The Iaido Journal  Apr 2006
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Remembering Bill Mears

Bill Mears cutting

As is right and proper, here is the memorial page for Mr. Bill Mears, from his family and his students.
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People come into your life for a Reason, a Season or a Lifetime.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or spiritually.  They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part, or at an inconvenient time, the relationship may come to an end.  Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.  What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered, and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They bring you an experience, or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done which can change the path you take. They can bring a new or revived enthusiasm.  It is real - but only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons: things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person, and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.

Thank you for being a part of my life.

Marilyn Mears

Bill Mears and his Dragons
Bill and some of his Bearded Dragons

What can I say about Bill that hasn't already been said?  Bill was Bill.  Anyone who knew him would know what I am talking about.

I met Bill when he had just immigrated to Canada. He called me out of the blue and asked if I would look at a sword for him.  I inquired how he had gotten a hold of my number and he told me that just before coming here, he had talked to various people in England who in turn gave him a contact in Canada and this contact in turn gave him my number. That was Bill.  When he had his mind set on something, he would research it till he got what he wanted. Even if he didn't have the money, he always found a way to make it happen.

I invited him over and we talked about his sword for a while. Well it turned out that he wanted to use it for Iaido. "Iaido!"  I said. I told him that I had practiced Iaido many years ago and I was very much interested in practicing it again.  He knew where I was going with this and he quickly replied "I'm really not qualified to teach but if I find someone in the area, I'll let you know." Bill was always straight forward about things.

A few months later he called me up to say that there really wasn't anyone in the area that could teach but he was doing Iaido in a squash court at a club in Fort Erie and "Would you like to come and practice with me?". That was the start of Iaido in the Niagara Region. Not long after, he discovered the Iaido Mecca of Guelph and the Japanese sensei who periodically gave lessons there and who as Bill aptly put it "...really likes his beer". The rest is history.

Even though I had left Iaido for many years, Bill always kept in touch with me.  He never lost hope.  He always showed me that if there is a will, there is a way.   I miss Bill but I know he will always show up in my Iaido. "No!  Not like that!  Like this!  Do it again."

- Chris Sora

Dave Green and Bill Mears
Dave Green and Bill Mears at JCCC

If there is such a thing as destiny, it must have stepped in the day I found the name "Bill Mears" on the CKF website. Having been out of martial arts for some time, I was being extremely careful in trying to find just the right discipline.  After having explored various schools and disciplines throughout the Niagara Peninsula (and beyond) I discovered Yugenkan-ironically, just down the road from where I recently had been assigned to teach!

After speaking to Bill on the phone, I was more than just a little intrigued: "Just drawing a sword and sheathing it?  Am I missing something?". One visit to the Dojo answered that question. I saw a demonstration of beauty, flow and stark simplicity that instantly told me that this is what I had been looking for.  Over time, I came to realize that what I had witnessed wasn't just Iai, it was Bill's Iai; stark, beautiful, simple and involved all at once.

It was also during that class that I immediately was impressed with Bill's ability to anticipate the needs of his students. Obviously he knew them, not just their technique-the sign of a caring teacher.  I found that out at my first class, when I was the only student there. Instead of cancelling, Bill gave me a two hour introductory class, demonstrating to me that Iai, and every person, was worth the effort.

I would come to discover that Bill had many qualities that stood out, both as a person and an instructor.  The last class I experienced with him particularly stands out in this regard.  Matt Lanteigne and I were training with Bill on what seemed to be evolving as a new level of understanding. During Bill's demonstration of Soete Tsuki, he rammed the tip of his shinken into one of the dojo's posts.  Bill just turned to us with a look that said, "So what? Who gives a shit?"  His look was raw, honest-his "ugly Iaido that kills" look. It was real. And that was Bill. To him the post was just a tool, and the sword was the vehicle through which we accessed our inner spirit. Bill prided himself on teaching kokoro, the heart of Iaido. He had good reason to be proud.

I'd say I'll miss you Bill, but you never really left.

- Mike Masotti
Bill Mears demonstrating Soete Tsuki
Bill Mears demonstrating Soete Tsuki

I've known Bill Mears for 5 years now. Some of the things I learned from him were with me from the night I met him, and he demonstrated the entire seitei, omori and MJER and oku-iai syllabi to me on an evening when no one else came to class.

Bill dispelled myths that I had carried with me for years. For starters- he was an Englishman with straight teeth that didn't walk like John Cleese. He also did away with the notion that Sensei had to be like Mr. Miyagi, or that he was superman, with a red cape and shorts underneath his kimono and hakama - both things that I would never have admitted to, but subscribed to nevertheless.

Bill's most important lesson to me is one of mortality- a matter crucial to, but mostly unrealized in peoples lives. Of all the lives I have seen slip away or awakened without, Bill's passing is the most final for me. It refuses to be dealt with and put to bed, and eats away everything in me unaware that this sentence ends with a period.

- Andy McLeod

Bill Anderson and Bill Mears
Bill Anderson and Bill Mears
Bill held court in a local pub whenever he was in Guelph for a seminar.

In a man's life, the greatest honor is that one is able to leave a legacy to the future generations with some wisdom. Sensei Bill Mears was able to accomplish this. In our lives, we may be lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet people whom deeply influence our lives and leave a lasting imprint. Sensei Mears left a deep imprint on my life, which I will never forget. The first time I met Sensei, it seemed to be only by chance. But I soon realized that this was not just an accident. Budo is indeed a very strong presence born into us. Our Karma is indeed linked thru our practice. Upon entering Yugenkan dojo, I knew that it would be my dojo for the rest of my life, like coming home after a long journey.  Sensei's tall stature and polite sharp English wit was enough to realize that something was unusual about this person. From the first cut, showing us some fancy Koryu, I realized in awe the Kokoro "spirit" of this rather intimidating individual.  As our relationship grew, year after year, and as the dojo filled up with the "Dojo Crew", it became a family and our Budo home. The place of practice (Dojo) that Sensei built by his own efforts, was made with his spirit and wish to spread iaido.  I was indeed humbled to be in the presence of someone more unusual then myself, and with such focus and deep resolution.

Sensei allowed me to become his Consigliere (advisor) on all subjects Japanese.  He enjoyed the many stories of the teachings from my Buddhist Sensei in Toronto, always saying that he would like to meet such a person and join in on the fun, all in good fun!  Sensei, always wished to visit Japan and it was my dream to take him there someday.  I felt honored that he always said, "I would like to go with Kanjin because we can get into lots of trouble together".  I considered it a great compliment that he found my potential for trouble so interesting.  Such a person, that he wished to experience life head on!  There are many stories that we all could tell, what is the most important point is that we always remember Sensei’s spirit and the aspects of his character and life that he shared with us.  The world would sure as hell be a more interesting place if everyone pursued life with such grace and stamina.

- Kanjin Cederman-Kobayashi

Bill Mears and Goyo Ohmi
Bill Mears and Goyo Ohmi

"That [nukitsuke] wouldn't have knocked the skin off a rice pudding."
- Bill Mears sensei

Mears sensei was a remarkably perceptive iaido instructor with a talent for using humor to convey his assessment of your iai. He also had a characteristic delivery of statements like the one above that concisely conveyed the multiple aspects of a student’s iai that needed improvement, and in a manner that “gotcha” before you knew it. There was really no way to resist it. It was a profound opportunity to have been his student.

Domo arigato gozaimasu, Mears sensei.

Ron Beck
Rochester, NY

"I would let you hit me with that cut."
- Bill Mears sensei (a.k.a. Hard Bastard)

A sensei is able to help iron out a student's mistakes because they are the same mistakes he once made, and has now corrected. This takes persistence and dedication to self-improvement; otherwise we remain stuck in our past habits. Bill Mears sensei would stand in as a target if a student could not make a good cut unaided. Every time he taught, he would have something for us to improve upon, some change he would have us make before he moved on in the lesson.

Outside the felt groove
Refined by dedication
A sword of one stroke

Improvement comes from within
Bolstered by what comes from without

Jason Beck
Rochester, NY

Bill Mears and Goyo Ohmi
Bill Mears and Goyo Ohmi at the JCCC

I think I've always wanted to learn how to use a katana, right from an early age  after having watched movies like "Revenge of the Ninja", and "The Highlander". I had studied various types of martial arts over my lifetime, but  something finally clicked watching that first class of Iaido with Mears sensei. The very atmosphere of his dojo lent itself to a very traditional feel, and watching him wield that massive shinken he named "Eye of the Storm" was simply inspiring.

Bill was easily the best teacher I have ever had, in all my years of school, military and other martial arts and hobbies. I am proud to say that over time, he became more of a mentor to me than a simple teacher. There was not a class that he didn't have us in stitches laughing. Whether it was a tale about his experiences with Iai in the early days in England or Canada, or some witty remark from  his priceless  British sense of humour. Bill always said that the easiest way to learn was if you were relaxed, and laughing was the quickest way there.

Every class was like a mini-vacation. That's how enjoyable Bill made learning. He didn't do it on purpose either...that's just who Bill was. No facades, no diversions, just the real Bill. He had a knack for being able to tear a person's bad habits apart at the start of class, and (hopefully) build them back up again through hard training at the end of it (or the end of a kata). I was taught in the military, that this is how you build strong students or a strong team. In this case, it was our dojo, our family.

My last class with Bill was shared with Mike Masotti, and it was done with the intention of getting us geared up for the grading challenge of Shodan in early December. I really felt that we'd hit a new level in our training as far as the student/mentor relationship went. It was by far one of the most personally rewarding classes I've ever had, or ever will have. I often felt that Bill was able to energize a room with his spirit, and it was times like that where being a skeptic about such spiritual things, I began to believe.

The gap he has left in our lives simply cannot be replaced or filled in. Of all the trials I've faced in my life, losing Bill has been the hardest. I can't put my finger on why either. But, one of the important things Bill taught  me, was no matter what happens, don't lose your control, recover fast and keep on going. While he spoke mostly in reference of making an error in a kata, I think this can also be applied to life as well.

Farewell Bill, I know you're still shaking your head at our Iai, but I wouldn't expect anything less from the Soke of Hard Bastards.

- Matt Lanteigne

Three shiny heads
The two "brothers" Bill and Kim find another shiny-headed brother.
Bill Mears, Bob Elder and Kim Taylor

"That was terrible"

He always had a way of making you feel like it was the first time you had ever done Iaido.

"Well, have another go"

Bill Mears was a man that broke the mold. I first heard of Bill from a friend who had joined his dojo, having been inspired by recent films like "The Last Samurai" and "Kill Bill" as so many others had been.  He described Bill as a "giant British guy", but his awe of the man and his skill was definantly convincing. I decided to make the venture out to Ridgeway and see what the fuss was all about. My expectations were blown away by what I saw. Accustomed to church hall dojos and hollywood flash, what I found was a challenge issued by the authentic surroundings of a pain-stakingly hand-made training hall, and the teachings of a man those in the field had dubbed "Hard Bastard". Watching Bill was like seeing poetry come to life, every motion had meaning, substance, and a passion that was indescribable. I'll never forget the first time Bill showed us the music behind his iai, and how "every kata has a song", I'm still having trouble getting the orchestra together though. Every class, Bill always had a story, or a quick joke to lighten the mood, and he always tried to remind us to never take ourselves too seriously. For all the presence and intimidation that a 6'5" British Biker represents, you would never meet a warmer, more practical man that Sensei Mears. For myself and many others he personafied the spirit of Budo, and the strength of his character commanded the respect and admiration of all who knew him. I know Sensei will be missed by all, and that his formidable spirit will live on in those he trained with, and within the walls of the Yugenkan Dojo.

- Dean Phillips

Bill, Enore, Ohmi and Dave
Bill Mears, Enore Gordonio, Goyo Ohmi and Dave Green

If you have a story about Bill you'd like to share send it to

Bill Mears Uki Gumo
Bill performing Uki Gumo

old iaido seminar
A photo of a seminar in Dartford Essex showing young Billy Mears at the top centre.
Allan Tattersall is standing behind Oshita sensei.
I have just read on your site about the passing of a very dear friend Billy , would you please look at the attachment I have included.
Yours Sadly in Memory of my friend Billy
Allan Tattersall. Hanshi. Dai Nippon ButokuKai.
Kyoshi Iaido. <>

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TIN Apr 2006