The Iaido Journal  May 2008
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copyright © 2008 Keith Simpson, all rights reserved

Three years ago, I found myself in a large room. The space was warehouse like; cold and drafty. At first glance, it was not the most inviting place, yet I could not tear myself away. My cousin, who had been attending Iaido classes at the club for about 6 months, introduced me to Chris sensei, and I felt immediately welcomed. As a fifteen year old grade 9 student, I was completely in awe at the sight of people swinging swords. I was a little scared by the “Swoosh” made by each swing; which is now so familiar to me. As I stepped into this room I found myself facing a journey.

At first, I had no idea how important this club would become. When I was in elementary school I had tried martial arts before but I eventually lost interest. I was unsure as to whether or not I was mature enough to stick to an activity for more than a few months. I figured that Iaido would be like so many other activities I had tried my hand at in the past. After a few months however; I found myself compelled to stay. Sensei has often told me about how Iaido is about removing the bad until only the good remains, achieving perfection, and then improving on it. Due to the fact that one can never achieve perfection, one can never finish training in Iaido. Something about the idea of a never-ending adventure captivated my imagination.

I now think I understand what is so attractive about working towards an unachievable goal. People strive for a purpose in life. People have worked into their 80’s, completely healthy, until they are forced to retire. Lovers sometimes die within weeks of one another; because once one of them is gone the other feels lost. No entity can exist without a purpose. Many of society’s problems can be linked back to a lack of purpose. Drug and alcohol abuse are brought about when people feel lost or undirected. In many ways, it would be much easier to live in the time of the samurai. People needed to labor day and night just to survive. In the past, the path to follow in life was obvious. When people have no path to follow they will destroy themselves.

A year and a half after first stepping into the dojo, I had found my first job, in order to be able to buy myself an iaito. I had been hired as a courtesy clerk at Calgary Co-Op. It was a terrible job. For 6 months I worked 8 hours a day on both Saturday and Sunday, and always the 7:30 AM shift on Saturday so I could be off in time to get to Iaido. I had a goal, and even though it required lots of hard work, the feeling of accomplishment I got from my training was well worth it.

Through Iaido, I am able to find meaning. I am capable of focusing myself on achieving a goal. It gives me something to work on every hour of every day. It provides me with a sense of accomplishment every time sensei compliments my technique; and something to look forward to every time I am given something to fix. It is a place where I am guaranteed to find friends and family. Iaido is my purpose as much as it is a part of who I am.

Iaido Mountains
Brilliantly, mountains rise to the blue, sentinels of weather, bastions of uniqueness, challenging life to adapt under their shadows.
The older ones sometimes smooth out into gentle rolling hills of green, richly hued, radiant in the Fall of their long lived lives. Others are cragged and sharp, built from tougher times and different materials. These defiant peaks resist. Time persists on them and in their own rugged lines strength continues to rise within and despite their crumbling rocks. Easily, we know sensei like these older types of mountains. Smooth or sharp, they thrive in the twilight of being in ways differently than the young.
The young, ah the young. Rising to great heights with such speed and force, passion and single minded determination. Mirrored as greatness in the face of their own potency they have so much to learn, and learn they do by adapting, changing, growing. Some such mountains are black from the fiery red glow of their suddenness. They defy water, air, and night. Life grows within and on them. Newness is stark to the observer. Sudden growth a delightful surprise. There are those of us in Iai who have observed others grow in such ways. Keith Simpson is one such youthful mountain.
Keith has thrust himself strongly toward the clear blue sky of iaido technique. He continues to rise internally through his humility and perseverence. This mountain could tower over many if the clarity of his mind-set stays true. Keith will rise to great heights in life. 
You might not see this in him at first though. He is tall and only now beginning to find comfort in his new adolescent growth. He becomes a young man before our eyes. Naturally, his iai has become a young mountain too, staying in stride with the great passion and opportunity youth brings. Keith represents the potential of learning youth possesses. From his early, awkward days in the club to this young force -- Keith is on the right path and he grows because of it. One only needs to read his writing for the Haruna Bursary to clearly understand this. Haruna sensei was a junior high school teacher. He would know Keith. He would see and understand his potential, as he saw and understood the potential of so many he taught and observed. Keith is a new mountain to the world, reaching high and deep. Awed, I can only guide him and watch with excitement as he continues to commit himself to his personal growth, especially in the Way of Iai. He is more than deserving support for this effort. 
As a student he will benefit from the bursary. His early and long days working weekends is testament to his desire to continue Iaido. I hope we can help him. On behalf of the Calgary Iaido Club and Keith Simpson, we support Keith in his application for the Haruna Bursary. - Chris Gilham

Keith Simpson is a 2008 recipient of the Haruna Bursary to the Guelph Spring iai and jo seminar.

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TIN May 2008