Tuesday, 1 November 2011

2011 Rai Un Kai Iaido Seminar (Thunder Bay)

The month of October has been exhausting. Starting with back-to-back weekend trips to Ottawa and New York while suffering through a nagging cough, I was having difficulty getting ready for another trip to Pearson International Airport.

Now don't get me wrong. I was very excited about the October 21st seminar in Thunder Bay and visiting with the Tribe family again. My body just wasn't responding well to the constant travel. Those close to me know that I have a serious problem with motion sickness. It's gotten to the point that I feel nauseous just thinking about long rides in a car, train, boat or plane. I tried to keep my body in tact for one last adventure this month, and am so grateful for the concern and support from my wife and brother.

Our flight out of Toronto was scheduled for 7:40pm, so it gave us time to go home after work before heading to the airport. We picked up Ohmi Sensei at the JCCC around 5:45pm and proceed across town on the 401. If you're familiar with this span of highway would know how treacherous it is to assume you can get anywhere in expected time. The road seems to be in a perpetual state of construction and is home to some of the worst drivers in the country.  I was able to make the best of the situation by following the signs of congestion and avoiding it through multiple changes between the Express and Collector lanes. Surprisingly, we made it to Pearson in pretty good time (~30 minutes) and checked our luggage without any trouble.

We flew out, on-time, on a Bombardier Q400 turboprop airplane that looked brand new. It was our first time on a plane like this. The wings stretched above the main cabin with a large propeller on each side providing thrust.  The take-off and landing were smooth and the overall noise level was surprisingly low considering how close we were sitting to the propellers. I tried to sleep off the feelings of illness for the hour and a half flight and only partially succeeded.

Arriving in Thunder Bay, Eric Tribe Sensei (Renshi 6 Dan) and Kim Taylor Sensei (Renshi 7 Dan) were already there to pick up Ohmi Sensei. As they headed home, we walked out to catch a shuttle to the Valhalla Inn not 10 minutes from the airport. The air was clear and brisk. Although the temperature had dropped considerably since leaving home, we spent some time outside waiting, enjoying the fresh, non-circulated air and the sight of stars previously unseen through the light pollution of Toronto.

The next morning, we were picked up by Doug Martin (4 Dan) who generously volunteered to shuttle us around during our two days in his home town.  The seminar was located at the West Arthur Community Centre, which happened to be quite close to our hotel. Entering straight into the common area of the centre, we were joined by the rest of the seminar attendees from Toronto, Guelph, Ottawa, Bolton, Winnipeg and even Moorhead, Minnesota. The space easily fit the 15 of us and was comfortably warm and inviting, a contrast to the cold and damp weather outside.

The seminar started with welcoming remarks from our host Eric Tribe Sensei and warm-ups were lead by local senior D. Martin. 

Warm-ups, Thunder Bay

Instruction was provided for three groups:

1) Beginners - Lead by Eric Tribe Sensei
2) Godan graders (D. Martin and B. Anderson) - Lead by Kim Taylor Sensei
3) Everyone else, consisting of a 4th Kyu up to Sandan - Lead by Goyo Ohmi Sensei

Ohmi Sensei lead us through the ZNKR Seitei set, emphasizing the need for training through intent and understanding of an opponent. Technical points like spacing, timing and metsuke, as well as hip movement were grilled into us as a group and occasionally individually, while everyone else watched. Ohmi Sensei stressed the need for mitori-keiko (observation keiko) in such instances. Do not think of judging the errors in the practitioner, but find actions you want to copy, or look for troubles that you might have yourself and try to correct them.

Lunch was make-your-own sandwiches and gave us a chance to relax and get to know the other participants of the seminar:
- Glen, from Winnipeg, is a member Canadian Iaido Association and practices the same koryu as us (MJER), has participated in this annual seminar for over ten years.
- A pair of twin girls dressed in Karate uniforms were trying Iaido for the first time
- A local resident, with a background in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, was also among the beginner group.

All had different reasons for coming to this seminar, and it was apparent that they really enjoyed the opportunity to learn from a few of the top Iaidoka in Canada.

After lunch, Ohmi Sensei lead us through the Shoden and Chuden sets of MJER. He would occasionally stop to give corrections on style and feeling of the techniques. One interesting point  was a description of the differences between ZNKR Seitei and Koryu:

"Seitei is easy because it has the book, Seitei is difficult because it has the book"

Implying that it is easy because what you need to do is all written down and easy to find, and difficult, because you must stick to the strict guidelines. Ohmi Sensei would also ask Glen to demonstrate his version of an MJER kata and discuss the reasoning behind those differences.

The first day of the seminar ended and we all headed our separate ways to get freshened up for dinner at Tony & Adams, serving a family style, set course meal. The food was delicious and we were extremely happy to spend some quality time with the kids of Tribe Sensei, a pair of six and nine year old girls, as well as Brad's son, a five year old boy.

Stan from Ottawa took this opportunity to regale us with another tale of misfortune that seems to follow him on all his travels. This time, rather than lost baggage, it was a fire at the hotel that broke out around 5am of the first day of the seminar. As the guests were evacuated, his uniform and equipment had to be left behind. Fortunately, spares could be found for him to fully participate in the seminar and his stuff was returned without harm. Him and the other guests of the hotel were moved to another one in town. This night, his sleep was uninterrupted.

The next morning, we went down to the Timbers restaurant in the Valhalla Inn for breakfast and bumped into Glen. We had a brief, but enjoyable conversation about how each of us started and continue to train in Iaido, until it was pretty much time to start the seminar again.

This was going to be only a half day of training. As we all arrived at the community centre, Ohmi Sensei realized that he had left his sword at the house. We had our warm-ups and listened to Ohmi Sensei talk about the theory and mindset of Iaido training until Tribe Sensei returned with his sword and several cups of coffee. From there, we broke into the three groups again and worked on Seitei together until break time. We had some training on metsuke in Shiho-giri, where Ohmi Sensei asked four of us to make a square, with a fifth person performing the technique and using us as targets. We rotated until everyone had a chance to try out the kata and received individual instruction from sensei.

Ohmi Sensei also brought up a theory he has often mentioned:

"Iaido has joint, Iaido doesn't have joint"

Explaining that you must be smooth from one movement to the next, but not flow completely. You must show kime (decisiveness) and sharpness, but not stop completely. From there, the graders (Doug and Brad) would demonstrate and receive instruction.

Hanna and Ohmi Sensei taking a break

After the break, Taylor Sensei and Tribe Sensei ran us through a practical session with bokken. How to connect your core to the kissaki for maximum and correct power, or in his words "Hips to the Tips". We ran through the following scenarios:

1. Cutting down (kirioroshi) by closing the armpits and keeping elbows in:
Your hands are raised up with the sword in jodan. Your partner places his hand on your tsuka-gashira and applies pressure to prevent you from cutting down. The goal is to show proper alignment with the arms, elbows and shoulders so you are cutting with the body. (Hips to Tips)

2. Lifting the sword into jodan by following sword angle 
You have just completed a vertical cut with sword horizontal in front of you. Your partner places his hands on the top of your sword and tries to prevent you from raising it into jodan. The goals is to raise the sword by pushing forward into the kissaki and following the curvature of the blade. (Hips to Tips)

3. Furikaburi from nukitsuke by timing the wrist bend
You have just completed nukitsuke. Your partner applies pressure on your sword to the right to prevent you from performing proper Seitei furikaburi. The goal is to determine what angle of your wrist is necessary to apply body power to the sword movement. (Hips to Tips)

4. Kirioroshi by moving the tip up first, rather than tsuka-gashira forwards.
This is a common exercise where your partner pinches the tip of your sword when raised above your head and parallel to the group. The goal is to create just enough pressure to feel the direction your tip is moving when you begin the cut. Ideally, it should be heading straight upwards (engaged), rather than sliding forwards (disengaged).

5. Soete Tsuki draw to prevent opponent from stopping
Your partner places hand on the top of your tsuka to prevent you from drawing up and out towards them. Your goal is to plant your feet, keep your elbows in, and raise from the core. The exercises shows how detrimental it can be to start the draw before facing your opponent, as he can easily push it aside.

6. Soete Tsuki thrust with the hips
Your partner applies pressure to the tip of your sword, simulating the opponent you are about to tsuki. The goal is to properly align your arms and hips, and use the back leg to complete the thrust. It is important to maintain this alignment, called "The Triangle of Power" by Tribe Sensei.

The seminar ended shortly after and we all headed to Tribe Sensei's house for lunch and some rest before our flights home. Like last year, the Tribe family were the ultimate hosts, making us all feel at home.  A couple of hours of relaxing conversations before heading to the airport made for a great ending to a fun and productive weekend.

No comments:

Post a Comment