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2014 Japan week 3

2014 Japan Diary week 3
June 18 — 24

Wednesday, June 18 – Takuhaibin, Chiba Kōen, Charles-Sensei arrives

Good that I didn’t try to squeeze in a visit to SakuraYa. My idea of where to look for it was wrong. Thanks to their web page I now know how to go. Unfortunately they are closed on Wednesday, so I will try to go tomorrow.
This morning at breakfast Okamisan gave me some omiyage. Unfortunately some of it is heavy, which is why she gave it to me today, but I worry about exceeding the baggage weight limit on the flight back (United only allows one checked free bag <=50#).
Well I spent most of the day, until 2 PM finishing deciding what should and can go into the suitcase versus the back pack, packing & repacking, then dragging it downstairs leaving the form on top. During this time I made a 90 min recording of local neighborhood sounds (going to miss them in the Hilton). By then I was tired of hanging around the room and decided to go for a walk in Chiba Kõen and to get some real food to supplement the meager snacks I had for lunch. On the way to the park I decided to take an alternate route going up hill through a bit of the Benten neighborhood that ultimately lead me to the park via a downhill route. The lotus blooming season is coming along nicely. I paused at the lotus garden to take pictures. After walking about for a bit I headed back after swinging by the 7-11 for drinks and an onigiri. Back at the ryokan by about 3:30 I was surprised that my bag was already gone. I was going to ask if it was ok to lock it. Too late now. I reimbursed her for the expense. Tomorrow night I need to do laundry. Before dinner I worked on the journal, looked at my photos, and tweeted.
Also got an email from Charles-Sensei, one of my travel companions for this trip, that he had arrived at the Narita Hilton.

Thursday, June 19 – SakuraYa, Laundry

Today I went to SakuraYa while Charles went to Akihabara. On the way there in the train I thought about ma as I observed the distance between myself and the person seated across from me. Idly wondered if Japanese Iaidoka had thoughts like this too as they rode the trains. At SakuraYa I bought and had shipped a new greenish stripped hakama, a thin summer-weight black poly keikogi, white suede tabi, navy suede tabi, juban, and a nice little bag with a carabiner clip. I went back to Chiba afterwards to find an email asking if I could get him some peanut butter on the way up tomorrow. I did not relish trying to walk through Perie with a loaded backpack and wondered if I could run up there and back tomorrow morning before checking out. Tonight I used up the last of my laundry powder that I brought with me doing laundry (there is no self-serve laundry at the Hilton).

Friday, June 20 – Move to Hilton, John-Sensei arrives

After breakfast I pay up with Okamisan and ask about the opening time for Perie explaining that my friend wanted Chiba peanut butter. Not until 10. So at 9:30 she drove me to a nearby supermarket that opened at 9:30 and I got a tub of non-sugar peanut butter for Charles. Then she drove me to the west entrance and dropped me off. She is very sweet. Took a train to Narita 2, then took the Hilton bus at stop #26 just outside the terminal. While transferring from the rail station to the airport I went through the security check point where I had to let them examine the iaitō. It was no problem, but it took some time. While waiting for the hotel bus I was able to get both iPad & iPhone on Narita Free WiFi, and thus could try to help Charles get to the kendo shop in Chiba, and afterwards the geta shop. Meanwhile I got checked in, relaxed a bit, received my suitcase in my room, reorganized the suitcase and backpack for the weekend, and had a lunch purchased at the hotel combini. By the way the takuhaibin service had locked the suitcase with a plastic lock tie. Then it was time to go to Narita 2 to meet John-Sensei. It was there I met up with Charles for the first time, who was there waiting for him to emerge from customs which he eventually did. We got caught up on the bus ride over and agreed to meet for breakfast at 7:30 the next morning.
I got a dinner at the hotel combini, had tea, and will soon take a shower & go to bed. That evening I also practiced Iaido waza in my room, because I could,– the ceiling height permitted even standing waza.

Saturday, June 21 – Kyoto, Tō-Ji, Party, drinks with friends

On the bus ride into the airport we placed our sword bags and other luggage in the overhead bin. We had no problems going through the security check point at the airport; they only wanted to see our passports and did not look in the overhead bins. We got seats for the next Narita Express. When we got to Tokyo station we got seats on the Hikari Shinkansen bound for Kyoto. At Kyoto station it was just two subways stations north to hotel. John-Sensei researched that the correct subway exit, the one closest to the hotel, was #20, but we didn’t know exactly where that exit was relative to landmarks & streets. Anyway we got turned around, but after asking around and consulting online maps, we eventually reached the hotel. At the hotel we were told that we were too early to check in (apparently everyone has to check in at the official check in time), but they let us leave our bags so we could go out and find a foreign currency exchange, which we did in a MaruDai Depāto just down the street from the hotel. We also ran across that great furoshiki place we shopped at in 2010. After he got his money converted we got a taxi to Tō-Ji temple to check out the vintage/flea market that Yokota-Sensei had told me about on Sunday at the Hanamigawa CC practice.
None of us had ever been to Tō-Ji before, but it was obvious something was going on by the time the taxi dropped us off at the entrance. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to shop in the many wonderful stalls selling all manner of things, including very inexpensive haori ($10 each), furoshiki, kimono, food, etc. after walking the entire grounds it was time to taxi back to the hotel where we had just enough time to shower & dress for the party.
We took a taxi to the party hotel (we took turns paying for taxi rides during the trip) and arrived a little later than Tanida-Sensei’s suggested 5:30 arrival time due to very crowded Kyoto streets (lots of cars and even more pedestrians). The party was at the same hotel as in 2010, but in a smaller room. The room was long, but a bit narrow with a head table on the right as you entered from the middle of a long side. On the other end was a small stage where karaoke was later done. Between were three long rows of low tables with low chairs on each side. Seating was not assigned so we got a place with 4 empty places in a row so Nate-Sensei could sit with us. This was on the far side from the high table in the middle row next to the karaoke stage. The food was great! In addition Yokota-Sensei and Chikamoto-San were there in the next table up from us.
At some point after a number of folks had come by to pour drinks for us, I decided to go pour a little myself for Tanida-Sensei, and also for Kogushi-Sensei to thank him for taking me to the Keisei Rose Garden. Kareoke got started after a while and there were a number of spirited people singing. At the end we bid farewell to Ikeda-Soke as he left the hall.
Afterwards we went out with Nate to a bar to talk and have a few drinks. We taxi-ed back to the hotel about 10.

Sunday, June 22 – EmbuKai, dinner with friends

In the morning we dress out then meet downstairs for breakfast. We seem to be the only ones at the hotel who are there for the TaiKai, being the only ones dressed in men’s formal wafuku (and the only foreigners) in the lobby. They had a small, but free breakfast bar. We taxied over to the TaiKai place. The TaiKai is actually an Embukai and was scheduled to start about 9, but when we got there shortly before 9 the doors were still closed. Once we got in we discovered that the large area next to the embu hall was the men’s changing area. The women’s was way far away on the other side of the building, and it was locked until the end of the event as I discovered when I tried to get in sometime later. Registration tables were set up at which I used my SeitōKai membership card to check in. This got me the program book. Commemorative tenogui and SeitōKai yearly club book were picked up directly after we walked off the embu floor (they did let us take extras home).
The embu hall was laid out as follows from the vantage of the doorway leading in to the room:
On the far side was the high table, behind the center of which was the place of honor. Soke was in the center with the 23rd on his right, and people on either side of them. On the right side of the room (the left side of the place of honor) was another long table consisting of 10dans. The registration tables were just inside the door to the right near the wall. On the left side of the room near the head table was the number board that Tanida-Sensei worked. This board together with the program book could be used to know who was on the floor. On the door side of the embu space was a long row of tatami mats that the following group would line up on to receive inspection and perform reishiki, unless they were 8dan and up in which case they went out to the floor directly when called and did reishiki there. The inspections were new (for me) and consisted of someone going down the line to inspect and sometimes correct clothing, sageo placement, etc. I had my sageo placement adjusted just slightly. Next we did reishiki then waited for our name to be called at which we would say ‘hai’ and walk out to our taped spot on the floor, except that I dampened my tabi on the wet cloth before walking out. Behind this row of tatami was two more rows placed together that formed the observing area where people sat to watch. The dressing/stuff-leaving place was in a large room adjacent to the embu room on the left, the same large room that the men were changing in earlier. Groups of people of the same rank would be grouped here and lined up in numerical order per the program book before filing into the other room. It was all done like clockwork.
The embuKai open formally as we all lined up, did rei, sang the Japanese anthem, and listened to a speech by the 22nd and I think the 23rd as well. Then we were dismissed and the dangai, including a young boy, got ready to go out. We each checked which group we were in and where in the group we were.
The 7dans went before lunch. Charles was the first one and I was one over, right in front of Ikeda-Soke. I did my five, but felt I could have done better. John-Sensei’s group went after lunch. Lunch was a bento box with drinks had from the vending machines outside in the hall. Everyone up through at least the 9-dans were facing toward the high table and away from the spectator sitting area during embu. There were cameras set up in the front corner between the numbers board and the high table. Before the 10dans did embu the floor was rearranged with soke in the left corner near the tatami mats facing diagonally to the far corner, and the 10dans facing diagonally toward him. I was standing behind the tatami mats to take pictures when Nishio-Sensei requested me to sit down, which I did. The very last to do embu was the 23rd Soke. After it was all over, I think, there was a group photo. I was in the very back row perched on top of a table with others. They had to bring in extra tables for folks to stand on. There was also another gathering of everyone there to officially close the TaiKai.
After it was all done people immediately started changing clothes, including Ishibe-Sensei whom I greeted on my way back to the women’s room to get the few things I had left there. Came back just in time to say good-bye to Ikeda-Soke as he left the hall. Next Tanida-Sensei said good-bye on his way out the door and off to the station to grab the next shinkansen home. John-Sensei and I hung out just outside the doors of the hall waiting for Nate, who was busy inside doing take-down, and said good-bye to the many Japanese leaving, including Fukui-Soke who looked just like a typical business man in a nice grey suit, but with a sword case hanging from his shoulder. Eventually Nate emerged, also Shikari-San his wife, arrived and we all went outside to get a taxi back to our hotel so we could get a shower, change, and go out to eat with them. Only thing was the taxi couldn’t get us all the way back to the hotel and became completely immobile in gridlock. So the driver told us where to walk to get to the hotel and let us out. So there we were in otoko no wafuku and sword cases turning heads on a crowded Kyoto street surrounded by Japanese in yōfuku.
Once back at the hotel we showered, changed and immediately went to the lobby to walk with them to the Korean BBQ restaurant where we ate ourselves silly with plate after plate of thin meat slices that we roasted over a grill and dipped into many sauces. Unfortunately in the rush at the hotel I left my gifts for them back at the hotel, but Charles had a spare taffy gift box left that he let me use to give to them (Thank you, Charles-Sensei!). Amazingly enough I found room for a maccha ice cream cone on the walk back. I joked on the way back about just shoving aside stuff on the bed sufficiently to lay down and fall into a food coma,– and did just that when I got back in my room.

Monday, June 23 – To Seki City, Then On To Narita

This day was a long day of traveling with a little bit of shopping in the middle. First we took the subway from our hotel back to Kyoto station, then a Hikari shinkansen to Nagoya, then walked to the nearby bus center to catch the bus to Seki City. At the Shinden bus stop I phoned Noshu who sent a nice English-speaking lady in a car to pick us up. Miwa-San also made an appearance. At Noshudō Charles arranged for some repair work while I looked for, and found, a shinken from their already-made stock. They wanted to take us to the sword museum in Seki City, but by the time our business was done there was no time. So Miwa-San took us to the main bus terminal where we boarded the bus back to Nagoya, where we got seats on a Hikari shinkansen bound for Tokyo. On the way there I did a little research and determined we could save ourselves some hassle by changing to the Narita Express at Shinagawa, which we did. On this trip the N’EX took longer than usual to get to Narita 2 due to heavy rain in the Narita vicinity. We were rather tired by the time we got back to the hotel.

Tuesday, June 24 – SakuraYa, MeugaYa, SenSō-Ji, Denny’s

We went to Tokyo to SakuraYa, then walked to JR Ichigaya station, then John-Sensei left us to go see his friend for a planned 1 to 3 visit, with a promise to call later to meet up again. Meanwhile Charles and I go to MeugaYa (Tabi shop) behind SenSō-Ji, taking pictures along the way. After the shop we stroll about a bit, walk down the shopping avenue, and head back toward the subway entrance that we had emerged from (4A). We duck into a Doutor coffe shop where I have a maccha soy latte followed by a maccha cake while waiting for the call. He eventually called to say he was at the station coming to A4 exit, so we walked into the subway station toward him and we met up again. From there took the Ginza line to Ueno, then changed to Hibiya (?) line for Akihabara. Ate at a Denny’s there,– the curry omu-rice was great. Then to JR Akihabara station to take the Yamanote to Tokyo where we got the last Narita Express for Narita 2. Then we took the bus back to the hotel after agreeing to meet at 7:30 for breakfast. That night I researched the travel schedule for tomorrow’s trip to Hayashizaki Jinja and realized that in order to have enough time in Murayama we had to make the 10:00 shinkansen which meant we had to meet for breakfast at 7:00. So I used the hotel phone to call everyone about the change in plans.

Demonstrations Houston Japan Festival News

2014 Houston Japan Festival – A long and rambling post

This year the Martial Arts demonstrations were chaired by Mark Lipsinic Sensei, who also heads the Yurusu Aikido of Houston Dojo (Nishio-ryu Aikido & Aiki Toho Iaido). He did a great job coordinating with everyone and making sure we had good facilities. Everything went very smoothly.

As was the case last year, the stage was shaded with a high canopy. This is a huge help to the demonstrators who can focus on what they’re doing instead of avoiding the blistering hot sections of the stage. The stage itself was also a bit bigger. This made backing away during paired waza a little easier. One year, in a different group, some folks backing away almost stepped off the edge of the stage. We learned from watching that to be very mindful of the space and to feel for the edge with our feet. The only down side was the surface of the stage was rather dirty and splintery, but that was covered by mats the whole time. The mat created their own problem though, as my feet adjusted to the soft surface in the middle of the demo, but at least I didn’t have to worry about damaging a formal hakama.

The thank-you from the festival this year took the shape of free bottles of water (always welcome!), some food/drink tickets, and an attractive J Fest bandana. Thank you Japan Festival and Lipsinic Sensei!

We were lucky with the weather this year. Both days were warm and mostly dry. Unlike most other Japan festivals that I have been to over the years, the Houston event is an entirely outdoor event held in Hermann Park near the Museum District. Only the tea ceremony demonstrations are held indoors inside the small tea house in the Japanese Garden.

I think the Japan Festival demo team was at its smallest this year with just Ali, Nemo, and myself. The two new students neither had the clothes nor knew enough to be able to participate. Thank you, Ali and Nemo, for your support on both days. And a big thank you to Houston for video taping our demonstration on Saturday.

There were a LOT of anime otaku, especially cosplayers, at the festival this year. In fact talking with Yōko-sensei at class later that week, she and her friend noted that there seemed to be fewer and fewer ethnic Japanese coming to the festival. I think some people assumed I was cosplaying too judging from the comments thrown my way (ronin?), and the several queries by cosplayers wanting to know where I got my outfit. They were disappointed when I said Osaka (both the wool hakama and the white montsuki were from the Meirin Sangyo main store in Osaka). The hat I had on was a lucky find at a Kansas City Japan Festival years ago. Unfortunately the hat is getting too old and frail to wear it much anymore.

On Saturday I dressed out and got to the site early. There were already people wandering about, so I was not surprised to read later that a new attendance record was reached. After using the only flush toilet on the site inside the Japanese Garden for the first and only time that weekend (constant long line ever after) I decided to stroll about the garden, which I hadn’t done in years. Our demo was not until 1:30, directly after another Iai group, so I had some time. While wandering I happened by the tea house where a few people were lined up for the first tea ceremony of the day. On a whim I decided to get in line. Inside I found myself seated in the middle of the second row, a fair spot for taking photos. Mochizuki-Sensei, the head of the Urasenke School of Tea in Houston, was doing the honors, assisted by her students. Watching her, was great. The centered calm, the un-rushed efficient motions made this one of the most impressive things I saw that weekend. One can understand why the samurai took to tea.

After that I circled through the vendor area, visiting with merchants I knew, before heading to the car to eat lunch. Bringing my own lunch and drink this year turned out to be a good idea which saved me from standing in line and saved a little money. Then it was time to get ready.

Regarding vendors, some of my perennial favorites include the Chiba Sister City booth (this year selling Chiba lapel pins, lotus T-shirts and bags), and my favorite Kyoto vendor, KyooHoo, from who I got an attractive furoshiki and few more tabi socks in large sizes. I was too late to the Japanese flea market booth,– by Sunday they were well picked over.

Every year as this demonstration nears it makes me think about Iaido, especially the intangibles, in order to figure out what to say to get across to people the larger picture of what it is we do and why we do it during the five-minute or so introduction I do at the beginning of our demo. This year I thought about Iaido’s place in the culture that created it, and some of the differences between MJER and other Iai and ken systems. Also thinking of how both the originating culture and the setting in which the Iai is intended to be used could greatly influence the entire system. In particular I had been contemplating the differences between our MJER and a more recent system that was developed for a very different setting than Edo-era Japan. So this year my what-is-Iaido talk with the audience included the usual explanation of Iaido as Samurai training to always be prepared both mentally and physically, and this time to high light that I pointed out that we did our waza in civilian attire of the time with our sleeves and hakama unbound and untucked, and not wearing armor. I don’t know if what I said helped them to understand, but thinking about it I think has helped my personal understanding a little.

Also I had with me a short prepared Japanese script that my Nihongo Sensei wrote for me years ago just for this demo. After we were introduced I proceeded to follow this until I noticed that my Nihongo teacher was not in the crowd as she usually was on Saturday. At this point I got impatient to get to the what-is-iaido section of the talk that I had thought so much about and abandoned the script 3/4 of the way in. Later it turned out she was there, but had to step away to answer a phone call. I resolved to do better tomorrow.

After the opening reishiki, since there were only three of us we did embu all at the same time, but finished at different times due to the number and type of waza each person did. When all had completed, Nemo sat at the back while Ali and I retrieved our bokutō and proceeded to do Tachi Uchi No Kurai including the formal opening and closing reishiki. As usual the Saturday demo had a few hiccups which were smoothed out the next day. Then we all did closing reishiki. There was some extra time and I attempted to elicit some questions from the audience, but no one had any so we exited to allow the next group on.

Every year there are interesting comments from folks who come up after the demo. This year there was a nice gentleman from Austin, a Sekiguchi MJER person, who thanked us for the ‘seminar’! In the past sometimes students of the language have questions about my choice of words. And then there was the person last year whose ‘helpful suggestion’ testified that they didn’t understand what we were doing or why.

A new thing happened this year. A Ph D. Student of the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M asked for an interview. As I recall he was interviewing folks who did koryu for a research project related to his graduate studies. We settled down at one of the vacant tables by the path and proceeded. He asked a lot of interesting questions that really got me going, stirring up as it did a lot of mental sediment that had been dormant for years. I talked for what seemed like hours, and could have gone on for longer. He confided afterwards that he was planning to go back to Japan after school to resume his own koryu path, begun during his time in Japan teaching English. I wish him all the best.

On Sunday I arrived early and went on another stroll in the garden. Then there was a little time to shop before heading back to the MA stage to catch the Shin Shin Ryu demo. From the front row I filmed about four minutes, took some photos then just sat and watched. After their demo I was chatting with them when they invited me to a group photo shoot in the garden. One of their own was there that day, but not dressed out so he did the photo of us all, then I volunteered to do one of all of them including camera man. By then it was time to head back to get ready for our own demo.

After the introduction, I started in on the prepared speech and made the mistake of scrutinizing the audience. The reader may recall the comment from above about the dwindling attendance by ethnic Japanese to the festival. This was also very noticeable at the MA stage. So I looked out, didn’t see my Nihongo Sensei (who is normally not there on Sunday), saw only round eyes, asked myself what the point was to doing this English/Japanese speech, and decided on the spot to skip it. I found out later that Yōko-Sensei was there that day too! I felt very bad.

After the demo I sat at the table by the path, provided by the MA chairman for demonstrators to provide a static display, have cards/pamphlets to hand out, and answer any questions by festival passersby. I had brought my nicer silk brocade sword bags to lay out on the table as an eye-catching display. Some thought they were obi. I was able to watch a little bit of the demonstrations as I handed out schedules, and answered questions from passersby.

When the weather threatened to rain, I changed clothes, made one more circuit to spend the remaining food tickets, then headed to the car and home.

Thanks to the following we had lots of photos and a video of our demonstration this year.

Yōko Tonu, Nihongo Sensei
MineralBlu, photographer friend of Ali
Houston Porterfield of Clear Lake Iaido
Travis Boardman of Shin Shin Ryu

For a small sample of the photos please look in the photo galleries elsewhere on this site for the 2014 Houston Japan Festival album.
Also, later I plan to add a link to the video once I get it hosted somewhere.



Visit to Baton Rouge

Yesterday (2014 Jan. 27, Mon.) I got back from a weekend trip to Baton Rouge for Iaido training.  John Ray Sensei flew down on Saturday morning and conducted training at Neil Melancon Sensei’s dojo that day and on Sunday.  In addition to the local students, Jon Pearson Sensei and some of his students from the Ruston dojo in North Louisiana were also there.  I was the only one from Clear Lake dojo who could attend.   Jon Andresen Sensei in San Antonio could not attend.

Due to the ice storm that had shut down I-10 over the Atchafalaya all day Friday and on into Saturday morning until it was warm enough to melt the ice, I was unavoidably delayed by traffic and taking an alternate route.  So I was late joining in on the Saturday practice.  They had done BattōHō & TōHō by the time I joined them for Seiza no Bu.  Also at this practice Sensei decided, with Neil Sensei’s recommendation, that it was time that the Ruston group should be considered as a dojo and not a study group.  Congratulations to Jon Pearson Sensei and his students.

Afterwards we went out to eat at a first-rate Asian buffet and had a good time visiting.  Sensei and I stayed at Neil & Sherry’s house that weekend and enjoyed their hospitality.

The next morning we rose early to have a big breakfast of beignets and hot tea/coffee at a nearby shop before heading to the dojo.  Practice that day was 10-noonish and started with TōHō as a warm up, then concentrated on Tatehiza with everyone taking turns to demonstrate one of the waza while Sensei made corrections.  During the last part of the practice the class was split in two with John Sensei, Neil Sensei and I working on Iwaza in one corner, and everyone else doing jūkeiko.

During the closing comments of the practice Sensei reminded us of the multi-generational direct transmission way of MJER and the importance of the student/teacher relationship.  Neil Sensei talked about the importance of observing proper formal relationships within a dojo.

We enjoyed a great lunch at an Indian restaurant and afterwards retired to the house to rest a bit before donning hakama again to practice paired waza in the back yard with some of the Ruston folks until we lost the light.  After the practice they left to drive back home.  For dinner that night, since we were all still stuffed from the excellent lunch, we just had a light meal at the house (frozen pizza) and went to bed extra early.

Monday morning we got up very early so I could drop Sensei off at the airport in time to make his 6:30 flight.  Neil Sensei saw us off at the house.  After the airport drop off I continued on my way back home.

Denton News US Embukai US Embukai koshukai

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.


Hello (again) world!

Welcome to the new incarnation of  this web site using WordPress software on a Mac Mini server.  This rebuild and re-host was required by the regrettable loss of Mobile Me hosting and the discontinuance of the iWeb app.  Thanks to David and WordPress I am able to maintain Clear Lake Iaido’s internet presence.

Please have a look around.  The overall structure is much the same as the old site, however some content has changed and the photos have not yet been added back in.  The ‘What is Iaido?’ page is now updated to reflect my current understanding.  Sensei told me years ago that Iaido is very wide and deep.  As time goes by I come to realize that more and more.

Anyway, please enjoy your time here.

Denton News shodan shiken Tanida-Sensei Tanida-Sensei koshukai

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.

hatsunuki News US Embukai


The 2009 US Embukai was another great success with participants coming from Belgium, France, and Canada as well as the US.  Next year will be the tenth anniversary and we look forward to being a part of that event.

The next event on our horizon occurs on New Year’s Day.  Hatsu-Nuki is the term for first draw of the year and is usually performed in Japan on Jan. 1 at dawn at a Shinto shrine.  We don’t have ready access to a shrine, but endeavor to do it with the same spirit of solemnity.  In Japan, the ritual is followed by a breakfast and hot sake toast to the new year.  Here in Houston we do it outside at dawn, so our participants tend to wear as much under their iaido clothes as necessary.  [The photo above is from the 2004 hatsunuki.]

News US Embukai US Embukai koshukai

9th US Embukai

Since most of us will be gone to Denton for the US Embukai, and those left will not be able to cover for me, the Friday and Sunday (Nov. 13 & 15) practices will be canceled.

For any guests reading this, the US Embukai is a once-a-year gathering of MJER practitioners in the US and elsewhere who have a living link to Ikeda-Soke.  Various lineages within the Seitokai/ZNIR are represented at the weekend long koshukai which culminates in a formal embukai on Sunday.  Participants need to be a student of a teacher within Seitokai/ZNIR.  Visitors are welcome to observe quietly.  [The photo above is from the 2004 US Embukai.]

News schedule shodan shiken Tanida-Sensei

Certificates Are In; New Wednesday Practice

Congratulations to everyone who tested in March.  Tanida-Sensei mailed the certificates to Sensei not long after the event, and then he mailed ours to me.  A few weeks ago I presented the last remaining certificate to Richard.  I am very proud of everyone who tested, and of all who made the journey to Denton to train with Tanida-Sensei.

Next week a new Wednesday class, from 8:15 to 9:30 PM,will be added to our weekly schedule.  Please remember that the preceding yoga class goes until 8:00, and don’t enter the studio until that class is over.

move News

Moving to Friendswood after 10 years in League City

After months of searching we have found a new place to practice.  Starting May 1, Friday, we will meet for practice on Friday and Sunday evenings at the Sundance Yoga Studio in Friendswood.  This move puts us closer to Houston, the Beltway, 288, and near to Pearland.  We will miss the League City dojo, our original home.