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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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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.]