Stream of Consciousness

Facing Death - Part I

Facing Death - Part II

Passive Resistance - Part I

Passive Resistance - Part II

Workshop Reports - August 2004

Workshop Report from August 18-19, 2004 and August 21-22, 2004

Ito-sensei visited Vancouver BC and northwest Washington for two weeks of workshops at the end of August. Here are the details of the Vancouver events and the weekend workshop in Bellingham, Washington.


  • Wednesday, August 18: basic Shintaido workshop for caregivers at Canuck Place, the first hospice for children in North America. This class was organized by Shintaido practitioners Dr. Hal Siden, who is Medical Director at Canuck Place, and Dr. Leah Cline, a staff member at the hospice.
  • Thursday, August 19: Toitsu kikon basics and kumite with practitioners of Karate Shotokan of Canada organized by chief instructor Norman Welch, at Joyce Recreation Complex.


  • Saturday, August 21: Shintaido and Bojutsu exams and exams feedback in the morning at Kendall Elementary School. Yonhon kumibo practice at the school in the afternoon.
  • Sunday, August 22: "Flowing movement" Jojutsu workshop in two parts (morning and afternoon) for people of all technical levels, located at the Whatcom Hills Waldorf School.

The Saturday and Sunday workshops were organized by NorthWest Shintaido Exchange.

Wednesday, August 18, afternoon: Basic Shintaido at Canuck Place

On Wednesday, August 18 our guests arrived from Bellingham at Canuck Place (Haruyoshi Ito-sensei, Lee Seaman, Nicole Beauvois and Robert Kedoin). Hal Siden showed us to the outdoor area where the class was to be held, a secluded patch of lawn near the main hospice building. Nearly 15 staff members from the hospice slipped away from their busy schedules and joined us for about an hour from 3:00 p.m.

I wondered what Ito-sensei could teach in such a short time, with most of the staff members in street clothes, on a hot sunny afternoon when it would be so easy to fall asleep! But, as always, Ito-sensei chose the best warm-up exercises for the circumstances. We began by practicing stepping from musubi-dachi to musubi-dachi, moving forward and backward across the lawn, doing one, two and three steps at a count. The stepping, plus the constant effort to stay balanced, was enough to get everybody warmed up and relaxed without the frustration of trying to learn too much too fast. And it was an excellent review for those of us who have more Shintaido experience, too, since stepping practice is something that can often get dropped from regular keiko, especially hitori geiko.

After about fifteen minutes of stepping, practice, Ito-sensei had us sit down to rest and explained a bit more about Shintaido philosophy, especially the concept of Ten Chi Jin. That gave people some idea of what Shintaido might be, and from there we moved to the main theme of Tenshingoso for the remainder of the class.

We began from the end, first doing Um, then O and Um, I, O, Um, and finally working backwards to the entire kata (Um, A, E, I, O, Um). Each part included explanations and feedback from the participants. Ito-sensei asked people to share their ideas about the images they experienced when seeing and doing each part of Tenshingoso. First we did just the movement, and then we added the sound for each movement. Working backward to the beginning of the kata this way, although the exercise becomes longer with each new movement, the "newest" movement always comes first so even complete beginners feel more familiar with the next movement. That way, they don't break the flow of movement or lose their concentration. When teaching Tenshingoso from the beginning, the next movement is always less familiar. Transitions are interrupted for explanations, breaking the flow of the kata.

Thursday, August 19, morning: bokuto class in Central Park

I had selected a spot in Central Park for what I thought would be Lee's private class with Robert and myself acting as her partners. This was not formally part of the workshops, but it turned into more than just a private lesson, so I want to thank Lee for offering us the opportunity to share her class!

We had a three-hour keiko under a merciless sun, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nicole also joined us so we were practicing in pairs and switching off.

The subject was the #6 cut of the 9 kyukajo movements, the one called Tsunamichudan kiriharai/ jodan kiriharai. We began by doing the cut freehand, first in its basic form and then in kumite practice against daijodan attacks. As we became more familiar with the stepping and cutting we began to use our bokuto. Here are the points that I consider the most important:

  • As the partner lifts his bokuto for a daijodan cut, close in with a short, crossed step on your right foot in kosa-dachi, while positioning the bokuto horizontally on your right side for a gyaku chudan kiriharai cut.
  • As the partner's bokuto comes down, step onto your left foot in fudodachi and begin your horizontal cut. Cut completely right to left. Meanwhile, bring your right foot behind and on the outside of your left heel, matching the two movements and escaping your partner's vertical cut.
  • Begin to turn rightward and shift your body weight on your right foot as you lift your bokuto for the next cut.
  • Turn about 145 degrees to follow your partner and step on your left foot as you cut his wrists in jodan kiriharai from slightly behind him. Don't allow a gap between his body and yours but keep proper distance throughout.

It can also be done as you are attacked with a chudan thrust. In this case, your bokuto is lowered because otherwise your partner wouldn't attack. Your first move as you step onto your right foot is to hook your partner's bokuto sideways. If he/she withdraws, raising the bokuto for a daijodan cut, you proceed as already described and from here the whole sequence is identical.

The heavy bokuto used in Shintaido doesn't allow one to be too clever or tricky, so we have to rely on a clear mind and proper timing. I found the arrangement and the step-by-step progress to learn the movements most enlightening.

Thursday, August 19, evening: Toitsu kihon workshop for karate practitioners

This class was scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Joyce Recreation Complex just off 4th Avenue. About 25 people gathered for this class, all of them Shotokan karate practitioners except those of us Shintaidoists who came with Ito-sensei.

I had witnessed another class Ito-sensei taught at their club in August three years ago. Then he introduced them to Shintaido's warm-up exercises and some basic renko kumite, explaining the evolution from the karate punch to Eiko kumite. At the time, I thought they really enjoyed it, and apparently I was right since he received an enthusiastic invitation again this time.

The good energy in the dojo brought back memories of my past karate practice, and I was sort of eager to experience that again.

After 10-15 minutes of soft warm-up exercises Ito-sensei led us again through the stepping practice, this time insisting more on bending the knees, keeping a low koshi, and trying to take longer steps. He also insisted on the correct pointing of our feet while moving forward and backward and on the form of the front foot in stepping. Again we did one, two, three and four steps on each count, the latter changing sides after the second step.

Next we practiced jodan and chudan kirikomi and kiriharai, moving forward in fudodachi until everybody got the feel of it. The main focus was on moving the arms and legs together, centering on the hips. When this was understood, we went on to practice Toitsu kihon kumite, both partners starting from fudodachi. The attacker would move in with daijodan or jodan kirikomi while the partner would receive with chudan kirikomi or kiriharai. Ito-sensei encouraged us to avoid getting entangled or "involved" with our opponent. He pointed out that getting too involved is especially bad when you face more than one attacker. He called this idea kiri nukeru, or cutting through without stopping. At the end of the class we had some time for discussion and questions, and Ito-sensei explained a few of Master Egami's ideas as well as some training methods he went through in punching and kicking.

This class was the last scheduled activity in Vancouver, and after dinner our guests left for Bellingham.

Saturday, August 21, morning: Exams and feedback

Hal and I arrived at the Kendall School Field about an hour before the exams were scheduled to begin. It was a cloudy morning this time and it looked as if it was just about to rain. We were lucky, though, because the rain held off until after the exams. Robert Kedoin was exam goreisha. He showed impressive presence, and his calmness transmitted to the examinees. My only involvement in the exams was watching Hal take his first bojutsu exam (he has been practicing with me for several years now), and being Mike Sheets' partner in Shinjo sho.

I think the main reason for exams is to mark and guide the students' progress. Each level is a sort of a signpost on a way that can otherwise be quite individual and potentially confusing to many. It is not always easy to relate the various parts of the keiko to one another, and exams can help provide a framework for better understanding of Shintaido overall.

Because they are formal, the exams reinforce a few elements that might be minimized or even completely absent during regular keiko, such as etiquette and courtesy, formal sitting, intense awareness and the wearing of keikogi.

Also, it is easy for people to get used to certain patterns of doing things during regular practice, such as their instructor's teaching style, their practice partners, stopping whenever they get tired, asking for explanations, and so on. In exams all of this changes. Students have to rely on their own understanding, push their limits, adapt to new partners, and obey the directions of the goreisha without comment. Because the exams are relatively short and the evaluations are done strictly on the present performance, the examinees have to concentrate on 'here and now'. They have only one chance to present the fruits of months or even years of practice. In this way I consider exams not only tests of technical proficiency, but also a form of keiko (practice) from which we learn a great deal regardless of the results in rank ( kyu or dan).

After the exams were over, it was time for feedback. I was impressed with the way it was done, in a "hands-on" fashion and with everyone allowed to join in. Ito-sensei gave his feedback almost like leading a regular class, except that his attention was concentrated on those examined for the ranks whose requirements he was correcting. He started from 10-9 kyu going up to 1 kyu (the highest level tested). All the basic techniques were actually practiced moving forward and backward as he was highlighting their key points as well as the errors made during the exams. In the middle of the feedback it started raining, so we moved inside and kept going. I learned a lot about fine technical points of each basic technique, differences within each technique depending whether it was done as attack or defense, certain applications for kumibo, and the performance of certain parts of kata. Because of the hands-on approach I think everybody got a much better idea of the corrections each of us needed.

Saturday, August 21, afternoon: Yonhon kumibo class

After bo taiso, we began to practice Yonhon kumibo sei moving across the floor. There was enough room to repeat the kata once on each side in one pass, and then we would switch roles going in the opposite direction. This went on for a while, changing partners and correcting mistakes. One idea I got was that, when moving back, the receiver doesn't have to withdraw in a straight line but can instead step along a slightly curved line. For instance, after receiving the partner's attack in Ichimonji uke, the receiver can move slightly at an angle when blocking jodan uchikomi, and can then go in the opposite direction when receiving morotezuki with kohan.

Also, the receiver shouldn't do mochikae unless the attacker does it first. Otherwise, after daijodan the attacker might step straight in with gyakute uchi and the receiver will be out of position and slow to respond. After we began to move fairly well in the sei version of this kata, we moved on to the practice of Yonhon kumibo dai. To begin, each pair did a dai version on both sides and changing roles, while everyone else watched.

Apparently Ito-sensei wasn't satisfied with our attacks, because we were asked to attack and receive with jodan uchikomi. The attacker would run doing kensei and jodan uchikomi, and the receiver would do kensei and then jodan uchikomi stepping back and letting the attacker pass by. The attacker was supposed to concentrate on pushing against his partner's body where the base of the neck meets the shoulder and following through. The receiver would strike laterally, just enough to deflect the coming bo. Then we practiced with the receiver not having a bo but imagining he had one as he would respond to the four attacks of the form.

After that, we went back to the entire kata. Here are the points I got:

  • When attacking, make the attack long and going through
  • When blocking, run to meet the attack but allow it to pass and separate. Don't get entangled at short distance. (This is like what Ito-sensei said about kiri nukeru in the Vancouver class with Norman Welch's students.)
  • It is no good to turn 90 degrees or so inside your partner's attack, because your side will be exposed to attacks with the back end of his bo
  • Don't use just the standard blocks, but try various blocks according to the situation (ryuhi, nagare ichimonji, kohan, gyakute uchi, etc.)

Sunday, August 22, morning: "Flowing movement" Jojutsu class

This class ranged from people who had never held a jo in their hands to those with over 20 years of experience. More than 20 participants came from San Francisco, Victoria, and Vancouver as well as Bellingham. We gathered for the 9:00 o'clock class in the auditorium of the Waldorf School.

Because most of the students were complete beginners, I was expecting a very simple class focusing on integrating the jo in our movements. The class began with warm-ups using the jo, simple enough so that everybody could follow easily.

Next, we practiced slowly the Honte uchi side movements, learning to pass the jo through our hands and change the grip while shifting from one side to another. We did them all, chudan, jodan and daijodan, and to my surprise the people followed without much difficulty. We even did chudan honte uchi facing each other in pairs and striking our jo against our partner's. We were going up slowly through gyakute uchi, kaeshi zuki, and when we reached the combination of movements at the end of Taishi kata I began to suspect that we would learn the whole kata before the workshop was over.

Using the blocking movement that begins the above combination, we practiced warding off a daijodan attack. Then we put the sequence together by adding the gyaku zuki and daijodan strike while stepping forward.

The first class ended with everyone having practiced most of the techniques of the kata.

Sunday, August 22, afternoon: Taishi class

Just as Ito-sensei had done previously in Vancouver when teaching Tenshingoso, the beginning of the kata was taught last. We repeated the opening thrust of Taishi from the ready stance stepping forward in fudodachi many times, from one to three movements at a count, and also chasing a withdrawing partner. I always considered the second movement the most difficult of the whole kata when done right away after the first. I found it to be not so difficult if one is practicing slowly for a while, and I realized that speed shouldn't be a goal but rather a result.

Soon we began to link all the parts and to practice the whole kata. I have no doubt that by the end of the class everybody knew the routine well enough to have the satisfaction of having accomplished something. I know I did, even though I knew the kata fairly well to start with.

After the class was over we had a break, and the more advanced students had a chance to practice two movements of kumijo for an extra half hour or so.


Except for the first class for the people at Canuck Place, the rest of our practice this time concentrated more on the martial arts aspects of Shintaido. We had a bit of everything: sword practice, karate (I gathered that Toitsu kihon has in a way replaced most of the basic karate practice), bojutsu and jojutsu. Also the three essential aspects of all martial arts' practice were covered, namely: kihon (fundamentals), kata (form), and kumite (partner practice). By "taking a dip" in each of these various disciplines I think those of us who participated in all of the workshops got a deeper understanding that all martial arts of Shintaido are essentially the same. For the same reason I came to realize the importance of constant practice in Shintaido itself, the integration or fusing agent of these disciplines.

Of course, Shintaido is much more than merely groundwork at the base of these martial arts. In a way, I see it as an education system in the most important values created by the human spirit, not so much through theoretical talk but through movement and actual practice. There are valuable teachings in spiritual practices, body healing methods, traditional and modern art, and martial arts, that find a new life and expression in Shintaido practice. They come together from various disciplines that used to be separated by objectives, distance, culture, and history. Nevertheless, Shintaido did not become an aggregate, thanks to the reflection on our genuine needs expressed in that goal phrased by the Oracle of Delphi, "Know Thyself."

Through the practical interpretation of that motto, of our new, modern human needs, Shintaido becomes an enricher and increaser of the inherited treasures that fused in its body.