Shintaido Quebec September 2019

Shintaido Quebec September 2019

By Dan Raddock & Mark Bannon

Last September (2019), Master Instructor Ito led, and Shintaido Quebec, hosted a Shintaido Kenjutsu Master-class followed by a weekend Shintaido open-hand workshop including examinations for Shintaido Graduate and Shintaido Kenjutsu Shodan.  Here are some notes and memories to share.

The Friday Master-class training included several variations of Diamond Eight Cut (open handed, with sword), Shoden no kata, Chuden no kata for advanced students, and a mock exam. 


The Saturday Shintaido workshop opened with a jumbi taiso (warmup) led by Mark Bannon.  The warmup was followed by a group discussion about the importance of the jo-ha-kyu structure in leading jumbi taiso and keiko itself. Jo-ha-kyu is a rhythm starting out slowly, building on itself, until crescendo. The rhythm makes it easier for the group to follow along, stay engaged, and become unified.

Later, Master Ito would again remind us of the important role and responsibility of the leader of “warm up” exercise – not just welcoming classmates and preparing them physically for the keiko, but being constantly awake to the condition of each member of the class, as well as that of the Goreisha preparing to teach. Full awareness of the environment.  

Master Ito then led Eiko Dai to remind us of the importance of this fundamental practice in Shintaido generally, and more particularly, highlighting the Tenso to Shoko sequence of Eiko Dai that appears in Tenshingoso, Diamond Eight Cut, Taimyo, Kiri-oroshi Kumite, etc.  

Herve’ and Mark then practiced Kiri Oroshi Kumite as mock exam in front of the group with focus on Tenso to Shoko sequence cutting movement in kiri-oroshi kumite.  Special emphasis was placed on inviting your partner in, rising together to Tenso and then experiencing Shoko together – one partner taking care of the vulnerable partner experiencing the kiri-oroshi (deep cut) as the movement progressed and roles switched.

Another important theme of the workshop was Musoken, receiving the unseen attack.  Master Ito introduced a series of empty-hand and then sword exercises inviting us to explore Musoken.  

Staying true to the Jo-ha-kyu rhythm, we started out slowly with wakame taiso from behind.  We then expanded the space with the image of someone pushing a shopping cart (two-hand tsuki) slowly towards you from behind.  As crescendo, we responded to a Shintaido karate-tsuki and then sword cut/thrust from behind.  Master Ito emphasized the importance of using all your sense to “feel” the attack. And, even if you are unable to react in time, always maintain (ten-chi-jin) grounded, upright posture, your awarenessand stay in the moment. 

The final day of the workshop included more practice of Musoken using bokken and paired practice of sword kumite movements from shoden no kata – three jodan attacks while attacking, three gedan cuts while retreating, then switching roles to create continuous kumite.  The workshop was followed by Shintaido Graduate exams for Herve’ and Mark, and Kenjutsu Shodan examinations for Dany, Bruno, Gail, Dan, and Sarah.   

Three impromptu lessons/talk, by Master-instructor Ito were among the many highlights of the Quebec gathering. These spontaneous talks were full of meaning, metaphor, and history.  Each of these talks explores the deeper meanings underlying Shintaido’s fundamental techniques. They reveal the roots of the techniques, as well as the spirit/way that transcends the technical.

The talks cover the following topics:

  • The meaning of “dojo” and sacred space, creating a sacred space, and how these concepts relate to doing jumbi taiso at the beginning keiko
  • The meaning of Musoken — perceiving the unseen – and the importance of and path to, cultivating this sensitivity
  • The path between karate-do’s Odachi Zanshin (ready) stance and Tenso/Shoko; from Tsuki to Shoko; from embracing the divine to embracing humanity; and the meaning and importance of (Daijodan) Kiri Oroshi Kumite.

The weekend ended with a celebration of life in memory of Montreal Shintaidoist Anne-Marie Grandtner held in Parc Victoria on a sunny and bright Monday morning. 

Special thanks also to Carole and Herve’ for their hospitality in making the Quebec workshop such a warm and welcoming event.

Rediscovering Kyukajo: Pacific Shintaido Kangeiko 2020

Rediscovering Kyukajo: Pacific Shintaido Kangeiko 2020

By Derk Richardson

When Pacific Shintaido invited Master Instructor H.F. Ito to be the special guest instructor for the PacShin Kangeiko 2020, it was with a poignant sense of historical import. We knew, given Ito sensei’s plans to cut back on international travel from his home in France, that this was likely to be one of his last formal workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

From a position of deep respect, the PacShin board—Shin Aoki, Cheryl Williams, and Derk Richardson—requested that Ito sensei define the curriculum theme for the two-day gasshuku, which was held at Marin Academy, San Rafael, on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, Saturday and Sunday, January 18–19, 2020, with an additional workshop for advanced practitioners on Monday, January 20. Master Ito chose “Rediscovering Kyukajo.” His intention, he explained, was to share what he described as his “new appreciation” of the series of nine-plus techniques fundamental to classic Shintaido Kenjutsu practice.

 Asked to deliver remarks at the Sunday afternoon closing ceremony, Master Ito, true to his unpredictable nature, chose to deliver them during Saturday morning’s opening ceremony. He kept them brief. He eschewed long, nostalgic reminiscences, and quoted General Douglas MacArthur’s 1951 farewell speech to Congress: “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” 

Ito Taimyo
Ito Taimyo

But Master Ito did offer slightly lengthier introductory remarks to set a conceptual tone for the gasshuku. He showed us three styles of kanji representing the idea ten (“heaven” /天)—the precise, formal, stroke-by-stroke kaisho calligraphy; the more flowing, semi-cursive gyosho approach; and the free-flowing sosho style. By “Rediscovering Kyukajo,” Ito sensei meant returning to—and finding new meaning in—the fundamental kaisho movements of Kyukajo. Many Shintaido kenjutsu practitioners have practiced Jissen-Kumitachi for so long that the flow of continuous kumite in a wakame-informed sosho style has become second nature. Ito sensei took us back to the original nature of Kyukajo as a way of reinvigorating and deepening our practice. 

Ichi - One
Ichi – One

Over the course of three keiko—Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday Afternoon—Master Ito led a dozen or so practitioners of mixed age and experience through the 14 Kyukajo techniques. Although kyu indicates that there are nine techniques, numbers three (sankajo), four (yonkajo), five (gokajo), eight (hachikajo), and nine (kyukajo) each have a basic and an advanced movement. During the general keiko on Saturday and Sunday, Master Ito taught ikkajo (one) through nanakajo (seven) and jumped over hachikajo (eight) to kyukajo (nine). He held over the more complex hachikajo for the Advanced Workshop on Monday. With different kumite partners during the three keiko, we repeated and refined our footwork and sword movements, and experienced how timing and ma are unique to different partner pairings. 

In addition to guiding us in rediscovering Kyukajo, Master Ito shared his renewed understanding of three elements that are basic to formal Kyukajo practice: It should be done with the straight sword, bokuto, designed by the founder of Shintaido, Master Aoki Sensei, rather than bokken; stepping sequences all end by drawing the feet into musubidachi stance; and each kumite begins with partners bowing to each other, drawing their swords into shoko position, lifting their swords in tandem into tenso, and returning together down to shoko. The partners repeat shoko-tenso and bow at the conclusion of kumitachi, as well. 

Beyond Kyukajo. On Sunday morning, with Robert Gaston serving as exam coordinator, Connie Borden as goreisha, and Ito sensei as examiner, Nicole Masters took her exam—and was the next day awarded her certificate—for Shintaido Kenjutsu Shodan. In the gap between the exam and the break for midday brunch, while Ito sensei and National Technical Council members retreated for exam evaluation, Lee Ordeman, visiting from Washington D.C., taught a fun and brisk mini keiko focused primarily on stepping practice. Between-keiko potluck brunches were hosted by Sandra Bengtsson and Robert Gaston (Saturday) and Jim and Toni Galli Sterling (Sunday). Michael Sheets was the videographer for the gasshuku and documented every step of Ito sensei’s teaching—both for posterity and for the eventual production of edited segments for study.

At the conclusion of the general Kangeiko on Sunday, PacShin presented Ito sensei with two gifts in gratitude for his teaching and invaluable contributions to the cultivation of Shintaido in the Bay Area over the past forty-six years—a beautiful bokuto/bokken cover stitched from upcycled fabrics by Nao Kobayashi, and a hard-bound book of historical photographs and written tributes from Shintaido practitioners who benefited from Master Ito’s teaching in the Bay Area. The true gifts, however, have moved in the other direction: They are the knowledge, wisdom, and practices, all of which carry over into everyday life, which Master Ito has bestowed on us all.