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

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

September Newsletter

Dojo Move

Brrrr… It has been cold recently! We had the first MN hard frost reminding me that the seasons are changing again and I have to start wearing the shitage (undershirt) along with my gi as I train.

During the winter, the landlord who owns the building that our dojo is located in doesn’t like to spend the extra money to keep the place heated to a steady 65 degrees, so on the days we or the Karate school are not there, he drops the temperature down to 50. That’s pretty cold coming in off the street in the middle of winter, and hoping that the snow will at least melt off your boots before the end of practice. We set the timer to start warming the place up in the early afternoon, but that still only brings the temp up to a nice toasty 60 or so. By the end of practice, it’s usually 65 though.

Well, that’s finally coming to an end. We’re moving to a temporary location for a couple of months while we prepare for a new permanent home. Kyoshi Cline, the owner of the Karate school has had enough of the rent increases and general BS that the landlord has given him over the last several years, and quit the lease.

From October 5th, our new location will be at the F-M Youth Boys & Girls Club at 215 10th Street N, Moorhead. We’ll still be keeping our Wednesday 6:30 – 9:30 schedule, just at a new place. It’s going to be about 1/3 smaller, but we’ll be moving to tile floors instead of the neoprene mats, so bring your knee pads!

About the only disadvantage I can think of is that we won’t be able to keep our stuff “out” in the dojo because the space is also used on other days by other parties. Oh, and the 250 business cards that I had printed recently all have the old dojo’s address on them, but shoganai (it can’t be helped).

The good news is, this will ALSO only be a temporary move. Mike has found a new permanent home for the dojo in Fargo, not far from the Civic Auditorium downtown. It’s a lot bigger (30x60ft), warehouse style building to which Mike is going to do some painting and upgrading, and move into in December or January. It sounds like he’s getting a place where he can remake it however he likes, so he’ll probably be looking for some input and help in the re-construction and painting phases of this. I’ll keep everyone more informed as we learn more.

Darn, now we’ll be the Musoshindenryu Iaido – Fargo Dojo. I guess that means another new set of business cards. Maybe we should be the … Red River Dojo? Any other suggestions?

Cutting

Last class we tried a new cutting technique. We hung a single piece of thread from a high stand, and tried to cut it with the dojo shinken. I’m not sure exactly how sharp that blade is, because we haven’t tested it on tatami, but it was sharp enough to cut through if we followed good technique. I did notice that my own shinken did cut slightly better, but both were good enough to indicate what was good technique and what wasn’t. It was a very inexpensive way to try and cut something, and educational as well!

Pangea Cultural Festival

I contacted the Moorhead Pangea Cultural festival people, and though we’re a bit late to get in a main-floor demonstration, I am working to get us a side room where we can do some kata demonstration and newspaper cutting for the kids. Like last year, we’ll also have a cultural “booth” set up where people can come around and see what we do, and learn a bit about Japanese culture and how the sword played a big part of the history of Japan.

That festival is on Saturday, November 12, 2011 from 10:00am – 4:00pm. Check the website for details at: http://www.hcscconline.org/events.html. More details will follow about the specifics of our demonstration and activities. Students interested in attending and helping with the demonstrations and manning the booth, please let me know so I can make a schedule.

Thunder Bay Seminar – Sensei Eric Tribe’s dojo

Most of you met Tribe sensei here at our own summer seminar. He’s hosting an annual iaido seminar at his dojo in Thunder Bay, ON on October 22-23. Joining Ohmi Sensei this year will be Kim Taylor Sensei, Iaido Renshi 7-Dan who also attended and participated in our July seminar. This year there will be a grading to 2-Dan on Sunday starting at 1pm. REGISTRATION IS THROUGH THE CKF. See http://my.tbaytel.net/etribe/Seminars.html for scheduling information and registration. I recommend this seminar and hope we can have at least a couple of people attend from our dojo.

Mata ne!

I’d like to wish good luck and safe travels to Alison! She’ll be spending the next year living and working in Japan in a suburb of Tokyo. Hopefully she’ll have the chance to find a good dojo to continue her iaido or learn something else new and exciting! Take care and hope to see you back!

July Seminar Photos

I’ve gotten a WHOLE BUNCH of photos from our July seminar. The two photographers that I asked to document our event took near 1000 images between the two of them. Also, one of the participants contributed a couple hundred as well. It’s been a time-consuming process just getting them all organized and cleaned up. I am continuing on that, and hopefully will have something ready for viewing and uploaded into Picasa soon. I’ll let everyone know the url once it’s all done and ready to go.

Traditional or mixed?

In the Kendo World forum I often read, I recently saw a posting discussing the “resurrection” of an instructor in the Minneapolis, St. Paul area who teaches what he claims to be authentic Japanese swordsmanship and Kenjutsu. His dojo has changed names a number of times, but he’s remained active and he has a new dojo now again in the same area. He says he’s studied a traditional koryu art, and teaches kata as well as practical bokuto drilling and sparring. Pretty much everyone in the legitimate JSA (Japanese Sword Art) community has the opinion that he’s a fake, and is just making stuff up (to which he has admitted) and passing it off as legitimate.

In my opinion, he’s also dangerous. During a public cutting (tameshigiri) demonstration, he lost control of his sword on a cut, and it went flying into the audience. Unbelievable.

Watching various videos of their demos on YouTube, a person can see some basics common in all sword arts, but the kata in that video don’t seem to resemble the koryu he’s claiming they are derived from at all. It may be his students think they’re studying something traditional.

There are a lot of these “McDojos” out there who are not members of a legitimate National / International association along with their instructors who don’t hold any legitimate rank in them. Often these schools don’t have continuing ties with a dojo or instructor in Japan, nor a documented lineage of their art.

While there are some koryu arts who don’t belong to a national association, a large number of styles do. The two major national associations in Japan are the Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei (All Japan Kendo Federation) and it’s sister Iaido Federation. These associations branch out worldwide, as well. Here in the US, we have the AUSKF which then is further broken down by region. Our dojo is in the Midwest Kendo Federation.

I think if an instructor is up front that what they’re teaching is something they’ve made up, and the students are aware of that when they sign up, that’s fine. It’s when they try to pass it off as a traditional koryu or something legitimate that I and most other serious JSA practitioners have a problem with. Even here in our own Fargo, ND there’s an instructor at one of the big fitness clubs, who teaches Ninjutsu and Sword classes. After viewing one of his classes, I would liken his teachings more to “movie style sword play,” than anything resembling JSA. It’s unfortunate, because I think that his students really think they’re studying something traditional.

If you’re thinking of starting up martial arts as a hobby, please take time to do your research before deciding to join a dojo.

  • Beware of schools who require contracts or long-term obligations.
  • Watch a class or two and see how the instructor teaches, and how he relates to the students. Is this a style of teaching / learning that is compatible with you?
  • Talk to the students and ask them about the history and tradition of the art they’re studying. Also ask them what kind of pace they are progressing through learning the basics and continuing into kata.
  • Ask for and expect to see legitimate credentials or teaching experience for the instructors. Are they ranked in national / international associations? Do they maintain ties with their instructor’s home dojo and/or sensei?
  • Rank certificates can be forged, so ask what kind of continuing training the sensei is doing themselves to progress in their own learning? Do they ever offer seminars with outside instructors?
  • Watch and expect to see kata. This is the basis of pretty much any organized and legitimate MA. If the school is a member of an organization, Kata A in this school should be the same or very similar to Kata A in a member school. You can also search for the same style and kata on YouTube and compare there.
  • The kata taught (unless you enroll in a secret ninja school in some hidden valley in Japan) should be documented and available – or at least the names are. Again, you should be able to compare somewhere.
  • Google the school and it’s instructor. Check to see what past students are saying in forums about the school. McDojo’s and their instructors are very frequently mentioned and documented in various forums.

These are just a few things off the top of my head, and I’m sure you have your own criteria as well.

Do your research before you dedicate your time and money to something to make sure it’s the “real deal.”

(Getting off my soap box now)

Have a good month!
Brad

Core Con and Other Upcoming Events

Hello everyone! Spring melt is starting up, and I sincerely hope that wherever you are, you won’t have to deal with any flooding. I know they’re estimating Fargo – Moorhead Red River levels to be pretty high again, and the community is moving well towards it’s sandbagging goal.

We’ve got a few events coming up. I’ve got some detail updates for you.

2011 CoreCon – April 15- 17th
The Musoshindenryu Iaido – Moorhead Dojo group (us) will be doing a demonstration on Sunday the 17th.

1PM-3PM Sunday, April 17th
Japanese Swordsmanship
Presented by Moorhead Iaido Dojo
Woods Room

The Moorhead Dojo will present a two hour discussion on the history and traditions of iaido (Japanese swordsmanship), followed by a demonstration of kata, some of which have origins dating back over 400 years ago. There will be an opportunity for attendees to ask questions, and view the Dojo Members’ various katana (swords). More information can be found at the dojo website: http://www.musoshindenryu.com/.

CoreCon 2011 will take place at the AmericInn Lodge & Suites and Event Center in Moorhead, MN – the same as last year.

The CoreCon’s website is: http://fargocorecon.org/ and the theme this year is “Myth and Magic.” Sounds interesting, and I would encourage intersted people to check out the whole Con.

THE 2011 SEI DO KAI SPRING JODO and IAIDO SEMINAR
University of Guelph, Ontario Canada, May 20 to 23

This is Kim Taylor Sensei’s annual seminar. Excellent and with some of the top iaido people from Japan coming in to instruct. More details can be seen at: http://www.uoguelph.ca/~iaido/iai.seminar.html

2011 AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp – June 9 – 12th
The dates have been confirmed, all else is tentative right now.

Dates: Thursday, June 9 – Friday, June 10 AUSKF Iaido Seminar
Saturday, June 11 AUSKF Iaido Championships
Sunday, June 12 (morning) AUSKF Iaido Shinsa
Sunday, June 12 (afternoon) AUSKF Jodo Seminar
Monday, June 13 AUSKF Jodo Seminar

Location: Mac Center Gymnasium, Kent State University (KSU), 800 East Summit Street, Kent, OH (pending confirmation in April 2011 after approval of camp budget and submission of deposit to KSU)

Lodging and more details to be announced.

2011 Moorhead Dojo / AUSKF Iaido Seminar (1st Annual) – July 29-31

This is our iaido seminar. We’ve got an application in for two 7dan iaido sensei, and are awaiting their confirmation. The venue and pricing has been set, and we are taking pre-registrations at this time!

This will be an excellent opportunity to see some top notch AUSKF iaido instructors, and brush up on your skills.

We’ve got three, yes THREE excellent vendors coming with iaito, and iaido gear for sale.

Check out the website for registration and seminar information: http://seminar.musoshindenryu.com/

Pre-registration is encouraged!

Thundar Bay – Annual Fall Seminar – October 22nd and 23rd
with Ohmi Goyo Sensei Iaido 7-Dan Renshi

This is another excellent seminar, from our neighbors to the North. Eric Tribe’s dojo hosts this event, and is another great refresher on seitei iaido and some koryu. More information can be seen at: http://my.tbaytel.net/etribe/index.html

So you can see, there’s a bunch of stuff coming up! Hope to see you there!

Brad

2010 – A year in review at the Moorhead Dojo

Looking back in the year at our dojo, I would have to say it was a pretty good one – for several reasons:

We increased our “consistent” membership from three members to eight. It’s pretty neat for me to see everyone on the line in their white hakamas doing suburi in sync – very cool! I have a good feeling about this group – everyone seems to be grasping the concepts of iaido and making the art personal for them. That’s one of the great joys for me in teaching, is seeing students start to “get it” and not only progress in their technique, but also in their spirit as well.

Continuing members Paul, Kelly, and Bert were joined by Joey, Molly, Erik, Tyler, and Greg. Welcome all!

We increased our public exposure of the dojo and iaido in general through performing several public demonstrations. We attended or presented at:

  • Core Con
  • Red River Valley Fair
  • Fargo All Martial Arts Seminar and Cancer Benefit
  • Pangea Culture festival

If possible, we’ll attend all of these again in 2011 and also will be hosting our own Midwest Kendo Federation sponsored kendo / iaido seminar sometime this summer. That’s going to be big and exciting!

We held our first tameshigiri (test cutting) class. All members of the dojo were able to cut several targets of rolled tatami mats. It was a great learning experience, and I think they could better understand why we stress the things we do about grip, stance, and our swings. I hope to be able to continue this again in 2011.

I personally had a chance to go to Guelph, Ontario in the spring to attend their annual iaido / jodo seminar. It was quite an excellent refresher, and we had an impressive lineup of sensei from all around the world to work with us. Presenting was Chihiro Kishimoto, a hanshi hachidan in iaido and also the chairman of the All Japan Kendo Federation (ZNKR) iaido committee. He brought with him, Atsumi Hatakenaka, kyoshi nanadan, and Fumio Tsubaki, kyoshi nanadan. Canadian sensei included Goyo Ohmi, renshi nanadan, Stephen Cruise, renshi nanadan, and Kim Taylor, renshi nanadan. I spent three days from 9 to 5 practicing seitei iaido with the “testing” group, and was able to receive some personal attention and comments from Kishimoto sensei. We learned some good ki-ken-tai-ichi drills that I’ve started my own students on, and a few basic changes to the seitei kata. I got to spend a bit of time with Cruise sensei reviewing some Musoshindenryu, and comparing some of the differences in our styles. It was a great seminar!

Looking forward to 2011 makes me excited for a couple of things.

First, possibly the chance to test for 5dan at either Guelph or the AUSKF summer camp. I know that I have a lot of reviewing to do of my own seitei, but what makes me most nervous is performing my first test in North America. Up to now, I’ve only had experience testing in Japan, so I’m not sure what to expect. I haven’t had the opportunity to attend the summer camp yet, and I’m really looking forward to heading to Cleveland in June for that. Hopefully Yamazaki sensei from Shizuoka will be attending again this year – I’d love to say hi and catch up with him again. Mr. Yamazaki was our Tobu region kind of lead sensei at my former dojo in Numazu, Japan. He and several other high-ranking sensei came to our dojo every month to lead in a practice and give us a review and pointers on seitei iai.

Also, I’m looking forward to hosting our first iaido seminar here in Fargo-Moorhead. I’m working with the MWKF to get some higher ranked sensei in for instruction in iaido and maybe a bit of kendo as well. It will likely be a two day weekend event with some Friday evening kendo keiko mixed in. It would be great to get some national or even international attendees if we can.

I also look forward to seeing some of my own students start to progress to the level where they may be able to attend some of these events, and test for their dan ranks as well. I would really like to see some representation by Moorhead Dojo members at these regional and national events!

It’s going to be an exciting year!
Brad