There are several seminars coming up in the next few months in
North America, and all those who are interested in iaido or jodo should
be paying attention to them. In fact, there is a bit of a circuit
developing. The season starts off in May with the Guelph Spring Iaido
and Jodo seminar which, in 2010 is celebrating its 20th year.
It is always held in Guelph, Ontario on the Victoria Day weekend (the
first monday on or before May 24, or the weekend before Memorial Day).
This year there are 8 sensei coming from Japan to teach at the seminar,
including Kishimoto sensei, hanshi hachidan and head of the All
Japan Kendo Federation iaido committee. For jodo the delegation is
headed by Furukawa sensei, jodo hanshi hachidan from Tokyo along
with Arai sensei. They are the instructors you see in the AJKF official
Then in June the All US Kendo Federation has its annual iaido seminar,
national tournament and grading. This seminar moves from place to
place, this year it's in Texas and next year in Cleveland Ohio. If you
miss Kishimoto sensei in Guelph, he'll be in Texas in June. Also
teaching at this camp is Yamazaki sensei (hanshi hachidan) who will be
at his fourth AUSKF camp. This seminar has become an annual event as
well, and should be on everyone's yearly tour.
San Antonio Texas: June 9-13, 2010
Kishimoto sensei (left) and Yamazaki sensei (right) Photos by Dennis Ralutin
Portland Oregon: The next weekend, June 17-20, 2010
sees the Obukan (Portland Oregon) kendo, iaido, and jodo seminar with a
group of sensei from Hiroshima, headed by Okuda sensei,
(iaido, kyoshi hachidan and jodo, kyoshi nanadan) and Yoshihara
sensei (kendo, kyoshi nanadan).
Calgary Alberta: August 12-15, 2010 For those who are
interested in the more esoteric koryu, the annual Calgary seminar
will feature Colin Watkin (Hyakutake) (menkyo) who will be teaching
both Kage-ryu and Niten Ichiryu. I will also be teaching
Jodo at this seminar.
There are also regional seminars which are worth checking out, for
example I will be teaching Iaido all day in Ottawa Ont. Oct 2, (Contact
David Green <firstname.lastname@example.org>) and then the next day I'll be teaching Jodo in Peterborough Ont, 12:30-6pm. (Contact Mike Chinadi email@example.com) My qualifications to do that are renshi nanadan in Iaido and godan in Jodo (head of CKF jodo section).
So, lots of seminars to think about attending, but what do you do once you get there?
First, if you're a beginner or haven't done any of these arts at all,
don't hesitate to sign up and attend. There will always be instruction
for you by some very qualified people and it will be an excellent
start to your career.
For those who have been practicing for several years, here are my
thoughts and personal practices at any seminar I attend. For some of
you, these points will seem obvious but trust me, in 30 years of
martial arts seminars I've come to understand that there is a need for
Unka Kim's "Get a Clue" list for Seminar Attendance
Expect to jump at least a level in your practice. I don't think
I've ever been at a seminar where I haven't learned enought to take my
practice to the "next level", and often I've jumped even further than
that. You must go with the attitude that you will improve dramatically,
as this attitude will carry you through the rest of the points
Remember that you chose to attend, and that you're paying for the priviledge. See above for why.
Arrive prepared. Get your rest before the seminar, and try to
arrive healthy, there may only be two or three chances in a year to get
instruction from the top folks in the world in your art. Don't waste it
by not being prepared to practice if you can help it at all. If you are
injured, attend anyway, even watching will jump your skill level once
you start practicing again. Check out the latest research on mirror
Get some rest during the seminar. Absolutely, head out with
everyone else for beer and bratwurst after the day's classes, but do
try to get some sleep and hold the hangovers to a minimum so that you
can get something out of the second, third and fourth days. The key is
to be "down" during the down time so that you can be "up" during the
time that counts, while you're in class.
Attend every class. EVERY CLASS. There are no unimportant
classes, or any classes that are too early or too late, or classes that
are too junior for you. You never know when sensei will say something
that will trigger a cascade of understanding in your head. Remember
that it's the beginner classes that hold the most fundamental and
important information, the stuff you come back to over and over when
you're trying to figure out the complicated stuff.
Get thee to the front. I can't tell you how important this point
is, or how often I've watched seniors drift back to hide behind
everyone else. Get up there to get picked on by sensei! Get up there so
that he pulls you out and tears your technique apart in front of the
entire group! It's good for you. Get up there so that you can see every
little twitch of his hand and shift of his foot. Get up there so that
you can hear what sensei is saying and then what the translator
is saying. Get up there so that you can catch the tiny little nod
sensei gives you when you finally get it right. Get up there so that
your back is turned to all the other students in class who want to talk
to you about something terribly important but not what you're in class
It ain't practice. Don't come with the intention to go
gangbusters for three days. All you'll do is injure yourself. Work hard
but work smart, practice what you've been told to change, not what you
already know how to do well. I've heard folks complaining that they
didn't break a sweat in that class... so you stood around watching the
top guy explain things for an hour? Poor you! Best go for a run instead
eh? Sorry, the point is to do the endurance training on your own time,
and train smart at the seminar.
Pay attention. Sure, after two days your attention starts to
wander and it can get hard not to discuss important stuff like what
you're having for dinner that evening, but while you're talking, sensei
is teaching. If he can keep his mind on what you're doing, you ought to
be able to do the same.
Don't teach. Don't even second guess what sensei is going to say
next. There's nothing that wastes your time more efficiently than
turning to the guy next to you and saying "oh we do it this way" except
maybe just assuming you know what sensei is about to demonstrate and
then trying to do that instead of what he actually told you to do.
Make notes. Really, after every class or late at night, give up a
few minutes of your time to write down what is most important for you
to remember. You may be good enough that you don't ever have to go back
and read those notes but six months or three years down the road I
often find some real gems in my chicken scratchings. In fact I often
find myself saying things like "why haven't I been doing this since
that seminar? It would have saved me months of work if I'd just
Don't complain. Sure you paid money to the organizers to be at
the seminar but this isn't a theater performance, a movie or a spa
experience. The obligation of the organizers ends at gettting you and
sensei in the same room together. What you do from there is entirely up
to you. Every minute you're harassing one of those working at the
seminar about clean sheets, leaky toilets or not knowing when the
grading is being held is a minute you could both be learning
Help out. Instead of complaining, figure out what needs to be
done (like putting up a sign that tells everyone when the grading is
being held) and go do it. It takes very little effort to make any
seminar you attend into your own seminar. Take a few beginners under
your wing and shoo them into the right class. If everyone is stacking
chairs, pitch in. Ask your hosts if there's anything that needs doing,
and then go do it. Listen, this can be a very selfish thing to do
because helpers often end up sitting near sensei at the after-class
After Class Classes. If sensei and everyone else is heading out
for dinner somewhere, go along. So you don't like chinese food, you may
like the chance to ask sensei questions for half an hour while
you pick at your chow mein instead of the burger you are craving.
Listen a lot, your technical question can be answered by a senior if
one of the seniors is currently asking sensei about something delicate,
unique and special. Listen closely and stay out of the way when you
Pay your own way. Don't forget that your hosts have spent a lot
of money flying sensei to the seminar, providing him room and board,
renting the gym, driving him around... if you're out with everyone else
at dinner do put in enough to cover your meal and don't short the tip.
In fact, slip in a little extra to help cover sensei's beer tab, or buy
a couple rounds outright. On the other hand, if you're a poor student
and have no extra money, but you are a hard-working student who follows
all the hints I've given above, trust me, some senior with a job will
happily cover your tab.
Remember why you're there. Always, remember your first seminar
and how much you learned, and vow to learn even more at this one.
Sweep the floor.
Kim Taylor has been attending and hosting martial art seminars since 1980.