2010, the Year of the Tiger, marks the beginning of the 2nd decade of this new millennium, which is also the decade in which the United States Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu (USTRI) organization will celebrate its 20-year anniversary in 2016. Looking back over the previous 10 years can be quite a sobering, yet rewarding experience and so I would like to take this opportunity to share with all of you some my thoughts about how far we have come and where we might go in the course of the next 10 years.
In the years 2000 – 2009, especially from 2007 forward, Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu underwent many changes as both an Organization and a Koryu art. In 2007, Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu 14th Soke Tsumaki Seirin Genshin went to his eternal sleep, leaving behind him the legacy of a lifetime spent spreading the teachings of Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu throughout Japan. With the formation of the United States Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu organization in 1996, our previous Soke was able to see one of his long-held dreams realized: the internationalization of this ancient sword art.
Following this solemn turn of events, a meeting of all Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu Branch Managers was convened in September of 2007 by then Assistant Headmaster Tsumaki Kazuo (Genwa) Sensei to decide the future of Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu. At that meeting, it was decided that a new Organization, the Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu Genwakai, would be formed to assure that Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu would continue on for future generations. Assuming the title of 15th Soshi (Master Instructor), Tsumaki Sensei and the Executive Board of the Genwakai worked diligently for the next two years to: 1. Solidify the structure of the Genwakai by adopting a set of By-Laws to govern the Organization and: 2. To unify all of the Branches of the Genwakai by standardizing the techniques of all of the Volume 1 Kata so that everyone would be practicing Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu the same way. However, one more significant event was yet to occur that would impact all that had been accomplished so far….
At a meeting of the Board of Directors (Riji) of the Genwakai in March of 2009, it was unanimously decided that Tsumaki Sensei should succeed to the position of 15th Soke (Headmaster) of Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu, following his father in the lineage going back to the school’s founder, Tamiya Heibei Shigemasa. The final piece was now complete! Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu has a Soke once again and a leader that will carry on the work that the Tsumaki family began in 1797.
For USTRI, this past decade has also been one of significant events. Soke Sensei and his Assistant, Endo Tsuyako (Gentei) Sensei visited Michigan in 2003, 2005 and 2007 to attend the summer Michigan Taikai and Shinsakai (Convention and Formal Testing), introducing the members of USTRI to the art of Kenshibu, or traditional Japanese dance with sword and fan, during their 2007 visit.
In 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008, delegations from USTRI traveled to Japan to participate in Tamiya Ryu Taikai in Odawara (2002, 2004), Wakayama (2006) and Isehara (2008). The 2006 Japan Excursion was particularly significant in that the primary purpose of the trip was to research the “roots” of Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu by visiting locations that played an important role in its history, such as Wakayama, Iyo Saijo and Himeji.
The past decade also witnessed the publication in 2007 of the text Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu: One Point Lesson, written by Soke Sensei and translated by Michael Alexanian Shihan. Created primarily for use by members of USTRI as a reference guide to their study of Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu, this bi-lingual text with accompanying DVD has proved invaluable to both Deshi (students) and Instructors alike.
In the fall of 2007, the USTRI Assistant Instructor Program was officially instituted. The format of a four-month Academic Program in the fall, followed by a 50 class Teaching Practicum requirement with no set time limit now has its second group of trainees working very intently to become the next generation of USTRI Instructors (please see the current Message from the Head Instructor for further details about the AI Program).
The year 2009 saw the USTRI Clarkston, Michigan Branch (established in 2005) led by Brent Eastman (Gento) Sensei, make the transition to become the USTRI Southeast Michigan Branch, now based in Birmingham, Michigan. We are extremely proud of the work that Eastman Sensei has done to build the membership of this Branch and to keep it vibrant and alive. By working in conjunction with the Birmingham Adult Education Program, the USTRI Southeast Michigan Branch has had a consistent influx of people who are interested in Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu. The exposure that Eastman Sensei is providing people in this part of the state to Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu is a most valuable asset and is to be commended!
Unfortunately, not even USTRI is immune to the woes of the world. As a result of the drastic economic downturn that has occurred world-wide, a joint decision was made by Soke Sensei and the USTRI Board of Directors in early 2009 that trips to Michigan and Japan should be put on hold until 2011, when the economic outlook has (hopefully) brightened. This, of course, has been a great disappointment to the members of USTRI, but it is only a temporary one, I believe. Soke Sensei’s counsel on this matter is very sound, and we bow to his wisdom on this matter. So, we eagerly look forward to 2011 when Soke Sensei and Endo Sensei will resume their bi-annual visits to Michigan and will continue to train hard in order to hone our technique to razor-sharpness in preparation for this event.
Finally, the past decade has seen many of our original Deshi leave the organization to pursue other directions in their lives, while many new Deshi have begun their training in Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu. Some of those who have reached the level of Sandan have chosen the path to eventually become an Instructor of Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu, while others are quite content to remain as practitioners of the art. Whatever the choice and no matter what the individual motivation for training is, we all have one common goal in front of us as we enter this 2nd decade of the new millennium: to continue to train hard, to endeavor to learn correct Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu to pass on to future generations of USTRI Deshi and to represent the Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu Genwakai and the Tsumaki family with sincerity, honor, respect and loyalty.
Michael Alexanian (Gennan) - 7th Dan
USTRI General Manager (Sokatsu Shibucho)
Genwakai Head Instructor (Shihan)
United States Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu
Michigan Honbu Dojo