Category Archives: Iaido

2012 Year in Review

So here it is 2013, so time for another “year in review” blog!


Circle of life, and all that.  Here’s my magnolia tree early in the Spring. The lovely flowers bloom for about a week, then fall like snow.

Speaking of which, I spontaneously composed a poem to my friend Rod one day while we were on campus texting each other, late in our last semester at KU:

Cherry blossoms drift
softly on two travellers
trading cricket songs.

I remembered that just now while looking at the picture above, so I thought I would share it on RA.


That’s the KU Kendo/Kumdo Club, or most of us anyway, gathering for the end of year party. It was really nice, with a pile of great food, some very nice plum wine, and lots of good conversation! I didn’t play kendo nearly enough in 2012, which is something I plan to correct in 2013.


AND I FINALLY GRADUATED! The most exciting thing to happen in 2012, hands down. That’s me and a friend from my non-fiction class, a Mr. Tim B. Rod was somewhere behind me and to my right, as he graduated too. I don’t normally go in for that sort of thing, but when we all put our arms around each other and sang the school song, it was all I could do to keep from crying like a child. A happy, happy child.



Some shots after the graduation ceremony. I carried different things to the ritual to remind me of who I was and what helped me achieve my goal: the pin and cords from Phi Alpha Delta, a 1″ button with the “dancing rudeboy” on it, a couple of dice, a Valknut carved from bone gifted to me by a friend from JBK, and, of course, my oxblood Dr. Marten boots. I don’t wear those much anymore, but damned if I was going to walk down the hill in anything else.


This is the proof for my official graduation photo. As you can see, it came from Jolesch Photography. I have the full sized version, but I didn’t feel like scanning it just now…


New additions to the family: Hansel (on the right), and Gretel (on the left.) They are brother and sister cats that Ma picked up, and they settled in quickly, as you can see. It was very sad when Bob passed away, and the house just seemed so empty without a cat. Ma and Pop hadn’t been without a feline in the house since 1980, or so. I’m glad Ma adopted these two.


Hansel, doing what he does best.


OK, so I thought I was going to a generic summer family gathering. I thought the balloons that read “congratulations!” were sort of strange when I was walking up the stairs, but I was honestly surprised when I walked through the door and everyone yelled, “SURPRISE!” These wonderful, generous people had put together a surprise graduation party for me, and I was completely unprepared for it.


And they got me this awesome Dungeons & Dragons themed cake! They are awesome people, and I’m glad I have them in my life.


What else I’m glad to have in my life are my two sons! My youngest went to his first ROTC summer camp in 2012, and I picked him up that morning to drop him off at the school. Seeing him in his ACUs (or whatever they call them these days) put a lump in my throat. He looked all grown up and serious, and I suddenly thought to myself that he could be heading off for the Army in just a couple of years, rather than a summer camp. It’s a sobering thought. I couldn’t be more proud of him, though.


My and Pop drove out to Fort Riley to watch their final assembly. I can’t imagine that me and my mates looked much different that the above when we were at Fort Benning, all shaven headed and painfully young…


Did I mention how proud we are of him? Because we are. Very.


This summer I began cleaning and fixing up the house. I started with the porch, because it had got pretty shabby. I’m going to finish up this summer, and over the winter I’ll be fixing up the interior. I may not get to leave “the Kansas Rectangle” as soon as I’d like, but while I’m here I’m going to make the best of it. It’s funny, because for years I couldn’t wait to finish college so I could shake the dust of this place off my feet, but now I’ve got a real solid life here. Before I wouldn’t have hesitated, but the deep connections I made after I got over my antisocial phase really make me think twice about heading off for the coast like I’ve been talking about. Maybe leaving Leavenworth would be enough, but for now my house is a really comfortable home, and I love my neighborhood (even if I hate the town it’s in.)


Speaking of fixing up the interior of my home, I’ve got some interesting antique furniture, the above of which is probably my favorite. It’s on loan from my parents, not really mine, more of the family’s. This library table was pulled out of the river in northern Alabama following a gigantic flood upriver. Apparently there was a lot of stuff in the river because of it, and people were salvaging some really good furniture. My great-grand father fished this out for use, and later on my two uncles, Shorty and Jud, refinished it for my grandmother. When Grandma died Ma collected some things of hers to remember her, and this table was one of them. I’ve also got on loan from the family an antique bed frame and matching vanity, also former belongings of Grandma. It’s nice to have her things close and to use them. I miss her every day, and love her very much.


A recent acquisition, this secretary was only $20 from a local consignment store. It’s in pretty rough condition, but I like to think of it as character. It’s now a smoking station for my pipes and tobacco, and I love it. This photo was before I cleaned it up much.


Enough about stuff, here’s Ma representing the Environmental Protection Agency at the 2012 Kansas City Corporate Challenge. She’s an ace ping pong player (ping pong-er?), but unfortunately met another ace in the first round, and didn’t go further. So no medals this year, but I’m super proud of Ma.


What would an RA blog post be without mention of my hobby life? This is a snapshot I took at the midnight release of the 6th edition of Warhammer 40,000. My beloved Chaos Marines got a new codex in October, which I was very pleased with.


Yes, I am pleased with the new edition of both the game and my faction, even though I can no longer use the unit pictured above. Khârn leading a unit of twin Lightning Claw Chosen with Mark of Tzeentch was just too fun for them not to make illegal or ineffective. First 6th edition tweaked the melee weapon rules, making LC AP3, then the new codex said that ICs with different Marks than the unit can’t join them. And also MoT works different now. So there went my favorite answer to Grey Knights, and now I’m stuck with Abaddon/TDA retinue, or plasma Chosen, neither of which are nearly as fun. But, on the other hand, the new Baledrake has kept me happy.


Here’s the very last conversion I did in 2012, speaking of hobby. The new Chaos Marines codex gives us Marks separate from Icons, which is cool (though it sucks that Icons lost the deepstrike guidance ability.) I’ve been using the Icon of Excess for different troops to help keep them alive in the new, shoot-y game, and having a model that confers FNP just screamed Apothecary to me. Because this makes more sense to me than a magic flag that nobody esle can pick up once it gets dropped. And the Iron Hounds aren’t into the Ruinous Powers anyway. Also, my lawyer advises me that I must say that those models are copyright Games Workshop, because I used GW bits to make them and all that…


I’m bad about keeping connections, but I do try. Here I am with some old friends last Autumn, Amanda M. and Joe E. Even in the wild parts of my life I managed to make and keep decent friends, and they are two of them I have a lot of love for. I have a lot of great people in my life. Some of them I see every week, some of them I only see rarely, and some of them, unfortunately, I really don’t get to see at all anymore. Such is life, but I always have my family and friends with my in spirit, wherever I am.


Speaking of great friends, I did Yule with Mike L. and his family, who are always generous and kind to me. For New Year’s we had the usual Yule Goat and Yule Wreath. This year I think we made the best Yule Goat yet. I say that every year, but that’s because we’ve been getting better at it every year. It snowed on New Year’s Eve, so it was nice and seasonal, though it kept guests away on account of the roads. It had stopped by the time we got to my favorite part:


2012: it was a very good year!

In the interest of tracking these sorts of things, here is some information about the blog itself:


RA isn’t really a gaming blog, but the gaming posts are the most read thing I do. The unboxing I did for the Battletech 25th Anniversary Introductory Box remains the most popular thing ever, probably because I list every mech included, which is the sort of thing I would want to know if I were going to buy it. Which is, of course, why I included it. In an attempt to make my blog hobby relevant, and pursue site hits and all that, I’ve got a review of the Reaper Bones minis that I’m working up, too. That will probably be a good one for visits, too.


Homemade Camper made the list of top searches again. WTF people?


My readers are from every-damn-where. Everywhere that people care about 40k, anyway. Most of my readers are looking for conversion ideas, is my guess.


And here is the chart for 2012. Not bad, considering I didn’t really post much this year. My popular posts were all from 2011, I think, when I was much more diligent about hobby blogging.

So that’s the 2012 year-in-review. It was a great year, and I’m looking forward to 2013. I know it’s going to be a good one too!


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Filed under Budo, Event, Family, Iaido, Kendo, Learning, Personal Reflection, Right Living, The Heathen Gods, University of Kansas

2011 Greater Kansas City Japan Festival

Another year, another Japan Festival!

This is definitely one of my favorite things to do in the year, something I always look forward to when the summer nights start to cool off and the campus bells remind me that it’s Autumn. Here’s members of the Kansas City Kendo Club eating traditional Japanese festival food in the crowded Regnier Center. There were several vendors represented, but I opted for JCCC Dining Services. I am a Cavalier alumnus, after all.

Lots of workshops, though once again I only did the martial arts stuff. I highly recommend the other cultural activities, however. Here’s Ginga Dojo, the iaido group that I am ostensibly a part of, toward the end of their workshop. I haven’t had time for iaido, plus it’s been sort of depressing doing iaido with a bokken because my iaito was stolen. I hate lowlife thieves, but there it is, I need a new iaito and I can’t afford one just right now. But it was nice to see Egan sensei, who travels up from Texas (I think) just to do this festival, and Andreson sensei, who heads the local branch of MJER, an authentic koryu.

This was fun to watch. They had these sumo/fat suits like on Takeshi’s Castle/mXc and they were letting people get into them and play. It took forever to get these shots, however, because in our litigious society nothing can happen without waivers. There was actually real sumo going down this year, which was very cool. The headliner was this fellow who’s over 600lbs. and not only does he not need a Rascal, he can kick your ass. I regret that I couldn’t last to watch the evening match, most especially because I missed the sumo demo at the St Louis festival last year (or was it the year before?) But man, I was beat. Sunday I could barely function…

This was in the cultural display room, the Virgina Krebs room, named after the late wife of my Eastern Civ professor and all around nice guy, Professor Fred Krebs. The kimonos were beautiful, the Boys Festival dolls were cool, and the samurai armor was neat… but all I could do was look at the temple models and calculate the scale in my head, imagining them as 40k terrain. Something is wrong with me, but that’s what the hobby does to you.

For a donation you could make a paper crane to add to the tree. Or you could just give them money, which is what I did. The crane folding was in a different room that I didn’t know about, and the lady said I could go there and tell them I gave money already to let me make a crane, but I was on my way to go photograph the martial arts demos when I did this. It was for the 1000 Cranes Project, which is raising money to help out with those who suffered in the Sendai tsunami.

Some Lolita cosplayers. Or are they a subculture instead? I think they’re a subculture in Japan, but unless you’re wearing your Lolita clothes all the time aren’t you just cosplaying? I don’t know the rules to that sort of thing, or even what these girls get up to outside of the festival, but they had the best costumes there so I asked them if I could take this picture. You know, I really don’t think that whoever decided that Lolita was a good name for this subculture had read any Nabokov, but whatever.

You can’t have a festival without shrine maidens reading your fortune! The girl on the left is wearing the traditional clothing of a miko. I heard a funny story this weekend about some kendoka who thought they would be cool and different, so bought white gi and red hakama, having no idea at all about miko. Probably apocryphal, but still interesting. I did not get a fortune stick, in case you were wondering.

KC Kendo during the martial arts demo in the Polsky theater. I participated in the workshop but opted out of the demo. My knees are terrible, that stage is hard, and I just couldn’t kneel through another demo so soon after the KC Ethnic Festival last August. Man, I really need to get that stupid knee surgery.

Over at the Regnier Center they were having a sake and Japanese beer tasting thing. The beer they have is stuff you can get at most well stocked local liquor stores, so there was no way I was paying $4.50 for a bottle. The sake samples were $8, but you got to sample stuff that you would have to otherwise buy a whole bottle for and a lady came by and explained about each brand and all that, so I thought it was much more worth it than the beer. KC Kendo likes to party responsibly, but it’s a life’s mission of mine to get Brian sempai faced. I’m going to get him eventually…

I have no idea what this guy’s story is, but this is a good picture to end with. For more pictures from the 2011 Greater Kansas City Japan Festival you can visit my new ShutterFly account and visit the album I made just for this event. I think that is where I’m going to put my photo albums instead of Flickr.

Anyway, it was Part 2 of a busy three part weekend, and the single biggest thing I did. I was tired, sore, exhausted, beat, and all kinds of other similar adjectives. Brian and I cruised through the bazaar one last time before I made my way home, and I picked up a couple of items to round off my loot from the day. It was, as always, a great festival!


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Filed under Budo, Event, Iaido, Kendo, Right Living

2010 Greater Kansas City Japan Festival

2Oct10 I attended, as is my custom, the Greater Kansas City Japan Festival, hosted by the Heart of America Japan-America Society with Johnson County Community College. They have this awesome torii that they bring out to the event.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a member of the JAS in Kansas City, but my school schedule has kept me from being active since last spring. My school schedule has kept me from being active in a lot of things, such as updating this blog on a regular basis.

This was after the demonstration. Last year I participated in the iaido demo, so this year I rotated back to kendo. The demo was shorter than normal, which was a relief for my knees, which are not going to magically not need surgery if I don’t get it done, but that’s neither here not there. I mean, really, my damn knee hurts. I was late to the festival so I didn’t get to go to any classes or whatnot like I like to do. The classes and workshops there are really worth it if you’ve never been. And I couldn’t stay, either, so I took some representative shots of my friends before I left. If you’re not interested in the workshops, there is always the food, as my mates here were well aware of.

Like I mentioned, I was running late that day, so I missed my chance to participate in the MJER workshop that morning. Which was a shame, because I like to help out with stuff like that. Egan sensei came up again this year to support Andreson sensei. I missed out on the workshop, did the kendo demo instead, but the following day I was happy to be able to partake of three or four hours of iaido training led by Egan sensei. And man, were arms sore the following week…

Drakey sensei (pictured above) I get to see more often than Andreson sensei. My kendo gear was in the car when my house was robbed (link), but my poor iaito was abducted, and I’m afraid it has come to a bad end. I normally don’t have time to get out to Kansas City for practice,  again because of school, but I still do every now and again.

I really do love kendo, and the people I get to do it with. KC Kendo is a great group of people. My college club is great too, but KC Kendo will always be “home” in the kendo world. Anyway, the Japan Festival was good, the slice of it I was there, with the only hitch being as I was rushing out to another meeting and finding out I had a flat tire. But forty minutes and a can of flat repair later I was on the move again. Story of my life, right?


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2009 Greater Kansas City Japan Festival

Today was an exhausting day. The Greater Kansas City Japan Festival was held again by the Heart of America Japan-America Society of Kansas City. I was involved in workshops and demonstrations all day. It started out for me with the iaido workshop, which was attended fairly well. We lent bokuto to about a dozen people and performed two or three kihon waza. Here I got to feel confident and cool, but that changed after the workshop when we went up on stage to do the demonstration.


I went up onstage with my iaido school, Ginga Dojo, which is a part of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, and is run by Jon Andresen sensei. His sensei (and by extension my sensei) is named Emily Egan sensei, and she flew up from Texas to participate this weekend. I felt awkward and stupid the whole time I was up there, because my left knee is still jacked up from playing ball, and I can’t sit seiza right now. So I had to stand up during the intial reishiki, but I don’t know the standing reishiki, so I just sort of fumbled along and looked stupid. I performed the first two waza, then stepped back for the more advanced ones and watched. Then Brian stepped out with me, and then Stephanie stepped back and in the end Jon sensei and Emily sensei were up there looking flawlessly cool just the two of them.


After that my kendo club (KC Kendo Club) did their demonstration, but I didn’t want to rush to change and have to leave my iaido uniform crumpled backstage until it was over, so I just watched from the wings. There were three other schools doing martial arts after iaido and kendo, but I didn’t have a good viewing angle to really see anything except for the aikido folk. From what little I did see, and from what I heard, these schools have their demos down pat. There were some apparently well rehearsed jokes and a little hamming it up, and they had very dramatic routines they went through. I don’t really know what I’m looking at when it comes to their arts, so I won’t comment on it outside of that.


The demonstrations ran about twice as long as they were scheduled, so I grabbed the bundle of shinai and trotted on over to where the kendo workshop was to take place. It was outside in Fountain Square, and there was already a group of people eagerly waiting for it to start. I think we had something like twenty-five spare shinai to let people handle, but there were about fifty or sixty people there in all. They were mostly younger children and otaku teenagers, though there were a few older people as well. We started out with an abbreviated version of a beginner’s class. Drakey sensei being Drakey sensei we ended up doing a little over two hundred shomen suburi. Welcome to KC Kendo, folks, this is you getting off easy. As sempai we were lined up on one side facing the crowd, those who had shinai lined up facing us. I guess there were about eight or nine of us, including a Japanese nana-dan who was there on vacation and ended up being conscripted by Drakey sensei, who put him in his spare set of bogu. After the warm-up, and they were shown shomen and kote, we lined up and let them form two columns to run through us hitting us with shinai. One little girl thought it was great to hit as hard as she could, but she was the only “power hitter”, everyone else being rather polite about it. Which is good, because I had some apprehension about random festival goers lining up to whack me in what they believed to be the kote.


We even let them do their best to try and hit us in some limited sparring. This kid was pretty cool. He had been across from me during the kihon suburi instruction, and was giving me these serious “I’m going to kill you” faces. When we grouped up for the limited sparring I ended up complaining to Anton, “nobody wants to fight me!”, and this kid runs over, “I’LL fight YOU!”.  After that Drakey sensei had the crowd line up to watch us jigeiko. I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind and didn’t do very well. I sparred with James, and he chased me down a couple times and hit me during my turn after I had hit and run through. We didn’t go for very long, so it was over before I even got my mind settled into it. I think the goal is to eventually be able to transition into the “budo state of mind” at will, or rather ALWAYS be there, but I’m not there yet.

I regret that I don’t have both a group photo from afterward, and some general “walking around” pictures. I forgot the batteries to my own camera, and Ma didn’t really take too many pictures, and those only of the things I was doing. There are always a lot of excitable otaku doing cosplay, and there are always a lot of people doing interesting workshops and wearing authentic traditional clothing. There are more Japanese folk living in Kansas City than you’d expect (more than I expected, anyway), and many of them come out for the festival. The GKC J-Fest is very good, and there are great workshops and performances.

I ran into a couple people I know, but not as many as I expected. I thought I would see my former math teacher for sure, Mrs. C, because her and her daughter are cosplayers and big into anime. I saw one of my Heathen acquaintances and chatted with him for a while (it’s funny how many Heathens are interested in Japanese culture that I’ve run into). I saw Jake, a former classmate of mine from Japanese class at JCCC and said hello to him. I also stopped and said hello to Virginia, another former classmate from Japanese class, who was working as a volunteer as she often does. I ran into a punk friend of mine with his family and said hello. I was also glad I got to speak for a while with Rumbach sensei, who asked me how KU was going and we exchanged other such pleasantries. I didn’t have much to say, but I was happy to say it, and it feels weird NOT being in her class this semester. It took me what? Three or four years to get four semesters of Japanese credit. I felt like I was ALWAYS going to be Rumbach sensei’s “problem child”. I saw another friend of mine from Japanese class, Kyle, but I couldn’t get his attention through the window, and there was no door to use to go say hello, unfortunately. He was part of a little study group we did every morning in the library, which is another thing I miss about JCCC.

DSCN1701 I bought myself three new tenugui, not because I needed them, but because they were only two dollars a piece, and I want to have tenugui that didn’t come free from e-bogu (like almost everyone wears). They had kaku obi in the merchant area for only twenty-five dollars, but they only had mustard yellow left by the time I got around to looking at them. I was doing demos and workshops all day, so I didn’t get to the bizarre until well after just about everything cool had already been snagged. I ate a red bean pancake, and that made me feel better. It was a great time, and it pretty much always is, isn’t it? I spent most of the day dehydrated and irritated because I hadn’t had enough to eat, but I fixed that soon enough after it was all done. Another year also went by that I waited too long to try and get a T-shirt. They always have a bunch of tiny shirts left, and you’d think they’d learn to order more XL and above. It was interesting all around, and it’s kind of funny how the first year I went to one of these I wandered around taking classes, and then slowly transitioned into spending the entire day being a part of putting classes on.


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Electrified Foot Stomper

Thursday at fencing I had my first electrified bouts. During the practice we were fencing dry, and I did well enough to win a bout against a senior student. Once we got electrified I wasn’t sure what was going on anymore, and my newness became much more apparent. Often times I would hear the buzzer go off and look and see that I had been touched, and I never felt a thing. Which is frustrating, because I was looking at it expecting it to register the touch I felt my blade make on my opponent. The worst part of all this is just not knowing what is going on. The rules of right of way are not too hard to get in theory, but when you’re out there flinging the blade around it’s very easy to lose track of who’s legally attacking. It’s frustrating to come flying in with the blade, feel the blade bounce off the opponent’s head, and then find out that it wasn’t my turn to attack and I’ve lost from a touch to my arm that I didn’t even feel.

I’ll figure it out.

One thing that may end up giving me problems from kendo is fumikomi, the foot stomping. In kendo you time your blade to land at the same time as your right foot lands during the forward attack motion. You also time it with your kiai, your shout. I haven’t had any issues with suddenly erupting in “woooOOOOOOOOOOOTHR!!!!!!!!” during saber fencing, but it was pointed out to me that I’m stomping my foot while the saber blade lands. This is problematic in that when the forward foot touches while lunging, that signals the end of your attack phase and you lose right of way. In the dry bout it caused me to give up a touch, but that was the only instance. It’s something to think about, and a habit I don’t know if I’ll be able to get over.

One thing that I have figured out about saber fencing that crosses over from kendo is the aggressiveness. Saber is an aggressive weapon style, I’m told, more so than epee or foil. So what happens is that from the words “ready, fence!” the two sabreur typically come flying at each other straight in to see who can initiate the attack first. Kendo taught me that when in doubt, let go of everything else but coming in for a men strike. What happened more often than not last Thursday was that we would close and end up with simultaneous strikes, mine to the opponent’s head, the opponent’s to my side. I think this helped me get comfortable with bouting, and have some confidence in it. I don’t hesitate to strike, and I think that alone has gotten me some of my points.

In kendo on Thursday I had a really good night. Monday I had felt a little discombobulated, but I think Thursday I had a firm grip on my ki. It was one of those rare practices where everything seems to go right. I was very happy in that I managed to score a do strike to an opponent’s left side by putting pushing his hands above his head from tsubazeriai (hilt clashing contest), and then stepping diagonally and slashing his left abdomen. I even remembered zanshin and fumikomi, something I typically can’t bring together in a do attempt. That was my one golden moment for this week. Maybe even for this year. Drakey sensei showed me this move a few weeks ago when Anton had got me to show sensei what turned out to be an illegal move I had used on him. Sensei showed me this proper technique to achieve similar results, and it’s been rattling around in my head ever since, and Eunmok sempai(sensei?) even had used it against me a couple of practices ago at KU. I’m jazzed that I could pull it off finally.

Busy budo weekend coming up: today meeting and dinner with iaido folk, tomorrow Greater Kansas City Japan Festival with kendo and iaido demonstrations and workshops, and meeting with representative from Des Moines kendo folk, Sunday iaido practice and fencing at KU. Egan sensei is coming to Kansas City this weekend for the GKC J-Fest iaido demo, and I’m looking forward to meeting my sensei’s sensei. It will be a good weekend all around, I’m excited by all of it.


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