The Iaido Journal  Sept 2003
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1st Esaka US Iaido koshukai

Tom Helm

"Esaka Sensei just flew into town and boy are MY arms tired!"

       I say my arms are tired but actually it is my legs! I have been doing Rehab. for a torn Meniscus (confirmed by MRI on Monday) for the last three months and have had little practice in that time. Sensei had us focused on a handful of kata which we of course practiced intensively and intently. I over-did it a bit and by Sunday was continuing on sheer will and then I was told we'd be doing the demos!

       We had three days of intense practice morning and afternoon led by Sensei and ably assisted by Raj Thakrar. The focus was on Kihon in seiza no bu and batto ho. Friday night fireworks at Oaklands' Jack London Square, Saturday a reception for Sensei at Trader Vics and Sunday an informal vietnamese dinner in Berkeley. A full plate for all!

       It really was a great weekend, Andrej did a fantastic job. Like the great general Saigo Takamori, whose talent was not in waging war but in choosing the right man for each job, he had only to watch it unfold as he had deftly assigned each of his students with jobs according to their talents. As it should be all the work done in preparation was hardly noticeable and we had only to show up and enjoy. Yes indeed, thank you Andrej.

       Each day saw more than 50 participants from the US, Mexico and Canada. (would like to have seen more Canadiens) The old gym on the Alameda Naval base had more than enough room to accommodate us all and then some. I met several people whom I hadn't seen in years, renewing their interest in Iai, such was the drawing power of top quality instruction from a Judan.

       Esaka Sensei started each day with practice of ashisabaki, saying "many will teach you how to use a sword but few can teach you how to use your feet". While some might have wished to see and practice advanced technique I was quite pleased when he had us shed our swords and focus on the "foundation".

       Chris Thompson and his students made a great showing at the dinner party on Saturday (no one told me to wear a tie), Esaka Sensei was clearly moved by the warm reception they gave him. I very much appreciated Sensei's comments likening his inaugural with the very first Embassy from Japan 143 years ago, which made its first stop in San Francisco. Taken in total he must have been impressed with all that Andrej did to make this a successful trip for him and I am sure this won't be his last visit.

      We owe a great deal of thanks to Esaka Sensei and to Andrej, who has set the standard. Iaido in the US will surely flourish if he can continue to host an event like this regularly.

       Looking forward to that next time, and practicing with you all, your friend in the way...

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TIN Sept 2003