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

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

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

Pangea Festival a Success!

Pangea Cultural Festival Demonstration

I’d like to thank everyone that came by the booth and said hello on Saturday at the festival. We gave out about 135 passport (Japan) stickers to people, and spoke with many more. I’m not sure the final numbers for festival attendance, but there was a pretty steady stream of people all day.
A very special thank you and “otsukaresamadeshita” goes to Bert, Joey, Erik, and Molly for participating in the demonstration and helping out at the booth. I really appreciate your dedication and attendance! Performing your kata in front of other people can be very nerve-wracking, and you all did an excellent job!
I don’t think we scared too many people, though we did get a few “wide” eyes from the girls in the front row as we performed.
Several people submitted their names, and we gave away five coupons for a month’s free lesson, and three t-shirts. I’ll be contacting the t-shirt and lesson winners shortly.

Tameshigiri – Test Cutting

Bert and I are researching places to get mats for tameshigiri. We’ll be trying that for the first time here just as soon as we can get a decent price and the mats ordered. Once the mats are here, we’ll need to soak them for a couple of days in some water. The mats, when rolled, are between 3 and 4 feet long, and we’ll need something to completely submerge them in. Do any of the members have a 55 gal drum or available bath tub they wouldn’t mind using for this purpose? Once the mats have soaked for about 2 days, we’ll let them drip for another day before cutting. They should be good and saturated, but not dripping wet.
Again, safety is first, so we’ll be practicing the swings and techniques in practices prior to the event. Should be a lot of fun! I had previously posted some Youtube links on the blog. Check them out for examples of tameshigiri.

New Faces in the Dojo

We’ve gotten a few new faces the last few months. Welcome to Tyler, Josh, Russell, and Gary. We’re glad to have you join us!

That’s about it, have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Brad