Iaido Journal Apr 2006
Remembering Bill Mears
As is right and proper, here is the
memorial page for Mr. Bill Mears, from his family and his students.
When you finish
this you may also want to read
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.
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
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
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 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
"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.
"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
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
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 Mears, Enore Gordonio, Goyo Ohmi
and Dave Green
If you have a story about Bill you'd
like to share send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill performing Uki Gumo
photo of a seminar in Dartford Essex showing young Billy Mears at the
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.