Edinburgh Genbukan 2013 Seminar
The morning of Saturday the 7th of September was dry and mild as we gathered on the steps of the Edinburgh University Centre for Sport and Exercise for the Edinburgh Genbukan Seminar. Several weeks of practice were to be put to the test in front of faces known and unknown. It was a terrifying and yet exciting prospect.

After the registration and the warm-up we were introduced to our guest seniors, Anna Stone sensei and Greg Drewe sensei, by our sensei from Edinburgh Genbukan, John Honisz-Greens dojo-cho.

Once the introductions were completed, everyone was run through their paces with a further, more detailed warm-up. This consisted going through each ZNKR Seitei kata several times, but breaking each down into individual movements. This helped to warm-up specific sets of muscles with specific draws. For example, by balancing the end of the sword on the left hand and performing nukitsuke.

Following a short break we tackled each of the Seitei kata from Ipponme (number 1), Mae to Ju Nihonme (number 12), Nukiuchi. Each of the kata was broken down into the points that judges would look for during the taikai. The taikai was to show how much each participant knew and to give everyone, especially the beginners (including myself!) from the Edinburgh club the experience in taking part in competition.

This is where the fear took over for me. I was always a nervous wreck performing in front of the familiar faces in the Edinburgh dojo, this much worse. Some of the kata were new in that we had only been shown them a few weeks previously and, although some of my club colleagues in the beginnerís ranks grasped the basics relatively quickly I had discovered that I no longer could distinguish my left from right!

The format for the taikai was quite simple. The beginners and least experienced Iaidoka and the more senior Iaidoka formed two groups for competition. Each group was then divided into two pools. While one pool in a group was engaged in the taikai, the other pool in the group had to judge them.

I was in the first competing pool and had to perform three Seitei kata in number order against another Iaidoka. At the end of the performance each of the five judges would give their verdict by raising their arms to indicate which player had won. Unfortunately the nerves very much got the best of me and I didnít perform as well as I could have.

Soon it was our turn to judge. I found the judging to be extremely difficult and I was strangely nervous about it. However, Anna Stone sensei described the points to look for. She also assured us that the taikai was as much for gaining experience in judging as it was in participating in the taikai.

At the end of the afternoon and after all the participants had performed each of the Seitei kata the seniors gave us feed back on specific areas to work on. Stone sensei took to one side and told that she had recognised that I was suffering from nerves. She pointed out that we hadnít been practising for very long and to go into a seminar as daunting as this was an achievement in itself. She then had a couple of specific points for me to consider.
The next day followed a similar format. The difference this time was instead of Seitei Gata the kata to be performed was Koryu Shoden, the first set of forms from the Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, which is the school practised by Edinburgh Genbukan.

The Koryu followed a similar form to the Seitei from Saturday, but the differences were subtle. I had watched Koryu kata performed at the club, but had never quite seen the difference. Having now had some experience of the opening set I can say categorically that there are many small differences, but would have to confess that I would be hard put to describe them.

The afternoon again consisted of taikai. However, as a beginner, and only having gone over the Koryu Shoden that morning, I was relieved to find out that I wouldnít be taking part. However, I was roped in to do the scoring along Drewe senseiís wife Lesley. Having initially thought how difficult can it be to count five hands in the air I soon discovered that it did require the both of us as the votes werenít visible for very long!

Soon the taikai was over and the closing Reiho complete. Two days of intense instruction and practice had come to a close.

I reflect back and can see that this was a personal turning point. I had met people who were willing to help me and who gave me pointers to small things that would help to build bigger to techniques and I would like to thank them, even though I donít know their names. However, in the years to come I will get to know our fellow Iaidoka both from Genbukan and from other schools.

I would also like to thank Greg Drewe sensei and especially Anna Stone sensei for their kind words and their pointers to things I can improve now. Of course, without the hard work behind the scenes of my fellow club members the seminar wouldnít have taken place and Iím glad to thank them for it.

Naturally without David McLean sensei and John Honisz-Greens sensei the seed wouldnít have been planted. I would like to acknowledge their teaching which has made it clear to me Iíll be on the Iaido road for a very long time.

To finish, the seminar wasnít all serious. There many laughs heard and light-hearted moments. I would like to share one. During the Sunday morning warm-up we had to move length wise down the dojo sideways crossing our feet alternating one behind the other while performing Kirioshi. I was feeling rather pleased that despite my ungainly passage down the hall Iíd managed to do it without falling over. It was only when I received a spontaneous round of applause when I reached the other end of the dojo did I realise that there may have been some doubt in other minds about my ability to stay upright! It was a little embarrassing and definitely funny, but it gave me a warm glow in the pit of my stomach that Iíll never forget.

-Jim Knight, Mudan, first seminar