2013: A Year to Grow

This past year was one of great growth and deepening enjoyment in the practice of Katori Shinto Ryu. It marks my 20th year of studying this ancient form, but in many ways I feel like my journey has truly just begun.

Many of us at Toronto Kenjutsu went through dramatic changes in our personal lives, but our steady practice in Katori Shinto Ryu continued, and we welcomed new members over the course of the year. I’d like to look back at a few highlights.

BudoCamp 2013

Lining up for morning practice in Sherbrooke.

Once again our good friends in Quebec welcomed us for a five-day intensive seminar with Sugino Sensei. It is always such a great time — we have come to love our spring trips to Sherbrooke to practice both our French and our Japanese. It’s hard to say which is worse, but we appreciate everyone’s patience.

And the opportunity to join with so many other practitioners of Katori Shinto Ryu is of course a great joy. Not everyone does the kata the same way, and learning a little alertness does us good!

Thanks to our friends at Mochizuki Aikido once again for being such generous hosts, and of course to Sugino Sensei for coming all this way to help us.

Såzen Visit

Practicing in St Catharines

And in another annual tradition, we welcomed our Katori friends from Norway, Såzen and Sigurd, as they joined us for a weekend seminar at Jigan Dojo in St Catharines. We all enjoyed the beautiful weather and enthusiastic teaching of our visitors. It was very hot in the dojo but outside on the grass was perfect!

It’s easy to get too comfortable with the solid footing of the dojo mats — we always relish the opportunity to attempt the forms on a less-reliable surface. The occasional thistle patch was maybe a little too much, however.

But at least outside we don’t have to worry about whacking the ceiling with the longer weapons!

We are very grateful to Såzen and Sigurd for their instruction, and of course to Wiens Sensei at Jigan Dojo for hosting the whole affair.

Sugino Dojo Visit

Three of us went to Japan this fall to visit Sugino Sensei at his dojo in Kawasaki. I had not been back to the dojo for 20 years, and the neighborhood had changed so much that I nearly couldn’t find the place!

The Toronto Kenjutsu team with Sugino Sensei

But we made it eventually, and joined Sugino Sensei and his students in practicing Katori Shinto Ryu. There were visitors from all over the world alongside us, making for a very international experience. Everyone welcomed us in as friendly a fashion as can be imagined, but on the mats the practice was fierce and uncompromising. Just as it should be!

Meeting old friends after 20 years, and discovering that the connections forged through practice never really die out,  was an emotional experience for me. I am still struggling with the very same techniques and issues that I struggled with back then. Everyone was very patient with me.

Sensei even suggested I come back next year — to help clean the mats!

It was an eye-opening trip for us all, and everyone remarked upon our return that our practice had jumped up a notch, so I’d like to believe it wasn’t wasted effort.

Thank you so much to everyone at Sugino Dojo who worked so hard and so patiently with us. It was a joy to see you all.


2013 feels like a year of real growth. Not just in technique; while I learned many lessons on the mats, it feels like the biggest changes came elsewhere. I uncovered new (well, new to me) truths about teaching, and got reconnect with people who formed an enormously important part of my life. I also learned how little I’ve changed in twenty years — I remain shy and uncertain in new situations, but I overcame some of that with determined effort.

And Sensei showed me this picture, taken nearly twenty years ago at Yasukuni Jinja, when I was first living in Japan and studying at the Sugino Dojo. Everyone in this picture, of course with the exception of Sensei’s father, and young Motoyuki, is still practicing Katori Shinto Ryu, still learning, still growing, year after year.

A number of us have quite a bit less hair nowadays.

Thank you, Sensei, and everyone else carrying forward the traditions of Katori Shinto Ryu. I look forward to a grand 2014, and another 20 years of practice!