Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Merging with other blog...

hi. for the one or two of you that drop by here, i'm going to start putting these entries in with my blog about general life.
the link for that blog is:
Please come on over!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Don Angier Vid Link and Swinging the Tanrenbo

First, here is a nice video of Sensei Don Angier:

Second, I did manage to get out in the yard and do some suburi with my tanrenbo from Soga Sensei. I did suburi and the set of Toyama Ryu kihon waza. The tanrenbo only weighs in at 2.1kg, which is not very heavy, but when you put that out at then of a stick that your swinging, it's pretty strainful on your wrists. If I keep it up, I'll soon have Popeye syndrome without having to risk eating spinach.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Soga Ryu Toyama Ryu Battojutsu

Here's a picture of the sword stand that we use in class. My sensei made it himself! His handmade bokto and shoto are also in this picture, as well as his katana. The banner has the symbol that he made to represent his goods.

Here is Soga Sensei, himself, taking a picture just like the one, up above.

This is called a tanrenbo. It weighs 2.1kg is supposed to be used as a weighted practice sword. You practice one and two handed overhead swings with it. Soga Sensei made it and I think he gave it to me. In Japanese, he asked me:
Do you have a tanrenbo?
Would you use one?
Do you want one?
OK. Later I'll give one to you.
Really? I'd like to express my most hearfelt thanks (domo arigatou gozaimasu?).
After class, he got it out of his van and handed it over.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

This old thing? My first cut. Tools of the Trade 2

During a recent trip home, I picked up an old hakama that was in my storage building. I've had this thing since about 1995 and it feels good to finally be using it. There was a guy named Seok-Bom in my dorm. One Christmas, (Sock-Boom) went back to Korea and I asked him to bring me a hakama. He brought back a top that was about a child's medium and this hakama that was for a 6'5" adult. It is folded in this picture, but it's pretty messy. It was a rush job and I promise to redo it. The problem with it, is that for the last ten years, it's been balled up in a box. That is certain death for the pleats in a cotton hakama.

Last Friday, my battojutsu class practiced tameshigiri (practice cutting). It was my first time and I was a little nervous. The other guys in class all have their own katana with a real blade. Myself and another guy were allowed to use Sensei's wakizashi (the short sword that usually accompanies the longer one). While Sensei demanded various cuts from them, he only wanted kesa giri from myself and another guy. During my first cut, I was a little far away. For my next four, I was right on. It's certainly different to actually hit a target, as opposed to just striking air or an invisible enemy. The picture above is my souvenir. It's the top of the target that I first cut. In the "good" ol' days, they practiced cutting on corpses and on criminals (and on criminals' corpses). Now, we practice on rolled up tatami mats that have been soaked in water. At later stages, mats and bamboo trunks are used. In some schools, the practitioner throws up an apple, draws, cuts, and returns the blade to its scabbard.

All my stuff happened to be scattered about, so I decided to take a picture.

After my last aikido class, we were all sitting around and talking about this and that (they were sitting around talking. I just do my best to listen for the odd word I know). Finally, Sensei mentioned my name and I think he said that I'll be testing again in October. There's nothing like not knowing if an important exam is coming up or not. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A True Cut and the Nobi Dojo

I somehow went through July without an entire entry.

So I was in my new Battojutsu class on Tuesday, and I was practicing a horizontal cut that goes from left to right or right to left. A perfect cut never leaves the horizontal plane. Needless to say, my cut leaves a lot to be desired.

Sensei came over to demonstrate the correct way. First, he held out his wooden sword, vertically, and told me to cut. I hit it a few times and then it was his turn. I held out the bokken and he hit it a couple of times. He said, "No. No. Not this way." He then took up position to do it his way. He swung. One second, I'm holding a healthy practice sword and the next, I'm holding just the handle. He actually cut through my wooden sword with his wooden sword.

It wasn't the same as if somebody just hit it and busted it with a bat. Not a lot of force made it up to my hand. In fact, the first time he hit it (showing me the way I was doing it), my hand reacted violently to the force. This time, he just cut through it. It was a nice demonstration of how to cut.

On another note, I joined up with another dojo. Sunday mornings, I will be going to the Nobi Dojo in The Highlands neighborhood. I'm paid up through August and after August, I'll decide on what to do next. It's kind of expensive and comes out to be 1000 yen per class.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I walk a different path...

I can't believe that it's been over a month since I updated this blog!

I've decided to take a break from iaido. At this point in time, it's just not doing anything for me. It's like, if it were next door then I'd go to every class. But since it's not...

However, here is a picture of the current Tamiya Ryu grandmaster. I think his current age is 100+.

Just because I gave up my current iaido path doesn't mean I'm through with the sword. I searched around online for other options. I was hoping to find a style that teaches the Two Swords As One School school. The nearest one is on the other end of the country so I doubt I'll be joining up.

Above: Romanticized picture of Musashi; Below: a depiction of Musashi as a young boy (not so romantic!)

For those of you that don't know, that would be Miyamoto Musashi's school of fencing. He used two swords. While he was definitely a skilled swordsman, I recently read that he was also left-handed. This means that he learned to use a sword with his right hand (the Japanese arts are taught this way) and then when he picked up a sword in his dominant left hand, he didn't exactly have to retrain it. I'm sure that helped him along his way. So their HQ told me there were several "Musashi" schools but not so many that were official. I'd have settled for unofficial but he didn't offer any locations.

Here's a picture of my weapons shop. I feel sorry for these people when they see me darken their doorway. I've learned to come in with dictionary in one hand and a pencil and paper in the other. It's mostly a kendo shop but they carry a minor assortment of other things. I picked up some wooden swords here and some name patches for my aikido uniform. They passed me a couple of phone numbers for other sword classes.

One of them was a Toyama Ryu Battojutsu class. This differs from iaido in that it's not very old at all. It's basically what was being taught to the imperial army for use in combat. The name was given to it in 1925. It's basically a sword handling/skill class. They even do practice cuts on rolled up tatami mats. The class was very exciting to watch and really intrigued me. I'll be joining up in July. The sensei was a very warm fellow and he loaned me a copy of a VHS tape he made that was full of him and his sensei doing cuts and seminars.

And that brings me to this name plate on a neighbor's house. Every time I meet a sword person, I ask them about this fellow and sign. According to the sign, a teacher of Japanese swordsmanship lives here. Nobody answers the buzzer and nobody seems to know what style of swordwork he's affiliated with. During my meeting with the Toyama Ryu sensei, I asked him. Another student came over and said oh yeah, that's so and so. He also saw the sign and knocked on the door. It was answered by the man's widow. My new sensei then remembered the name and proceeded to show me his self-published book in which there was a group photo that this guy was in. He was a fellow student, back in the day.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Enbukai Photos

I was surfing around and found a couple of pictures from the Santa Barbara, USA AKI Hombu website ( I added the notes and circles. Duh.

That's me peeking over that guy's head.

This picture speaks for itself. I noted the people that I can recognize. Aoki Sensei is the teacher in charge of my dojo. Nishimura Sensei is the teacher that always shows up. Takeda Shihan is the master teacher in charge of Aikido Kenkyukai International. Doshu is.. well, Doshu.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Are you gonna eat your 'tots?

There's nothing like walking in the rain for two hours and fifteen minutes. I headed out today, on foot, for my iaido class. I was taking a new route, that Noriko showed me from the car. It's more of a straight line, as it goes over the hills, instead of around them, like my regular route does. In other words, it was supposed to be a shortcut. It should've taken about forty minutes to get there. It had gotten kind of dark and kind of foggy. I could make out a large white building and I started to pride myself for my keen homing pigeon skills. Except, it was the wrong school. I ended up walking over another hour before I made it back to my neighborhood. I was so proud of myself, too. I was wasn't skipping iaido class. I was showing true commitment by walking. At least I got some good exercise.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I was a nut, in a rut.

So I went to iaido tonight and it was no sweat. I picked up where I left off and had a good time. I was warming up and looking in the mirror and decided, ok ok, I'l give dressing up as a samurai and playing with a samurai sword another chance.

I guess having three hikes last week that fell on the same days as my iaido classes put me in the wrong frame of mind to have to get ready and walk another few miles to the dojo.

So, for all you iaido fans, I'm not hanging up my sword, yet.

Iaido Crux

I lifted this picture from the web. I believe it's a picture of Tamiya Sensei.

I'm at an important point in my Iaido life. I have to decide to make the effort it's going to take to pursue it or quit. It's not as immediately rewarding as most other pursuits are. While practicing, it's an intense battle with one's self. Not to mention, I still can't tie the proper knots on my obi and hakama. In fact, some of the people in class, trying to help me, can't do it either. Last week, I got back too late from other business (hiking and aikido) and on another day was just too exhausted from a different hike, that I didn't go to three classes. For any of you that have started something new, enjoyed it, and then missed a few classes, you know how easy it is to just quit. Just as a teacher has a responsibility to teach, a student has the responsiblity to learn.

I am going tonight to try and get a feel for it again. I may have actually been too tired last week to go. From aikido and hiking, my legs were tired and heavy every day. It also might be, that it's just not for me. In the chance, that I just don't "fit" in this dojo, I've made plans to visit a different dojo teaching a similar art, this Sunday.