Thursday, May 07, 2009

May 2009 Activity -- Ishi Yama Ryu (Modern Japanese Swordsmanship)

Saturday, May 9, 2009
The Jhoon Rhee Institute of Tae Kwon Do
1136 West Broad Street
Falls Church, VA

(Yes, we did fight the urge the entire time we were at Jhoon Rhee to say, "Nobody bodders me." Perhaps not entirely successfully.)

According to the description for this class, Ishi Yama Ryu (IYR) is a modern form of battojutsu and kenjutsu developed by Russell McCartney Sensei. This art form is a unique expression of Japanese style swordsmanship. The fundamental basis of IYR is rooted in Toyama Ryu and Nakamura Ryu, while also drawing from physics, biomechanics, and geometry to create a powerful yet elegant style which emphasizes dynamic movement and stability. The forms and rhythms of IYR are also deeply inspired by nature and sacred geometry.

Got that?

The dilettantes were the four members of this introductory class (they offer two intro classes for free before you must enroll in a course). They should really reconsider this business model, as the instructor (Steve) is great, the class is really interesting, and we all definitely would have paid for it.

Our instructor had a fantastically dry sense of humor and kept saying things like, "You want to make sure you block yourself when someone is coming at you with a sword because if you got stabbed, it would not feel good. Not feel good being the official Japanese term for it." He had been studying this martial art for more than nine years and obviously knew his stuff, yet was able to translate it into kihon (basics) for us to keep us interested.

After we learned to bow while entering the mat, we attempted the eight kata (prearranged form and technique) and then moved on to kumitachi (forms conducted with a partner).

Of course, we felt like total morons going through these movements, so when the instructor asked, "Do you have any questions so far?" I said, "Just that thing on?" (They have a video camera set up on a tripod to record competitions and such. He did assure us that none of the dilettantes would end up on YouTube. Well, for this class, anyway.)

We learned about one defensive move called a slapping parry (which totally sounds like a euphemism for masturbation) and also a Japanese word that translates into "song of the sword" that describes that really cool sound a sword makes when slashing through the air at just the right angle. (Of course, I have totally forgotten the word, and none of us experienced that first-hand, as we were issued wooden "swords" with which to practice.) This was downgraded to foam "swords" and helmets at one point during the lesson because he had obviously read about our Segway experience for safety reasons. This was for the tameshigiri (target cutting), jigeiko (free sparring with RSW sparring weapons), suburi (repetitive swings) and ashi sabaki (footwork) part of the lesson.

The two hour lesson flew by, and we even stayed for ten more minutes to watch Steve and another guy practice duel.

Dinner and drinks followed at (the awesome) Dogwood Tavern in Falls Church.