The Iaido Journal  Sept 2011
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2011 Ontario Iaido Open

copyright © 2011 Patrick Suen, all rights reserved

Iaido taikai (competitions) don’t occur very often in Canada (only once a year), but they sure are a blast!

On Saturday, August 27, the 2011 Ontario Iaido Open, was held at the Etobicoke Olympium. Over 25 participants from across Ontario and New York State made their way to Toronto for a day of challenging themselves to through technical and mental competition.

Individuals competed in the five divisions of (1) Shodan and below, (2) Nidan, (3) Sandan, (4) Yondan, and (5) Godan and above. Continuing the goal of building interest and participation for Iaido in Canada, the taikai began with an exhibition round, where individuals are guaranteed to compete in a minimum of two matches. This was followed by the elimination round, filled with the top four exhibition scorers (by total # of flags) per division. A team competition, consisting of three individuals, completed the series of events.

Leading up to this day, a shimpan (judge) seminar was held on Friday at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, where our resident nanadans conducted an informative discussion on the actions and criteria for judging. Yondan and above participants each took turns going through entering/exiting the dojo, unexpected stoppages and the act of decision making, with various sandans acting as examples players. By the end of the night, our group of judges, headed by Goyo Ohmi (Renshi 7 dan, Toronto), Stephen Cruise (Renshi 7 dan, Etobicoke), and Kim Taylor (Renshi 7 dan, Guelph), were ready to decide the outcome of matches to come.

Taikai day started with setup & registration at 9:00am followed by opening ceremonies at 10:00am. Scores of volunteers, of all ranks, assisted in the court layout, time-keeping, score-keeping, recording, ushering, and many other duties required in the smooth running of a seminar this size. Their tireless efforts, lead by organizers Pam Morgan (Sei Do Kai, Guelph) and Hanna Ikeda-Suen (Mu Mon Kai, Toronto) made the event pleasant for everyone involved from beginning to end.

Exhibition matches were held from 10:30am to 12:30am where a group of 25 participants were whittled down to 20. Shitei Waza (specified kata) were selected for each division except shodan and below, with a one koryu (non-standardized, “old school” kata) requirement. Following lunch, the semi-finals and final matches for the elimination round was held and the outcomes decided.

  Ikkyu/Shodan (K/1)   Nidan (2)   Sandan (3)
1. Mark Ross, Kenshokan
2. Hyun-June Choi, Jung Ko
3. Hailey Shafman, Mu Mon Kai
3. Martin Stabler, Kenshokan
1. Hanna Ikeda-Suen, Mu Mon Kai
2. Alexei Konovalev, Mu Mon Kai
3. Pam Morgan, Sei Do Kai
3. Daniel le, Mu Mon Kai
1. Michael Suen, Mu Mon Kai
2. Patrick Suen, Mu Mon Kai
3. Kevin Adams, Mu Mon Kai
3. Ron Beck, Mu Mon Kai
  Yondan (4)   Godan/Rokudan (5/6)   Fighting Spirit
1. Michael Gan, Mu Mon Kai
2. Jeremy Brett, AYC
3. Ken Morgan, Sei Do Kai
3. Ron Mattie, Etobicoke
1. Carole Galligan, Mu Mon Kai
2. Enore Gardonio, AYC/Mu Mon Kai
3. Peter Schramek, AYC/Mu Mon Kai
Ron Beck, Mu Mon Kai
Mark Ross, Kenshokan

Following the individual competition, an embu (demonstration) taikai was held with the winners of the five divisions. A single individual was selected from this group to be awarded a Kantosho (Fighting Spirit Award). Mark Ross (Ikkyu) from Kenshokan, Peterborough, was a unanimous decision from Ohmi-, Cruise-, and Taylor-Sensei. There was also an Fighting Spirit award for the overall seminar presented to Ron Beck (Sandan) from Mu Mon Kai, Rochester, NY.

With the pressure of the individual matches over, the seminar proceeded to the final, lighter side, event: Team Taikai! Limited time, meant that this year’s judging criteria was synchronization, where a team’s performance was decided by their ability to stay in time with each other’s movements. One koryu and four shitei waza were selected for this event. In the past, outcomes were also decided comparing individuals from each team separately. One of the many delights of this part of the seminar is the ability to choose team names, as you can see from the results below.

 Result   Team Name   Members
1.  Team Suen   Michael Suen (Mu Mon Kai)
  Patrick Suen (Mu Mon Kai)
  Hanna Ikeda-Suen (Mu Mon Kai)

2.  X'Mas Carole   Carole Galligan (Mu Mon Kai)
  Ken Morgan (Sei Do Kai)
  Pam Morgan (Sei Do Kai)
3.  Cruise Missile   Peter Schramek (AYC/MMK)
  Ron Mattie (Etobicoke)
  Rocco Iafallo (Hayakama)
3.  Kenshokan   Phil Anderson (Kenshokan)
  Martin Stabler (Kenshokan)
  Mark Ross (Kenshokan)
Others.  Winning   Michael Gan (Mu Mon Kai), Kevin Adams (Mu Mon Kai), Alexei Konovalev (Mu Mon Kai)
 AYC + 1   Enore Gardonio (AYC/MMK), Jeremy Brett (AYC), Hailey Shafman (Mu Mon Kai)
 Lunch Table   Chris Sora (Mu Mon Kai), Marianne Matchuk (Mu Mon Kai), Nancy Chau (Mu Mon Kai)

Finalists of each division were presented with GOLD, SILVER and BRONZE medals, as well as a piece of calligraphy from Goyo Ohmi Sensei to each winner with the kanji for "Strength", "Spirit", "Sword", "Way", and "Mushin".

The seminar concluded with passionate speeches from the three top Sensei, congratulating everyone on their efforts and encouraging us to continue training hard.

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