Toyama Ryu Batto-Jutsu Tai Kai 2001
A View from the Outside
AS SEEN IN THE TOYAMA RYU NEWSLETTER 01-01-02
By: Sukh S. Sandhu 12-01-01
I was asked sometime back in 2000 to come join the participants in the upcoming Tai Kai in Orlando Florida in 2001. The person asking me to come was an individual that I have come to know over the last 3 years as a nice and honorable man (all though his jokes are questionable). Shibo-cho Bob Elder has been an excellent friend to have in this path we as budoka follow. Though I study a different kobudo ryuha, Bob and I are able to understand each others martial thought process and respect one another for our differing views. I am always searching to learn more for my own training and when Bob invited me back in 1999 to come train at his dojo, I accepted. Though his training was different than mine, I still learned quite a few new things! That is the spirit a warrior should have, the ability to learn from every person you meet!
After that experience and constant communication between Bob and I, he convinced me to come compete in 2001 at the Batto-jutsu Tai Kai. I had little training with the way the Toyama Ryu school teaches, so my training for the Tai Kai was just what I could get out of Bob over the phone. The movements are awkward for me, because in my ryuhas, we train and move differently. None the less, it was a new learning experience for me and I anticipated the weekend in Orlando in 2001!
I was asked by Robert Steele to write an honest opinion on what I as a "outsider" thought of the Tai Kai, and I will. I am going to write honestly and (my disclaimer) please forgive me for anything that seems offensive, it is not my intent to offend any of the great martial artists I saw. I believe that if you follow a martial lineage, you must completely absorb and understand it, before going and trying to learn a new martial art. The fallacy of most martial artists, is that the want to learn many different arts, but never absorb any of them. Spend just enough time to get a rank. You can’t understand another martial art until you have understood how your martial art "fits" with it.
I bring this point up, because I was under the impression that the Tai Kai was an open event to any style of sword. However, upon my arrival I was told that I would need to cut in the Toyama Ryu style. That was difficult, because as I mentioned earlier, the movement is foreign to me. To me that was not what I considered an open event. I then also, thought of who the judges would be, they were also all of the same martial tradition. So that seems a little biased?
Before the competition started there was the sword inspection, which went on very nicely. I got to meet some old friends and meet some new ones during this time period. Next the bow in and then the recitation of the rules and finally let the competition begin! There seemed to be a little confusion with the way scheduling and organization was to be, but those types of things always happen. I thought the individuals who were helping with the event did an excellent job though.
I was impressed with the many different demonstrations. Watching Seeji Ueki Sensei, Sakaida Sensei and Hataya Mitsuo Sensei was very impressive! The Katori Shinto Ryu kata performed by Takashi Masuda Sensei and Yumi Yanagida San was outstanding! But, the most impressive movement was that of Hataya Daisuke San. His fluidity, intent and zanshin were excellent. This was the one of the best parts for me, because I was able to see another ryuhas movement and relate mine to it.
There after the day seemed to drag on. The time it took to go through all the participants in all the different categories was lengthy to say the least. Because I was only competing in the tamishi giri, I had to wait till the end of the day. I did not compete in some of the other categories because as I mentioned before, if I am to be rated on my movement by individuals who are promoting their art and I use my movement, then I can not win. Therefore, I did not believe this competition to be completely "open".
When it was my turn to finally cut, I tried to do it the way I was requested to, and I missed 2 cuts. By no means am I making excuses for my own inadequacies, but I am stating the facts. It is difficult for me not to use taijutsu, body movement, to cut. I believe proper body movement is key to everything in life especially a martial art. What I saw were many individuals that were using strength to cut, like lumberjacks. That is not what I consider skill, just brute force. I was surprised to see so few individuals with any zanshin, complete awareness, almost as though they were out for a stroll at the park! It did not look as though they were thinking of being a warrior, but instead a competitor. I also did not believe the rules were fully taken into account with each person that cut. I felt as though it was a matter of opinion of the judge, rather than by the book of rules.
I hope these few comments will help in better execution of the Toyama Ryu Batto-Jutsu Tai Kais in the future. It was a thrilling event for me and wonderful learning experience, so thank you Bob Elder and also, Robert Steele. To everyone, continue to train, keep an open mind, and maybe we will all meet up on the martial path some day. As I said before, this is not an article to disrespect anyone, I highly respect all the martial artists that I saw at the Tai Kai. This is just an outsider’s point of view!
Sukh Sandhu runs a full time dojo in Dayton Ohio. He has trained in classical Japanese martial arts for over 13 years achieving the rank of San-Dan. He is Dojo-cho of the Jinenkan™-Dayton Dojo and continues his training with Manaka "Unsui" Sensei in the Jissen Jinenkan Kobudo. He can be reached via e-mail: www.jinenkan-dayton.com