus, it’s a lot of fun whacking at each other with bokuto.

Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar

Members of the (then) Moorhead dojo participated in the Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar and Cancer Beneift in November. It was a very interesting seminar with lots of opportunities for participants and audience members to try some “hands-on” technique.

We demonstrated some Seitei and Musoshindenryu kata, and then invited members of the audience to come up and cut newspaper with bokuto. Everyone enjoyed that, and we had some pretty good cutters!

I attended the rest of Saturday’s seminar and really enjoyed trying some of the self-defense techniques firsthand. We learned some very good, practical techniques to use against common “attacks” or situations that people might find themselves in.

Good job to Paul Dyer who organized this worthwhile event. It was interesting and fun to attend and be a part of.

Upcoming stuff

New Year’s party. The details will be announced later, but we’ll be having our dojo member’s party in early-mid January. Likely it will be a potluck like last year, and we’ll probably watch a sword/culture again. Last year we saw the most awesome, Highlander. “There can be only one!”

Maybe this year we’ll go with 13 Assassins, or even Mr. Baseball, a very funny but Japanese culturally significant movie.

Rank Testing. This also will likely be in early-mid January during a regular class. I think that the majority of our members will be testing this round, so it will likely take all class. Tentatively I’m thinking

CoreCon in April – Moorhead/Fargo.

AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp 2012 – Tacoma Washington in Late June

Aggasiz Dojo Annual Seminar – Maybe July or August

That’s about it for now. I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Brad

Musoshindenryu Katas


Saturday’s practice was pretty good. There was a local festival in town with fireworks, so there were fewer people at the dojo and that gave us all a bit more space to practice in. It’s kind of scary sometimes to have so many people in such a small space, everyone swinging a katana.

Now that testing is over until March, we have started to focus again on the koryu katas. I started with the shoden katas and went through them man-to-man with my sensei.

The word “Shoden” can be translated as the “entry-transmission”, and was derived from the Omori-ryu Iaido. Omori-ryu was said to have been created by Hayashi Rokudayu Morimasa, the ninth headmaster of the Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu, who lived from 1661 until 1732. It has been included in the Muso Shinden Ryu at the entry level, and contains the following techniques:
1. Shohatto (初発刀)
2. Sato (左刀)
3. Uto (右刀)
4. Atarito (当刀)
5. Inyoshintai (陰様進退)
6. Ryuto (流刀)
7. Junto (順刀)
8. Gyakuto (逆刀)
9. Seichuto (勢中刀)
10. Koranto (虚乱刀)
11. Inyoshintai kaewaza (陰様進退替技)
12. Nukiuchi (抜打)
(Thanks to the Kensei Kensan Kai dojo for the above information)

For my 4dan test, I had to do 4 seitei katas (that the judges decided on that day) and one koryu kata of my choosing. I chose #5 Inyoshintai as my kata. If you want to see videos of any of these katas, click the link to the right labelled Kata Videos.

I really enjoy doing the koryu katas. They have a different feel to them then the seitei katas, and though similar in technique (seitei was originally derived from various koryu katas) have some very different situations and movements.

The chuden katas are also very interesting, and I especially like Ukigumo where you are sitting side by side with your opponent, and he reaches for your katana. You pull away, block, and then cut him front to backwards. The picture above is of that kata. I know it sounds gruesome, but that’s what the katas are all about. It’s the mindset you have while doing the katas that is important and the key to iaido.
More on that next time.