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

March Newsletter

Spring is in the air!

It looks like spring is just around the corner, and we can finally say goodbye to old man winter. I know he’s hung around a bit too long and worn out his welcome.

Testing – Congratulations!

Congratulations goes to Shawn J, who received his 3kyu, Andrew M. – 4kyu, Mike S. – 4kyu, and Andy R. – 4kyu. Way go to fellas!

Up until now, the first “rank” in our dojo has been 4kyu. I’ve added an additional rank of 5kyu which we’ll be implementing going forward. The thought behind this new, and additional rank is to give members a taste of our koryu, Musoshindenryu, before they get into the more restricted seitei iaido.

I believe that by introducing the first four kata of the Shoden series, students will have a better base of the kihon (fundamentals). Shohatto, Sato, Uto, and Atarito are all performed from seiza, much like the first three kata in seitei. The nice thing about these first koryu kata is that they are all essentially the same kata, just performed from four different starting directions. I think this will help reinforce the critical movements we need to master in iaido, and give the beginning student slightly less rigid requirements as found in seitei.

We’ll see how it goes after a class or two have started this way, but I think it will be a positive change, and I’m looking forward to getting back to koryu on a more regular basis.

CoreCon 2014

I’m hoping to have our dojo participate again in the CoreCon this spring. The Con has changed from May to Mid-June, this year, so hopefully we can put on our regular demonstration and discussion. We’ve had pretty good attendance at our panel since we started doing this in 2008. Look for more news on that to come!

AUSKF Summer Camp

The AUSKF summer camp will be held in New York this year, June 12-15. I’m hoping that some members from our dojo will be able to attend this wonderful educational and testing opportunity.

The AUSKF has stated that they will try to hold each year’s camp in one of three “regional” parts of the country. Last year it was in the “central” region, this year East, and next year it will be out West somewhere. It makes travel a little expensive, but hopefully a person will be able to attend at least one in three camps near their regional federation.

Other Stuff

Just a reminder for all current students that we are able to wear our black hakama on the first practice of the month.

Reishiki (Etiquette)

This is a good topic to review sometimes, especially for any new members.

When we start and end our practice, the reishiki or etiquette is an important aspect.

Opening

  1. (Standing) All turn to shommen. Sensei / lead student calls out, “Shommen ni rei.” All bow to shommen.
  2. “Suwatte” (sit down). Everyone sits in seiza and places their katana to the right of where they’re sitting, tsuka forward w/ tsuba at their knee.
  3. Lead student calls, “Mokuso!” Everyone meditates until the lead student again calls, “Yame!” (Stop/Quit)
  4. Lead student calls, “Sensei ni rei!” All members bow to the sensei and say, “Onegaishimasu!” (Pronounced oh-nay-gai-shimasu).
  5. Everyone takes and places their katana at a slightly L-R rising angle, centered in front of them with room enough to place their hands when they bow.
  6. Lead student calls, “To-rei!” Everyone performs the bow to the sword, starting left hand down, right hand down , right back up, left back up.
  7. Everyone puts the katana into their obi and ties their sageo (without looking), and then waits patiently in seiza.
  8. Sensei calls, “Tatte kudasai” (Please rise / stand up) and everyone rises and awaits further instruction.

Closing – the closing is pretty much the same as the opening, just in reverse, and with different responses from the students to the sensei.

  1. “Suwatte” (sit down). Everyone sits in seiza, unhooks their sageo (without looking) and places their katana horizontally, tsuka to the left.
  2. Lead student calls, “To-rei!” Everyone performs the bow to the sword, starting left hand down, right hand down , right back up, left back up.
  3. Everyone gathers the sageo, and places the katana to the right of where they’re sitting, tsuka forward w/ tsuba at their knee.
  4. Lead student calls, “Sensei ni rei!” All members bow to the sensei and say, “Domo arigato gozaimashita!” (Thank you very much)
  5. Lead student calls, “Mokuso!” Everyone meditates until the lead student again calls, “Yame!” (Stop/Quit)
  6. Everyone takes their katana, gathers the sageo if necessary, and places it on their left thigh with the tsuka-gashira on centerline and waits patiently for instruction from the sensei.
  7. Sensei calls, “Tatte kudasai” (Please rise / stand up) and everyone rises, turns and faces shommen.
  8. Sensei / Lead student calls, “Shommen ni rei!” and all members bow to shommen.
  9. Everyone finishes the bow, and then steps back three steps starting with their left foot, turns right, and exits the practice floor and goes over to wait by the sensei for closing remarks and announcements.

Reishiki is at the very core of the Japanese sword arts of kendo and iaido. According to the Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei (All Japan Kendo Federation) who is our ultimate authority on kendo / iaido, the concept of kendo is defined as follows:

“The concept of Kendo is to discipline the human character through the application of the principles of the Katana (sword).”

Further, the purpose of kendo:

“The purpose of practicing Kendo is:
To mold the mind and body,
To cultivate a vigorous spirit,
And through correct and rigid training,
To strive for improvement in the art of Kendo,
To hold in esteem human courtesy and honor,
To associate with others with sincerity,
And to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.
This will make one be able:
To love his/her country and society,
To contribute to the development of culture
And to promote peace and prosperity among all peoples.”

(The Concept of Kendo was established by All Japan Kendo Federation in 1975.)

Even though these specifically refer to kendo, I think that we could simply substitute the word “iaido” for “kendo” and they would be equally applicable.

While these concepts may not be apparent to newer students, over time, and with a good instructor, they will become a core part of the dojo and hopefully it’s members.

Happy spring!

Brad

December Newsletter

Happy Holidays!

Christmas is just around the corner, and it’s been a good year for our dojo!

Some highlights from 2013

  • Membership increase from open enrollment. We’re now up to eight regularly practicing students – the highest we’ve had since the dojo was founded in 2007. I anticipate another one or two more will rejoin or join in the next open enrollment in 2014 as well.
  • Advancement. We’ve now got a Shodan (1st dan – black belt equivalent), three 2kyu, and one 4kyu student. I anticipate everyone will be ranked or jump a rank within the next 4 months or so. We’ve got some people who began in July who are almost ready to attempt their first test – 4kyu.
  • CoreCon demo. Several members participated in the CoreCon event in Moorhead last May. We performed seitei, Musoshindenryu, and Tachi-Uchi-no-Kurai kata. It was our 5th appearance there, and we’re already looking forward to next year’s event!
  • Pangea Culture Festival booth and demo. This was our 4th year there, and there was a huge number of people who watched the demo given by Erik, Andrew, Tyler, and Andy. See the following article for more information on that.
  • Volunteering at the Emergency Food Pantry. Several members of the dojo took one of our practice sessions and volunteered at the Emergency Food Pantry here in Fargo. They serve families in the community by providing a week’s worth of food for families in emergency situations. We volunteered there to sort through several pallets of food that they had received from the recent “Fill the dome” event. I appreciate everyone who could make it and the positive spirit of donating time for this very worthwhile service.
  • Crystal Lake, IL seminar. I traveled to Crystal Lake, IL to give a two day seitei iaido seminar for several people at the Abiding Spirit Aikido Center. The Abiding Spirit Center is one of the few places in the Northwest suburbs offering training in Iaido. It was a great seminar and I really enjoyed going there and meeting some new folks. I hope to return in 2014 if possible.

Looking forward to 2014
We’ve got a few big things coming up this year, and I’m very excited!

  • AUSKF Educational tour – Iaido seminar. We will be hosting our third annual iaido seminar here in Fargo, ND on Feb 4-5. This year will be extra special, as we are also an official stop on the AUSKF Iaido Educational Tour. We will be hosting Chihiro Kishimoto sensei, Kazuma Okuda sensei, and Shozo Kato sensei. Simply stated, it’s going to be awesome! Details and registration for the seminar can be found at http://seminar.musoshindenryu.com.
  • Open enrollment – sometime in Feb after the seminar.
  • Iaido seminar – Visit to Des Moines to present a small seitei iaido seminar for Ric Flinn’s members at the Des Moines Iaido dojo.
  • CoreCon Demo – May 2014
  • AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp – June 2014
  • Pangea Culture Festival – Nov 2014

I’m hoping to see our dojo continue to mature and some of the senior ‘kyu’ ranks test up and continue to advance in seitei. I’m also starting to introduce more people (as they’re able) to the koryu Musoshindenryu. We’re going to continue working through those kata, and also continue polishing our paired Tachi Uchi no Kurai kata.

It’s going to be a great year!

The following article was submitted by senpai Erik Ness. Erik currently holds the rank of 2kyu, and led the demo at the Pangea Culture festival held here in Moorhead last month.

2013 Pangea Moorhead, MN

The 2013 Pangea Culture Festival was held November 9, 2013, at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, MN. The Pangea is a celebration of the community’s traditions and cultures in a multi-ethnic showcase of music, dance, culinary arts, and children’s activities. This event was free and open to the public.

The Musoshindenryu Agassiz Dojo presented the art of Japanese Swordsmanship. This demonstration was well-received as evidenced by the number of people in the audience.
The demonstration started out with kata from the koryu style of Musoshindenryu. The members then introduced the audience to some of the etiquette (reishiki) and seitei kata. A brief history of Musoshindenryu was next followed by tachi-uchi no kurai, a paired kata in which the practitioners use bokken, or wooden swords. The demonstration ended with more seitei and koryu kata.

Seitei iaido is “standard” iaido which is taught and studied by members of the All Japan Kendo Federation. There are 12 kata that originate from three major styles of iaido. Seitei allows practitioners from different styles and countries to practice the same kata consistently.

Following the demonstration, the audience was invited to view the member’s iaito (dull swords), bokken, and hakama (traditional uniform). The younger members of the audience had an opportunity to hold the iaito and have their pictures taken with the demonstrators.

In addition to demonstrating kata, the Musoshindenryu Agassiz Dojo had a booth in which people had an opportunity to view videos of high level practitioners showcasing their kata and hold iaito and bokken with assistance. Another interesting aspect of the Pangea was that the children were given a ‘passport’ and at each booth they visited, the children got a sticker to put in the passport. The sticker that the Musoshindenryu Agassiz Dojo passed out was Japan.
Member participating in the demonstration included: Erik Ness, Tyler Wilson, Andrew Mueller and Andy Ryan.

The Musoshindenryu Agassiz Dojo was honored to present during the Pangea festival and are hopeful for a return in 2014.

  
   

Congratulations

Congratulations goes to Tyler Wilson on achieving his 2kyu ranking.
Congratulations goes to Shawn Johnston on achieving his 4kyu ranking.

Our dojo rank system starts with 4kyu. Students who have completed at least 6 months of practice and can show a competent level of understanding of basic reishiki (etiquette), and the first five kata in the seitei series can test for 4kyu. After that the ranks progress as 3kyu, and 2kyu. After achieving 2kyu, students must then attend a regional/national AUSKF event and test in front of a board of judges. First kyu (1kyu) is the last of the kyu ranks, and then it starts with Shodan (1dan) and on up. Currently the highest “dan” ranking that can be tested for in the IKF is 8th Dan. The two sensei that are coming for our seminar in February both hold this highest ranking.

Food pantry photos

So, we’ve got a lot coming up.

I’d especially like to thank the senpai Kelly and Erik for helping out over the last few months especially. It’s great to see them and everyone else grow in the art, and personally.

Merry Christmas!
Brad

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

October Newsletter

Whew, life just seems to get busier and busier. Looking in the archives, I found I haven’t sent a newsletter since July. As we move through fall, things don’t seem to be slowing down much either.

Upcoming Events

We’ve got a couple of things coming up in the next month or two, and hopefully some of you whom this newletter reaches will be able to attend.
November 10th will have us at the Pangea Culture festival in Moorhead, MN. This event is a showcase of different cultures with lots of good food, displays, and activities for the family. We’ll be in a booth meeting and greeting people and introducing the art of iaido, and also performing a demonstration of kata. Come out on Saturday the 10th from 10am – 4pm to see what it’s all about.
December 1, 2 – Our Agassiz Dojo / MWKF iaido seminar. We’ll be hosting our seminar this year in Fargo, ND at the Agassiz Middle School gymnasium. Details and registration for the seminar can be found at: http://seminar.musoshindenryu.com.
We welcome people who have never even done iaido to come and join the seminar. We had some absolute beginners last year, and it worked out fine! The caliber of instruction from two top AUSKF iaido sensei to come to our own regional seminar is quite exceptional, and a great opportunity for training.

Rank testing

Congratulations to Sarah V. for achieving her 2kyu rank. Sarah had to perform 5 specific seitei iaido kata with a degree of competance, as well as complete a short written and oral exam. The 5 kata and opening and closing reiho have to be performed between 5:30 and 6:00 minutes, or the candidate is disqualified.
We’ll be having our next rank testing in Mid-Late December, and have started back on our Koryu training in our regular practice sessions again.

Koryu

Love it! We’re going to run through the Musoshindenryu shoden series to review the kata we practiced previously, and also start back on learning the paired Tachi-uchi-no-kurai (kenjutsu-style) bokuto kata. We might even try introducing the second, Chuden set of kata if time allows. Can’t wait to get going on these again!

Dojo Space

The building owner was put under some pressure from the city to be compliant for restrooms and parking being available for the building we have the dojo in. Good for us, as the toilets should be installed within the month, and we’ll have a bunch of new, paved parking spots available for us soon!
In the interim, let’s be careful to not track in mud, dirt from the area in front of the door into the dojo by removing and keeping our shoes near the door.

One Point Japanese

Greetings and Salutations! Greetings in the Japanese language can be both formal and casual, depending on who you’re saying them to. They’re also “time specific” and used on first greeting of someone in the day.
Ohayogozaimasu! (Ohio-go-zai-masu) Good morning! This is a greeting used for to greet anybody during the morning hours. Typically it is used up to 11:00 AM or so. For a more formal situation, it is often accompanied with a slight bow of the head and/or upper body – for example greeting one’s boss the first time you meet them that morning at work. I’d often see receptionist / office staff standing and bowing like this when all of the managers and senior staff were arriving in the morning.
Konnichiwa. (Koh-NEE-chee-wah) Good afternoon. This greeting is used from around 11:00 AM to around 5:00 PM, and is part of a larger phrase, “Konnichi wa, ikaga desuka,” which essentially means “How are you today?”
Konbanwa. (Kohn-bahn-wah) Good evening. Used after or around 7 PM, but not usually before that.
So you can see, there is a small “gap” in times where we’re not using konnichiwa or konbanwa. The time of evening between 5 and 7 PM is called, “yugata,” or early evening, but we don’t have a specific greeting for this time of day. It’s strange, and you’ll just have to decide what to say when that occurs!
Jya Ne! / Mata ne! See you (later)! This is a very informal way of saying goodbye to someone who is of equal “status” as you, friends, and family.
Jya, Mata! Same, but slightly more formal than above.
Mata XXXX. Until next XXXX.
This could be Mata ne: Later!
Mata ashita: Until tomorrow.
Mata rai-shu: Until next week.
Mata kondo: Until next time.
Do you see the patterns here? Hopefully you can now have some idea of how to greet and say goodbye to you dojo mates and friends.
Until next time – Mata kondo!
Brad

Demo Tomorrow and blurb

Just a quick announcement for those in the area.

We’ll be doing a demo tomorrow, Saturday June 2nd, in Ada, MN. The event is the 2012 Relay for Life, a worthy charity event for the American Cancer Society.
Our demo starts at 2pm. Details for the event and directions can be found at: http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLFY11National?sid=128433&type=fr_informational&pg=informational&fr_id=37767

Also, in July…… OUR SEMINAR!
The Agassiz Dojo (formerly Moorhead Dojo) in association with the Midwest Kendo Federation, are proud to announce our second annual Iaido Seminar for the weekend of July 28-29. Last year we had 28 participants of all levels of experience from all over North America, and we hope to have as many again this year! The seminar site is at: http://seminar.musoshindenryu.com

We will be having two guest sensei provided by the AUSKF. Returning again this year will be Tatsuhiko Konno sensei, who will be joined by Shozo Kato sensei. Both are Musoshindenryu practitioners. The program will be very similar to what we did last year.
Venue: We will be hosting this year’s seminar at Minnesota State University, Moorhead (MSUM). They have a nice campus, and we’ll be in their Memorial Union ballroom. It will be a big room with a wood floor. Maps and information will be available on the website.
Housing: There is campus housing (dormitory) available at MSUM. We’ll need to know who will be staying in the dormitory as soon as possible to ensure that we have the appropriate number of rooms available. Room fees are paid directly to MSUM.
The tentative pricing/availability:
Double Room: $20/night/person
Single Room: $25/night/person
Apartments: $30/night/person
Meals: Included in your registration fee is a continental breakfast and lunch for both Saturday and Sunday. Breakfast opens at 7:30 at the lobby of the Memorial Union, and lunch will be served around noon or 12:30. There will be vending machines on site selling beverages.
Optional Saturday evening dinner: We will have an optional dinner on Saturday. We haven’t decided the venue yet, but it will likely be in the nearby area. Please indicate on your registration if you wish to attend this OPTIONAL dinner, so that I can reserve your seat. We will likely order off the menu, and the costs are paid by yourself.
Registration: This year’s seminar will have the same fee structure as last year. Please pre-register and pre-pay through the website as soon as possible. The discount rate closes July 15th. Each registrant should complete the registration, the liability waiver, and prepay.
I look forward to this year’s seminar – last year was excellent instruction, and a lot of fun for everyone. I’ve received so many comments from people who attended or heard about it and wanted to attend. It’s a great opportunity to learn iaido from TOP AUSKF sensei, right here in the Midwest. Again, ALL levels of experience are welcome.
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

Akemashite Omedetto Gozaimasu!

Well Happy New Year!

In Review

Looking back to 2011, our dojo and members grew and accomlished a lot!

We added two more members to our group, Carl and Kyle. This brings us up to 9 members on paper.

We mentored a dojo in Illinois with 9+ members.

Two of us attended the USKF Iaido Summer camp for the first time. Myself and Kelly.

We hosted our first annual Moorhead/Aggasiz Dojo and MWKF Iaido seminar in Moorhead MN with a whopping 28 attendees from Canada and the US. It was a great success and positive comments all around.

Several dojo members helped present demonstrations at Fargo-Moorhead’s own CoreCon, the Red River Valley Fair, and the Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar.

Two of us (Sarah and myself) attended the RaiUnKai annual iaido seminar in Thunder Bay, Ontario with Ohmi and Taylor sensei presenting and hosted by Eric Tribe sensei. Another great seminar from our neighbors to the North.

We moved not once, but twice to two new dojo locations. We’re now practicing just across the river in Fargo, ND in the dojo we share with the Hidden Teachings karate group. We’re the furthest Eastern part of the warehouse looking building at around 506 Oak Street N. Access is from the alley.

The dojo is a bit longer and narrower than our other location, but Kyoshi Cline has done a very nice job of fixing the place up and making it a true Dojo.

Looking Forward

As we look into 2012, I anticipate we will continue with much the same as we did last year.

We’ll perform demos at the CoreCon in April. Maybe the RRV fair, and maybe at the Pangea culture festival in November.

We’ll probably gain a new member or two.

Several members will attend the 2012 AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp in Tacoma, Washington in June.

We’ll host our second annual Iaido seminar here in Fargo-Moorhead. Hopefully with eqal or better attendance.

We’ll delve more into the paired waza of the kendo kata as well as the Musoshindenryu Tachi Uchi no Kurai sets.

With a higher level of overall experience in the dojo members, we’ll spend more concentrated time on the koryu kata.

We’ll perform tameshigiri hopefully at least a couple of times.

We’ll start preparing for the 2013 bid for the AUSKF Iaido summer camp to be held in Fargo-Moorhead.

We’ll (hopefully) have more member input and content on our Dojo’s blog.

I’ll head to Illinois to do a meet and greet with the group there and do some intensive training.

We’ll train, train, TRAIN!

That’s a lot to look forward to this year.

Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

Bradley

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

October Newsletter (I know)

Since I started writing this on the 31st, can I still call it an October Newsletter?
Well, it was a busy month.

In the dojo we’ve been working on several things: seitei, Musoshindenryu, kendo kata, and of course kihon. In addition to that, I’d like to learn and show the Musoshindenryu / Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu “Tachi uchi no kurai” paired kata to everyone.

Kim Taylor sensei demonstrated these and taught me the first two kata (with two variations each) at the seminar in Thunder Bay a couple of weeks ago. I had always been curious to see and learn these “mysterious” kata, and I finally found someone who knows them.

I say mysterious, because even while in Japan, I had never seen them in the dojo. My instructor hadn’t learned them himself, and none of the other dojo members knew them either. I gather from this that not all branches or dojo of MSR and MJER have them as part of their regular curriculum. I’m looking forward to it anyway!

Speaking of Thunder Bay, Eric Tribe sensei hosted another excellent seminar. This year, Ohmi and Taylor sensei came and ran us through seitei, koryu, and the aforementioned paired kata. I was very lucky to work together with another 4dan Doug and Taylor sensei for the whole day on Saturday, checking and correcting on some of the finer points of kihon and applying them to our seitei practice.

We discussed a lot about the “vectors and lines of power,” and making all of our cuts and movements powerful, without adding “power” or “tension” to our body. These refinements came in the form of posture, grip, and utilizing our lower body and belly (hara).

A buzzword of Tribe sensei’s was the “triangle of power,” which is basically the triangle formed by our hips and hands – for instance when standing in a chudan stance. If one side of the triangle becomes longer than the other two, it results in a weakening of power in our movement and strikes. It’s hard to explain, but once you’ve seen it in use, it becomes evident. If you can visualize moving from waki-gamae in seitei shihogiri, by placing the tsuka behind your right hip instead of having it centered on your hara, you potentially remove power when pushed or resisted against.

We did some interesting related exercises that made me start to think about how to better move my body and increase the power behind my cuts.

Sunday brought me and Doug the opportunity to perform our kata in front of everyone and get a critique by Ohmi sensei. I was kind of expecting this to happen after spending the whole day Saturday in review, and was a good reminder of some of the things I need to improve and work on.

More review of the seminar can be seen on Patrick Suen’s blog: http://sueniaidokyudo.blogspot.com/2011/10/2011-rai-un-kai-iaido-seminar-thunder.html

Upcoming Events and Demonstrations

Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar
We will be participating in the Annual Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar and Cancer Benefit on Saturday November 12th. We’re scheduled for our demo at 11am, but there are several other schools participating throughout the weekend. Here’s the blurb.

The event is being held at the Fargo Holiday Inn, at 3803 13th Avenue S, Fargo, ND.
It will be a two day event on Saturday, November 12, and Sunday November 13th.

There is an entrance fee, with all proceeds going to the Roger Maris Cancer Center located in Fargo, ND. It is our goal to come together as a Martial Arts Community to fight cancer.

We will have an open Silent Auction running all day Saturday that you can check out and bid on. Auction winners will be announced Saturday evening during the Banquet. But you do not need to be present to win. If you are able to bring any items to put in the Silent Auction, that would be greatly appreciated and would help us in our effort to raise as much money as possible to fight cancer. Please let us know what you can contribute and we can get it on our list.

DAY 1: Saturday November 12
Meet & Greet: 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m.
9:00am Red River Tae Kwon Do
10:00am Jeet Kun Do
11:00am Japanese Swordsmanship
1:00pm Okinawan Karate
2:00pm Combat Police Tactics
3:00pm Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu & Shaolin Kenpo

Saturday Evening Banquet Dinner/Band/DJ/Silent Auction – Please call and reserve your spot for the Saturday evening Banquet Dinner.

DAY 2: Sunday November 13
9:00am Boxing
10:00am MMA
11.00am Kenpo
1:00pm Hapkido
2:00pm Judo

Please contact Paul Dyer with any questions. For contact information check the http://www.fargoallmartialarts.com site Contact page.

Pangea Cultural Festival
We had initially planned to attend this event, but unfortunately it falls on the same Saturday as the FAMAS seminar above. We’ll try again next year.

New member
Welcome goes out to Kyle who has recently joined our dojo. Kyle has a broad background in various martial arts and fitness, and I look forward to training with him.

Coming Up!
There are a few things to look forward to in the next few months.
One is the introduction of the paired standing kata that I mentioned earlier.
Another is our second attempt at tameshigiri (test cutting).
And also our next rank testing, tentatively scheduled for Dec/Jan.

See you next month!
Brad