What an incredible weekend with Hanshi Bruce Juchnik and his curriculum seminar hosted by The Driscoll Institute of Martial Arts in Potsville, Pennsylvania.
Accompanying me were my good friends and students, Chris and Ricardo from our dojo in Seekonk, Massachusetts. They were excited to train with Hanshi and meet other Yudansha from the Kai and they weren’t disappointed. I also asked my Senior student and very good friend Valerie if she wanted to make the trip again, she replied “Absolutely!” as she had a fantastic time last year.
Other instructors from all over the country and even my friend Sensei Bart Dbckr of Belgium was in attendance. Whenever I see him it occurs to me how incredible our organization is in that even teachers from Europe jump on a plane to attend. I even made some new friends from Toronto Canada!
It’s not only Hanshi Bruce Juchnik that draws us in, but the fact that he always encourages the teachers to get together to learn, share and protect each other.
Imagine you are a martial arts student attending a gathering with multiple instructors including your own. You seek out different teachers for a few moments or even a class or two to learn something your current Sensei does not specialize in. Now imagine neither instructor getting upset about this including the headmaster. This is not very common in martial arts, but that’s the Sei Kosho Shorei Kai. Our attitude is that Kempo does not belong to us, we simply pass it along…
Some other big league instructors were in attendance, Senseis Rick Wilmott and Jimmy Clement of Rhode Island, Jeff Driscoll of PA who hosted the event. Also Senseis John Ludwig from Chicago and Cindy Jutras from New Hampshire and the legendary Sensei Steven Bonk of Orange, Massachusetts.
Sensei John Ludwig was kind enough to share with us some stories and photographs from his recent Japan trip. He explored both the modern cities and the more remote areas of Kyushu where he hiked to the Shaka Inn where Kosho Ryu’s roots are from! It was very exciting to see these images and hear about his adventures there. I was also very grateful to train with him and Sensei Bart Dbckr of Belgium for a short time working concepts in postures while throwing. An incredible day.
We started Friday and went all weekend right up until Sunday afternoon. Hanshi spent a lot of time helping us understand natural laws and how and why the body moves the way it does. Everything from the ground up was covered even sight and how it affects the body was demonstrated.
The emphasis in all of his lessons where the three levels of study called the Sho Chiku Bai which is our crest and foundation of thought, so these words are familiar to most Kempo practitioners. However when they are explained as what they really are, low mid and high arts, it really put things in perspective. This applies to EVERYTHING we do.
While he did explain these concepts last year, this year we got into the actual symbols of the crest and how they really do apply to all movement no matter how slight. And wow was it slight…
Slight and subtle movements were intensive and concentrated on. Tension and release of not only ourselves but our partner played a big part. 1+1=1 I was told. I was also told to relax during these exercises. I thought I knew how to relax, Sensei Bonk showed me otherwise.
Hanshi always takes us all really deep into the historical aspect of martial arts and how most arts really do come from the same origins. Some “branches” of the same art may have been created for political, religious or physical limitations of the teachers, but the origins of the teachers before us are the essence. It was very interesting and informative. Hanshi also mentioned that when practitioners think of themselves much different from other “styles” it doesn’t help anybody because then nobody learns from each other and we don’t grow as a community.
“Look for similarities, that is were the wisdom is” I was also told, that is Kempo…
Saturday was Pinan kata and our indigenous Miyama kata. Bunkai of initial movement was highly concentrated on. “All movement comes from mother earth and goes to your opponent.” Hanshi told us this as we trained. He then asked us to practice kata without arms, just use legs and hips for all movements. We all just stared at each other with hunched shoulders and continued. This proved very difficult at first as our thoughts and vision went from the norm to below the waist. What I eventually found personally was I could easily feel my mistakes in stances, and more importantly movement into the next stance or “transitional movement” which what Kosho is really about. I then thought of my teacher, Sensei Jeff Driscoll’s lesson. “Schools teach us how to get into a stance, but no one ever teaches you how to get OUT of a stance.” So Hanshi’s “arm-less” kata practice really put that into perspective for me. A Great lesson and a great time.
On the final day we studied some Nage (throwing) Kata and it’s importance in preparatory movement before each “step” or “throw”, and that transition of movement is were the study really is. At the same time focusing on the three levels of study, Sho Chiku Bai. It never left us all weekend. Also to break free of typical Aiki style throws and REALLY study it in different forms of movement. A lot of eyes were opened including mine.
Also on Sunday I was able to sneak off to spend some time with Sensei Cindy Jutras as she had a Shodo/Sumi-e table set up all weekend. Now many of us martial artists never really have the chance to even watch someone practice this amazing art. It always humbles me in that the movements are VERY similar to Kempo and sword arts. The octagon is utilized while creating a beautiful character. So as I always recognize how terrible my shodo is and consider how much more I need to practice it, I wonder how bad my kempo and Iaido kata are! They are connected…right?
Spending time with Sensei Cindy’s is always humbling and exciting which is why I always invite her and her husband Glenn Jutras to my event in September each and every year. It really adds to the overall teachings of budo, It’s important!
Also During the Weekend, Hanshi had us practice our Jo (Short staff) Kata while utilizing everything we learned over the weekend. Once you apply a new concept to a weapon, it becomes a whole new instrument. Amazing…
At the end of the seminar we then took some photos, exchanged gifts and goodwill to each other and parted ways to get back on the car, bus or Plane, keeping in mind we really do all come from the the same place both in budo, and in life. A humbling weekend.
I’m privileged to be among these folks and an incredible organization with outstanding teachers while trying to pass on this art myself at my club.
What I took from it and sometimes I forget, is that Kempo is simply the study of ourselves, natural law and how the mind, body and spirit works as one. The hard part is the application. But like Hanshi told me, if I ever cannot escape and have no choice but to fight back in a conflict of any kind, he said “Enjoy yourself Tom”
I would like to thank my teacher Sensei Jeff Driscoll for hosting this event at his dojo in Pennsilvania. As always a fantastic time!
Some upcoming events and opportunities to meet Hanshi Juchnik and other instructors in our incredible organization. Please click on the event for more info. We hope to see you!!
Grove IL Sept. 7-8 Tribute to the Masters Hosted by Sensei John Ludwig
Albany NY Sept, 14/15 Kosho Ryu Kempo with Hanshi Hosted by Sensei Tony Di Ssaro
Seekonk MA Sept. 7th Brush Fist and Steel, Kempo, Sword and Brush arts Hosted by Sensei Tom Duffy
Windsor CO Sept. 14/15 Kosho Ryu Kempo with Hanshi Hosted by Sensei Jon Moore.
Orange MA Nov 2/3 Kosho Ryu Kempo with Hanshi Hosted by Sensei Steven Bonk
Reno NV Oct. 12/13 The Gathering! Hosted by Hanshi Bruce Juchnik
Wetteren Belgium The European Gathering! Hosted by Sensei Bart Dbckr