Quick heads up: I will not detail any techniques or specifics of the practice. It is just a general overview of the seminar.
During these past few days (13-18 October 2015) I attended a Hokushin Ittô Ryû Hyôhô (HIRH) seminar at our european hombu dôjô in Munich, Germany. I managed to stay until the 20th and get some extra training done on the 19th. 3 people from Portugal have attended the seminar: me (Eduardo Brito), Joana Ribeiro (who also stayed until the 20th) and Filipa Araújo (who could only go during the weekend).
This seminar was completely open to anyone who wanted to join and you could choose which days to go to, depending on your own availability to attend the seminar. The seminar consisted on: Kenjutsu/kumitachi techniques, battôjutsu and gekiken. The kaichô of each dôkôkai had special training each day. The seminar was attended mostly by people already belonging to our ryûha; outside participants were very, very few.
Along the several days of the seminar, shinsa were held. I am very proud that 2 students of Dôkôkai Braga were able to achieve Kirigami during the seminar. As for myself I managed to receive the Hatsumokuroku. Also, it deserves to be mentioned that our dôjô (the place we practice at, not our dôkôkai. To be a HIRH dôjô you need a Menkyo) has received the name Hokutokan from both the 6th Soke Ohtsuka Masanori and Saiko-shihan Ohtsuka Masatomo.
The “social programme” of the seminar was also quite full, with us going for dinner and/or having dinner with everyone, every single day, either outside or inside the dojo. I would say that our ryûha is very special in the way that everyone gets along quite well and nobody is condescending and unapproachable. Something I have found to be quite rare in koryû, unfortunately. Luckily, my ryûha is exactly like this.
Ok, so regarding the practice itself (which is what I guess most people will want to read about). Everyday there was practice from 10:00 until 16:00 with extra practice for the Kaichôs from 16:00 until 18:00 (or more). Besides short breaks during the seminar, we had no lunch breaks most of the days so that we could use that time to practice even more! I enjoyed this very much.
Every practice started with sôji and ended with sôji (cleaning the floor). Every single student there had to do this, no exceptions. After the dojo was clean we would start with ashi waza geiko and afterwards suburi. Some days we had the pleasure of doing a special ashi waza practice. This keiko was done with Soy beans laid on the floor and is called Mame-Maki-Geiko. It is a traditional training method of the HIRH since the foundation of the school. It is used as a way of improving one’s suri ashi. It works quite effectively!
After practicing all the basic ashi waza we would move on to suburi. The highlight of the suburi I would say was the katate suburi with the HIRH bokuto (1kg, approximately), the sonkyo suburi and the haya suburi (pretty different from ZNKR Kendo’s haya suburi). During haya suburi our goal was to do at least 100 cuts in 60 seconds. It was quite fun!
Next we would follow with either Omote Gogyô no Kata and battôjutsu. Either way, both would be practiced almost every single day. Battôjutsu was focused on all of the Shoden Battôjutsu (suwari and tachiwaza in all directions); Chuden battôjutsu was also done by all in one of the days of the seminar. Besides all the Omote Gogyô no Kata with daitô we also managed to do with shotô sometimes. The kodachi no kata are very, very fun to do, too! Regarding the Omote Gogyô no Kata I was also able to practice once with shinken with another mokuroku. It was a very interesting experience!
Of course, being this HIRH, gekiken practice is very important, as it was also in the past. Gekiken practice was left most of the time for the afternoon and so that everyone could do with everyone, it was done most of the time with full bogu on. The uchidachi were the mokuroku of the school and everyone else would take turns with them.
The gekiken practice would start with omote gogyô no kata with shinai (full contact) before starting shiai geiko. In shiai geiko we were doing 7 shiai with each person. The purpose of shiai geiko is to polish the techniques that were practiced, against someone trying to do the same; it was keiko, not shiai. Shiai is only ippon shobu, so it would end after the first strike and/or cut. In shiai geiko we acknowledge each strike and start over from the beginning. On the last day of seminar I also had a chance of trying out gekiken but using shinken and no bogu; it was really interesting!
So, for 7 days we practiced ashi waza, suburi, kenjutsu, battôjutsu and gekiken, 8 hours a day, almost non-stop. Then everyone would get together and have dinner, chatting and relaxing, then sleeping and starting over all again the next day!
It was a great week and I have to say yet again that I’m very proud of the people from my dôkôkai. I am also very grateful to both soke and saiko-shihan for this great opportunity and for all the feedback and help during the seminar but also along all year around.