by Connie Borden
From 16 September to 18 September 2022, fourteen of us gathered in Quebec City, Canada for a Gasshuku. Now that it has ended, we have returned home with a sense of enrichment. Here are some impressions and remembrances.
First Carole and Herve as the organizers did the preparations of planning the Gasshuku with Rob Gaston, myself, and Ito sensei. We heard from people in California, Vermont, Florida, and Washington D.C. who planned to attend. Seven people planned to attend from Quebec. Ito Sensei and Nicole Beauvois were to travel from their new home in France. With both excitement and trepidation, we committed ourselves to this adventure and started our travels by plane, and by car. The Gasshuku was going to happen!
We arrived in Quebec City to the hospitality of Herve who housed many of us and provided the evening dinners and gatherings. Ito Sensei started Friday morning with a study of Muso-I, the stage of “Non-Phenomenon”. Followed by Ki-ichi-I the stage of “Returning Oneness.” Ito sensei mentioned these poses have been his major study over the preceding year and shared his deep reflections.
Friday afternoon, Ito Sensei provided advanced instruction on the roots of Taimyo from three Karate kata, Meikyo, Hangetsu and Kanku. Mark Bannon and Chris Ikeda-Nash demonstrated their knowledge of these three kata. Then, Ito sensei lead us through the movements linked to Taimyo.
Ito spoke of Kan-Ki, the sequence at the beginning of Taimyo as viewing Universal “Qi” energy.
Reppaku are the layers of energy, much like the movement of oceans waves. Sai-Zan is to break through the mountains to provide support even during a retreat. Ito spoke of Aoki-sensei’s inspiration for Taimyo Part 1 coming from symphony #9 written by Beethoven, Kan-Ki “Ode to Joy.”
We finished the morning and afternoon keikos with Taimyo meditation. People expressed feelings of interconnectedness with others and nature, and feelings of expansion and extending beyond their skins. Ito sensei described the floating feeling of the meditation grounded by the kata to keep connection with the earth.
Saturday morning keiko was taught by Rob Gaston. He focused on Kiri-o-roshi kumite. He led us to open ourselves with our partner to the beginning stages of “Ah”. Gradually we opened our partners and ourselves to Ten and then slowly cut Shoko.
Ito Sensei stressed the importance of continually moving from the very start of Kiri-o-roshi and at first, stepping back to pull our partner into ourselves, followed by reaching Tenso higher and higher to cut over and beyond our partner.
In the afternoon, Connie Borden reviewed Diamond eight Kaishoken (open hand) to focus on the three connecting cuts of Chudan Kiri Harai, Gedan Kiri Harai, and Jodan Kiri Harai. This was followed by practice of cutting one person as the target, holding center, while people practicing the precision of the cut while moving in a line. The opportunity to practice in pairs using the full gym for Eiko Dai no Kumite (open hand) was then offered. Ito sensei lead the group in Eiko Dai no Kumite with Boktoh. The Quebecois faced the Americans from opposite ends of the gym and practicing cutting large groups of people.
Ito sensei did a special request keiko on Saturday to review Kasumi and then Aikiken. In this advanced kumitachi, he taught Daijodan Kirikomi or Kiroroshi versus Kasumi and then Daijodan Kirikomi or Kirioroshi versus Aiki-Ken. He then taught the four stages with Renki-kumite.
Sunday morning Rob Gaston taught Boktoh to deepen our concentration through the drawing technique, stepping and turning. Then, he taught wakame to receive jodan and daijodan (both open hand) and this was repeated by many pairs.
Tenshingoso Dai concluded the morning keiko.
Connie Borden followed with teaching to receive dai jodan and jodan with boktoh while keeping wakame feeling. One side first did dai jodan with boktoh while to other side received into their body using wakame. This progressed to standard kumite of both partners cutting simultaneously dai jodan and jodan.
Ito sensei finished the Sunday keiko by asking Carol and Denis to demonstrate three cuts from Shintaido Kenjutsu. The basic Kyu-ka-jo Kumitachi with three cuts of Jodan-Kirikomi-Chudan Kirikomi-Gedan Kirikomi showing them as one cut with 3 movements. The second round was Chudan-tzuki- Jodan Tzuki and Jodan-Kiriharai again as one count with 3 movements.
Here is a list of various impressions from people who attended the gasshuku:
We made deeper connections with one another
Felt open further than before (Chris Ikeda- Nash)
Recommitted to practicing boktoh (Melanie Marin)
Expressed gratitude to being in community
Love of practicing Shintaido and remembering why he started 30 years ago ( Dany Simard)
Enjoyed the experience of being in a group to see the movements to help refine their stepping
Learning to allow the boktoh to lead the cut
Body movement speaking louder than words
Arrived at a deep emotional shared space/connection that transcended words.
Felt many emotions of love, sorrow, happiness, and sadness without the desire to block the emotions.
Here is Denis’s impression:
He felt a beautiful sharing of emotions during the weekend. The energy that flowed between the participants was a connection that allowed him to communicate without worrying too much about the language spoken.
As Maya Angelou said
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”
Ito sensei spoke during the closing ceremony of his gratitude to Carole and Denis and their dojo. He presented them with a framed calligraphy for their dojo. This is a name that Ito Sensei created specifically for their dojo.
The name of the building:
Tai-Kan-Do >>> 大観堂 >>> the Hall of the Great OverLook
Tai-Kan >>> 大観（体感）>>> Great Overlook/Great Overview/Great Anticipation (Bodily Sensation)
Carole and Denis expressed this: We are moved and honored that Ito Sensei came to our dojo in 2021 and that he also gave us a name for this dojo. It is thanks to him that we have built it, because it is following his invitation to travel to Japan and our attraction to the practice with the sword that we had the energy to build it. We feel a lot of gratitude towards him.
Everyone in attendance gave thanks and gratitude to the organizers – Carole, Herve, and Melanie. We also remembered Anne Marie and her love of Shintaido. With the closing ceremony complete, we returned to our homes more enriched, more open, and more human.