Sword Training Is on
the Cutting Edge
May 5, 2004
There's no need to go to Japan or to watch The Last Samurai or Kill Bill to see some of the world's leaders in samurai training. Swordsmen from Japan, the United States and across Canada will be participating in U of G's sword arts school's 14th annual jodo and iaido training seminar May 21 to 24 at the Athletics Centre. The public is invited to register or to attend as spectators.
Although these rarer forms of martial arts are practised by only a few hundred Canadians, more than 100 people from as far as South Africa, Europe and Japan travel to Guelph annually to participate in four days of workshops led by the world's highest-ranked swordsmen.
Iaido is a solo martial art that focuses on drawing a Japanese sword from its sheath and cutting it through the air in one motion. Unlike karate and other martial arts that focus on self-defence, the purpose of iaido is to perfect a form, says Kim Taylor, founder of U of G's Sei Do Kai martial arts club. “There's an ideal form that you have in your mind and you're trying to match that picture,” he says.
Participants use a 25- to 30-inch blade with a foot-long handle. Taylor says iaido students aren't allowed to use a real blade until they reach a fourth dan, or fourth-degree black belt. Belts in iaido, worn under a traditional skirt called a hakama, don't use a colour-ranking system.
Even though iaido participants don't have a human opponent, they must achieve complete control of their thoughts and movements to succeed. “The minute you worry about other things, the sword will bite you,” says Taylor. He has seen people injure themselves with their own weapons.
Jodo, an even rarer martial art, is practised in partners. One person holds a four-foot staff and tries to defend against a partner armed with a sword. Taylor holds Canada's highest ranking in jodo and a sixth dan in iaido.
Shieya Mitsuo and Furukawa Shunya of Japan will lead the jodo sessions. Tom Hooper of the United States and Canadian swordsmen Goyo Ohmi, Ken Maneker, Stephen Cruise and Dave Green will lead the iaido sessions.
Older forms of sword arts called zen ken ren iai and zen ken ren jo will also be taught to encourage people to keep practising more traditional schools of Japanese swording. Instruction will cover basic to advanced techniques.
Sessions will run daily from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.uoguelph.ca/~iaido.