That was the beginning of the first Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu Seminar in Calgary Alberta.
I was shocked to hear Watkin Sensei’s voice at 6:00 pm on the 14th of August, 2007; after all, I did not expect to hear it until 11:30 pm at the earliest on the same day. Somewhere along the line the flights had been changed and Watkin Sensei arrived in Calgary five hours ahead of schedule.
I first met Watkin Sensei at a seminar in Guelph Ontario that had been hosted by Kim Taylor in 2005. Watkin Sensei and Iwami Soke had been flown to Canada to teach Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu, the martial art of Miyamoyo Musashi. Already traveling to Guelph for our Iaido gradings, my traveling companion Colin Pitman and I could not resist when we had heard that there was another sword martial art seminar the week after the Iaido seminar. We promptly booked ourselves into both seminars.
The training we
received at that seminar has helped both Colin and I in our Iai
training, and has given us an intimate, and sometimes an overly
intimate, understanding of combat distance for sword arts. We took
our Niten knowledge from the weekend seminar in 2005 and brought it
back to our club to teach everyone who was interested, however, not
before checking with Iwami Soke, Watkin Sensei, and Kim Taylor
Sensei. With their blessings we were able to teach several of the
students of the Calgary Iaido Club a little Niten.
In 2006 when we returned to the Guelph Iaido seminar, we were surprised to find that Watkin Sensei had managed to stay an extra week after the Niten Seminar (which was at this time the week before the Iaido seminar) to give us some more instruction. Juggling around schedules and working hard, many of the members of the Calgary Iaido Club were able to learn a great deal of both Iaido and Niten.
The following year (this year) we discovered that there would not be a Niten seminar in Guelph. We had already been tossing around the idea of hosting a seminar in Calgary, and I had been in contact with Watkin Sensei numerous times over the year. Not wanting to let our Niten go another year without instruction we began working out the numbers.
Through some vigorous accounting and adding and subtracting and stuff, we were able to raise enough money for a plane ticket for Watkin Sensei. It was difficult as a small club to get the funds and the organization in place to host the seminar, but with a great group effort we were able to pull it off. We booked tickets, planned an itinerary for the weekend, and advertised the seminar around the internet and around Calgary. I would like to thank Kim Taylor for his help in posting the Niten seminar on the Sei Do Kai website which helped to advertise the seminar in a capacity that our club did not have.
As I said, we were
able to book a plane ticket, which if I recall is where this article
started. The flights themselves were long, but the connections made
the journey downright arduous. In an effort to make the flights a
little more bearable it would appear that the airlines jogged some
flights around last minute, leaving me in shock, and Watkin Sensei at
After retrieving Sensei I brought him to my home, where he would be spending the next few days. Following a few days of relaxation and acclimatization, Watkin Sensei and I made our way to the Salvation Army Children’s Village in Calgary Alberta (the dojo of the Calgary Iaido Club.)
Leading up to 6:00 pm on August 16th, which was the scheduled start of the seminar, more and more people continued to show up. By the time the seminar started there were around fifteen people present which started to make the dojo quite cozy. We started the seminar with the usual reiho and moved directly into training under Watkin Sensei.
Some of the people at the seminar were starting Niten for the first time, and some of the people had been training for up to two years. We covered the basics and worked hard to build a foundation for further training. Getting instruction so rarely makes it difficult to progress, but the constant repetition of the first forms paves the way for all other techniques. Watkin Sensei himself trained the first kata (called Sasen) for seven years before moving on to any other techniques.
The second day of training was much like the first and the group moved through the kata, practicing both the shidachi and uchidachi sides of the technique. By the third day (August 18th) there were seventeen people in the seminar, and we were joined by Ed Chart who has trained with Watkin Sensei before. Other than water and food breaks we trained all day.
On the end of the third day of training we brought out a little camping barbecue and roasted hot dogs out behind the school. We would have eaten outside on the grass in the beautiful sunlight, but there was not beautiful sunlight and we had to run inside to escape the rain and lightning. Luckily we had just enough time to cook the hot dogs so that we could eat them indoors. The sun did come out a little later allowing a few; let me emphasize “few,” of us to play football outside.
We trained again
for a full day on the 19th and had completed the Tachi
Seiho kata (twelve kata using the long sword) and Watkin Sensei
taught us one kata of the Nito Seiho set (kata with both swords) and
two kata from the Kodachi Seiho set (kata with the short sword). Even
for those of us who had done Niten before this was an incredible
amount of knowledge for such a short amount of time.
Watkin sensei focused on the basics, which is what we will continue to do. He showed us many important things that can be taken to most martial arts. A large part of the techniques is not sword or foot work, but spirit. Without the correct spirit you cannot properly complete the techniques. Another important point was that the sword(s) is not just a weapon, but an extension of your own body. The other very important point was that one does not use their arms or the sword to strike, but every strike comes from the gut and is followed through with the entire body.
The Niten portion of the seminar ended on the evening of the 19th, but was followed by a trip to Boston Pizza for a drinks and a little food.
Overall the seminar was a great success that we will hopefully be able to replicate in future years. Watkin Sensei is interested in coming to Calgary again, and the Calgary Iaido Club is interested in hosting him. Our international guests will take what they learned here home with them, and will hopefully bring those they have taught here in the future.
Monday the 20th was a chance for anyone interested to try out Iaido, but Watkin Sensei and I took a few days to travel into the Canadian Rockies and see the sights. We returned to Calgary on the 22nd and Sensei caught his plane home on the 23rd.
I learned much at this year’s seminar, and hope that I am to have an opportunity like this one in the near future.
I hope to see you next year.