Sunday I traveled to Sterling, Virginia, to participate in the annual Kagami Biraki ("Opening the Mirror") enbu held by the Masakikai and Hobyokai. A number of different martial arts were demonstrated as part of the gathering, including: Yagyu Shinkage-ryu heiho, Kashima-shinden Jiki Shinkage-ryu heiho, Shinto Muso-ryu jo, Ikkaku-ryu jutte & tessen, Isshin-ryu kusari-gama, Masaki-ryu manriki, Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, Hakko Denshin-ryu jujutsu, and Tomiki Aikido.

This year, I performed the set of Habiki kata from Jiki Shinkage-ryu as part of the Hobyokan demonstration. Habiki is sometimes called the "ura" of Hojo. Hojo is the first formalized set of kata in Jiki Shinkage-ryu and teaches posture, distance, breathing, and kiai. Habiki takes the breathing and kiai to a very high level, with long sustained vocalizations that strain the practitioners mental and physical resolve while practicing with dull metal blades. Part of the kata is performed balancing on one leg, where any deficiency in posture, breathing, or intent, become easily noticed.

At the gathering I learned that the local Hawk Cove Daito-ryu study group of Chris Covington and Brian Wagner has now been given the formal name of Ryuzukan ( "Head of the Dragon School" ) and is an official Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu dojo under Kondo Katsuyuki. I was very impressed by Chris and Brian's Daito-ryu demonstration -- their techniques were crisp, powerful, and balanced. Clearly, their practice is time and effort well spent.

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about Aikido and internal arts; as someone who trains in internal martial arts, I am comfortable saying the Daito-ryu I saw Chris and Brian perform was one of the best jujutsu demonstrations I have seen. I think there is a lot to be said for having a strong basis in martial arts -- be it grappling or boxing -- before exploring internal ideas. Daito Ryu's Hiden Mokuroku, consisting of 118 jujutsu techniques, provides a solid foundation for advanced study. It is followed in their curriculum by the Aiki no Jutsu series, which teaches subtle kuzushi and other internal ideas. Chris and Brian demonstrated kata from both sets, along with Daito Ryu applications for self-defense (the goshinoynote).

I also had the opportunity to demonstrate elements of the weapons practice I have learned as part of Yin Cheng Gong Fa. I demonstrated the Tongbei Dao form as well as some Bagua Jian circle walking and changes. The floor was bouncy, so expressing down power and bounce jin was interesting, but I hope I conveyed some of the aggression and speed of Tongbei Dao and some of the smooth subtlety of Bagua Jian.