A New Head Instructor
As the United States Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu Gennankai celebrates a quarter century since it’s founding this year, it is important to look ahead to the next quarter century and see what steps can be taken to ensure its longevity. Despite the recent Pandemic, the Gennankai has maintained a strong and solid core group of members and Instructors and has even begun to see some modest growth over the past 9 months as the Pandemic slowly winds down. Classes at all three of our Dojo have resumed in earnest and on October 9 we had our second All-Member Practice of 2021 at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center.
At that event, the mantle of Head Instructor was passed to Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu Rokudan James Russell (Gennetsu) Jokyo who is the Manager of our Brighton, Michigan Branch. After holding this designation for the last 25 years, it is the strong belief of Gennankai Kaicho (President), Michael Alexanian (Gennan Buhaku) Shihan, that the responsibilities of this position should pass to a younger person who can continue the close supervision of quality instruction in this art for the next 25 years and beyond. Gennan Buhaku Shihan will continue to oversee the management and administration of the Gennankai as well as take on the roles of Emcee and Lecturer at the All-Member Practice events. He will also hold the position of Primary Judge at the yearly Shinsakai (Testing) which is held each July and lead instruction in Kenshibu (traditional dance with sword and fan) when the occasion arises.
This promotion of Gennetsu Jokyo to Gennankai Head Instructor was effected with the whole-hearted support of Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu 15th Soke (Headmaster), Tsumaki Kazuo Genwa, President of the Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu Genwakai in Japan, and the Board of Directors and Instructional Staff of the Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu Gennankai here in the United States. We wish Gennetsu Jokyo all the best as he embarks on this next season of his life in the Gennankai and will continue to support him fully in his efforts to maintain the quality of instruction in this ancient and highly respected Japanese art form that has been our hallmark for the last 25 years. Gennetsu Jokyo will now address the readers with some thoughts of his own…
First and foremost, I would like to thank Alexanian Gennan Buhaku sensei for the past 25 years of leadership, guidance, and instruction. The deshi of the United States Tamiya Ryu Gennankai will forever be in debt to the efforts and sacrifices made by Gennan Buhaku sensei and Genan Kouga sensei. I would also like to thank the other Branch Managers and instruction staff of the Gennankai. I am truly looking forward to working together to ensure we maintain the high quality of leadership and instruction that Gennan Buhaku sensei has set. Last but not least, I want to thank Tsumaki Soke sensei for his confidence as I take on this role. I hope to protect his teachings and ensure Tamiya Ryu remains present in the United States for generations to come.
I began my study of Tamiya Ryu in 2006 after first learning of iai from the anime Rurouni Kenshin and studying a gendai iai for two years. When I discovered the world of koryu iai, I assumed I would never have the opportunity to study in America but as luck would have it, the Clarkston, MI branch dojo was only an hour drive away. I arranged for a time to visit practice and literally dreamt about practicing Tamiya Ryu that night. Since then, I’ve practiced on an almost daily basis outside regular practice at the dojo. While working a retail job, I was never just stocking shelves. I was practicing sonkyo, shikko, seiza, and iaigoshi. Grabbing my steering wheel was like holding an egg. I would rarely walk down a hallway without practicing the motions of Inazuma. Even to this day, there is a non-zero chance I will spontaneously perform kata while walking from the living room to the kitchen, or really anywhere else. Instead of counting sheep, I would mentally run through kata. I’ve made Tamiya Ryu a core component of my life and I do not take on this role lightly. I am excited to apply my passion to bringing up the next generation of Tamiya Ryu deshi within the Gennankai but the importance of that task is quite sobering. I will do my best.
I would like to conclude with a reflection on what a koryu is. I mentioned the term “gendai” earlier. Typically this term can be translated as “modern era” and is used for budo created, founded, or organized after the Meiji Restoration of 1868. “Koryu” (古流) on the other hand is any budo (or bujutsu, but that’s another topic) that predates 1868. This is a perfectly serviceable definition. It is, however, the “omote” of what defines a koryu, it is one side of the coin. The other side, “ura”, I think, is a much more meaningful definition.
Looking at each character that makes up the word, “ko” literally means “old” and “ryu” means a number of things, but they all have a certain characteristic of “flowing.” The character itself includes images that invoke water and a river. The best way to understand this character, as used in koryu, is a stream. Both a physical stream of water and the digital concept of a stream.
A koryu is a stream of information. It is a body of knowledge. It is its own intangible entity and is kept alive by its practitioners. Like a river, it is not static but constantly changing. A river is only a river when there is flow. If water is bottled from a river, it is no longer flowing. It’s stagnant. But the river remains, flowing, changing, made up of water but something else entirely. As practitioners of a koryu, we must be the flowing water. The water itself is not a river but it is an essential part of it.
Koryu practitioners exist in service of the Ryu and not the other way around. The United States Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu Gennankai is extremely lucky to be part of this entity. We must be conscious that we have joined into a tradition that has been flowing for over 400 years. We each play an important role in preserving that tradition. In order to do so we must practice correctly, humbly, and seriously. By throwing ourselves into our practice we discipline the mind and body, gain insights into our lives, and enrich our character. This is the ultimate goal of training in Tamiya Ryu.
James Russell (Gennetsu) - 6th dan, Jokyo
United States Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu Gennankai
Head Instructor and Brighton, MI Branch Manager