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