The Iaido Journal  Dec 2011
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One-on-One with Dennis Wiens (2)
(1st dan, Katori Shinto Ryu - Sugino Branch)

copyright © 2011 Douglas Tong, all rights reserved.

The following article is the second part of an interview with Dennis Wiens (1st dan, Katori Shinto Ryu- Sugino Branch). Mr. Wiens took his shodan test in 2008. In this article, Mr. Wiens talks about the second day of his shodan grading.

Part 2: The Second Day (Saturday)

Question: What was the seminar agenda for the second day?

Wiens: Cutting and kamae. Then we spent the entire day on ik-kajo and ni-kajo.

Question: Again??

Wiens: Yes. I guess Sensei saw some things the night before that made him want to revisit it again.

Question: How did this second day start?

Wiens: The usual: bow-in, line up, maki-uchi.

Question: So nothing special?

Wiens: No. The standard warm-up.

Question: So, what was different on the second day?

Wiens: The practice was pretty much a continuation of Friday night. What stood out was the dinner that night because on Saturday night, everyone always goes out for dinner together.

Question: Why did it stand out?

Wiens: Because Sensei sat right across from me and made sure the translator was sitting right beside me.

Question: And…?

Wiens: As the meal went on, in between day-to-day conversation and pleasantries, he would occasionally stop and ask me to lean in and he would make some important point about the spirit of practice and the attitude in training and what was expected in dojos affiliated with the Sugino Line. Then it would go back to regular conversation. Then he’d make another important point and this pattern went on the rest of the evening.

Question: What do you remember most from this day?

Wiens: The conversations with Sensei and the tidbits he gave me over dinner. Tidbits makes it sound trivial. Maybe it’s better to say that they really were important points that he shared with me.

Question: Did he give you any memorable advice?

Wiens: One of the things that really stood out was when he talked about the purpose of training. He said, “When you are training in Katori Shinto Ryu, you do not train in Katori Shinto Ryu to put other people down. You also do not train in Katori Shinto Ryu to be cool. In other words, to make yourself seem important. Or to be a hotshot or a big shot. So, to have a humble, hard-working, honest attitude in training.”

Question: How do you think the second day went?

Wiens: Better than the first. You see, I was more in the swing of things on the second day. The initial terror was over! (laughing.)

Question: So you still hadn’t been tested?

Wiens: No, but he told me what time on the next day my test would be. And it would be in the morning before everyone else arrived for the first afternoon session*.

* The seminar times were: Friday evening, Saturday morning and afternoon, Sunday early afternoon and late afternoon.

Author’s post-script:

Training in old arts is really a family affair in some ways. It is much more personal. There typically are not many practitioners in the old arts. You can count them on your fingers, so to speak. There are various reasons for this. Some common reasons are as follows. One, old arts (koryu) take too long to learn. They are also antiquated arts and follow old traditions, so naturally they do not appeal to modern people. Another is that they are few and far between. Koryu schools are hard to find. Since they are not franchised, it is difficult, if not impossible, to find teachers of these arts overseas. Finally, they do not have tournaments or competitions to make them like Western sports. When you have a modern sports set-up (format), then there is the need to keep current.

Since the koryu schools have smaller numbers and are much more personal, there is consequently much more direct contact between teacher and student. As Mr. Wiens described when he related the events of the dinner, part of the testing was not really testing in any formal sense but the passing on of the philosophy and customs of the school.

“… what was expected in dojos affiliated with the Sugino Line.”

To pass the test means that one in effect becomes a member of the school, very much akin to becoming a member of a clan. This is not unusual if one thinks of the old schools as clans of a sort. Some of the schools were (and some still are) family traditions, very closely-held and jealously-guarded family traditions. I won’t name names but it is not very difficult to look down a roster of koryu traditions and pick out ones which are family traditions.

Koryu schools are like clans. If you join a clan, you must think like them, act like them, believe in the same things they believe in. It is natural that they will indoctrinate you into their way of thinking.

So that dinner was very much the signing of a contract. An agreement. A contractual obligation. You agree to…


The Road To Asia Festival

As we say goodbye to summer and head into fall, anticipation for The Road to Asia Festival is building. Mark your calendars for the weekend of Saturday November 5 and Sunday November 6. Make sure that you come and help us celebrate the 11th Anniversary of this fantastic multicultural festival of arts and culture!

This weekend has the JCCC packed with the richness and exciting diversity of many Asian cultures. Kobayashi Hall will feature a variety of dance, theatrical and music performances on the main stage. As well, there will be a cultural marketplace featuring arts and crafts demonstrations and merchandise from all across the Asian region. If martial arts are what you want, the dojo will feature virtually non-stop demonstrations. Finally, a visit to The Road to Asia Festival is not complete unless you sample some of the delicacies featured in our food court.

The Road to Asia Festival takes the JCCC’s motto of “Friendship Through Culture” to a whole new level. With last year’s participants representing countries like Tibet, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, China, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, India, Taiwan, and, of course, Japan, and over 3,000 people in attendance, you don’t want to miss this huge two-day festival of Asian-Canadian culture.
Gather your family and friends and join us for another trip along The Road to Asia.

Dates & Times:
Saturday November 5
11:00am to 5:00pm

Sunday November 6
11:00am to 5:00pm

JCCC Members Free
$5 Adults, $3 Seniors/Students
Children 12 and under FREE


Mr.Tong and his group will be demonstrating the arts of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu and Katori Shinto Ryu at The Road to Asia Festival at the JCCC on Sunday, November 6, 2011 from 3:00 – 4:00 pm.

Mr. Tong can be contacted via email at:
Mr. Tong also writes many articles on teaching martial arts. You can read them at: Physical Training: Fitness for Combatives Electronic Journal

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