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

Tameshigiri – a great experience for everyone

Last class we had our first experience with tameshigiri, or test cutting with a live blade.

We ordered 80 mats with the money we received from the demo we did this fall, and over the last few weeks, we’ve been practicing the different “cuts” used in tameshigiri. During our breaks, we rolled the targets from the mats – mostly single mats, along with one double-mat target for each member to try. We had to soak them in water for over 24 hours, and then let them drip dry for another 6 or so. It was a lot of work in preparation, but it made for a good cutting session.

One of the things we learned is that we need to cut the same as we do in our iaido class. The movement of the kissaki through the air and the slicing motion of the blade is what cuts the mat, not strength. Tenouchi and using hara in our cut is very important as well.

Members of all experience levels were able to cut successfully, and I enjoyed seeing the satisfaction as each of the members made at least one perfect cut.

Student Joey put together a holiday greetings video with some of our cuts. It’s pretty funny, and you can see it below.

We’ll be putting more links up with everyone’s favorite cuts.

Good work everyone!

Brad

December Newsletter

Moorhead Dojo News
Happy Holidays!

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

Dojo News: Tameshigiri – our first attempt!

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

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