Learn a Unique Japanese Martial Art in Canada

Address:

PO Box 116 La Ronge SK S0J 1L0

2018 Summer Recess

Summer has started and the summer break is just around the corner. With that, our keiko schedule changes significantly for this summer.

  • Last keiko: June 27,  7pm, Home-dojo in La Ronge;
  • July 2018: no keiko due to our own training in Japan;
  • August 5-8: Private keiko and examinations in La Ronge, seminars already booked for MSR Canada members;
  • First day of regular training: September 5, 2018;
  • Private training sessions are available during weekend at the end of August.

If you are looking to purchase MSR Bo-Shuriken, please let me know as soon as possible. I can then place your order and pay Otsuka-sensei in Japan in 2 weeks.

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Please note that we are moving away from Facebook, making future announcements on our general website and for our MSR Canada members on our Members Only website. All members have received information about this already. If you want to continue to follow our activities in Canada, post announcements will be made in Facebook automatically, just like this one.

The “Daily 50”

Starting to learn Shurikenjutsu is very exciting. It can also be very competitive, relaxing, and sometimes frustrating as well. When I started to learn Meifu Shinkage Ryu in 2014, I already had quite some experience with Shurikenjutsu, however, being the only student in Canada and sharing this path with Darren Thomas, it was difficult to adjust and transform our skills to become “MSR-style”.

Research in education has pointed into various directions when it comes to how students learn best. John Hattie (Visible Learning, 2012, 2016) analysed more than 1,200 studies and concluded that 10 teaching habits are essential for assisting students with their learning. These 10 habits can be summarised with a single question that any educator needs to reflect on: “What is the impact of my teaching on student progress?”

Hattie reports more than 180 factors that effect learning in various positive and negative ways. The effect sizes are constantly changing, based on new evidence that Hattie finds. Below I choose 7 that not only have a extremely high impact on learning, they are also applicable to teaching martial arts.

  1. Teacher estimates of achievement (1.62 effect size) reflects the accuracy of educators’ knowledge of students in their classes.  This means that every student has a different level of performance. One common problem is that teachers often overestimates the achievement of their students, mixing the true level of performance with the beliefs the teachers has on the ability of the students.
  2. Collective Teacher Efficacy (1.57 effect size) is the collective belief of teachers in their ability to positively affect students. All students can learn, but not all students will have the same learning curve.
  3. Self-grading (1.33 effect size) reflects the fact that students are pretty good at knowing what grade they will get on their report card before they read it.
  4. The Jigsaw method of learning (1.2 effect size) assists students in creating their own knowledge by working together using different pieces of the “puzzle”. Educators provide support to ensure each student is successful.
  5. Feedback (1.13 effect size) is seen as the highest influence. Hattie has made clear that ‘feedback’ includes telling students what they have done well (positive reinforcement), and what they need to do to improve (corrective work, targets etc), but it also includes clarifying goals. This means that giving students assessment criteria for example would be included in ‘feedback’. This may seem odd, but high quality feedback is always given against explicit criteria, and so these would be included in ‘feedback’ experiments. As well as feedback on the task Hattie believes that students can get feedback on the processes they have used to complete the task, and on their ability to self-regulate their own learning. All these have the capacity to increase achievement. Feedback on the ‘self’ such as ‘well done you are good at this’ is not helpful. The feedback must be informative rather than evaluative.
  6. Prior Ability (1.04 effect size) describes not only the prior skill development but also the ability of a student to reflect on the learning process, cognitive building blocks (intelligence), as well as character traits such as determination, persistence, and motivation.
  7. Instructional Quality (1.00 effect size) as seen by the students. Yes, the student’s view of the teaching quality is essential.

How does the above impact your learning as a martial artist?

Before addressing this question, I would like to take care of a the misconception that many students have about learning and progress: “the amount of effort a student puts into studying”. Effort by itself only describes the physical component of “being there” and “doing”. If a student puts a high amount of effort into learning a skill using an inefficient learning method and without measuring the impact on learning, this student may be learning a particular skill without much progression. Such a student may be “new to the skill for 10 years in a row”.

However, pair “effort” with any of the above concepts, and all students can succeed. Let’s look into this deeper.

In 2015, I developed a strategy I call “The Daily 50”. This strategy mainly assists in creating a new habit (growth mindset), replacing a less effective habit. “The Daily 50” is about scheduling 20 minutes every day for Meifu Shinkage Ryu to practice one skill. Focus only on that skill, and pair with with self-grading. For example, perform 50 Shomen-uchi thrusts with Bo-Shuriken, and after each set of 5 thrusts, reflect on what the Bo-shuriken are “telling you” (angle, penetration, sound, grouping) and on how you feel (that one thrust felt really good, do you have any tension in your body, balance, relaxation).

But there is more to “The Daily 50”. In fact, Hattie’s research validated the need for additional components. Let’s look into these in relation to the impact on your learning.

  • Your knowledge of your achievement. Maybe it has taken you quite some time to get to a certain learning skill. Celebrate where you are and your prior accomplishments. Accelerating or exploring new skills your learning too early (.68 effect size) has limited effect on your overall development. Yes, it is fun to explore new skills and develop new concepts, however, what is much more important is to continue where you “left off”.
  • Jigsaw method of knowledge creation. Learning along is a great mindfulness exercise, however, sharing your journey with others who are of the same, higher or lower skill development will provide with a much better understanding of what you are doing. For instance, the tenouchi (grip) is imperative when it comes to influencing the flight path of the Bo-shuriken, therefore, studying the anatomy of your hand together with another student studying their hand will help any student to  better understand how to grip the Bo-shuriken “their way”.
  • Prior Ability. Are you open to reflect on your skill, or do you get anxious or frustrated when mistakes are made? Do you give up or are you persistent? One support I use for my own learning is to make a very brief statement about how well my “daily 50” went today (one sentence), pairing this with a goal for tomorrow. Example: “Today I noticed that during Metsubushi, the fundo was aimed too high. The goal for tomorrow is to focus the aim”. This is a great way to use prior ability to help the learning progress.

One factor I would like to make stand out: Instructional Quality. How are you learning and who are you learning with and from?

A common phenomenon  in Martial Arts is that people break  away from their teacher too early to continue alone.  If your skills are developed up to a certain level of proficiency, you require the assistance of what Vygotsky called “A More Knowledgeable Other”. This other person is a teacher who’s skill development is at a much higher level than yours. This teacher provides feedback, beliefs in your skill, helps you grade how you are doing, and tailors the instruction to your needs.

There is one more essential component that ensures the quality of instruction: the continued development of your teacher. How often does your teacher visit his teacher? Does your teacher actually visit Japan to further study not only the martial skill, but also the culture, habits and language? How does your teacher reflect on his/her own development? Does your teacher constantly want to invent new skills? Is your teacher ignoring advice from more knowledgeable others?

Essence:

There is much to reflect on when it comes to studying anything, martial arts in particular. Focusing this article, the following four aspects I tell my students all the time:

  • Focus on establishing the habit of learning
  • Reflect on your skill
  • Enjoy what you are learning
  • Develop your basics (kihon) first before you start to learn fancy skills.

I hope that the above helps any student reflect on their own martial arts learning path. Opinions differ, and the above is my opinion supported by current research.

End of 2016, Hello 2017!

The year 2016 was fantastic for Taka Budo Dokokai Martial Arts, Inc., and in particular for the Meifu Shinkage Ryu department. We were privileged to train with Otsuka-Sensei in Japan at the Tabata dojo, and again during the seminar in La Ronge in October. New members passed their first examination, whereas other members passed their Kyu and Dan ranks.

The year 2017 will be another fantastic year. First of all, the Meifu Shinkage Ryu Canada – Toronto Keikokai will start under leadership from Nigel. The startup will be slow to establish a solid foundation. There is quite some potential to grow Meifu Shinkage Ryu in Toronto and in the greater Ontario; a great opportunity.

Following is a list of exciting opportunities in 2017:

  1. February 2017: Japan trip for Chris, training Meifu Shinkage Ryu with Otsuka-Sensei, and other schools with some of chris’ other senseis.
  2. April 2017: Planning a 4-day intensive seminar with Filip Bartos, for Mugai-ryu, Meifu Shinkage Ryu, and taijutsu and jujutsu.
  3. Summer 2017: Possible Yagyu Shinkage-ryu and Yagyu Shingan-ryu seminar in La Ronge.
  4. October 2017: Planning a 3-day Meifu Shinkage Ryu seminar with Otsuka-sensei.

Please note that opportunities 3 and 4 are semi-private, with early bird registration fee of $300 for each seminar, and $600 for the April 2017 seminar. If you are interested in reserving at the early bird fee, please contact Chris de Feijter. MSR Canada Branch members will receive the usual 50% discount on seminar fees for MSR related seminars.

November Sessions

Meifu Shinkage Ryu training in November followed many training activities as practiced during the October 2016 Saskatchewan Seminar. Compared to previous training sessions, we decided to focus our training using one tool in particular, supplemented by the other. For example, the majority of training focused on Bo-Shuriken, and additionally, some of the Fundo-kusarijutsu kata were reviewed as well.

One of our newest member is starting to transition to the hard fundo-kusari. The soft fundo kusari is a great training tool, however, any member must transition to using the hard version sometime during the training progression. Therefore, we think it is important to do so as soon as possible, not much later than after graduating the 5th kyu level. Taking safety and confidence into consideration, it is however imperative that new members use hard fundo-kusari only with very limited power with the focus being on flow. This resulted in a review of Ippon-me to sanbon-me-ni.

In addition, some members have started working on the Nidan and Sandan kata, as detailed in the Mokuroku for Fundo-kusarijutsu. This is a new step towards further and deeper understanding of all the skills and techniques in the Meifu Shinkage Ryu curriculum.

Sessions Week of January 24

 

We had three sessions this week, each focusing on a different aspect of Meifu Shinkage Ryu. The main theme was “flow”.

Monday January 25 (1 hour session)

We studied fundo kusarijutsu, going through several of the shodan kata. Particular attention was paid to the fluency of the techniques, not too fast or too slow, thus making sure that each technique transitioned correctly into the next.

Tuesday January 26 (2 hour session)

Shuriken-jutsu, with focus on handgrip, and shomenuchi using a shorter technique with lots of snap and brush. Some of the shuriken almost penetrated the double layer of puzzle mat.

Saturday January 30 (2 hour session)

All shodan waza for kusarijutsu and shurikenjutsu. Flow, footwork, as well as hip movement were studied.

 

  • If you are interested in participating in our MSR workshop on March 5, 2016 in Prince Albert, please check the details here.
  • On May 28 & 29, 2016, Filip Bartos from Czech Republic will organize a seminar in which we may add a little bit of MSR training as well.

Session January 19, 2016

During this session, the focus was shomenuchi again. We analyzed our hand grips, made small adjustments until the throw did no longer work. We identified many small mistakes often made, and looked at ways to remediate those for each of us.

We also looked at options to open a second dojo for MSR in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. More about this will follow shortly.

  • If you are interested in participating in our MSR workshop on March 5, 2016 in Prince Albert, please check the details here.
  • On May 28 & 29, 2016, Filip Bartos from Czech Republic will organize a seminar in which we may add a little bit of MSR training as well.

Session January 12, 2016

During this session, the focus was shomenuchi (although we did a few za-uchi as well) from different distances. The focus was on snap, brush, and on aligning the hand and arm with the target properly without overreaching and twisting the flight path of the bo-shuriken.

Working on the most important technique from Meifu Shinkage Ryu always has our priority. We noticed a difference when hikite was executed properly. The last part of the lesson focused on Shomenuchi using different bo-shuriken, including Shingetsu-ryu shuriken, Negishi-ryu shuriken, tanto, MSR hanten daho shuriken, and Katori shinto-ryu shuriken. We did not work with Fundo Kusari during this session.

The 2-ken distance is now progressing well for both Darren and Chris. For next training, the focus will be on grouping.

  • If you are interested in participating in our MSR workshop on March 5, 2016 in Prince Albert, please check the details here.
  • On May 28 & 29, 2016, Filip Bartos from Czech Republic will organize a seminar in which we may add a little bit of MSR training as well.

November 14 training

Todays training was about all Bo-Shuriken waza, all stances and distances from 1 to 2 ken. Gyaku uchi is difficult from 2 ken. After that, I started to train Shomenuchi with the left hand from 1 ken. This was very interesting and forced me to really focus on the hand grip as left is my non-dominant hand. Then I followed up with Shomenuchi with two shuriken, one from the left hand and one from the right hand, thrown at the same time from Heiko-dachi and Fuko-dachi. I ended the training with throwing two shuriken at the same time from the right hand, trying to keep them within a 15cm grouping.

I also experimented with the new style bo-shuriken that arrived yesterday. The Shingetsu-ryu bo-shuriken are so strong that they almost penetrate two puzzle mats. I could not practice with the MSR Hanten-daho shuriken as I did not have enough room to move beyond 3 ken.

Second week of November

Training this week was all solo. With travel schedules, we have not had an opportunity to come together. Nevertheless, each us of continues to practice. Chris focused on shomenuchi from 2 ken, as well as gyaku-uchi, dosoku-uchi, and za-uchi from 1.5 ken. Lance shared a video with a few questions about his gyuaku-uchi, and he came up with a very interesting combination of what looks like dosoku-uchi and gyaku-uchi in one technique. Darren continues to be working on kusari fundo kata for shodan.

We have some exciting training scheduled, some of it will be shared as they occur.

Grading Results

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On October 3 and 4th, an MSR seminar took place in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Otsuka-Sensei provided detailed instruction on many skills from Meifu Shinkage-ryu.

An examination took place of all MSR members in Canada. For MSR Saskatchewan Keikokai, the following members passes examination successfully:

  • Lance Fleming, passed Yonkyu grading (4th Kyu). Start working on Sankyu waza.
  • Darren Thomas, passed Sankyu grading (3rd Kyu). Start working on Nikyu waza.
  • Chris de Feijter, passed Nikyu grading (2nd Kyu). Start working on Ikkyu-waza

Next examination eligibility for Lance and Darren is at the end of January 2016. For Chris, next examination eligibility is at the end of March 2016.
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