Kim Taylor holds a 5th dan in Iaido from the Canadian Kendo Federation and a shodan in Aikido from the Canadian Aikido Federation (Aikikai). He is vice president of the Ontario Kendo Federation and a member of the central Iaido grading panel for the Canadian Kendo Federation. He is the editor in chief of The Iaido Newsletter, and associate editor (Japanese Swordsmanship) of the Journal of Asian Martial Arts. Taylor currently studies Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iaido, Ho Ho Niten Ichi Ryu Kenjutsu, Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu and Kendo at the University of Guelph. Guelph is about an hour's drive west of Toronto Ontario, in Canada.
Q. How did you get started in the sword arts?
A. I've been involved with the Japanese sword for almost all of the 16 or so years I've been studying martial arts. I began with Aikido and our instructor introduced us to the sword quite early. In 1983 I attended an Aikido camp in Massachusetts and met my first Iaido teacher, Takeshi Mitsuzuka, who taught Muso Shinden Ryu. That was my introduction to the classical sword arts. Since then I've travelled all over Canada, the USA and as far as England to find quality training.
Q. Who do you study with now?
A. For Iai, my sensei is Goyo Ohmi of Toronto. We both study under Matsuo Haruna of Ohara and Masakazu Oshita of Kobe, Japan. They come to Guelph each year for a summer camp. Haruna sensei is also my instructor for Niten Ichi Ryu. Recently I've begun studying Jojutsu with Rick Polland from Baltimore, a student of Shimizu Dai-sensei and now of Kaminoda sensei. Finally, I've also begun practicing Kendo with Yasuhiro Mori, a recently arrived grad student at Guelph. In the past we've been lucky enough to practice with many senior instructors from Japan and elsewhere.
Q. What do you teach at the University of Guelph.
A. The club, the Sei Do Kai, is an umbrella for instruction in all four of the sword arts I mentioned above. We have 5 classes during the week and on Sundays we have 5 hours of class during which we practice all four arts. Along with these regular classes we also provide monthly workshops in Iaido and I travel to various places to teach. Then there is our summer Iaido camp and this year the Sword School.
Q. Tell us about these camps.
A. This May 18-21 will be the 6th year we've hosted Haruna sensei. He is an excellent teacher and a highly skilled Iaidoist. He is a winner in the All Japan Championships at the 7th dan level and this year he is challenging for 8th dan. Oshita sensei (7th dan) and Trevor Jones sensei (6th dan) will also be coming from Japan to help teach. They will be joined by Goyo Ohmi sensei (6th dan) and Stephen Cruise sensei (5th dan) of Toronto, so we can offer instruction in the Kendo Federation iaido (Seitei Gata), Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iai, Muso Shinden Ryu Iai, and Niten Ichi Ryu Kenjutsu. We usually have about 50 people at the camp, most of whom come back each year. It's one of the highlights of my year.
This year we are also teaming up with Remo Petrongolo, program manager of the U. Guelph Department of Open Learning to offer a School of Japanese Sword Arts featuring close to 30 courses and a similar number of instructors.
Q. That sounds ambitious, tell us more.
A. The School is organized into three sections, Crafts featuring the construction of the sword and its fittings, Martial Arts featuring Kendo, Iaido, Aiki Ken, and several Kenjutsu schools. Finally we have a more academic section with one day courses from a number of instructors dealing with sword appreciation, the history of the samurai, the philosophy of martial arts and other topics. There will also be presentations of papers concerning aspects of the martial arts. This will all take place over 9 days, July 12 to 21.
Q. Does the University give you good support for these projects?
A. The martial arts have always been welcomed at U.G. At the moment there are 8 or 10 different arts being taught as well as Women's Self Defense classes. The Open Learning department is quite enthusiastic about the project and have put a lot of resources into making it a high quality event. We also have faculty support, Victor Ujimoto of the Department of Sociology is a director as well.
Q. Tell us about the curriculum.
A. We are still getting confirmations from some instructors but in the crafts section we will offer a 5 day class in sword smithing, a two day course in handle wrapping, and two classes in saya making. The martial arts side of things includes classes in nito kendo, kendo no kata and an introductory course as well as a 5 day training camp with, we hope, several national Kendo team members. We are offering several two day courses in Iaido, including Seitei Gata with senior instructors from Britain. Koryu Iai schools include Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, Muso Shinden Ryu, and the partner practice from these two schools. We will be offering four classes in various aspects of the Aikido sword, sword taking and sword/jo relationships.
The Kenjutsu section is very exciting, we are bringing together several old styles in one place with instruction in Kogen Itto Ryu, Niten Ichi Ryu, Katori Shinto Ryu, Kashima Shinryu, and Yagyu Shinkage Ryu sword, Tendo Ryu Naginata, and Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu.
Finally we are offering a couple of shiatsu classes aimed at treating martial arts injuries.
Seven day long courses are planned in the following subjects. Care and preservation of the Japanese sword, Japanese sword fittings, the history of Japanese arms and armor, a critical examination of the martial arts, Buddhism in the martial arts, the history of the Samurai, and the role of martial arts in modern society.
Q. That's a lot for the first time isn't it?
A. Believe it or not we were trying to keep it down for the first year so that we could manage it efficiently. We must break even with this first School or the University won't allow us to run it again. It would have been easy to expend it to a month and include a lot of other Japanese arts.
Q. Are any of your instructors from Japan?
A. Not this year, the cost of flying them over would make the school much too expensive. It is pretty costly right now compared to a lot of other martial arts camps but we feel that the completeness of our program more than makes up for that. Another consideration is that we want our teachers to be able to teach efficiently, to pass on a lot of information in a short time. We'd rather people learn well without worrying about accurate translation. I'm confident the instructors we have lined up for the school are top notch, there's a lot of talent outside of Japan these days.
If the school is a success I suspect the instructors will be interested in bringing their Japanese sensei over for future schools. We bring Haruna sensei and others over separately, other groups do the same. I could see a day when we all bring our sensei at the same time and meet here in Guelph.
Q. If the instructors are the top in their field will you be restricting enrollment to advanced students?
A. No, not at all, the school is intended for all levels of practice. Some of these arts are extremely rare and there may not be more than 10 or 15 people practicing outside Japan. This means that the courses will have to be aimed at beginners. The prices should make sure that we don't get oversubscribed.
Q. What are the costs?
A. The crafts courses are limited enrollment and are quite expensive. We expect only the most serious students will apply. For instance the swordsmithing course is $595 for the week. A two day craft course will cost $250.
The two day martial arts courses are mostly $225 while the one day courses should cost just over $100. The academic courses are in line with other programs the Open Learning program hosts at $195. This is of course in Canadian dollars. On the other hand, accommodation and food will cost around $65 a day which is pretty reasonable. We are confident the total costs to students will be in line with other major crafts schools. Students at the school can also use the other facilities at the University, the pools, rinks, hot tub, sauna, hiking trails and the night life. In addition we are in easy reach of major tourist areas and are only one hour away from Toronto. We expect a lot of the students to bring their families along.
Q. Tell us more about the academic courses, what do you intend here?
A. This year we are mostly looking for what interest there is in the field. If the school continues, we have the potential to offer certificate programs with University Senate approval. We would also like to see a lot of research papers presented in the meetings which will be held Monday and Tuesday. We are looking for well researched papers from serious students of the arts but not necessarily from academics only. We will not be restricting entries but will examine all papers and accept them on merit.
Q. What about certification in the other areas?
A. In the crafts section we don't anticipate any certification process at the moment, it's pretty obvious whether you do good work or not. In the martial arts area we are definitely staying away from that whole idea. Rank in the arts is the business of the separate arts, not the Sword School. It is difficult enough just coordinating local and Japanese permission for the instructors, we are dealing with people from at least 12 or 14 major organizations.
Q. Will there be other materials available from the school, videos or publications?
A. We've had several questions from people about that. We might consider eventually producing videos or manuals during the School but right now we're concentrating on the "live" aspects. Me must make the school itself work and if too many people stay away thinking they are going to buy the videotape instead, we'll have only one School. We'll also have to discuss permissions with each instructor individually.
Q. Have you had a good response to the School?
A. Very good indeed, and thanks to the internet it's been worldwide. We'll be mailing several thousand catalogs by the end of the month but we need to get in touch with even more people.
Q. What address should people use to get a catalog?
A. They can get in touch with:
Office of Open Learning
159 Johnston Hall, University of Guelph
Guelph Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1.
Tel: 519-767-5000, Fax 519-767-0758
Other Reprints available:
Tony Interdonato, President of the Martial Arts Network