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

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

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. http://www.kendo-world.com/forum/

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. http://www.swordforum.com

Kenshi247.net – 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! http://kenshi247.net

Some of my favorite readings from this blog are:
http://kenshi247.net/blog/2011/03/25/i-am-a-deshi/
http://kenshi247.net/blog/2009/01/12/the-student-teacher-relationship-seitei-and-traditional-iai/
Excellent article on tameshigiri: http://kenshi247.net/blog/2011/01/28/thoughts-on-tameshigiri-from-famous-swordsmen/

Kim Taylor’s iaido listserv and articles – http://ejmas.com/ 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 – http://koryu.com/

YouTube links

Kendo Kata http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Fx5Ts9i-MM

Jodo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biSJdRuR6i0&feature=related

Aggasiz Dojo – Channel http://www.youtube.com/user/MusoshindenryuDojo
This includes our Standing and Sitting Reiho videos with instructions.

June 2011 Rank Test videos
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_eCb_Ox6r0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ-H-YsJ8_w

Kelly’s CSI Samurai spoof http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJNy5m0UOe0

Cuts of the Sugarplum Fairy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cXhzN_IuIo

Nakayama Hakudo video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4ImhjM8l9g

Kuroda Sensei doing an iaido demo – Very fast nukitsuke!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t93ThAl7M00

Bokuto kihon waza http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVzHMNJ6NKg

Very interesting videos for kumitachi Musoshindenryu. Well worth a look!
http://www.jikidenshinkai.de/chuden_kata/kumitachi.html

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.

Thanks!

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