2006 Tech Taido 10th Anniversary

Ten years isn’t an especially long time. It’s about long enough for a mere two billion tons of sediment to be eroded from the Grand Canyon – widening it just a few inches. Ten years ago, the internet was “new” (to most folks), mobile phones were exorbitant, and I knew everything there was worth knowing. At least some things never change.

Also ten years ago, Bryan finished high school and enrolled at Georgia Tech. As a result of my continuing need to be in charge of something, I conned him into helping me start a Taido class. Originally just an excuse to gratify my fragile ego, the class began to look more and more like a legitimate martial arts club when we came to notice certain students actually attempting to learn what Taido was all about. Some of those students are still with us.

Last night, many current students and a few has-beens came together to celebrate ten continuous years of Taido at Tech. We ate the famous Fossett BBQ (you can’t beat Buddy’s meat), drank the famous Guinness milkshakes, and had a famously good time hanging out and acting like family. There was some light speech-making and a couple of minor presentations, but this was not a “big event” kind of party – it was more of an excuse to say thank you to the people who have helped us keep this thing going just long enough to not look like a bunch of jackasses. It was also an excuse to gratify my fragile ego.

It was great seeing so many friends in one night. Kirk, Dee, and Edge showed. So did Mary and Liz. Mitsuaki, Brendan, and D-mag were able to come by, and so did a few other folks from the honbu dojo. We had a nice turnout, with new and old students (and their significant others) all drinking, joking, and watching old Taido videos together.

I did find myself missing a few folks who were unable to be there, particularly our “California branch” – Chris, Anthony, and Joshua. Uchida Sensei was unable to attend, though he did send along some very good sake. Chad was totally going to make it, like for real, but can’t exactly remember not knowing how he actually came to be unsure about why he wasn’t there. Oh well, I drank enough for all of them.

Of course, the natural instinct upon the demarcation of a period of time as a significant event is to speculate on the future. That is, assuming that everyone finally gets tired of rehashing, reminiscing, retelling, and rewriting the past. And so Bryan and I speculated, but didn’t make any announcements about our plan for world domination. Instead we gave those who inquired our own version of that famous, one-word advice about the future from “The Graduate” – and if you weren’t there, you missed it. But it was good. Really. Don’t you feel left out now?

Georgia Tech Taido Club

Profile

Head instructor – Bryan Sparks – 3dan
also

  • Laura Sparks – shodan
  • Shelley Matthews – shodan
  • Bolot Kerimbaev – shodan

URL – defunct

Phone – nope

Schedule – Course info page @ GT Campus Recreation Center

History

1984

  • Andy Fossett begins practicing Taido.

1986

  • Bryan Sparks begins practicing Taido.

1992

  • Andy tests for black belt.

1993

  • Bryan tests for black belt.
  • US Taido sends its fourth team to Japan for the first world championships, including its first children’s team. The delegation includes Andy and Bryan as the two youngest competitors in the adult division. They make many Taido friends from various countries.

1995

  • Andy and Bryan begin experimenting with new Techniques and practice methods outside of the honbu dojo on a weekly basis. None of their training partners from that period will ever look at stairs the same way again.

1996

  • US Taido hosts the Sun Data international Taido championship. Andy tests for 2dan. Andy decides that his Japanese is not nearly good enough.
  • Andy and Bryan found the Georgia Tech Taido club, and not much else happens. Their first student is Jacob Langseth, and some others come and go as well. It is during these first few months that the traditions and conventions of the club originally come to be.

1998

  • Andy takes his first solo trip to Japan, living and practicing in Yokohama with Negishi Sensei, in Hirosaki with Sekiba Sensei, and in Fuji with Akiyama Sensei, where he picks tea and meets a few girls.
  • Tech Taido finally makes it to US Taido’s annual summer camp. Five students attend, including the now-legendary Kirk, a mysterious figure of whom many have heard, but few have actually seen.

1999

  • Andy returns to Japan for three months. Again, he visits Negishi, Akiyama, and Sekiba.
  • Bryan tests for 2dan at summer camp.
  • The beginning of Andy’s “dark period.”
  • Laura Bardey and Shelley Matthews enter the club at Tech.

2000

  • Bolot Kerimbaev joins Tech Taido.
  • Bryan graduates from Tech and moves to Colorado Springs for work. He buys a house and a kegerator.
  • Chris Healy transfers to Tech and helps Andy hold things together in Bryan’s absence.
  • US Taido 25th anniversary celebration. Andy tests for 3dan.

2002

  • Bryan makes his return debut at summer camp to the surprise of the entire club. There is much rejoicing, and Guinness flows.
  • Andy and Bryan make a week-long visit to Ft. Lauderdale to help out at Tom DeVenny’s dojo and demonstrate advanced techniques.
  • It’s about this time that Andy emerges from his three-year funk.
  • US Taido championship. Tech students perform well, but alas do not win any events. Andy is awarded 4dan.

2003

  • US Taido summer camp. Chad Gilmartin tests for 2dan. Andy belatedly demonstrates for 4dan.
  • Andy moves to Japan to teach English. He begins practicing regularly with Negishi in Yokohama.
  • Chad enters the Tech club as a freshman.

2004

  • Andy visits from Japan and attends classes at Tech and the honbu dojo.
  • The Georgia Tech Taido Wiki makes its cyber-debut.
  • Chris visits Negishi and Andy in Japan. They have a good time and learn the hard way that Samsonite doesn’t necessarily resist vomit stains.
  • US Taido summer camp. Bryan tests for 3dan.
  • Corey Myers and Mary Gezo enter the club as freshmen.
  • Mary tests for black belt.
  • The Georgia Tech Taido Wiki causes its first controversy and is subsequently limited to password access only.

2005

  • Corey tests for 2dan.
  • US Taido 30th anniversary celebration and tournament. Andy visits from Japan along with about 75 Japanese Taido students and instructors, including Negishi, Akiyama, and Sekiba. 100% of the competitors from Georgia Tech place in at least one event with several gold and silver medals.
  • Georgia Tech Taido finally gets a new public web page. The internal site is updated as well.
  • Taido/Blog is quietly established.

2006

  • Chris returns to Atlanta to finish his Master of Science at Georgia Tech. He then moves to California and buys a Ducati.
  • Bolot, Laura, and Shelley test for black belt.
  • Andy visits for US Taido summer camp.
  • Andy finishes his contract in Japan and returns stateside.
  • Taido performs a demonstration for Japan Fest at Stone Mountain Park.
  • The GT Taido Wiki vanishes into the void.
  • Bryan and Laura are married.
  • The Georgia Tech Taido club celebrates its 10th anniversary.

2007

  • Andy visits Holland to compete in the World Taido International Friendship Games.

2008

  • Andy moves back to Japan and begins training in Osaka.

Written Tests for Belt Promotions

It’s potentially interesting to note that there have been no written examinations for black belt promotions in America for several years.

I believe that Taido requires intellectual understanding as well as physical ability, and as a result, have always taught in a manner that I feel provides both. When Bryan and I began discussing the possibility of promoting students to black belt, we had no doubts as the quality of our teaching, but we were concerned about the quality of the evaluation.

To that end, we decided that we would require a written examination and essay/creative component in addition to the physical test administered by the american headquarters. I’ve discussed the hokei assignment previously. In writing the theory exam, I wanted to be careful that the questions were actually testing the things I hope to have taught. For those of you with no experience at test-writing, i’ll let you know right now that it is difficult to write a good test – this from someone whose job requires him to do it often.

I feel pretty strongly that rote is awful pedagogy, so I wanted to avoid a test that would allow a passing score by simple memorization. The idea was to attempt to test not knowledge, but understanding of Taido’s theory. Understanding combined with practice leads to mastery (says I). I put this exam together carefully, attempting to focus on open-ended prompts rather than questions with one-word answers. I did include some simple vocabulary, but there was no memorization required.

Instead, I made a provision that candidates could consult reference materials to a certain degree (though they still had to work within a time limit) rather than force them to memorize anything. The catch is that they had to convince me in their answers that they actually understand the concept. I felt pretty confident to judge this because I have read just about everything ever written about Taido in english – at least all of it that has been made publicly available. Besides that, knowing the candidates well gives me an advantage to determine their grok-level.

On the black belt written test I took, I had to write word-for-word the Taido 5jokun. I had to memorize all of the unsoku jigata patterns. I had to know the doko5kai in japanese and be able to explain it in english. Understanding these things has helped me immensely, but memorizing them has done little for my Taido. On this exam, I told the candidates to look up the answers and interpret their own meanings.

The acid test for each prompt I included on this exam was “Will answering this question demonstrate potential for mastery?” In some places it may not be so obvious how that stipulation was met, but as I mentioned, knowing the candidates allows me to extrapolate meaning from the manner in which they responded. Lexical and syntactic decisions betray a lot about the level of a person’s familiarity with a subject (provided you know how to decode that meaning – and I spent a good deal of university study developing just that capacity).

It was interesting to me to read the responses and think to myself “OK, that comes from my article on Taido/Blog”, or “that comes from a pamphlet I printed up a few years ago,” or “that’s straight from Alvar’s .pdf.” I did deduct points in places where I felt that the candidate seemed to value a “correct” answer over their own answer, but usually, I was very impressed to find that, even in cases in which I could see a particular influence, the candidates gave serious thought to the prompts and responded with a Taido answer to the best of their present levels of understanding.

And so that’s how it went. I’m glad we did this test, and will be making similar exams for future black belt candidates from my clubs.

US Taido History

i have included is the verifiable official histories of taido groups representing the lineage of my taido group up to 1984. from 1984 onward, the events and descriptions listed constitute my personal observations.

This timeline represents the verifiable history of Taido in the US to the best of my knowledge. I was a member of US Taido from 1984 until 2006. I now train and teach as a member of Japan Taido.

My personal history and that of the Georgia Tech Taido Club have been moved to separate posts.

1925

  • Seiken Shukumine is born in Okinawa.

1932

  • Shukumine begins learning Ko-Ryu under Anko Sadoyama.

1937

  • Shukumine begins studying Shuri-Te under Sokko Kishimoto as well as Kendo.

1940-1944

  • Shukumine enters the marine division of the kamikaze corps during World War Two. He begins to develop strategies for moving in three dimensions and sets a Japanese military high jump record which reputedly remains unchallenged.

1945

  • After surviving the war, Shukumine returns to Okinawa, finding his home destroyed. He retreats to and island to meditate and train. Shukumine adapts the techniques he learned in his youth to be effective in a 3-dimensional space.

1948

  • Shukumine begins teaching his martial art in Shizuoka.

1950

  • Shukumine enters a nationally televised Karate exhibition. 135 pound Shukumine breaks 34 roofing tiles and demonstrates a flying eight-kick combination.
  • Mitsunobu Uchida is born in Shizuoka.

1953

  • Shukumine creates the Gensei Ryu school and begins teaching at universities and the Tachikawa military base.

1956

  • Shukumine is awarded 8dan Kyoshi title by the Dai Nippon Butoku Karate Association.

1962

  • Shukumine completes the taigi (basic Taido techniques), consisting of un, sen, hen, nen, and ten movements inspired by natural phenomena.

1963

  • Shukumine theorizes the basic principles of Taido as taiki (breathing), doko (movement), and seigyo (strategy).

1964

  • Shukumine publishes Shin Karate Do Kyohan which describes the techniques and tactics of karate, to which he refers as “koryu”.

1965

  • Shukumine formalizes the theory and techniques of Taido into a unified system and founds the Japan Taido Association.
  • Uchida begins his study of Shotokan karate.

1968

  • Uchida enters Tokyo’s International College of Commerce and begins studying Taido.

1970

  • Uchida receives a scholarship to Williamette University in Salem, Oregon.

1972

  • Uchida moves to Dana College in Omaha, Nebraska where he teaches Taido as a credited elective.

1973

  • Uchida graduates from Dana College with a degree in sociology. He returns to Japan to earn a degree in economics and train under Shukumine.

1975

  • Uchida opens the first US Taido honbu dojo on Buford Highway in Atlanta, Georgia and founds the US Taido Association. His first student is Jerry Johnson.

1977

  • Shukumine visits Atlanta and promotes Uchida to fifth degree black belt.

1979

  • US Taido sends its first team to compete in Japan.

1981

  • The first annual Taido summer camp is held in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

1982

  • Shukumine visits Atlanta for the 4th of July demonstration at Stone Mountain Park.

1983

  • Shukumine founds the World Taido Federation.

1984

  • US Taido sends its second team to Japan.

1986

  • US Taido hosts an international championship.

1987

  • US Taido moves to a new location in Norcross, Georgia.

1989

  • US Taido sends its third team to Japan.

1991

  • Tatsuyuki Negishi moves to Atlanta to teach Taido.

1993

  • US Taido sends its fourth team to Japan for the first world championships, including its first children’s team.

1994

  • Shukumine visits Atlanta to attend summer camp and promotes Uchida to seventh degree black belt.

1995

  • US Taido moves to a new location in Norcross.

1996

  • Negishi returns to Japan.
  • Masayuki Hiyoshi arrives to replace Negishi.
  • US Taido hosts the Sun Data international Taido championship. .
  • Andy Fossett and Bryan Sparks found the Georgia Tech Taido club.

1997

  • US Taido sends a team to Finland for the 2nd world championships.
  • Tom DeVenny opens US Taido’s “first branch school” in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

1998

  • US Taido sends its fifth team to Japan.

2000

  • Hiyoshi returns to Japan.
  • US Taido 25th anniversary celebration.

2001

  • US Taido sends its sixth team to Japan. They attend the third world Taido championship in Okinawa.
  • Shukumine dies.

2002

  • US Taido championship.

2005

  • US Taido 30th anniversary celebration and tournament. About 75 Taido students and instructors visit from Japan.
  • The fourth world Taido championships are held in Sweden. US Taido does not send a team.

2006

  • Taido performs a demonstration for Japan Fest at Stone Mountain Park.
  • The Georgia Tech Taido club celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Hokei Assignment

This year will mark the completion of ten continuous years of operation for the Taido club at Georgia Tech. We are the first group to have successfully administered a Taido program in the United States outside of the honbu dojo. We are also the only non-commercial Taido practice group in the country. This year, we will promote our first three black belts, as announced here.

Over the years, black belt tests in American Taido have come to be little more than a formality that occurs after a few years of training. While we aren’t suggesting that the physical black belt test is all that big a deal, Bryan and I have long thought that it should be the final step in a process of black belt candidacy that is at least somewhat transformative to the student. This process should require growth and demonstration of competence in the core areas of Taido practice and philosophy.

Since we see our club as an extended experiment in Taido practice and teaching, we decided long ago that when the time came for our students to test for shodan, we would do things a little differently than they are usually done. Bryan and I have been working for over a year now on a new method of testing students for black belt. I will be gradually releasing the details of our test process on this website as the students work towards their physical examination (date, TBA).

Upon learning of their candidacy for shodan, the three students were informed that they would be required to create a new and unique Taido hokei and write a paper defending it. Here are the guidelines I sent them in an e-mail earlier today:

Your Hokei

Create your own hokei based on the following criteria:

  1. Base your hokei on any one or two (no more) of Taido’s sotai (sen, un, hen, nen, ten). You may use other techniques, but focus on one or two types of movement.
  2. You may use a standard enbusen (layout) from an existing hokei or create a new one.
  3. Performance must last between 2 and 3 minutes in duration.
  4. Your hokei must fit in the space of a standard Taido court.
  5. You must return to genten.
  6. The use of new or interesting technique combinations is desirable.
  7. All strikes must have a clearly targeted opponent.
  8. You must prescribe breathing methods for your hokei.
  9. Your hokei must show understanding of the 10 hokei performance guidelines (ex. You need to have slow parts as well as fast, relaxed parts as well as tense).
  10. Your hokei must also demonstrate your understanding of the doko 5 kai for the sotai you chose.

Your Paper

You must also prepare a paper explaining the thinking that informs your hokei design. here the the paper guidelines:

  1. Successful papers will explain the decisions involved in creating a new routine and how you went about making them in a manner that demonstrates your understanding of Taido.
  2. You should be able to explain: how many opponents you are facing; why you chose certain techniques and combinations; why you breathe when and how you do; and any other pertinent information.
  3. Please do not describe your routine, we will see it for ourselves when you perform it.
  4. Papers will be as long as they need to be to explain the routine. A more straight-forward routine will require less explanation than one that uses a lot of complicated combinations.
  5. Please spell-check and try to follow grammatical conventions.
  6. Be consistent in your spelling of japanese words – it’s OK to be incorrect because you don’t speak Japanese, but please choose one spelling per word and stick with it.
  7. Format your paper in a manner that lends itself to easy evaluation. For example, eight pages about a routine built on hengi will make it difficult to reference your second ebigeri. Use section headings and typographic cues to direct navigation of your paper.
  8. Papers will be submitted to andy and bryan via e-mail in a word format no later than two weeks prior to your physical examination.
  9. Papers, along with our comments, will be posted on the website no later than one week prior to your physical examination.

Your creativity and ability to defend your decisions are the primary evaluation points for this assignment. Have fun.