Featured Club: The Edmonton Iaido Club
A huge part of EJCA is that it has so many diverse and exciting clubs and affiliated groups, suitable for all ages - and you may be interested to learn some more about them. So we have interviewed some of our leaders to tell us a bit more...
For this edition, we have talked to Steve Munro.
Q1: What is the official name of your club?
We are known as The Edmonton Iaido Club.
Q2: In one sentence, how would you describe your club?
We practice the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei and Muso Shinden Ryu styles of traditional Japanese swordsmanship.
Q3: Can you tell us a bit about the history of your club? In what year was it started?
We started in 2012.
Q4: Are there any stories on how the club was established? (What was the original motivation or reasons that led to its creation? Perhaps there is any interesting background story the readers would be interested to learn?)
Back in 2012, a Kendo practitioner named John Buryk asked the leadership of the Edmonton Kendo Club if it would be okay for him to have some space and time during Kendo to practice the related art of Iaido, which he originally did in Winnipeg before moving to the Edmonton area.
Of course, our Kendo Sensei and Senpai agreed, and the "Edmonton Kendo Club Iaido Study Group" was formed in September 2012. As the Iaido group has grown and changed over the last decade or so, we remain partners with the Edmonton Kendo Club.
Q5: What is your club’s main focus? Please give us some insights into the purpose and activities your club offers.
Right now, our focus is on training and practice of our traditional techniques with the katana. We do this through practice and repetition of preset response-and-counterattack drills called "kata" which help us understand how to use the sword properly.
Iaido is a non-contact martial art, meaning we don't actually fight each other with steel swords, contrary to what some people assume! Practice is done with direction as a group, but individually for the most part.
When people ask "What's the point of a non-contact martial art?" the answer I give is "self improvement". One of our main goals is to learn to develop a calm, level-headed, relaxed state of being while dealing with simulated conflict.
Q6: How many members do you roughly have, and are you looking for new members?
We currently have about a half-dozen regular students, depending on work and school schedules. And we are always looking for new people to try us out!
Q7: Who is your 'target group'? Who should join you, and why? Are there any age restrictions?
Our target group is really anyone that has an interest in learning about the usage of the katana, but may not be interested in the more "sport" or "competitive" side like Kendo. Why should someone join us? I would say "curiosity" and "a willingness to learn something well outside the mainstream of the martial arts world" are pretty good reasons!
As for age restrictions, because we use steel swords, and talk about cutting targets in relation to a human body and human opponent, we can accept members as young as 13, with no upper limit for adults. For anyone between the ages of 13 to 18, parental consent and sometimes parental accompaniment is required.
Q8: Are new club members expected to know or speak Japanese, or is being able to communicate in English sufficient?
English is sufficient. There's specific Japanese vocabulary that we learn along the way.
Q9: Now let's talk about the cultural background of your club. How did your arts/sport/craft develop? What's the most fascinating thing about this today?
Iaido, in its current form, really came together in the 20th century with the creation of our common "standard" set of techniques. Previously, the art evolved out of one of the many branches of Kenjutsu from the feudal era. These days, popular culture, both Western and Eastern, animated and live-action, have a fascination with the katana as this legendary weapon and sometimes we get to explore the differences between fact and fiction.
Q10: In addition to what you’ve already provided, are there any fun facts or trivias about your club or the arts/craft/sport?
We're not your stereotypical martial arts "jocks". Most of us are fans of various forms of science fiction, anime, and comic books. In fact, it's not uncommon for me to make Star Wars or superhero references during class!
Q11: How do you usually engage/meet/train? How often and where do you meet? Who are the instructors or leaders?
Our main class is Sunday evenings from 7pm to 9pm at the EJCA in the main hall. Our weeknight class is Thursday evenings from 6pm to 8pm at the Greenfield Community League 3803 114 St NW.
The last Sunday of the month, during the spring, summer, and early fall months, some of us go to Calgary to train with our partner dojo there.
The head instructor for The Edmonton Iaido Club is Steve Munro, who currently holds the rank of Sandan with the Canadian Kendo Federation in Iaido.
Q12: Any feedback or testimonials from your existing (or previous) club members about the club? What stands out for them? Any recommendations? Do you have a few quotes for us?
“If you’re looking for something very unique or different from any other martial art the Edmonton Iaido Club is a fantastic chance to explore Japanese swordsmanship. Take the opportunity to try it out as we’re very fortunate to have such a welcoming and rare club of its kind here in Edmonton.”
“The Edmonton Iaido Club is one of those hidden gems in our city that many of us members never initially sought out but just stumbled upon then discovering this rare and unique art.”
“You’ll never find another club where it’s appropriate to discuss how to effectively disembowel someone like in the Edmonton Iaido Club.”
Q13: What is the 'next big exciting thing' you have planned for in 2023? Any highlights you are looking forward to?
We are able to resume our cross-training with our partners in Calgary this year, we have a rank advancement grading in Vancouver in June, and a training seminar in Calgary in September.
Q14: As a club leader, what is a message you would like to get out to prospective members?
We have a 1 month no-obligation free trial period, where we supply loaner equipment for you to practice with. For the safety-conscious, you start with a wooden trainer, not a steel blade.
Q15: And lastly, how can people contact you for questions and/or to join? (A website or an email? Whom should they reach out to?)
We hope you enjoyed this and will consider getting in touch if you want to join or like to have more info. Please also see the latest updates and details on our individual clubs pages.