Inviting Guests

Last weekend Toronto Kenjutsu was able to host our first day-long seminar on Katori Shinto Ryu. Attendees came from St Catharines, Guelph and Sherbrooke (via Boston)! It was a real joy to be able to have so many friend join us and practice in our beautiful dojo.

Thanks especially to the kind folks of Naka Ima Aikikai who volunteered the space for us.

It’s so easy for those of us who can’t visit Japan often to fall into bad habits. I know how often I dig myself into ruts, practicing over and over again in some pattern or path that is only taking me farther away from the correct form. As Sugino Sensei has said to me, it doesn’t matter how many times I perform maki-uchi if I’m not doing it correctly.

Visiting other dojos isn’t the perfect antidote, but it at least helps to correct the most obvious deviations. Each dojo ends up following its own path, which is great, but it’s important to come together every once in a while to observe where changes have come up, and to consider what’s behind those differences, and if we think they’re problems or just “interesting.”

I often get overly used to how the folks in my dojo react, and so it’s always a breath of fresh air to practice with people who I’m not used to, and who aren’t used to me! For example, I’ve been working on not backing up in certain techniques, which works great with people who are used to it, but there were some very surprised faces in front of me when people found my sword tip MUCH closer than they were expecting.

It’s a way for me to learn if my technique is actually good, if I’m actually responding to my partner, or if I’m taking unfair advantage of my experience with the people I practice with every week.

Of course, our practice in Katori Shinto Ryu is closely tied to food. We had delicious Portuguese chicken for lunch:

Which might have been slightly too much food, after all:

Everyone survived the afternoon practice, however.

It’s also great for new students to get to work with people from other dojos. It gives them the sense of Katori Shinto Ryu as a broader community, and working with senior practitioners from other dojos can really open their eyes as to what’s possible.

I remember getting frustrated sometimes with the various senior people at Sugino Dojo, who seemed to be giving me different (even contrary) direction from each other. One would tell me to keep my elbow more straight, and then two seconds later someone else would chastise me for keeping my elbow so straight! But out of that I learned a more important lesson than how to hold my elbow: I learned how to control myself, so that I could do the form with my elbow straight or bent as I desired. Being able to perform the techniques without being enslaved to just one style was an important learning step for me.

Anyway, we had a great time and once again, we are very grateful to everyone who came out and practiced with us. Here’s to next time!

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