Friday, 7 October 2011

2011 Ottawa Iaido Seminar

This year's edition of the annual Ottawa Iaido seminar was held on a breezy, autumn day at the Albion-Heatherington Community Centre. Our nation's capital is about a four and a half hour, non-stop, drive from Toronto, but feels more like 10 hours when factoring in rush-hour traffic. The long stretches of tree-lined highway with a view of the lake on the right made for a peaceful, if not dull, journey. 

A daylight drive across Highway 401 would normally be quite pleasant this time of year, as the leaves are in their full radiance of red, yellow, and orange. Alas, it would not be so. Rain clouds blotted the sky and intermittent showers and thunderstorms followed us the entire way.

We've made this trip numerous times over the years and I've only lately realized that all of our excursions had, and continue to have, double purposes. (1) Martial arts training, and (2) Visiting with friends and family. Seeing that we would be on the road for 10 hours and only be in town for one day, I think we made out pretty well on both of these goals. ^_^

Our limo service (my 2003 Toyota Camry) had an extra passenger in the form of my cousin (mom's side), Jennifer, who would be visiting friends in Ottawa. We picked her up at Fairview station around 7pm and began our slow crawl out of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). It was about 9:45pm when we arrived in Kingston, where we normally stop for dinner.  A former Iaido student and good friend of ours was in her first year at Queen's University, and as we drove through the main campus, my wife noted how much her alma mater had changed since she roamed the halls. We settled on the Smoke's Poutinerie off Princess Street and gorged ourselves on gravy-soaked, cheese-curd loaded, french fries.

Smokes Poutinerie, Kingston, Ontario

It was another two hour drive to Ottawa, where we dropped off Jennifer and proceeded to our lodging for the night at my other cousin (dad's side), Remy's house. The basement was sufficiently furnished; with a large cot on the ground for me and Hanna, and an extra fold-out mattress for Michael, that we had left with Remy from previous trips. His place was also conveniently near the seminar location which allowed us a good night's sleep after the long drive.

Nepean, Ottawa, Ontario

It was a cool and breezy morning - hardly reaching double digits in celsius. We arrived at the community centre 30 minutes early to see a decent sized group of students already hard at work in the...field? Apparently, the doors were still locked, and not ones who stand around with an opportunity to train, the early arrivers took to a flat grass-covered area and started swinging.

Field Training

We were let inside a short time later and officially started the seminar. The gym was small, but comfortable, with a small window looking out to the previously mentioned field, and basketball nets on opposite walls.  Standing in the front, next to a lovely banner commissioned by the Tateyama dojo, were visiting sensei Goyo Ohmi (Renshi 7 Dan), Kim Taylor (Renshi 7 Dan), as well as local sensei David Green (Renshi 6 Dan) and Ed Chart (5 Dan).  Participants from Toronto, Montreal, Fredericton, Guelph, Bolton, and Ottawa lined the other side of the room.

Taylor sensei started us off with Seitei practice using the 2009 ZNKR Iaido Manual as well as personal notes. Key points on etiquette and the first seven kata were exposed and worked on until lunch time. We focused on a few points that were emphasized in recent national seminars like "hiki-nuki" and the position of opponents in turning kata.

After lunch, we were split into those who were grading and wanted to work on more Seitei, and those who wanted to learn Koryu from Ohmi sensei. A goal of these types of seminars is to get instruction that you would not normally receive in your regular class; as such, Hanna and I stuck with Taylor Sensei.  Our group worked mostly on basics. We worked hard on sinking our lower body and relaxing our upper bodies. We lined up our feet with our hips and tried making our "light swords look heavy" or "heavy swords look light".  I received some personal instruction on flowing from Nukitsuke through Furikaburi and into Kirioroshi without excessive force and tightness. I'll be working on that for a while, and it feels good! ^_^
The seminar ended late in the afternoon and we spent the rest of the evening visiting Hanna's mother and having dinner with Remy.  I was pretty exhausted after the long day, so it was fortunate that Michael could drive most of the way back to Toronto.


Although tiring, we got the most out of visiting family and friends, and doing Iaido that the short trip was definitely worth it. So what more can you ask for? Why, to do it all again the next weekend of course! =D  

Next up: Canadian Thanksgiving in New York City


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