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MAN OF MANY SWORDS – Rob Ingram is seen with his swords in Japan last month. Ingram won a iaido gold medal for his cutting work with the katana, a Japanese sword. Photo courtesy of ERIC L’HEUREUX

Gold medal-winning trip ‘a dream come true’ for Ingram

Whitehorse’s Rob Ingram had the experience of a lifetime in Japan last month.

By Whitehorse Star on June 5, 2015

Whitehorse’s Rob Ingram had the experience of a lifetime in Japan last month.

The local karate, kobudo and iaido instructor travelled to Kyoto to test for his rokudan (sixth degree) in the Japanese sword art of Muso Jikiden Eishen Ryu Iaido.

Iaido is the art of drawing and attacking with the katana – a Japanese sword.

The grading was held May 3 atop Mount Otokoyama at the Iwashimizu Hachimangu shrine built in 859.

The first day of the event was an examination of all members of the Dai Nihon Iaido Renmei, testing for ranks of sixth degree and above, Ingram explained.

Candidates were not told whether or not they passed until after a taikai competition, held the second day.

The taikai also took place on the shrine grounds with competitors from all over the world, including Japan, Holland, Australia, the United States and Canada.

Ingram, 62, who was in the godan (fifth degree group) with 17 rivals, went on to win gold.

“It was wonderful to be competing in the homeland of the Japanese martial arts in this ancient shrine with people from all over the world,” he said.

“They take their martial arts seriously in Japan. We were in Kyoto during Golden Week and every day you would see people on the trains and on the street in traditional dress, carrying bows, swords and dogu (martial arts equipment) on their way to training or a competition.

“To be part of that was pretty amazing.”

The gold medal win was impressive, considering Ingram was competing in a Japanese art in the place where it was invented and practised as part of everyday life.

“I think because we are outsiders, that we practise even harder than the Japanese do,” Ingram offered.

At the end of the competition, the winners were announced and the gold medallists were required to perform an embu (demonstration of form) as a prelude to the masters exhibiting their skills.

“These men and women, who have been practising sword most of their lives, all get up and demonstrate their particular style of iaido. Many are in their late 70s and early 80s and still practising and performing,” he said.

“Iaido is an art you can practice all your life.”

Ingram passed to rokudan (sixth degree), and the announcement was followed by a formal banquet, including speeches.

Fortunately, Ingram’s attempt was saved by his Japanese tablemate who jumped up on stage, grabbed the microphone, and told Ingram’s story in Japanese.

“I started in Japanese but about all I could do was to thank my sensei (teachers) and tell them where I was from,” Ingram said.

“We had been talking a bit at the table. He has about as much English as I have Japanese, but we managed to communicate with pictures on my iPhone and simple phrases. I have no idea what he said when he gave my speech for me, but the crowd laughed and applauded, so I guess it was a good spiel.”  

While in Japan, Ingram also studied under his Katayama Hoki Ryu Iaido instructor in Osaka.

“After over 40 years of practising and teaching Japanese martial arts, it was a dream come true to personally experience Japanese culture and to study with one of my head instructors in his dojo,” Ingram said.

“I was so well looked after. I owe this huge debt of hospitality which I am only too glad to repay.”

Comments (3)

Up 0 Down 1

Ken Morrison on Jul 7, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Congratulations Sensei Ingram!!!
It is always special to train with you.

Up 5 Down 1

Stan Collins on Jun 9, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Very nice story of commitment, dedication and reward.

Up 6 Down 1

Judy Boyko on Jun 5, 2015 at 6:41 pm

So proud of our Sensei! Congratulations on a dream come true!!!

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