Our classes are Monday and Wednesday nights, from 9:00 to 11:00, at Naka Ima Aikikai (473 Oakwood Ave). We also practice Saturday afternoon from 1:00 to 3:00.
Toronto Kenjutsu practices in a very traditional manner, as Mr. Reid learned himself from Master Sugino. We believe that this art is best passed on through “direct transmission” — from teacher to student, in a personal relationship. This knowledge cannot be gained through “short cuts”.
Classes usually run two hours, and include both solo and paired practice (omote-tachi).
We begin with a review of all the stances and the cuts that form the foundation of Katori Shinto Ryu swordsmanship. This forms a warm-up for the primary practice, the omote-tachi. In this practice, pairs of students work through the forms, one taking the side of the aggressor, and one the defender. These forms are quite complicated, and require focus and energy to perform properly. The video above shows a number of practioners from the Sugino dojo at a demonstration in Tokyo.
As such, our practice is usually noisy and energetic. Everyone can practice at the same time, and the instructors offer personal attention to help students learn the details of each movement.
After the omote-tachi, we practice other weapons (depending on the knowledge of the attending students) such as staff, spear, short sword and naginata. We finish our classes by practicing iai-jutsu, which is a solo form using actual swords.
Courtesy is central to our practice. To show courtesy is to show respect and reverence for the implements we practice with, those who teach us and our partners in learning. Proper display of courtesy builds honour and dignity in the student, and helps to ensure a safe and encouraging learning environment.
Don’t worry if you are new; our rituals are easy to pick up — if you just behave with quiet respect and do whatever everybody else seems to be doing, you’ll be fine.
There are a number of times and situations in which we bow to our partners and teachers: when beginning the class, when beginning a practice with another student, and when taking up a new implement for practice. In all these cases, we bow in order to demonstrate respect, and in order to settle our minds and ensure we are prepared to give our full spirit to our practice. Remember that bowing is how we demonstrate our respect for others, and thereby for ourselves.
It is important to follow any instructions given to you by a senior student immediately and with a helpful, energetic spirit. Hurry to carry out any instructions; do not dawdle or linger to chat with others. When instructions are being given, listen carefully and do not speak over your seniors. Sometimes the purpose of an instruction is not clear to us but we will find that if we carry it out, we have learned something that could not otherwise be explained.
Remember that the dojo is a sacred space in which we come together to develop our spirits. Keeping the space clean helps us to keep our spirits clean. Likewise, do not come to class in soiled or untidy clothing. Never interrupt a senior or call out to get someone’s attention. Apologize promptly for any mistake you make, and offer thanks for any instruction given to you.
All these practices and traditions help us to remain mindful of others and to create a space in which we can most effectively learn and develop our spirit. At Toronto Kenjutsu, we believe that without courtesy, there can be no true learning.