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

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