Category Archives: US Embukai

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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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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.]

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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.]

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Website redone using iWeb

The website has been completely redone using iWeb mainly for ease of updating.  The photo albums are still in work and will be added later.

What has happened since last I wrote?  Hatsunuki on Jan. 1.  Tanida-Sensei’s visit during Feb. 29 – Mar. 2, during which the following tested:  Ali & Jon for yondan, Ron for sandan, and Dale & Beverly for nidan.  All who tested received menjou (certificate).  No other traveling, even to Denton, occurred after this.  I just felt like staying close to home and working on long neglected projects, such as rebuilding this website from scratch.

Another significant event that occured last year is Jon’s departure from Houston to Kansas City, Missouri, and his establishment of a new dojo there.  See his website for more information.

For the future I look forward to seeing Jon again when I travel to Kansas City to join him and Charles-Sensei in a demonstration of MJER at the their annual Japan Festival.

Also, I want to visit Sensei soon, and visit Neil-Sensei in Baton Rouge.  Then the 8th annual US Embukai is in November.

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Another two years go by….

This is a recap of some of the highlights of the past two years, which have been good for us. For a more complete listing see the Past Events link. The class schedule is unchanged, but the monthly fee has increased.

2005 – Everyone who tested at the Shodan Shiken in 2005 received their rank. Also that year I went to Japan to participate in the annual All Japan Eishin-Ryu Embukai in Sakai City, and several practices in Chiba and Sakai City. When not involved in Iaido activities I did some sight-seeing around the Tokyo/Chiba area. In early October we traveled to Denton for the 5th US Embukai.

2006 – At dawn New Years Day members of the dojo who could attend participated in our annual hatsu-nuki outside despite the warm weather and attendant mosquitoes and fire ants. In March at the annual koshukai & shodan shiken in Denton there were four people testing. They were Ali for sandan, Jon & William for nidan, and Ron for shodan. All who tested achieved their rank. Also this was my first time sitting at the judging table with Tanida-Sensei, John-Sensei, and Susan-Sensei. In April we had a very successful demonstration at the annual Houston Japan Festival. Thanks to the Japan America Society of Houston for inviting us. In late May & early June David and I traveled to Washington & British Columbia to tour around the area. In addition to sight-seeing and eating some of the best salmon in my life I visited the Hokusei Dojo in Everett (thanks, Scott), and attended the annual Canadian Iaido Association (CIA) summer seminar in Vancouver BC (thanks to Esaka-Sensei and Ted-Sensei). On Aug. 20 we did a demonstration at a church on the Northwest side of town. In mid November we traveled to Denton for the 6th US Embukai.

2007 – For our hatsu-nuki the weather was actually cold so we had no bugs to bother us. The hot sake toast tasted very good! In March we had six testing. They were Emily for godan, Jon & William for sandan, Ron for nidan, and Dale & Beverly for Shodan. All who tested achieved their rank. In April we were fortunate to have Charles-Sensei come to help us with our best ever demonstration at the annual Houston Japan Festival. Thanks to to Charles, and thanks to the Japan America Society of Houston for inviting us back. In August we heard the terrible news that Ted Davis-Sensei, president of the Canadian Iaido Association (CIA), suddenly died after a brief illness. In late August David and I went to Japan to participate in the World Science Fiction Convention held in Yokohama. This was the first time this particular convention had been held in a non-English speaking country. The Japanese fans put on a very memorable event. After the convention we joined a group of fans for a 9 day whirlwind tour of Japan that included Tokyo, Hakone, Mt. Fuji, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Osaka. During the convention I stole away for a day to attend a practice lead by Tanida-Sensei. After the tour was over we stayed over in Osaka to attend another practice in Sakai City. In mid November we traveled to Denton for the 7th US Embukai.


Also in November our dojo building came under new management, and our dues increased from $50 to $79/month.

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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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Thanks, Jack

We have lost the Thursday time slot and are back to meeting on Friday from 5:30 to 6:30, or whenever the following Aikido gets started. The Wednesday class is unaffected. Due to an increase in students who live far away, a Saturday class has been added from noon to 2.


The next big event is the Embukai in Denton coming up in October. All members of Clear Lake Iaido are invited.


Thanks to Jack Bieler for taking time out from his busy schedule on Sunday, August 18, to come work with us on Batto Ho 1-11. There were five students in all,– Joe & I, in addition to three new students who just recently started. Jack did a wonderful job, and everyone came away with new insights. The phrase that stuck in my mind, and this was one of the dominant themes of the seminar, was ‘grab the cut’.