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

A Huge List of Iaido Links!

Over the years I’ve come up with quite a list of favorite martial arts related sites to visit and articles to read.
Here are a few of the places I regularly wander into:

Kendo World forum – a lively forum of serious kendo and iaido practitioners where people of any level can ask questions and discuss the Japanese Sword Arts.

Sword Forum International – another active forum where sword lovers and martial artists can discuss related topics. Open for European as well as Asian swords and arts. Lots of good things here, and often a crossover from the KW forum as well. – An excellent and well written blog by a kendo and iaido practitioner that often discusses the history and traditions of JSA. Lots of translations of Japanese texts and articles by famous kenshi. Very excellent reading!

Some of my favorite readings from this blog are:
Excellent article on tameshigiri:

Kim Taylor’s iaido listserv and articles – Be sure to check some of the links on his page, his Unka blog and others listed there are excellent as well.

Koryu website – lots of books and other related articles –

YouTube links

Kendo Kata


Aggasiz Dojo – Channel
This includes our Standing and Sitting Reiho videos with instructions.

June 2011 Rank Test videos

Kelly’s CSI Samurai spoof

Cuts of the Sugarplum Fairy

Nakayama Hakudo video

Kuroda Sensei doing an iaido demo – Very fast nukitsuke!

Bokuto kihon waza

Very interesting videos for kumitachi Musoshindenryu. Well worth a look!

This is just the first batch. I’ll be adding to this as I find things or other people recommend sites to me. Please let me know of any missing or broken links.



Should it matter or not?

This article was written by one of the Moorhead Dojo students, Paul Dyer. Paul has been with our dojo since 2007, and Paul recently acquired a 2kyu in AUSKF iaido. He has a broad background in several martial arts. Paul is the founder of the Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar and Cancer Benefit.

Should It Matter or Not

The statement of nature vs. nurture is a question of questionable debates. The mind, the soul, the universal particles, the whole who and what we are. One day we shall get into that but for now the first question is, should it matter or not? It is a thought I must ask you as I have asked myself countless times in my own personal journey as a martial artist and as a human being. When you first entered the dojo as a young student, I shall say young student because it does not matter what age we start, we are all that young student entering a world of unknown.  Many thoughts enter our young minds.  I can say what I now know, the thoughts were wrong from the start until I was set straight by my Sensei/Sifu.

The question still rings high to this day, what does it matter?  What type of house hold you grew up in, does it matter? What type of environment you were raised around or should it matter how much economic wealth you may or may not have, or what skin color, or religion you practice.  Did it matter as you entered the dojo?  As a young student when you first started in the 60’s or 70’s, all the schools open in the cities were of Asian decent. Without getting into the climate of the United States and around the world, all I can say is that it was a hostile time for Asian decent /Americans in the United States. The schools that you can go into now are of many diverse climates and that is a just change but the question still remains, does it or should it matter?

Another question, what was the purpose of you embarking on the dojo’s door step? And should it matter or not? From your first day to your second day, and until the time of now, you have to ask yourself the question should it matter what I am? Well I have to say it does matter and it did matter at one time. It mattered then and only then, but when does it stop? Only when you realize the reason it matters no longer exist in your life. As I was told once by one of my seniors “what drives you to be the best is not what is going to get you there”. At the time I had no idea what that meant. Frankly I don’t think I could have cared less. So I remind you should it matter or not? After countless hours of being bruised mentally and physically it all breaks down. All the education that has been given to you finally strikes you like a large clap of thunder in a world of silenced mind. The act of enlightenment starts from that day on, and then when you find yourself in a dojo, it is not just a room of mats and funny writing on the wall with many sayings. You are for the first time not just in a school but a home.

It is not often or at all that we find this awakening in our lives. At this time you can now ask questions and be inquisitive to all actions and start to become part of a history, a life of a destination of endless travel. You were once lost but now found yourself on a journey of peace and comfort with a strong mind and body and now that you are open you begin to understand it never really mattered at all. Now as we grow, we never leave the dojo, the home, even though we might leave the room we never leave the dojo for it is who we are and the path of where it was going all along, and we are now part of the past and the future.

Paul Dyer
Dakota Dragon Defense

December Newsletter

Moorhead Dojo News
Happy Holidays!

I hope this newsletter finds you warm and comfy and ready to enjoy the Christmas holiday.

Dojo News: Tameshigiri – our first attempt!

We’ll be trying tameshigiri (test cutting) for the first time tomorrow (the 22nd). We take rolled up tatami (reed) mats, soak them in water for at least 24 hours, let them drip for another 6 or so, and then cut them with a shinken (sharp sword). For the last few weeks, the members have been practicing the specialized cuts they’re going to attempt. It involves v-shaped cuts from above, and also below and some horizontal cuts too. Of course safety is our first priority, and we’ve been covering that as well.

If a person cuts well, the “cut” portion of the mat may actually not fall off for a second or two, giving the person a chance to make another cut on that piece. I’ve seen some video of this (check our blog for some Youtube) and it’s pretty amazing. Some even attempt 2 cuts on the portion that’s still standing.
Guests are welcome to come and watch – we should be finished with our warmups and ready to begin around 7pm on Wednesday at the dojo.
Rank Testing
We’ll be tentatively testing some members for rank on Wednesday, January 19th. We should have two candidates for 2-kyu, and 3 or 4 for 4-kyu. The ranking system starts at 4kyu, then progresses up. 4kyu, 3kyu, 2kyu, Shodan (equivalent to the American “black belt”), 2dan, 3dan, etc. The highest that I can test members for rank in our dojo is 2kyu, and after that they need to go to either a regional or national US Kendo Association approved event. Fortunately, there are a few in both the US and Canada where we can do this. I myself hope to take (and pass) my 5dan test sometime this year.
Moorhead Dojo Iaido/kendo seminar and keiko
I’m working with the Midwest Kendo Federation on hosting an annual (hopefully) iaido seminar and kendo keiko event. It would consist of a Friday evening kendo keiko for the early arrivals, Saturday morning iaido seminar, noon kendo keiko, and then afternoon iaido again until 5pm or so. Saturday evening dinner, and then a Sunday morning iaido session until around noon. It would have focus for kendo people interested in learning iaido, as well as current iaido practitioners. We hope to have at least one or two high ranked sensei come in (courtesy of the US Kendo Federation) and present/teach. If the turnout is good, we can make this an annual event and (hopefully) get the appropriate funding from the kendo federation as well.
I’m VERY excited about this, and am hoping to find a good venue somewhere in the FM area to host this. We need a place with at least 11 foot ceilings, and hopefully a wood or tile floor. We would need that for both Saturday all day and Sunday to early afternoon. If anybody has any ideas, please PM me.
General Calendar of Events
This is a general list of iaido-related events that we can look forward to.
May – Kim Taylor’s annual iaido/jodo seminar in Guelph, ON. Excellent seminar! Opportunity to test for rank. (2-4 days)
June – Annual AUSKF (US Kendo Federation) summer camp. 2011 will be in Cleveland. Excellent seminar and an opportunity to test for rank. (3-4 days)
July – Red River Valley fair. Not completely sure if we are going to be there again, but I hope to be able to give at least one demo on their side stage.
Sometime July to September – Our FIRST and hopefully Annual Moorhead Dojo kendo/iaido seminar and keiko. This is going to be big! (2 days) See notes above.
October – Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar and Cancer benefit. This will be our 3rd annual. Lots of schools and styles will be there! (2 days)
October – Thunder Bay iaido seminar. Usually 2 days, and good content! Within driving distance.
November – Possibly a demo at the Japan Club event.
November – Pangea culture festival (demo).
Well, that’s about it for now. I wish everyone a happy and healthy holidays.
Merry Christmas!