Kukishinden Ryu kenjutsu seminar report-Winchendon, Mass USA

nitflegal

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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

Matt Flegal
 

Brian R. VanCise

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Thanks for the review!
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nitflegal

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Nice review, sounds like a great time

It was indeed. One of the things that I've been really pondering after some of the tips and tricks were the methods to really control distance with the sword. I'm used to using the sword as a method to control distance, which works well but also allows the opponent to size up the distance just as well, it's a great visual cue. What was interesting to me was that here the sword was often used to misdirect the opponent as to distance as well. It's a little like what Hatsumi was covering at the '96 Tai Kai with how much you bent your arms and where the elbows were positioned but it made a lot more sense on a one on one basis. It's always a little frustrating (and not just here) to work so hard to lock down your positioning and weapon placement to a precise level just to have the rug jerked out from under you with a "great, now that you've mastered being robotically precise we can start messing with that to change your options". Just when you think that you're starting to get the hang of it. . . :tantrum::banghead:

It was also interesting to me that the kiai's really did make a difference to not only my energy but where it locked the energy in my opponent (or they to me). Fascinating stuff.

I hope to have some pictures to post over the next day or two.

Matt
 
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nitflegal

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I figured I'd add some pictures, now that I have them. If anyone is interested, I believe part 2 will be on Sept 14 and it's open to those who didn't make part 1.
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nitflegal

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Just to confirm, parts 2 and 3 are available to those who didn't attend part one so long as they're willing to play a bit of catch-up, correct?

Thanks,
Matt

Hello all,

Part II is September the 14th 2008.

Get more information at:

www.winmartialarts.com

Be well and Gassho,

Ken Savage
The Winchendon Martial Arts Center
Bujinkan Savage Dojo
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savagek

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Hello all,

Matt, that is correct you may attend part II if you missed part I.

Be well and Gassho,

Ken Savage
The Winchendon Martial Arts Center
Bujinkan Savage Dojo
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tshadowchaser

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Not sure how I missed this whole thread but
I am happy to hear the turn out was good and that all had an enjoyable learning experence
I'll stop by in about two weeks to say hello again
sheldon
 

savagek

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Just Two week until part two:


Bujinkan Savage Dojo

presents

Samurai Kenjutsu Seminar



You’re invited to the second of this four part seminar series covering The Bujinkan samurai sword method from the Kukishinden ~ Ryu. Part two is open to anyone. Topics being covered in part two are:

Continuation of Sword Etiquette, Kamae(sword postures),drawing & cutting fundamental forms, and intention/ energy drills
The techniques or forms of Kukishinden Ryu Happo Biken Jutsu Kempo.

When: Sunday, September the 14th 2008 from 10:00am ~ 2:00pm

Where: The Winchendon Martial Arts Center ~ Bujinkan Savage Dojo
#23 Central Street (Central Plaza) Winchendon Massachusetts.

Cost: The cost is $50.00 (make checks payable to The Winchendon Martial Arts Center) a $25.00 non refundable deposit is needed to receive additional information each participant will receive a bound workbook study guide.

Space is limited so please act now no walk-ins will be allowed.

See you on the 29th.

Ken Savage (Bujinkan Shidoshi)
 

savagek

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Hello all,

Hi Matt,

Sounds good and look forward to seeing you both.

We still have a few spots if you know of anyone else.

Be well and Gassho,

Ken
 

savagek

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Hello all,

We still have two spots remaining for this seminar.

Please contact us if interested.

See everyone this Sunday

Be well and Gassho,

Ken Savage
www.winmartialarts.com
 

savagek

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Hello all,

Part three of this four part seminar series is scheduled for 11/30/08.

Check out our web site for details:

www.winmartialarts.com

Be well and Gassho,

Ken Savage
 
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nitflegal

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Well, parts 2 and 3 are now behind us, so time to get my butt in gear and add a review!

The format has stayed consistent so I won't go through it again beyond the steel to wood to padded transition for each set of moves. That has been enormously eye opening but more on that later.

First off, for a guy who got into martial arts because of samurai movies when I was a kid, having a seminar series devoted to the Japanese sword has been great, especially as I've been trying to sniff out these various forms from the Kukishinden ryu for years now and I get it all in one place, wrapped in a bow! The printed manuals that come with each seminar are also great for reference, allowing me to write the details and hints for each form while I can still remember them instead of trying to write the form itself and forgetting to record all the details. I'm a big fan of references and these are the nicest packets I've gotten at a seminar.

One thing that is fascinating is the almost unpleasant feeling of the techniques; they feel almost like a trap. Uke commits (or you force them to) and the result feels just nasty and very difficult to avoid. It's not showy or "cool" so much as almost unfeeling, it's like whacking a tree branch in half. The feeling is extremely difficult to explain but I guess the best way to put it is it's almost unsporting; you feel like the uke doesn't have a fighting chance, you outmaneuvered him before the sword struck. Now, were I trying to save my skin or that of my loved ones that's exactly what I'd want to do but it's a very different feel from the kenjutsu that I've done in the past. That stuff felt elegant and polished, this feels almost workmanlike and direct. Which makes sense when you're looking at hacking your way through opponents for the next 4 hours. The one style it does feel like is Toyama ryu but even that felt more flourishy (if that's a word). Very interesting and it really does tie with the taijutsu in feel from empty-hand in the Kukishinden ryu (or at least what I've been able to figure out!).

The other revelation are the padded swords. I've done padded sword work in the past and disliked it, it was tag and the technique generally went to crap. That really hasn't happened in these seminars. I assume it's because the shinken work first makes us concentrate on technqiue right from the outset, so we're already cautious from the beginning. The revelation is the massive change of the technique when you can actually impact with real power. A cut to the wrist is nice and I've always looked at it as a nice push-cut that opens up the hand. Do the same technique with speed and power (that would cripple your opponent with a bokken) and you drag them to the ground and pull them forward. It goes from "oww, that would suck" to "they're just dead, you have total control". The whole feel of the technique changes and almost all the techniques go from what I've always seen them as (nasty cuts to slice apart the uke) to just devestating techniques that trash the other guy. What's even more interesting is how much the margin or error increases; miss your target and you're still in control. Besides, whaling the crap out of each other with padded swords is a huge amount of fun! We all kind of got into it and figured out more and more evil ways to destroy our uke from the basic technique.

Overall, these have been great and a huge source of collected information. One thing that bears mention is that Savage-sensei has really put the information into a linear, methodical format. More often than not it's seemed like seminars that cover a lot of info get disjointed and confusing. These have flowed very naturally and I've not felt overwhelmed by the information. It's a very well planned and thought out series.

Anyway, I'll report back after part 4 in January. Then, onto the Bo (which means I need to start drilling the spinning techniques more!).

Matt
 

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