skip to content
Guelph Seminar 1997
(better late than never)
Somehow I never got around to writing the account of my Guelph adventure. By the time things had slowed down a bit, Ray Sosnowski had already written about the seminar, and a lot better than I could. However, due to the apparent interest in adventure stories, I dug up the unfinished text, and scanned a few of my photographs.
On the pretext of presenting a paper on a workshop at Niagara Falls, I was able to attend the Guelph spring seminar with Haruna sensei. (Actually it was just a happy coincidence) I arrived by bus on saturday noon at Guelph University. Due to various misunderstandings, I spent an hour walking around campus, carrying equipment (sewage pipe swordcase etc) and 3 weeks worth of luggage, before reaching the gym. Before leaving, I had consulted the long range weather forecast for the region, which turned out to be slightly incorrect. Meaning: it was beautyful spring weather and I was dressed for snow storms. Talk about a warm-up!
Luckily break was still going on and there were some slices of pizza left. After introductions and registering I jumped right in with training. This was incidentally the first time I met people that I had first come to know over the net.
The technical portion of the seminar is described elsewhere. The seminar was not very formal, but well organised, and proceeded at a comfortable pace. I must say I had expected to see a lot more people, this being America (well, close to anyway ) and all that.
Kim had organised a room for me in the student housing (which turned out to be on the same floor as the sensei's). That night was the dinner and auction in a most interesting setting; a shop specialised in mostly japanese merchandise. The dinner was a 'bring your own drinks' event, I really hope nobody left thirsty because of me stealing some drinks out of the fridge... I didn't really get time to buy supplies.
The auction was hilarious. One highlight was a compost rabbit sculpture made by Cruise sensei. 'this statue dissolves slowly, thereby fertilising your garden.' 'Fertilise? You mean it's made of...?' 'No, no, it's not organic, really...'
There also were the 'authentic japanese-style' ceramics. And 'An ebony bokken handmade by Kim Taylor. Please try it out Ohmi sensei. A bokken used by Ohmi sensei. Come on people, this is a bokken from the Ohmi collection!'
The next day I woke up at 4, which was really an improvement compared to previous days. The dorm complex where I was staying had a very nice communal kitchen, with a nice empty refrigerator and empty cupboards. Now this was sunday. After foraging in the nearest waste bin I managed to boil water in an empty soda can and make tea in a scavenged burger king foam cup. Rikyu would have been delighted I suppose.
This day started with grading tests. Every grading I had been to before was always late in the afternoon, after a day of heavy seminar where lots of details are changed for the occasion, on the purpose of making people as nervous and confused as possible. Apparently this wasn't going to be the case here. That noon there was take-out Chinese food, and I secured some leftovers so I would have something to eat for the next breakfast. After this day's training, the floor was taken over by kendoka, and Rick Polland invited me for a bit of jodo. I had to admit rather fast that my concentration was out there somewhere, obviously jetlag and exhaustion was taking its effect. Apparently everyone else was tired too for this practice session ended quickly.
That evening I went out in search for food. A passerby had told me there was a 24 hour store 'just 15 minutes walking', I would like to know how those Canadians walk that fast, it took me 45 minutes to reach the store, which was closed. Obviously there are meanings to '24 h store' I wasn't familiar with. There was a junk food place accross the street from the store which luckily wasn't closed. I had to give up on my plan to acquire supplies though.
Monday was the last day for most people. I had an interesting conversation that day on how hard it is to find instruction in the states (because it's so big). It's hard for me to imagine, having to drive for four hours so you can train under someone who isn't even a shodan yet. Where I live I can drive in almost any direction and meet a godan in less than 2 hours! Maybe the distance factor also explains why more people didn't turn up for the seminar. Tuesday's class was really shocking in this respect. I know it was a weekday, and also that places to this class were limited (I'm very happy I was allowed to join), but a dozen people for Haruna sensei and Oshita sensei teaching Niten Ichi ryu, Musashi's school? I'm not complaining of course, that way we got personal instruction.
It would seem that iaidokas are far more thinly spread in the Americas than in Europe. Anyway I had a great time. I had been looking for a chance to learn tachi uchi no kurai, and running through the entire Niten Ichi ryu sword sets was quite something too.
I hope to see all the nice people I met again someday, preferably some time when I feel less zombie-like. Did I mention I received a genuine Kim Taylor rosewood bokuto as a gift for covering the longest distance to attend the seminar (senseis excluded), I just took it to the makiwara to put some ki into it... Joke! It was a joke! Get these ninjas off me ... aaagh-----------
Some extra pictures from my little busride after the seminar: