Shinsei – New Life

<strong>Shinsei – New Life</strong>

by Connie Borden and contributions by Rob Gaston, Sarah Baker & Peter Furtado (the Daienshu reporter)

Thirty-three people attended the British Shintaido Daienshu 2023 held at Worth School from the 18th of August to the 20th of August 2023. Daienshu literally means “great maneuvers” and was the name given to the annual Gasshuku of the Sogo-budo Renmei (the transition organization from Shotokai karate to Shintaido and means “federation for a holistic martial art”). Worth Abbey is home to a small community of Benedictine monks. Worth School is an independent school in Turner’s Hill, W. Sussex UK. This event, led by Masashi Minagawa and managed by Charles Burns with the assistance of Viola Santa, represented new life.

As Charles Burns explains about the theme: “Shinsei (new life) allows us to look beyond the darkness of our turbulent times to find the hope that new life always brings. Joy, community, and our encounters with one another are all strong themes in our Shintaido world. Let’s imagine and experience new possibilities in our own lives, while enjoying the opportunities presented by a new venue for our ongoing practice.”

Prior the Daienshu, Robert Gaston, Connie Borden and Sarah Baker traveled to Scotland and the UK for 10 days. We are grateful to the hospitality of Nagako Cooper, Ula Chambers, Pam & Masashi Minagawa and Charles Burns for the extended time in Shintaido community. We practiced Taimyo, Shintaido, Bojutsu and Kenjutsu over these 10 days. We enjoyed the countryside around Dumfries Scotland, a river cruise in Shrewsbury UK and then taking a thermal spa in Bath! 

Durning our travels we took many trains and climbed even more stairs, Fitbit not required. Some trains were fun, some were cumbersome, and some were rather stressful as we learned the ropes, but all got us to where we were heading, generally in one piece, if not worn out by more stairs. Also, for our traveling enjoyment, there were a few words of wisdom to live by which were frequently repeated, least we should forget: “Mind the Gap”, “Mind the Step”, and “See it, Say it, Sorted” (the latter referring to unattended baggage, of course right? I mean who wants unattended baggage left not sorted out?).

When we arrived at the Daienshu we were joined by other SOA members: Laura Sheehan- Barron with her husband Ted Barron and David Franklin. Our Daienshu experience was rich with 3 keiko plus two morning sessions and a special invitation to the British Shintaido College keiko and exams. The opening meeting started and ended with a long, low, resonant blast on a huge conch from Jackie Calderwood. 

Master Instructor Masashi Minagawa was the instructor for the BSC keiko and three keiko in the Daienshu. Minagawa sensei shared in the BSC Keiko his insights into diamond 8 practice giving clear stepping sequence to go along with diamond 8 sei. Friday evening keiko was in the sports hall to the sounds of British rainfall outside. This first Keiko began with joyful warmup by Ula who had all laughing and relaxed. Minagawa sensei emphasized making and restoring strong connection since it has been some time since such a large and International group of shintaidoist have come together. Many stayed to practice long after keiko ended.

Our two morning keiko were outdoors under oak trees with a view of the green golf course. Nagako taught the first morning session on Taimyo Part III and Ula taught the second morning session on Diamond 8 Sei and Dai. 

The Daienshu reporter Peter Furtado states:

“The second keiko (Saturday morning) began with some vigorous tsuki and Eiko, before moving onto kumite, receiving tsuki attack with Tenshingoso applications, and receiving jodan attack with mai irimi and yoko irimi. Building on yesterday’s Ma exercises, Masashi stressed the importance of settling or grounding as you receive the attack, and before sending the partner on their way.

The (Saturday) afternoon session was entirely taken up with exams – which ranged from 9/10 kyu boh and karate exams, to nidan bohjutsu and kenjutsu. The entire session was very impressive, the examinees were all seriously committed, and the nidan kumite, in particular, both skillful and spectacular. Watching was a great opportunity for the newer members to see what their practice might lead to one day, and for older members to revisit their prejudices? about exams.”

Congratulations to all who passed their examinations! 

A party on Saturday night included being bathed in sound from the gong played by Jackie Calderwood. Masashi Minagawa explored the possibilities of sonic calligraphy, tracing the characters Do-Kan (way of the circle – the theme of next year’s International) on the gong. Carina hosted our party and Terry played the guitar while we joined in singing. Ula led us in dancing. 

As Peter Furtado further reports:

“Early Sunday morning was just as bright, but somewhat dewier, than Saturday, as Ula led us in Diamond Eight Cutting under the trees. But by the time the final keiko began, in the outdoor dojo, dark clouds had appeared and the keiko was interrupted with short showers that made us move under the trees. The extensive kumite – wakame, more Tenshingoso applications – built on the previous two keiko, before we picked up our bokken and practiced kyukajo.

Building on all this, the keiko finished with a rare treat – genuinely spectacular and moving demonstrations by the ITEC members of key features of the keiko (and incorporating some exam feedback): Gianni Rossi showing tsuki, Tenshingoso and boh kata; Charles Burns and Rob Gaston showing neriai; Ula Chambers and Connie Borden kyukajo; and finally David Franklin and Gianni Rossi doing a typically free and powerful kiri oroshi kumite. Everyone watching knew that they had seen something very special, and had been given a unique gift, an intimate vision of what Shintaido can really be in the hands of committed practitioners.”

A strong ma lasted throughout the gasshuku and is continuing to maintain its presence in a vigorous dialogue on WhatsApp. During the closing ceremony, diplomas were distributed, sharing of experiences occurred and enthusiasm for returning in 2024 was said by all. Gratitude was expressed to the organizers and sensei. Jackie closed out the meeting with the blowing of the conch. 

Here are some additional comments

Robert Gaston – There was a sense from the start of the Daienshu that the trees grew higher, and their roots deeper, over the course of our gasshuku.

Sarah Baker – Through the height of Covid we learned new ways of connecting using Zoom and other video resources. In those times seeds were planted as we all worked to continue to connect. In meeting together New Life has begun to sprout and take hold. Let us stay connected, however we can, and see what comes.

Connie Borden

Masashi Minagawa reflected the theme of “New Life” translates into his teachings. Teaching Shintaido movements in ways that are accessible and beneficial to the practitioners. His teaching such as Kiroroshi no kumite is to go far enough with the technique to find a person’s center and by going through Ten to reach “just the tipping point” that results in change. The goal of rolling is not the goal, the goal is to change your partner with just enough technique to be effective and nothing extensive that might be too harsh for your partner to appropriately receive. 

Feeling inspired to join the community? Then consider attending the International 2024 being held in this same location from 16 August 2024 to 20 August 2024.  As Peter Furtado reports:

The site is vast, green, orderly, and peaceful, with wonderful outdoor dojos and fabulous spaces for morning Taimyo; a large sports hall . . .and a huge dining room where we were offered huge school-food portions supplemented by a salad bar.”

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