December Newsletter

Agassiz Dojo News

Greetings!
This fall and year has flown by! I can’t believe it’s already December, though an unusually warm and snow-free one, and we’re 3 weeks away from Christmas.

News
Pangea 2012 a good showing

We had an information table at the Pangea Culture Festival that was held in Moorhead, MN in November where we met several people interested in Japanese sword arts, and gave a demonstration of Seitei, Musoshindenryu, and Tachi Uchi no Kurai kata. We had a pretty good crowd watch us, and people especially seemed interested in the paired bokuto Tachi Uchi portion.
Thank you to Sarah and Tyler for helping me mind the booth, and participate in the demonstration. I appreciate it! We’ll try again next year to attend this interesting cultural event.

2nd Annual Agassiz Dojo / MWKF Iaido Seminar a Success!

Last weekend we had our second regional iaido seminar. We had a smaller group attending this year, which meant more personalized attention and interaction with the two sensei who attended. We welcomed back both Konno and Parker sensei, who came to our first seminar last year, and had participants from MN and CA.
The program consisted of a Friday practice for new arrivals and dojo members where Parker sensei introduced the first 6 Tachi Uchi no Kurai kata. These kata are paired kata using a bokuto (wooden sword) where one person is the “attacker” and the other is the “winner.” It is a great way to learn distance and timing.
Saturday’s schedule broke participants into two groups based on experience, who then worked with each of the sensei on kihon and the seitei series kata. There was lots of personal attention, and I could see marked improvement in everyone! Both Konno and Parker sensei provided us with demonstrations of their koryu kata, Musoshindenryu and Muso Jikiden Eishin ryu respectively.
We had an excellent dinner at Osaka Sushi and Hibachi restaurant in Fargo. The teppanyaki show they do is quite entertaining, and everyone had their fill of good food and drink.
Sunday brought more review of kata and kihon (basic techniques) and then some self practice where the sensei offered feedback.
It was an excellent opportunity for learning and quality feedback at a personal level! It was a great prep for people to review before heading to Summer Camp in Omaha next summer for gradings. I can’t wait until next year!
The photos are available for viewing at the following gallery: https://picasaweb.google.com/108692945864145681948/2012AgassizDojoIaidoSeminar?authuser=0&feat=directlink

Upcoming Events

Enrollment Opening and Embu – Mid January

Currently we’re not accepting any new students, but in the new year we’ll once again open enrollment and will possibly be accepting new students. I’m hoping to have an “open house” Embu of sorts first to have existing members showcase the kata they’re familar with and answer any questions people might have. We’ll send out an announcement once a date has been decided.

Dojo Grading – Late January to Early February

We’ll be having our next dojo grading in the new year after we’ve had a chance to review some of the seitei points. Currently, we’ve been working on koryu kata – both Tachi Uchi no Kurai, and the Shoden set of Musoshindenryu.

Iaido Summer Camp June 27-30, 2013 in Omaha NE

Several (if not all) of our members are planning to attend this event in June for seminar, taikai (tournament) and shinsa (grading). It’s a big event, and a lot of fun to meet practitioners from around the world. Highly recommended, so mark your calendars and start saving now!

Winnepeg CKF Iaido Seminar – Mid October

This event is replacing what was Eric Tribe sensei’s seminar formerly held in Thunder Bay, ON. It’s actually a shorter drive, and easy to get to. Featuring 7dan Kyoshi Ohmi sensei. Put it on your calendars and get a passport if you don’t have one!
We’ll post the seminar pictures and I’ll send another mail once that’s up live.
Have a great Holiday and Merry Christmas!
Brad

Membership is important

Membership is important. By that, I mean not only becoming a member of a dojo to practice and study with an actual sensei, but also joining your regional (and national) martial arts associations.

There are a lot of people out there who may not have access to a sensei or school in the style that they wish to study. For example, I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of kenjutsu schools and classes available in Central North Dakota. So what do those people do if they really want to study? Buy books and watch videos? You Tube?
I think that while these may be good sources for review, it’s pretty difficult for anyone to truly learn from this kind of media. The personal attention, small corrections in stance, hand work, and basic techniques can only be truly learnt from your sensei and constant monitoring / corrections.
Being a member of a dojo also brings other benefits as well. You’re part of a community of people (friends) who have a common interest (dare I say passion?) for something, and can support each other.
In my dojo, I am using the “senpai – kohai” philosophy that is common in not only martial arts, but education and work practices throughout Japan. The senior “senpai” assists and takes responsibility for their junior “kohai” during practice. If they notice some aspect of the kohai’s stance, technique, or etiquette that needs correction, they will assist in that. Kohai are encouraged to ask their senpai any simple questions that can be easily answered and are not necessary to go to the sensei about. Of course, as head instructor, I encourage anyone to come to me any time with their questions, but sometimes students can ask very simple things of their senpai and get a quicker answer if I’m tied up with another group.
So how do people who want to study and not have access to a dojo or instructor go about receiving instruction? That’s a hard one to answer. I know people in Japan who sometimes traveled for an hour or two on the train to get to their dojo, practiced for a couple of hours, and then rode back again. It wasn’t uncommon to see them do that twice a week. They were dedicated, and the commute wasn’t an issue.

I know the first place I’d look to see if there was anybody qualified to teach kendo or iaido would be the All US Kendo Federation web site. There’s a comprehensive list of dojo by region in there along with the contact information. There are also links to the regional sites as well. Our dojo is a member of the Midwest Kendo Federation. By going through these associations, you are guaranteed to receive quality instruction from a legitimate sensei.

Another option if you are unable to attend a dojo, would be to contact the closest dojo’s head instructor and inquire about private lessons, or possibly meeting at a midpoint somewhere on a weekly basis. It may be possible that an instructor would come halfway if there were a guaranteed number of students available to teach. Just a thought.

I encourage anyone interested in studying martial arts to go and shop around for dojo. Not all are the same – and not all instructors are the same or even the best qualified to teach. It seems in some systems that all you need is a “black belt” to open your own school. I wouldn’t settle for that, and serious practitioners shouldn’t either. Getting your black belt means simply that you’ve put in enough time to begin seriously studying.

Good luck, and remember membership IS important.