By Ron Fox
In my first article I gave a bit of history about the MSU Kendo Club which was founded in 1972. In 2012, we therefore celebrated our 40th anniversary. In a later article I’ll write about college kendo clubs in the Midwest Kendo Federation and their special challenges.
The story of our 40th anniversary celebration actually goes back to the summer of 2011. I had heard that Imafuji-sensei in the Indianapolis area was planning a kendo seminar with Miyazaki Masayoshi (Ritsumeikan) and Kendo World’s own Alex Bennett. Many more years ago than I’d like to admit, I had met Alex when I attended the Kitamoto camp for foreign instructors. That was back in the day when the format was five days, a rest day, and then five more days. It was also when Seitei Iai was part of the curriculum and before they built the dojo in which it is held now.
Because Indianapolis was only about four hours away by car, I asked Imafuji-sensei if I could participate and he agreed. This Imafumi-sensei is, by the way, is the same one who has contributed fairly regularly to Kendo World, runs the Kendo Water Cooler on Facebook and has a wonderful kendo education website: www.kendo-guide.com. Everyone who wants to learn more about kendo should visit that website. I was not certain if the now famous Bennett-sensei would remember me from all those years ago but what the heck if not, I’d have the chance to get some good kendo in in the heat of the summer.
To shorten this rapidly lengthening story, Alex remembered me and we re-united in the usual kendo ritual (involving alcoholic beverages of course) and traded contact information. So what does this have to do with MSU kendo club’s anniversary? I had known that MSU’s founding instructor, Furuichi Kenzo was no longer practicing, but I had also heard that not only was Hayashi Tatsuo-sensei still practicing, some years ago he had passed the ultimate kendo test and achieved 8-dan. I asked Alex if he knew of Hayashi-sensei and found that the two of them were very well acquainted as they are both used as ZNKR translators at Kitamoto. Alex introduced me to Hayashi-sensei and we began planning his visit.
In doing this I forgot a fundamental rule of 8-dan sensei traveling outside of Japan: They never travel alone. Hayashi-sensei asked me if we could also invite his brother Hayashi Nobuo, also K8-dan. After some quick chats with MWKF board members, and working with sensei on scheduling, I agreed and we worked out a grueling 10-day schedule in which sensei could visit not only MSU, but other dojos in the Midwest US with an emphasis on other college dojo.
During this time I also managed to hunt down a few other old-timers from MSU kendo club, Hayashi jidai. I want to thank Jan Stokosa and his wife Mary for hosting the sensei and their wives (did I mention sensei decided to bring their wives with them?), Bonnie Stein for traveling from NYC to reunite with them, and Tim Hagman still at MSU as an employee. I volunteered to drive the van, make the travel schedule and other arrangements.
Here’s the very restful program that was settled on. I’ll give the daily travel in km for the broader audience that is not aware of how large the USA is:
– Thursday October 11, 2012: We met sensei and their families at Detroit Airport, piled them and their luggage into the van, and drove off to East Lansing for dinner with Jan and to let sensei rest and recover (300km round trip my fellow Americans can divide by 1.6 to get our quaint units of miles).
– Friday October 12: An evening welcome practice at MSU followed by a welcome party.
– Saturday October 13: An afternoon practice at the Detroit Kendo Dojo (290km round trip), karakoke party until 2am.
– Sunday October 14: Sensei held a half-day seminar at MSU open to all kenshi. The subject matter was kata, kihon, a practice promotional exam and ji-geiko.
– Monday October 15: We visited Nakamura-sensei in Toronto and then on to Niagara Falls where we had a non-kendo day (500km to Toronto and then 130km on to Niagara).
– Tuesday October 16: After enjoying many spectacular views of the falls and a ride on Maid of the Mist, off to Ypsilanti, Michigan, for practice at the Eastern Michigan Kendo club (433km).
– Wednesday October 17: Practice at University of Illinois. I was especially looking forward to this practice because the University of Illinois is where I went to graduate school. (570km from Ypsilanti -> Urbana-Champaign).
– Thursday October 18: Practice at Purdue University. Purdue is a university that I mentor (a mere 145km).
– Friday October 19: Practice at Chicago Kendo Dojo in Chicago, Illinois. While the practice was held at the Chicago Kendo Dojo and I want to thank them for hosting it. In fact, a large number of MWKF members from all over our region participated and had a nice chance to stretch their own legs after their long drives to Chicago for the tournament the next day (200km).
– Saturday October 20: Perform mohan-geiko (sensei of course, not me) and assist at the MWKF tournament (finally no real travel).
– Sunday October 21: Observe the MWKF grading and participate in post grading practice (again, no real travel).
From Chicago we drove to Detroit (430km) and spent the night at a hotel not far from the airport so that the Hayashis could catch their flight the next day.
Many people, including the sensei and their wives (who patiently played kendo widows the entire trip), have thanked me, but finally I have a chance to publicly thank all of those who really made this possible.
Jan Stokosa and his wife Mary, with whom the Hayashis stayed during their time in East Lansing.
Bonnie Stein who made the trip from New York City (1100km one-way if she drove it), and Tim Hagman (at MSU) who along with Jan made Hayashi Tatsuo-sensei’s visit all the more precious by giving him a chance to have a reunion with members of the dojo from his time at MSU. Thank you all MSU kendo OBs for making Hayashi-sensei’s visit that much more precious.
Thank you to the leadership of the dojo we visited, Tagawa Yoshiteru-sensei (Detroit), Eric Abbey-sensei (Eastern Michigan), Don McLahorn-sensei (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Kentaro Makino Lam-sensei (Purdue University), Andy Sjordal-sensei (Chicago kendo dojo), and Ken Sakamoto-sensei (MWKF tournament). You showed the Hayashi families a true taste of MWKF hospitality and arranged all the local lodging as well as entertainment during our visit to your dojo. Sensei appreciated your efforts very much.
Thank you all members of the MWKF who interacted with the Hayashi sensei and their families both in and out of kendo. They felt very welcome and at home, both in and out of the dojo, and look forward to making this an annual visit.
Finally, and most of all, thank you Hayashi Tatsuo-sensei and Hayashi Nobuo-sensei for committing the time to visit and instruct. Thank you also Yoshiko and Yoko Hayashi for your patience with your husbands, and also with me, during your visit, and for taking the time to sit patiently in so many gyms.