Category Archives: Denton

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2014 Koshukai & Shodan Shiken, a brief personal journey

2014 Denton SwordThe story really began three weeks prior when David and I came to Dallas for the North TX Irish Festival. In addition to the festival I spent most of Saturday in Denton just to the North visiting my teacher and participating in the Saturday morning class. All was well until the day after we got back where upon I fell ill with a respiratory disease. After a week of making little progress I saw my doctor and started on antibiotics. Meanwhile my heightened conditioning routine, necessary to prepare for the physically demanding Koshukai, came to a halt. I recovered barely in time to gather the many things needed for the long weekend, pack, and drive off to Denton, as planned, on the Wednesday before the weekend.

Thursday morning was spent resting, organizing, and waiting for Sensei to complete his work for the day so we could run errands in the afternoon. I did the driving as we stopped to get gifts for Tanida-Sensei and his wife, arrange for the pizza dinner on Friday, check the key operation at the gym, arrange for tables, arrange for checking in at the hotel, and buy fruit & snacks for the hotel room.

After getting back to the house we enjoyed a smoothie before heading down to the dojo for the Thursday practice. The easel was also brought to the dojo and set up. Everyone in attendance was testing, so the practice consisted of jūkeiko followed by a practice Shiken. Afterwards we went out to eat with Charles-Sensei and continued to discuss planning for our trip to Japan in June. Much later that night Neil-Sensei arrived and settled down in Sensei’s study for the night.

The next day Nemo-San came by in the morning before heading to the airport to pick up Tanida-Sensei, in order to collect the hotel check in paper, the basket for the hotel room, and the care kit. This allowed us time in the morning to complete preparations at the dojo and get things ready to move to the gym for the evening practice.

Promptly at the appointed time, Tanida-Sensei came to the dojo to start the afternoon practice with the assembled Kanchō. Every year he seems on fire to transmit to us the technique and essence of MJER. Every year he challenges us to raise our Iai and that of our students. This year was no different.

Four hours later the practice with the Kanchō is done and we are able to take Tanida-Sensei to a private viewing of Kogushi-Sensei’s family sword at the nearby Denton Annex where it is on display. Afterwards Nemo-San took him back to the hotel to rest while everyone else was busy moving stuff to and preparing the gym for the evening practice.

Promptly at 6:30 he arrived and lead a three-hour practice for everyone in attendance. I wasn’t feeling up to another practice so instead I ran a camera. Afterwards there was a small pizza party at Sensei’s house for Tanida-Sensei and Kanchō.

The next morning I woke up with a migraine that included a touch of nausea, so I took medication and rested that morning while everyone else participated in the morning practice at the gym. I sent the refreshed care kit to Nemo-San courtesy of Neil-Sensei. By noon I was feeling better and was able to participate in the afternoon practice, even doing tatehiza techniques. There was a group photo before everyone dispersed to get ready for the party.

The dinner party that night was at Sensei’s house and featured Martha’s tasty Tex-Mex food. We couldn’t eat enough. We also watched a video of an MJER practice in Japan from the early 1980’s lead by Tanida-Sensei’s and Sensei’s first teacher, who had incredible Iai. Later that evening Sensei presented him with a printed copy of the latest newsletter, which included the published interview that Neil-Sensei did last year with him. Others, including myself, presented their own small gifts before he retired for the night.

The next day we gathered at the gym for the last large group practice in the morning. After a few hours there was a break to allow those testing to do jūkeiko, and everyone else to set up for the Shodan Shiken to follow. I was running on fumes by then so I just helped a little with set up and rested as much as possible.

Before the test the Kanchō were given tournament evaluation forms for the first time ever, and Tanida-Sensei explained how to fill in each part of the form and which pairs of testers we were practicing on. This was done I think to begin preparing us to judge a tournament.

The Shodan Shiken went very well. While I was able to watch Nemo-San and Rob-San from the front table, I could only observe Jon-Sensei and Ali-Sensei from the rear as I awaited my turn. Every one did very well I think.

After the test was over, and the various group photos with the Sensei were done, there was the usual mad rush to break down, change clothes to get ready for lunch, while fielding all the good-byes from the many leaving to go back to where they came from. Finally everything was packed, cleared out, and locked up, and we could journey to Brent’s for a by-reservation-only delicious meal catered by Babe’s of Sanger TX. We couldn’t eat enough of the good food. While resting & digesting in a quiet corner of the house, Tanida-Sensei came by to let Nemo and I know that he wanted to have a practice at the dojo in one hour. I got up and immediately notified everyone else. Knowing we had to go back to the house to get our gear first, everyone jumped up and headed out.

Even dressing out directly at the house and going immediately to the dojo, the practice had already started by the time I arrived. After some general comments by Tanida-Sensei he commenced to teach us the finer points of the paired waza we knew. After three hours this, the last practice, came to a close. Neil-Sensei took his leave to drive back home. The rest of us, after changing, all headed out to a soup/salad/sandwich shop for dinner, our last chance to visit, and to conclude the business side of the event. Tanida-Sensei was taken back to his hotel for the last time as we headed back to the house to grab some sleep.

Morning came very early as a handful of us rose and hurried to the hotel to see him off to the airport by 7AM. Afterwards most of us went back to bed, including myself.

After waking up again I could barely move around to do laundry, re-pack, and head out the door to run some necessary errands, which included a much-needed chair massage of the lower back at The Cupboard. After Sensei completed his work for the day we spent some time checking out his new laptop before heading down to the dojo for the evening practice. There was no practice as the handful that showed up were all way too tired and sore from the weekend. So we just quietly talked about how it all went.

Still worn out I was able to move around a little bit more on Tuesday and conclude my business in Denton (including another chair massage, this time focusing on the upper back & shoulders). With the car fully loaded I headed off back home at 2 PM,– a time picked to avoid both Dallas and Houston rush hours. Back home I was too tired to do more than unpack the car and go to bed. It was several days later until I had the desire or energy to unpack, and eight days until I was finally out of the deep well of exhaustion that effected everything and I could resume my normal work out.

Lesson for next year: Don’t get majorly sick before the Koshukai, and if that fails, settle for just watching and taking notes.


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2013 US Iaido Embukai

I arrived in Denton Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 after about 5 uneventful hours on the road. Sensei (Ray) was at home completing his work. After getting my stuff moved into the spare bedroom we went to The Cupboard to have a salad for dinner, look at snacks, and discuss a book. At some point we went to The Dojo which has a new white canvas cover (gift from Nick Lowry of the OK City dojo) and freshly painted green walls. The white canvas covering the dark carpet made the dojo seem much lighter and cleaner. Also there was a sumō ring in the rear half of the dojo. Yes, there is now a sumō school at The Dojo. The ring segments were attached to a separate canvas so the whole thing could be packed away. Back at the house I transferred over to Sensei some iai video files that I had recovered from old Hi-8 camera tapes.

Wednesday morning I went to the dojo to practice my embu waza while Sensei went to a Dr appt. The dojo’s canvas was very smooth, firm, and to my liking. The sumō ring canvas is somewhat rougher. While there I went ahead and moved the banner, sheets, and slippers to the back of my car, intending to either take them to the gym myself or hand them off to Brian Dewey (St Louis, MO), who is in charge of setup this year, or someone else to take. Huff Sensei (Cullowhee, NC) was arriving this day, but John L. was picking him up and taking him to a gun range directly so we would not see him until later in the afternoon. We went out for lunch at the Czen (great Korean restaurant on the UNT campus) and continued to plan and coordinate airport pickups. After lunch we went to the Cupboard to buy a few things then went back to the house to await Huff Sensei’s arrival with John L. He had had a good time at the range. I made tea for everyone while we visited. I think we went down to the dojo that evening to show him the canvas, freshly painted walls and the sumō ring. Afterwards I think we walked to MiCasita for dinner. It was a very long and busy week so even less than a week later the days’ events are already starting to run together.

Thursday morning, while Sensei went to his rescheduled Dr appt followed by a private practice at the dojo with Huff Sensei, I went out to pick up the T-shirts, buy more slippers, get the programs printed, and get gas. Then I went back to the house where I startled the cleaning lady who was not expecting me to walk in. After dropping off the T-shirts, programs, and slippers, I left for the Cupboard for lunch. Sensei called, since they had just finished their practice, and then they both came by to join me for lunch. Then leaving my car in the parking lot we went to Selwyn to get the key. Huff Sensei and I walked down to the gym to check it out, but there was a class in progress so we didn’t go in. Finally after waiting around outside for a while (by the way the weather was really good during the entire week), we walked back toward the admin building to find out from Sensei that they don’t know where the person who has the gym key is and could we please come back tomorrow? I am told that it is always this disorganized every year. Sensei drops me off at the Cupboard lot so we can drive home to prepare for the regular practice that night at The Dojo. At the practice there was Ray Sensei, Huff Sensei, John L., Brian Dewey, Brent Gilliatt, and a few others. Before the practice I was able to hand off the banner, sheets & slippers to Brian Dewey. John Pritchard (Bend, OR) and Eliza Meeker Sensei (Paris, France) arrived partway through the practice, and watched. Practice was mainly jūkeiko followed by an embu. After practice all the sensei and John Pritchard drove to Mazatlan, a TexMex place on University near Nottingham, for dinner. Irey Sensei and his family arrived partway through the meal. Scott & Tram, with their two very well-behaved young boys (3 and 1/2 years old), had driven from their home in Phoenix AZ.

Friday morning, Denise went to the school for the key to the gym so that we could take all the sensei on a field trip to Dallas. After Eliza Sensei arrived, we all piled into my car to go to Jack’s to collect John P & the Irey clan, so we can all go to the Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum (aka The Samurai Collection) with Scott & family following in his car. This museum primarily features lots of armor with a few weapons on display (arrow heads, a Tachi, spear, etc). I think our tour guide, Emily Barnes, learned more from Irey Sensei than he did from her. The museum shop was small, but the catalog books were very reasonably priced at $45 for a large hardback. After the museum we went to the food court at the Dallas H-mart for lunch and ~45 minutes of shopping, before returning to Denton for The Friday evening practice, followed by dinner at Metzler’s BBQ.

At the Friday evening practice Meeker Sensei lead us in BattōHō (BH) 1-7, then Irey Sensei lead us in various Seiza waza, and lastly Ray Sensei lead in TōHō 1-5. Also at the Friday practice I could hand off the T-shirts to Tristan, help the pad-less acquire knee pads, and help those needing new clothing.

On Saturday we had the morning practice, lunch at the Chinese buffet, afternoon practice, then finally the dinner party at Charles’. This year there were four groups: dangai/shodan/nidan, sandan/yondan, godan/rokudan, and renshi. In the renshi group we had the following sensei in this order: Irey, Meeker, Ray, and Huff. What follows is an incomplete recollection of what I think the sensei were trying to teach.

From Irey Sensei: Take care of yourself so you can continue to practice iai into your 90’s & beyond. Do nothing that would limit your ability to do iai later in life. Next he demonstrated and explained the Yamauchi-ha version of yaegaki, which reflects an older way of doing this and is a bit more violent in its movements. We did this waza several times, then did it in our usual way in order to show that the kihon is the same between both versions and that we are capable of switching from one to the other. Also discussed a reason for slight push out at beginning of ochiburi and the importance of the little finger on the tsuka.

From Meeker Sensei: The first half of the session was sitting and learning about how to massage the knees, feet, elbows, forearms and hands, using hands, rollers and hard objects. I had no idea the knuckles on my right hand were so sore. This can help to soften and open up the muscles, allowing them to more fully relax and contract. The second half was on hayanami (Bangai) and how to transfer the momentum directly into furikaburi then down into kirioroshi without stopping. She demonstrated this so well.

From Ray Sensei: He reviewed all the Kaewaza, and the Okutachi waza by extension. This was a much needed review of seldom practiced waza.

From Huff Sensei: He reviewed all of Iwaza with an emphasis on not stopping and maintaining seme. His transition from rear tsuki to kirioroshi is a prime example of this.

Dinner Party at Charles’ was great, featuring as it did Martha’s great TexMex feast. Also this party featured the first time many had seen several new videos such as Hanshi Kaufman’s Iaido Basics (bad Budo gold), as well as several viral videos such as What does the Fox say?, Stonehenge, and others. Also Irey Sensei brought a number of Chinese-made swords for interested folks to check out. A great time was had by all.

Sunday morning everyone warmed up, then everything was set up for the embu such as tables, chairs, programs & water for the sensei, a camera to record, tape place-markers, and the embu procedures were reviewed by those helping to conduct the event. At the appointed time we all assembled for the opening ceremony. The embu itself went smoothly starting with dangai and shodan, and concluding with Huff Sensei. All in all there were about 28 people total who participated. After closing remarks and a round of Banzai, everyone helped to rapidly take down and put away things. All the dojo stuff except for bokutō (kamidana, slippers, banner, photo, and sheets) went back into the back of my car and then, after some quick good-byes to those who had to leave for home directly, back to the house to quickly change and head out for lunch at Babe’s in Sanger (30 miles North of Denton near TX/OK border). Babe’s has great family style dining with an emphasis on chicken entrees. Meeker Sensei and I divided up the left over fried chicken into our leftovers bag. Then back to the house to socialize. As a side note I was also collecting money for Nate Huba in Osaka Japan who had just married his Kyoto girl friend. The money will be sent to him as a wedding gift (money as a wedding gift is typical in Japan).

Early Monday morning Sensei took Huff Sensei to the airport, while I prepared to move to Charles’ house for the night, but since he was busy until 5 PM, I had time to go to the dojo to return all the items (except for the slippers which I took home to clean), and then leisurely walk about the square visiting the used book store, getting a chai latte at the Jupiter House, looking at the other shops on the square, and observing the vetern’s day event on the courthouse grounds. As I relaxed during the walk I became aware of just how tired my legs and lower back were. Back at the house I ate some of the leftover chicken from Babe’s for lunch, and showed sensei the neat books I found in the Japan History section of the used book store. I left a two volume set with him to read. Then we went to Brent’s house in Sanger to pick up Meeker Sensei and drive her to DFW airport. Later, back at the house, the car was loaded and by 5 PM I was on the way to Charles’ house. There I collected the embu video tapes plus more VHS tapes and a DV camera, and got ready to go to Monday practice. We got there early,— Aikido was still going on. Sensei, Charles, John L and myself were the only ones there for iai, so we decided to go to MiCasita for dinner, but once there we decided it would be a much better idea to go to Charles’ instead for the great leftover Saturday party food cooked by Martha, which we did with no regrets. After helping John L. load the outdoor party tables and chairs into his truck we said goodbye.

Tuesday morning I drove home from Charles’, leaving a little before 10AM and arriving a little after 4PM, making a total of five stops along the way, including the museum we visited on Friday to exchange the French version of the museum book I accidentally bought for an English version. The usual stops were the Ennis Starbucks (exit 251B) for chai latte and sandwich, Bucky’s, and both Texas rest areas (Richland & Huntsville). I got hope tired, but rejuvenated by the practice and fellowship. It was a small, but very good Embukai.

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Tanida-Sensei’s Annual Visit

Thanks you to everyone who made this event so great.  We continue to learn from the previous year and as a result this year’s event was the smoothest ever.

This year more than ever Tanida-Sensei was full of energy and it was all we could do to keep up.  Total hours of practice for the weekend (Friday – Sunday) were about 21 hours.  We are incredibly lucky to have him come every year to teach us.

In addition to the koshukai there was a shodan shiken held late Sunday morning.  Three Clear Lake students tested successfully for their ranks, and one student received honorable mention by Tanida-Sensei.

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two-year highlights

The past year and a half have been our busiest ever, hence the lack of updates to this site since 2003 August. Many things have happened and a few things have changed. Please see the Past Events section for some of the major events that we have participated in. Amazingly enough the class schedule is unchanged, but the fee has increased from $25 to $40 per month.


Notable Milestones

In 2003 Joe, Neil, and I went to Japan for the first time in our lives. It was a wonderful experience. In addition to participating in the ZNIR Embukai in Yamagata, we were able to attend a special practice presided over by Ikeda-soke. Tanida-sensei and Kogushi-sensei were very kind to us, and made our trip a great success.

At the 2004 Tanida-sensei koshukai & shodan shiken in Denton, for the first time Joe and I were not the only ones from our dojo testing. We had four people testing for shodan. These were Sue Curtis, Linden Sisk, Matthew Burke, and Ali Lawson. All who tested achieved their rank (including Joe and I who tested for sandan).

Also in 2004, for the first time ever, one of the students successfully applied at their High School to take Iaido for PE credit.

At the 2005 shodan shiken we had the following testing: Jon Andresen & William Huckaba for shodan, Ali Lawson for nidan, and Joe & I for yondan. Also, Jessica Culler, who started Iaido in Clear Lake and relocated to Oklahoma, tested for shodan. She is currently training with Susan Burke-Sensei in Oklahoma City. Results of this grading are currently unknown.


Future Happenings

Next month I will travel to Denton to train with Sensei one last time before I return to Japan in June for three weeks. I look forward to attending Tanida-Sensei’s classes, and hopefully participating in the all Japan Eishin-Ryu Embukai. While I am gone, classes at Clear Lake Iaido will continue as usual with the help of Joe and the other senior students.

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Certificates, Events catch-up

Certificates Arrive

While at The Dojo in Denton earlier this month, Sensei surprised me at the Thursday class when he presented me with my nidan certificate. He also gave Joe’s certificate to bring back to him. At the very next class Joe was at, I surprised him with it.


Events Past and Future

The San Antonio Sword Show is now just a fond memory, as is the training trip to Denton which occured July 31- August 3. Coming up fast is the trip to Japan to train with Sensei’s Sensei. During the two weeks (Oct. 8-22) that Joe and I will both be gone formal classes will be cancelled. Prospective students and other visitors are advised to wait until after the 22nd to arrange to watch a class. Coming on the heels of that trip is the U.S. Embukai in Texas which will occur on the first weekend in November. Then in December is our dojo Xmas party. We will bring in 2004 at dawn on New Years Day with hatsunuki, first draw.

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Lots going on; Mirror installed

Saturday Practice Moves to Sunday & Friday Practice Time Change

I am finally getting around to making some much needed changes to the web site. Thank you for your patience, and thanks to those who offered to help. As the regular students already know, the Saturday practice has moved to Sunday from 12:30 – 2:30. Also, as of April 25, the Friday practice is now 8:30 – 9:30.


Events Past

This is a quick overview of events past.  In October the 2nd Annual Texas Embukai was a great success with six instructors in attendance. Four from our group attended. In December Jack Bieler of Denton visited us one day and lead a special practice. On New Year’s Day we had our first ever Hatsunuki celebration in Houston. In January Charles Mahan of Denton visited us one weekend, leading practices on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In early February Joe and I went to Denton for training with sensei. Later that same month, four of us journeyed to Denton for Tanida-sensei’s seminar, and two of us tested for nidan in the shodan shiken held on Sunday. In March most of the school was involved in one way or another in the wall construction (for a large mirror), and general dojo upgrade/remodeling. In April three of us and Charles Mahan, who happened to be in town, demonstrated at the 2003 Japan Festival in Hermann Park in downtown Houston. Also that same weekend, Charles lead our Sunday practice, and two of us entered the traditional sword division at a local martial arts tournament,– Joe Charles won first place and I took second in the advanced track. The very next weekend Sensei and Tom Thomas came down to spend a very enjoyable weekend with us. We trained hard during the day, and at night watched videos and had a lot of fun (and little sleep). In May I had two five foot tall sections of mirror installed on the newly built wall. This was a tremendous improvement over the hanging closet door mirrors.


Events Future

The San Antonio Sword Show, May 23-25, is rapidly approaching. We will be joining Sensei and his local students in a demonstration of Eishin Ryu from 2 -2:30. In the future is a trip to Baton Rouge when Sensei travels there to visit Neil and Doug. In the not-too-far future is our trip to Japan in October.

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News Update

We were very fortunate to have Jack Bieler of Denton visit us for a training session Saturday, December 29. He patiently worked with us on Seiza and Batto Ho no Bu for almost four hours. Thanks Jack. Afterwards we retired to a local restaurant for dinner and more visiting.

Recently I have heard that there will be no San Antonio Sword Show this year, reportedly due to the organizer needing a break after about 20 years of putting one on every year. This is unfortunate, not just for the vendors it draws, but also because there are some folks that I rarely see outside of that event. Perhaps next year.

I traveled to Denton for hatsunuki. In addition I was able to train with Sensei, and Charles on New Year’s Eve. Thank you to both.

There is a slight possibility that Tanida-Sensei will be in Houston during the last weekend of January. If so we could see a number of folks from Denton, as well as Baton Rouge and Nacogdoches, converge on our dojo.