United States Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu Gennankai



Message from the Head Instructor

Year of the Tiger

Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu. Kotoshimo, yoroshiku onegai itashimasu!

As we mark the end of 2021, a year that saw both change and a return to something like normal for the United States Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu Gennankai, I’d like to express my gratitude to all the Gennankai members for their commitment and dedication to Tamiya Ryu. Tamiya Ryu is a lineage that has persisted for 400 years. With all the current challenges in the world it would be easy for training to become less than a priority but the Gennankai has held together. It was great to see so many deshi at our Fall All Member Practice, old and new. While practicing Inazuma, I was moved by everyone’s effort to re-dedicate themselves to their practice. Thank you for your perseverance during these interesting times.

Looking forward, 2022 will see the resumption of mostly normal Gennankai’s annual activities. With a few modifications, this will include a Spring and Fall All Member Practice, as well as the Summer Shinsa-Koshukai. Dates and further details will be provided in the future but I’d like to briefly discuss each event this year.

The Spring All Member Practice will mainly act as a Shinsa checkpoint and rehearsal. Of course special attention will be paid to those seeking to take their next shinsa, however, all members will be asked to perform an enbu whether or not they are planning to test. This will allow the instructional staff to get a general impression of the group’s position so further training plans can be made for the future.

The Summer Shinsa-Koshukai will be the main event of the year. A large portion of the Gennankai may end up taking their shinsa, including several kodansha. Therefore, arrangements are being made to record the shinsakai and send the video to Tsumaki Soke Sensei. This means our usual custom of presenting successful shinsa candidates with their menjo at the end of the day’s events will have to be suspended.

The Fall All Member Practice will act as a recapitulation of the Shinsakai where comments and corrections will be discussed and menjo will be presented.

Another Gennankai activity that will be resuming is Branch visits by the Head Instructor. Ideally these visits will take place once a quarter. I’m greatly looking forward to visiting each branch and spending some more time with and getting to know each deshi in the organization.

In closing, let’s use the new year to reinvigorate ourselves and our practice to prepare for a successful Shinsakai! I wish you all a healthy and happy 2022, the year of the tiger!

James Russell (Gennetsu)
United States Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu Gennankai
6th Degree, Jokyō
Gennankai Head Instructor
Brighton Branch Manager

Reflecting Pool

A Rewarding Cultural Experience

At some point in my teen years, during the 90’s, the katana became my favorite sword. I was first introduced to the term katana with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Leonardo’s weapons were referred to as “katana blades”. When I was in High School I rented a movie called “Highlander” and it completely blew me away. Not only was it a high concept film but the protagonist used a katana.

Naturally I began to develop an interest in the culture that the katana came from. In my early twenties I saw a “Lone Wolf and Cub” movie for the first time on the International Channel. That’s when I discovered that the best katana movies are Japanese Samurai movies. It surprised me to see how they re-sheathed their swords. Instead of violently slamming the swords into the sheathes they used a graceful looking technique that I would later learn is called noto. The graceful noto looked strange to me at first but now I see it as an elegant technique.

I took a Japanese language class because I wanted to be able to watch Japanese movies without subtitles and to read the text in Japanese video games that had not been translated. While attending the Japanese language class, the teacher’s husband gave a demonstration of what is called iaijutsu. The teacher of that class and her husband are who we now refer to as Gennan Buhaku Sensei (Michael Alexanian) and Genan Kouga Sensei (Dianne Alexanian). After seeing that demonstration, I knew it was time to learn more about it. It was at the beginning of 2002 when I became a member of US Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu. Right away it became an important part of my life.

In the dojo we don’t just learn about swordsmanship, we also learn about the culture it comes from. We’ve enjoyed many shodo (Japanese calligraphy) classes and even an ikebana (flower arranging) class. But one of my most favorite parts of Japanese culture is the food, especially sushi. It has been a tradition, after class, to eat at a sushi restaurant called Akagi. To this day it is still my favorite sushi restaurant.

I have been able to visit Japan on two occasions with other members of US Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu. We went in 2006 and it was the first time I had ever visited another country that wasn’t Canada. I found the Japanese to be very appreciative of us making a strong effort to use the proper etiquette and as much of the language as we are able.

The second time I visited Japan was in 2013. This time it was in Tokyo. From my hotel room window all I could see was city stretching off to the horizon. The city was crowded, but not a chaotic mess. There was a highly functional order to they way everyone moved about and it didn’t take us long to easily find our way around the train system.

Now I look back and find it amusing that so many important parts of my life have been connected to my interest with the katana. What began as a fascination with a particular type of sword has become a very rewarding cultural experience. I feel that a small part of Japan has become a part of me.

-William Smith (Genka)