Bruce Campbell – 6th Kendo (CKF 2002), 5th dan Iaido (CKF, 2001)
The Short Story
• Started Judo at age 13 and practiced for a total of 10 year between 1966 and 1983
• Began Kendo in Calgary, Canada in 1979 and have practiced continuously since
• Began Iaido in 1985 and have practiced continuously since
• Earned Kendo rokudan in 2002 and Iaido godan in 2001
• Began Matsu Kai (formally Sunrise Coquitlam) Dojo in 1996
• Former president and Board member – BC Kendo Federation;
• Head instructor, Matsu Kai Kendo and Iaido Dojo
• Kendo referee
• Kendo and Iaido grading judge
• Supporter/participant/organizer of annual Kendo and Iaido events in BC
The Longer Story
I started martial training when I was 13 and living in Cranbrook, BC. I was a tall, scrawny kid and got picked on a lot so I suppose I was looking for a way to protect myself.
A visiting teacher named Ken Shannon was ikkyu in Judo and offered classes. I was one of the first to sign up and was instantly hooked. I clearly remember pounding the dusty canvas-covered tumbling mats for nearly 2 months as we learned ukemi-waza (breakfalls) and then slowly began going though the throws and groundwork. The physical stuff was wonderful but so was the strict protocol – what I now know was reiho.
I continued with Judo until I went off to university and put my martial training aside to pursue another passion – middle distance running.
After graduation I took up Judo again in Coquitlam BC. While I was happy to be “back on the mat” I noticed some significant changes. While I was at university Judo had become an Olympic sport and the rules had been altered. There were now four scoring points instead of the traditional two – Ippon and Wazari and other rule changes had been made as well. For example, you now had to complete a throw inside the court while before you could finish anywhere provided you started inside the court. Also, in the 1960s-70s if you got too close to the edge of the mat while in tatami-waza (groundwork) the referee would call “Sonomame!” (don’t move) and would drag you and your opponent back into the center of the mat. The rule was changes so if you could struggle to the boundary the referee would stop the match and stand you up again. This very much took away from the elegance of the tatami-waza part of Judo.
In 1976 I attended the Olympic is Montreal, Canada and watched some of the Judo. The final in my weight class lasted for 15 minutes. About 6 minutes into the match the Russian accidentally slipped and his knee touched down (no technique, just a slip). The referee awarded koka – the lowest point – to the Japanese contestant and that was the deciding point in the match. Through the rest of the match the competitors were hunched over in very defensive postures that would have been called penalties in “my day”. I was very disappointed.
Over the next 8 years I continued in Judo as I moved around Western Canada and then into Texas. Each year I watched more “rule changes” and more interest on the sport rather than the “spirit” of judo.
In 1979, while I was still in Calgary I discovered a Kendo club run by Reverend Ikuta-sensei – a Buddhist priest. I was to learn years later that he was one of four brothers from Steveston, BC Canada who were products of a very rich Kendo tradition stretching back to 1917. In Ikuta-sensei’s dojo I re-discovered the tradition of respect and formality used to shape and give focus to the otherwise violent parts of budo. It was like that first Judo class so many years ago and, again, I was hooked.
When I moved to Houston Texas in 1980 I studied some Judo but drew more and more to Kendo and even tried a little Iaido. My stay in Houston was short and in 1983 I returned to Vancouver, Canada where I joined the Vancouver Kendo Dojo in the fall of 1983. At that time there were about 40 active members and a very large parent-lead support group. Unfortunately, the senior teachers had recently left and certain internal matters prevented a new teacher from taking leadership of the club. Soon the membership began to fall and I moved to the Sunrise Dojo in 1985 under the leadership of M. Asaoka Sensei. There I was very lucky to have a long string of high-ranking Kendo sensei visit and teach us. The club grew and prospered.
In 1997, Asaoka-sensei formed another Kendo dojo and that allowed Uegaki-sensei (Kendo Nanadan) and Taguchi-sensei (Kendo Rokudan) to take over leadership of Sunrise dojo. Under the Sunrise organization, I began the Coquitlam branch of Sunrise Kendo and in 1996, with the support of both of them, I became an independent dojo within the BC and Canadian Kendo Federations.
In 1986 I began Iaido under M. Asaoka-sensei and continued both Kendo and Iaido with him until he withdrew from Iaido to concentrate on his business affairs. Ken Maneker sensei took over leadership of the Iai group and a few years later with the guidance of his teachers Omori-sensei (Hanshi Hanchidan MJER Iaido) and Konaka-sensei (Hanshi Hachidan Kendo, Hanshi Hachidan Hokiryu Iaido) from Kyoto Japan, he formed Shin Ken Kai Iaido. In 2003 I added Iaido to the practice at Matsu Kai dojo and have practiced there ever since.
Kendo and Iaido are fundamental elements in my life. The reward of continual learning combined with the satisfaction of helping others offers something very special. Through Kendo and Iaido I have discovered the meaning of the phrase “your students are your teachers” and at the same time, I have experienced the richness of the trilogy of physical, mental and spiritual growth through my martial training.
Today, with the endless support of my wife and students, I find myself more and more at peace with the world around me.
Coquitlam, BC, CANADA – Mar 02, 2016