Photo credits: Warren, Peter, Simon
On the hinoki wood flooring of Chiba GenShinkan Dojo, the soft rustle of feet is accentuated by the periodic tachikaze. Beyond the Dojo windows, the scenery is one of grain grass fields softly undulating in the cold winter wind. This year’s Taikai is held on 18 November 2023, ending a four-year hiatus imposed by the global pandemic. Our Singaporean delegation's diligent preparation and quiet anticipation hold a unique resonance, and each member contributes to the tapestry of our collective return.
Leading our group is Michael Kancho, supported by Mr. Law, Ms. Noi, Rei (Trip leader) Jerry, Mari (Trip assistant), Billy, Simon, Rose, Warren and Valeth (Trip assistant). The newest additions to this Taikai trip are
Mari was drawn to Iaido to reconnect with Japan's budo practices, bringing fresh enthusiasm to Iaido.
Simon, an Aikido Sensei who embarked on the journey of Iaido just slightly more than a year ago, symbolizes the cross-disciplinary spirit within our dojo.
Rose, the group's youngest member, embodies the continuity of knowledge and skill to future generations.
Coordinating the trip itinerary with Japanese members and securing transport arrangements required months of thoughtful iterations and discussions within the group. There were many challenges with travel - one particular hiccup came during the check-in process, where we encountered some unpleasant and unanticipated behaviour from the airline staff. It wasn't a pleasant start, but fortunately, the situation got sorted out with the help of the Haneda airport staff.
Upon our arrival in Japan and settling into the Chiba Dojo, the group slowly adapted to the new Dojo environment. Getting accustomed to the unique atmosphere and weather required a bit of time for everyone. For the newcomers, this marked an entirely novel experience, navigating through the subtleties of a foreign setting.
The training sessions, held under the expert tutelage of Kobara Sensei and the various other Sensei, were rigorous and enjoyable.
The guidance from the various Sensei helped us on the path to better understanding the technical skills involved. Also, it offered a profound insight into the essence of Iaido practised on the very floors of its Japanese roots.
In between practice sessions, members took time to take in the environment and internalise the teachings.
The synergy of the global Iaido community unfolded as practitioners from Boston and Taiwan converged at the Chiba Dojo for joint training sessions. The collaborative spirit was palpable during the group sessions, where Sensei observed and provided insights into everyone's wazas, fostering a collective learning environment. The dojo alternated between the rhythm of whole Dojo training, individual group practices and free practice. Individual group practice is a meticulous arrangement that segregated Iaidokas into different Dan levels for detailed studies. This approach allowed for personalized attention, ensuring that each participant could refine their techniques according to their skill level. As the dojo doors opened to free practice sessions, the space buzzed with the sound of iaidokas engrossed in their routines, a testament to the diverse yet harmonious tapestry of our shared dedication to the art.
The depth and specificity of Sensei's inputs after observing our individual wazas once left a lasting impression. Personally, the guidance given was to think about and be aware of the application of Tai Sabaki (体捌き, shifting of the body), and the nuanced impact it had on the fluidity and precision of our techniques.
Amidst the intensity of our training, Japan’s sights and cuisine offered a sensory feast of local flavours and delights. From the warmth and polite hospitality to savouring local delicacies and enjoying the scenery, these leisurely escapades became a delightful counterbalance to the focused discipline of our practice. It is a privilege to be able to receive the kind hospitality and warmth from our gracious hosts throughout the trip. As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a golden glow over Chiba, these shared experiences became not just moments of relaxation but an integral part of our journey, creating lasting memories beyond the confines of the Dojo.
In between the training sessions, we were able to catch up with friends and Sensei.
The day of the Taikai is one of excitement, from being able to meet fellow Iaidokas from the various communities.
As we step onto the floors of Tokyo Budokan, the diversity of our backgrounds and experiences converges, creating a harmonious symphony of dedication, perseverance, and shared passion for the art of iaido. Each Iaidoka, a unique thread in the intricate weave of Renmei's story, contributes to the collective spirit that defines our return to the practice we hold dear. Please enjoy the following snippets of the Taikai.
Opening and Brief
Embu and Shinsa - 1
Embu and Shinsa - 2
Embu and Shina - 3
After Taikai Party
Til the next article, stay safe.