Iaido Journal Oct 2005
Dai Ichi Calgary Iaido Club Taikai
all rights reserved
The First Annual Calgary Iaido Club Tournament:
By Chris Gilham
In Tokyo, Japan, the Koganei City Iaido dojo would hold an in-house
tournament every year. Yamamoto sensei and his senior students would
have us compete against one another, regardless of rank, as a means of
demonstrating and celebrating our Iaido. Afterwards, we would enjoy
food and drink, in celebration of our good work as a unified group,
part in celebration of what it is to be within a group in Japan. On
October 1, our young Iaido club in Calgary, Alberta successfully held
our very own in-house tournament.
The evening started with a welcome and explanation of how the
tournament would progress, with an emphasis on following the traditions
of the Koganei City Iaido dojo. We talked of important lessons I’d
learned while living in Japan: of loyalty and the transmission of
information from one generation to the next.
Patiently, our students sat through the tale of Bokuden and his three
Samurai sons, perhaps gaining some insight into the character building
an Iaido grading or tournament can bring to people: like the three
sons, we can handle surprises and diversity in different ways, but
there are correct ways, and we should endeavour to handle such
challenges in those correct ways, as the Eldest son did in the story.
Sometimes this means being prepared for challenges, and observant of
those things around us, both in the moment and for those events to
Prior to the evening I did not provide details for the tournament. As
it often was in my backpacking travels from dojo to dojo in Japan, I
did not know who I would meet and what they expected of me in their
dojo. From training on my own in a corner to demonstrating all that I
knew for the members of a dojo I had only just entered, the challenges
were varied, unique and held the potential for personal reflection and
growth. This was no different in my own dojo in Koganei city.
Universally, all the dojo I visited in Japan treated me with respect
and dignity. Advice was given, but given with the acknowledgment of the
importance of remaining true to one’s sensei and taking the new advice
as reference, for personal study. I always found this to be a very
positive and respectful approach to training with others in other dojo.
We continue to use this approach for visitors to our club. What counts,
is the respect given to and among one another, and our new club
demonstrated this at our tournament.
So it was that we may have had a glimpse of one of the meanings of
Iaido: being ready at all times, for all things. The dojo has been our
place for this preparedness. Last night was an excellent example.
Despite not knowing the tournament format, our students looked,
presented, and performed as prepared students.
For a new club, with most members having less than a year’s training,
we were where we needed to be: focussed on etiquette and the respect of
our art, each other, and our friendships.
After the introduction Colin and Alex demonstrated the very intense
Niten Ichi Ryu. Both students trained in Guelph last year for several
days with the current Soke of the ryu. We were given permission to
dabble in this more active art, and have done so to improve our
understanding of timing and application of techniques. As always Colin
and Alex, lifetime friends, brought their best intensity forward to
show us another aspect to sword training.
Following this, Daren Berar of the University of Calgary Kendo Club
introduced many of us to Kendo. This was an important demonstration for
us, since most Iaido sensei I met in Japan strongly emphasized the need
for true sword practitioners to practice both Kendo and Iaido.
Daren did Kendo and his club a great service this night with his
conciseness, detail and humour. He sparked curiosity and interest in
Kendo, despite demonstrating on his own.
The connections between the Niten Ichi ryu, Kendo and Iaido were easy
to see. These demonstrations created a stronger framework from which we
can continue to explore our Iaido, and perhaps other forms of
Finally, the tournament started and as best as possible, we strived for
authenticity. We didn’t have three judges or red and white flags, and
we did not stress the time limit for a tournament, but we did as best
we could, with one major exception – everyone was a winner that night.
Like our in-club tournament in Japan, everyone received a medal. We
stressed the importance of the event itself, and not the outcomes. How
we handled this extra pressure and ourselves during performance, was
our main focus. The medals were merely the material representations of
our celebration. Merriness and confidence came from our hearts, truly.
Students were awarded medals for Courage, Loyalty, Sincerity and
Etiquette, with one student receiving a main medal for displaying the
Mind, Body and Sword as One. This was determined not through winning
against others, but from the entire sets of performances: I looked for
one strong instance of this, according to my limited understanding of
it, and chose that person.
Lastly, we celebrated the more official handing out of grading
certificates to Colin, Alex, and I, from this year’s grading in Guelph,
Ontario. Congratulations to us and to all who participated in this, our
first celebratory tournament of our club!
Alex – Ki Ken Tai no Ichi award
Afterwards, pizza, shochu and atsukan were some of the victuals we
enjoyed at my house, while watching Seven Samurai.
The Calgary Iaido Club is pleased to share this information with the
Iaido community. It has been just over one year since we started, and
we are proud of our work.
Please feel free to come by and visit us at the foot of the Canadian
Chris Gilham and the Calgary Iaido Club