I'm not sure if this is the proper place to put a seminar write-up so please be gentle in pointing out where it was actually supposed to go!
I hope that nobody minds but I haven't seen a lot of post-seminar reports and, having finally gone to a seminar on swords worth writing up, I figured I'd do so!
Shidoshi Ken Savage hosted the first in a four part series of seminars on the Kukishinden Ryu bikenjutsu in June that was an absolute blast. Four hours of seminar for $50 with a bound 12 page handbook for the participants.
It was held at his school, the Winchendon Martial Arts Center in the middle of bustling (boy do I kid) Winchendon, MA. Since that's where I go to keep my bruise quota sufficently high during the week it was suprisingly easy to find. . .The dojo itself is spacious and open with plenty of headroom (very nice when handling battlefield Tachi length swords, more on that later) and 25+ of us fit in there with minimal crowding. This was rather nice as we were keeping good distance for the paired forms and we were able to avoid smacking into each other. It is also conveniently close to a Subway sandwich place, which we all mobbed during the lunch break.
Particpants were asked to bring their own training tools but there were plenty of bokken, unsharpened metal swords, and padded swords to train with. Most of the students were Bujinkan practitioners but there were several participants from different backgrounds.
In the four hours we covered kongo no kamae, dai jodan no kamae, kasumi no kamae, seigan no kamae, and gedan no kamae. Cutting was covered with men and kesa giri cuts along with sliding horizontal cuts to the neck. The other standard cuts will be covered later in the series.
What was of interest to me was the use of traditional kukishinden ryu training techniqes where we paired off and started with 25% cuts with steel before moving to 50-60% cuts with bokken at closer distances. I've never tried that before but it was interesting that starting with steel had people really slowing it down and being careful, which led to much better focus on the mechanics and execution of the technique. When we shifted to bokken it seemed that people had a better idea of the mechanics and the techniques looked much better than I've seen at other seminars (me being one of the usual most guilty) after a similar amount of training time. Things sped up at the third part of each technique when we moved to 80-90% speed with padded swords but again, the technique just seemed cleaner than I'm used to at other seminars. Nobody degenerated into a boffer-sword whacking exercise like I've seen in the past (again, me being a typically guilty party). In addition, the focus on the technqiues were more on battlefield style tachi than Edo period katana and one's body mechanics do certianly change when the darned sword blade is four feet long. . . Again, the high ceiling was a definite plus!
So, that's how it went, each stance/technique was done as a paired style drill, start with steel at a slow speed and wide distance, move to faster speed with bokken in pairs before finishing with padded swords at fast speed. What made it really nice was Ken kept dropping tips all over the place (literally, he was roaming during the practice phases helping us out and dropping info tidbits) about positioning, control of the sword and body, optimum body/foot positioning to alter effective distance and open up new target areas (henka, oh lots of it). Even going into different kiai's for different techniques and emotional states. I stepped into my first dojo to learn kenjutsu back in '87 and I still learned a heck of a lot.
So 25+ people waving swords at each other for four hours everyone had fun and learned a bunch, and nobody got hurt. As silly as it sounds, one of the best parts was the manual. Speaking as someone who typically only remembers half of what I went over in a fast-paced seminar to write down at the end the notes were very useful to lock the info in my head.
For what it's worth, the next two seminars are open to those who didn't go to the first (the fourth is actual cutting and is only open to people who did all four) with the next being sometime in August. I'd recommend them, especially as later ones will cover Togakure ryu ninjutsu kenjutsu techniques that don't often get shown in addition to the Kukishinden ryu stuff. www.winchendonmartialartscenter.com