An edited version of this article appears in the March Issue of ‘Irish Fighter’. It was written last October
Living in The Rower, Co. Kilkenny although originally from Belfast I have been training in Budo for 11 years. I hold a 3rd Dan in Aikido and just recently I graded to 1st Dan in Katori Shinto Ryu. I also train in Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu with Oisin Bourke in Kilkenny. My study is broad although I am particularly interested in the psychological aspects of training and how it can influence our reactions to others.
Firstly I will try to explain what Katori Shinto Ryu is. A weapons school focused on the sword. A school of Koryu Bujutsu. Old school martial Arts. Koryu have different methodology of study compared to most modern systems. The principles are contained within Kata and can only be understood through tireless and conscious practice. Each Kata, each principle, each cut builds on the next from simple movements to far more dynamic ones. For the study to be truly absorbed Internal Dialogue must be switched off and in this way the training is of great value to the mind of the practitioner. Katori Shinto Ryu is a 600 year old school of combat and as such is an important part of Japanese heritage and is to be respected as such.
My instructor Sensei Luigi Carniel takes this respect for tradition with the seriousness it deserves. He studied under Yoshio Sugino, one of the greatest Martial Artists of the last century. Yoshio Sugino was however best known as the film choreographer of Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’. Luigi is passing on what he learnt as he was taught it with respect and accuracy and I keep this in mind in my own practice. His classes are often very basic. If he isnt content with the way we cut, we’ll cut some more. Constant repetition of Kihon exercises are a must in his Dojo, only after this may Kata training begin.
Luigi Carniel and Yoshio Sugino
I started training with Sensei Carniel in 2011 at a seminar in Winchester, England. I had already been training for some years but had been without an instructor for about a year. I chose during this seminar to train under Luigi. His method of practice allows for a principle to sink in slowly before moving on to the next. As such a very positive atmosphere for learning. Everyone helping each other improve themselves. From then I started travelling to train with Sensei Carniel in Neuchatel, Switzerland. As a bonus these journeys also give me a welcome break from my in-laws in the East of the country. Most of my training with him has been on seminars, but I have also attended many of his regular Dojo classes and had several private sessions. the one on one training was especially intense with constant repetition and focus on just a few things at a time. I try to carry these methods into my own Dojo.
In 2012 he gave permission to me to start my study group in Kilkenny. I have kept the training small till now in the interests of improving my own level. However now that I have been graded to Shodan I am open to accept a few more students. We are fortunate to have a very beautiful Dojo. I work with the Camphill Community in Jerpoint, Thomastown as a Special Needs Assistant and they are nice enough to give me the use of their hall. In October of this year 3 students accompanied me to Neuchatel, Switzerland to train Katori Shinto Ryu with Sensei Carniel. For the duration of the course we sleep in his Dojo, a beautiful room at the top of the city overlooking the lake. We share this space with groups from Italy and England. At this stage we know each other quite well and so its all quite pleasant. The seminar consists of two 3 hour classes on the Saturday and one 3 hour class followed by a grading session on the Sunday. It is intense but more mentally than physically. It takes so much concentration to do even the most basic movements correctly.
The grading I had been working towards since the previous year when I was told I would be up for it. For grading the Kata should be done in a controlled basic manner to show that it has been understood. However with the stress it is easy to forget oneself and speed up, covering up mistakes. I just tried to bare this in mind, also for my training partner Rémy who also graded. Focusing on staying calm and intune with my breath I forgot the situation and just carried on. The grade is as much about focus and intent as it is about form. All in all it went well and I passed.
Katori Shinto Ryu attracts a wide range of people who often have little in common besides from this common interest. This is true of most traditional Budo. People may be drawn to the study through an interest in history, Japanese culture or simply combat. For me I am drawn to the study for all those reasons. At first it was the movements that took my attention, then the mental and philosophical aspects. I intend to continue my study of Katori Shinto Ryu and Budo in general for many years to come. There is always more to learn. It is after all a lifetime’s pursuit.
Thanks to Sensei Luigi Carniel for his patience and teaching. Also thanks to Sensei Simone Chierchini for introducing me to Katori and for my first years of training.
Dojo of Sensei Luigi Carniel in Neuchatel, Switzerland. http://www.anamj.ch
Currently I have two classes a week for Katori Shinto Ryu. I ask that beginning students arrange a private session before attending group training or start as part of a beginners course held every 3 months. More info – http://www.aikijoseph.wix.com/kenjutsu-ireland
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