Martial Arts Club Marks 20 Years
Annual iaido and jodo seminar expected to draw about 100 people from across North America May 18 to 21
BY DAVID DICENZO
Take a close look at Kim Taylor's left hand and you'll spot a few ugly scars. As the founder of U of G's Sei Do Kai Club slides his razor-sharp Japanese sword into its holder attached to his dark blue training gi, he uses his left hand to guide the sword, completing a kata with his eyes focused straight ahead.
It's no wonder Taylor, a two-time U of G graduate and former longtime employee in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science, has the nicks on his hand.
“This one was ripped right down to the bone,” he says, pointing out one of the nastier marks.
The injuries are an understandable byproduct of Taylor's passion for the Japanese sword disciplines. His interest in martial arts was sparked back in 1980 when he was a student at U of G and attended a class in aikido. Eventually, he discovered iaido, a Japanese sword discipline that involves drawing the weapon and cutting all in one motion. By 1987, he had launched the Sei Do Kai Club on campus.
“We started out on the dirt out front of the Athletics Centre,” he recalls.
Although the club's membership is still modest at about a dozen regulars, Taylor says he's proud not only that the club is marking its 20th anniversary this year but also that many students who've come through in the past two decades have gone on to teach martial arts themselves in places like Thunder Bay and Ottawa.
The club, which is affiliated with the Canadian Kendo Federation, focuses mostly on iaido and jodo, with a bit of kendo and the ancient nitenichiryu art mixed in.
In an empty studio at the Athletics Centre, Taylor demonstrates some katas. The most basic consists of four components: nukitsuke (the draw and cut), kiritsuke (the finishing cut), chiburi (shaking blood from the blade) and noto (putting the sword back into its holder). The imaginary opponent, he notes, is essentially himself.
“You take all your bad qualities, everything you don't like about yourself and put them in your opponent. That's the core spiritual practice of iaido. It's a self-improvement thing.”
Although few people practise Japanese sword arts, Taylor has been active in giving the disciplines exposure in Canada. He brought an instructor from Japan to U of G in 1991 and has been running an annual iaido and jodo seminar ever since. This year's event is May 18 to 21 and is expected to draw about 100 people from across North America.
Taylor's philosophy has always been to instruct as many people as possible.
“I decided from the start that I would rather put on seminars than travel to Japan myself. One way I get training; the other way, 100 people get training.”
Each year the seminar draws a number of beginners, some attracted by movies like Kill Bill and The Last Samurai, says Taylor. He notes that when people are exposed to the Japanese sword arts, one of two things usually happens.
“If you're mildly interested, you can watch it once and you never have to see it again. If it connects with you, it's something you'll do for the next 80 years.”