Expert brings sword art to B-N

Sunday, July 27, 2003

By Megan Hopper
Pantagraph Staff

BLOOMINGTON -- Swinging a large sword around may just seem like a bit of danger mixed in with a whole lot of fun, but to many it's a form of art. Form, technique, tradition, ceremony, discipline and respect are all major components of learning how to perform the martial art of the Japanese Sword.

The world's foremost expert on the Japanese Sword and Jo, Master Masayuki Shimabukuro, held an Iaijutsu seminar at the YWCA in Bloomington on Saturday. Beginner and advanced martial arts students from across the state attended the seminar, which continues today with a session on Jo, the use of short, wooden staffs. Shimabukuro has been practicing martial arts for 40 years and is an eighth-degree black belt in Muso Jikiden Eishin-Ryu Iaijutsu, the art of drawing the sword. He travels throughout the country as well as the world to lead martial arts seminars. "I usually do seminars once a month in the United States," he said. "Sometimes New York, Orlando, Oregon and others."

On Saturday martial arts students gathered together to work on their technique as well as to learn about the history of the art of swordsmanship from Shimabukuro. His teaching methods have also been translated worldwide through his book "Flashing Steel: Mastering Eishin-Ryu Swordsmanship" as well as a seven-volume video set, "Samurai Sword: Mastering Eishin-Ryu Iaijutsu." He also has a two-volume video set on Jodo and plans to publish a book on karate at the end of this year. "I think the biggest thing students of martial arts learn is respect," Shimabukuro said. "Not just respect of others but respect of yourself." "You also need to respect the sword, respect your parents, friends, job and boss and sometimes people forget to do that," he said.

Japanese Sword is a form of martial arts that anyone can do, Shimabukuro said. "At my home dojo in Japan, it's 50/50 female and male with the Samurai swords." During the seminar, participants were using practice swords while working on their technique, but Shimabukuro said he sometimes uses real swords and owns six of them. "If you have been practicing long enough, you can use live swords," he said. "When I am by myself I use live swords to practice." Local martial arts instructor, Don Mead, attended the seminar on Saturday and has been practicing martial arts for about 10 years. "I think one of the best things about it is that it has real-world application and several of the principles of the Samarai spirit are applicable today," he said. Those principles include hard work, discipline, concentration and perseverance, Mead said. "Also, form, tradition and ceremony are emphasized, which takes a great deal of patience," he added. "It's also a lot of cultural exploration."

Mead said he has gained a lot from the cultural side of swordsmanship and it provided him with a chance to travel to Japan for a competition. What is interesting about Japanese Sword is that after World War II, Mead said, the Japanese lost a lot of interest in the traditional martial arts but still wanted a way to teach their children discipline. "They molded the arts a bit and took out the militaristic aspect of it," he added. "I think now the principals of it are useful to everybody in everyday life." Today, Shimabukuro will hold a seminar on Jo from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the YWCA.

Contact Megan Hopper at [email protected]