Sunday, September 21, 2008

Kiyama Sensei

Last summer, I visited my iaido teacher, Kiyama Hiroshi Sensei, in Japan. Kiyama Sensei is one of the last of the men who fought in World War II and he continues to actively train and teach kendo and iaido.
I'm learning Shinto Hatakage Ryu Iai Heiho from him. He is the last teacher of this small art. It's not one of the big schools that includes a huge curriculum, but it is a coherent system with plenty to teach someone who is willing to study it. Years ago Sensei wrote up his notes on Shinto Hatakage Ryu and he has given a copy of them to me. Unfortunately, the notes are in hand written Japanese, one of the most difficult mediums imaginable. He kindly went over several pages of the notes with me, helping me to understand what I was reading and making clear the characters my poor Japanese couldn't decipher.
We spent one afternoon together at an annual iaido tournament in Shiga. It's a wonderful gathering of iaidoka from all over the prefecture. The only drawback is that it's held during one of the hottest, most uncomfortable times of the year in Otsu, and the gym is an old school building with no ventilation other than opening the doors and windows and praying for a breeze. I love it though, because I get to see lots of old friends from all around the prefecture that I wouldn't get to see otherwise. We all show off our iai for each other, and who wins or loses really isn't important. Over the years I've managed a few 2nd and 3rd place finishes, but mostly I'm thrilled to be there to see and talk with everyone. It's also a great chance for instruction. All of the seventh and eighth dans walk around giving advice on weak points in your technique they have noticed. There is nothing like this chance in the US.
The embu and competition are a chance to see a variety of styles besides the omnipresent Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu and Muso Shinden Ryu. There was also Muso Shinden Jushin Ryu, Suio Ryu and Shinto Hatakage Ryu.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sport versus Budo

I just finished a long discussion of sports judo versus Kodokan judo. I find it amazing that someone can argue that sport judo is a superior form of self defense to Kodokan judo. Sport judo trains to win in a narrowly defined arena where strikes and weapons aren't a consideration and your opponent has to hold on to you. Kodokan judo trains from a variety of combative distances, assumes that opponents may have a variety of hand held weapons, and assumes all attacks are possible. Which one sounds more like a sensible approach to combative training?