The Iaido Journal  Nov 2008
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2nd Annual Calgary Niten Seminar
(August 19-25th 2008)

copyright © 2008 Alexander C. Cook

On the bright side, this year I picked up Watkin Sensei at the right time. That whole fiasco about flight times was tactfully avoided by some last minute confirmation to ensure that Watkin Sensei would not be left stranded… again.

That was good, but then again I did almost lose Taylor Sensei, but wait wait wait. Let met start from the beginning.

This year was the second annual Hyoho Niten Ichiryu Seminar in Calgary Alberta. It was meant to be a solely Niten and Iaido seminar as it was last year, but through various circumstances and exceptional planning we were able to add in two more martial arts.

The seminar started on a Tuesday evening at the Calgary Nikkei Cultural and Senior Centre for Kyudo. A number of participants, including myself, were new to Kyudo and Phil Ortiz Sensei did a wonderful job instructing us in the ways of the Japanese bow. It was much much different than western archery, and I am glad to have been given the opportunity to try it.

It just so happened that it was on that same Tuesday that I picked up Watkin Sensei at the airport, and on time I might add.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend the second evening of Kyudo on Wednesday, but from what I heard from the other participants it was even better than the first night. There were what I would consider surprisingly few incidents with the use of bows and arrows indoors and I think that could be largely due to the superb supervision and teaching of Ortiz Sensei and his student John.

The following day came and brought the beginning of the Niten Seminar. Most of the participants were from Calgary, but we were lucky enough to have some visitors, from Edmonton, British Columbia, and even one from the United States. Watkin Sensei started as always with the basics and we spent the evening stomping around in a Niten fashion trying to master movement from the hara combined with ki ken tai no ichi. I have yet to master this, but there is always next year.

On Thursday, Ortiz Sensei and his student John tried Niten, which was fitting since Watkin Sensei tried Kyudo. Everyone was able to get a taste of the different martial arts even if only for a short time. After the training session they said good-bye as they started their journey home.

Friday came and the training was intense. We were only able to train for a few short hours but they were action packed and provided us with some reinforcement for our technique, and some correction as well. A few of the participants that were only attending the Thursday and Friday sessions were from a Western Swordsmanship Club in Calgary called the Academy of European Swordsmanship (AES). When asked they were more than happy to give us a demonstration of German Longsword. It was very different than the Japanese swordsmanship that I have seen, but I can see the appeal of that kind of training.

Training ended and Watkin Sensei and I returned to my house. This was the point were I lost Taylor Sensei, or perhaps he lost me. I had surprisingly little contact information for him. I did not have a phone number, he did not have mine, we did not have a meeting time set up, and even if we did, we really did not have a meeting place in mind. The only thing that Taylor Sensei had was my address.
So, I sat around, and I hoped.

Taylor Sensei and his family had flown to the west a few days prior and had travelled through the Rocky Mountains to Vancouver and were supposed to be on their way back. I hoped that they had a good map with a big “X” marked on it for my house as training was to start at 8:00 am the following morning and 11 o’clock pm was fast approaching.

I don’t remember the exact time, but it was relatively late, and the doorbell rang. That was a sweet sound. I had been slightly worried, as the primary coordinator of the seminar it would be me who would have to explain to the students in the morning eager to learn Jodo that I had “lost” Taylor Sensei. I am glad I never had to explain that.

Taylor Sensei and his family had arrived and I ushered them inside. I had to prepare for a training marathon the following day, so I did not stay up all night, but Taylor Sensei, Watkin Sensei, and a good portion of Taylor Sensei’s family stayed up into the night.

Morning came, eggs were cooked, eaten, and then Taylor Sensei and I were off to the Salvation Army Children’s Village. Since I had the keys we were forced to arrive a few minutes early, but it was not long until people started showing up and getting ready for training.

At a hint past 8 we began. I do not believe that any of the participants have ever tried Jodo before, but most of us were somewhat familiar with it. Having been to the May Seminar in Guelph for the past four years I could not help but notice the screaming practitioners of Jodo.

Kim Taylor has now given us in Calgary the opportunity to become among the group of those practitioners. We trained for four hours that morning, well, I trained for slightly less as I had to return home to get Watkin Sensei. When we returned to the dojo a Calgary Iaido Club Member had ordered in pizza and lunch was underway.

We ate and training resumed. The seminar attendees split into two groups. Those who practice Niten worked with Watkin Sensei again, and the others went with Taylor Sensei to enjoy a little Jodo in the sun.

Kim Taylor, jodo in the sun
Jodo in the Sun with Taylor Sensei

After another 6 hours of training most of us were about done for the day. Two of the other Calgary Iaido Club Members had prepared an impressive barbecue for the seminar attendees. We all headed over to the barbecue and enjoyed a wide range of sausages, hot dogs, salads, chips, marshmallows, and BEvERages. It was a great party and the turnout was large. I think it was exactly what we needed after a day of training like that.

Party ended pretty late, and then we headed home. End Saturday and repeat.

Morning came, eggs were cooked, eaten, and then Taylor Sensei and I were off to the SACV. Jodo training was excellent and after even just a little I could understand why so many people found it enjoyable. I even got used to hearing my own kiai. I suppose we would have ordered in lunch, but we had so much food left over from the barbecue we just ate heaps of glorious left-overs. Niten and Jodo training again filled the afternoon.

That evening we did not have a barbecue to attend, but most of us piled into Boston Pizza for drinks and snacks. Yet another great party. It was wonderful to be able to spend so much time with Watkin and Taylor Sensei to speak about training, and whatever else seemed to come to mind.

Unfortunately that marked the end of the Seminar for most people and they said their good-byes. Hopefully it is only a temporary good-bye and we will see them again next year.

Monday night we trained at the SACV for the last time. Taylor Sensei provided us Iaido instruction and even showed us the Tachi Uchi No Kurai, something which we have all promised to forget so that we might better focus on out Seitei.

That really was the end of the Seminar. A number of people went to Boston Pizza again and partied the night away… again. I have never understood it, but Sensei always seem to have unlimited amounts of energy. No matter how long they train they always have energy to stay up all night partying, and then always have more than enough energy for training the following day. Perhaps that is a great secret that is revealed only to those in that position.

The seminar might have been over but Taylor Sensei, his family, and Watkin Sensei still had a few days in town. That in mind we all piled into cars and headed out of town. West on Highway 1, South on Highway 93, three hours later and we were into the Canadian Rockies in the little town of Invermere. That first day seemed to waste away as we all did nothing but relax. The following day vanished much like the first. We went to a set of natural hot springs went swimming at the pool, swimming in the lake (which was warmer than one would imagine for the end of August), and we just relaxed.

All good things come to an end, and the vacation was one of those good things. We made the drive back and parted ways with Taylor Sensei and his family.

Watkin Sensei had a few more days but they came too quickly and he to had to return home.

I was the only one left. That sounds sad, but another few days and I was back at the Calgary Iaido Club in my regular training schedule, Iaido, and Niten, but now there was one more to add to the list: Jodo.
The seminar was over for this year, but there will be a Third Annual Seminar, and a number of us participants will be united again. This year’s seminar was great, but next year’s will be better.

I would like to specially thank Taylor Sensei, his family, Watkin Sensei, Ortiz Sensei, John Pozar, James Lyall for taking pictures, all of the Calgary Iaido Club members who helped to make this event a success, and all of the participants who made this event possible.

One more; I would like to thank Chris Gilham Sensei. Without him none of this would have happened.

Thank you all; and I will see you next year.

Calgary Niten seminar group photo

Missing from Photo: Kim Taylor Sensei, David Williams Sensei, Marc Bowles, David Wright, Todd Mitchell, Kristen Coke, Liam Dextraze, Ryman Hoffart

Post Script. I'd like to add a personal thank you to the Calgary Iaido Club from myself, and I know from Phil Ortiz and Colin Watkin. It is always a pleasure and a delight to practice with students who are eager to learn. - Kim Taylor

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TIN Nov 2008