Training Background

Early Influences

My first martial arts practice was in Shukokai, a hard style of Japanese Karatedo that was developed from Shito-ryu and Goju-ryu. From 1989 to 2005, I practiced a form of modern self-defense oriented jujutsu (goshin-jutsu) that blended techniques drawn from Aikido and Shorinji Kempo in an attempt to provide a well-rounded approach to urban close quarter combat.

I began training in the internal martial art of Bagua Zhang in 2004, and it was in 2005, while visiting the Gassan Dai Jinja ( 月山大 神社 ) shrine on Mt. Haguro in the Dewa Sanzan ( 出羽三山 ) area of Yamagata Prefecture and the Hagurosan Kōtakuji Shōzenin ( 羽黒山荒沢 寺正善院) in Haguro-machi, that I decided to commit my full efforts towards learning Chinese Internal martial arts, even if it meant giving up teaching modern jujutsu.

Internal Martial Arts

I currently practice Internal Martial Arts under the North American Yin Cheng Gong Fa (YCGF) organization of Zhang Yun. My practice is focused on developing a level of mastery in Hebei Style Xing Yi Quan, Yin Style Bagua Zhang, and Northern Wu Style Taijiquan. As part of this training, I practice straight sword (Taiji Jian, Bagua Jian, and Xingyi Jian), two-handed broadsword (Taiji Dao and Tian Gang Dao), and spear (Taiji Qiang). These are all as taught by Zhang Yun as part of North American YCGF.

Formal (indoor) student ceremony in Princeton, NJ. 2015

Koryu Kenjutsu

I have also been fortunate to learn portions of the curriculum of several classical Japanese martial arts (koryu bugei) centered around the study of the sword:

  • Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto-ryu at Capital Aikikai, from 2005 to 2015. I received a mokuroku license in 2008 under Sugawara Budo.
  • Kashima-shinden Jiki Shinkage-ryu at the Hobyokan, from 2008 to 2016. I received a Hobyokan chuden menjo from David Hall in 2018.
  • Owari Yagyu Shinkage-ryu first in 1994 in Port Washington, NY under Kato Kazuo, a visiting member of the Yagyukai, and then from 2014-2018 with my Hobyokan sponsor and colleague, Michael Heiler.

Katori Shinto-ryu Omote no Tachi

As time progresses, and life commitments grow, I put more emphasis on deepening my understanding of Shinkage-ryu kenjutsu. I continued to practice a subset of the Katori Shintō-ryu kata I know as a personal misogi (purification) and shugyo (asceticism), but due to this shift in focus, and also time and distance constraints, I no longer am a member of Capital Katori or Sugawara Budo.

I do maintain a practice of a subset of the TSKSR kata I learned, but modified to be more compatible with the principles and body mechanics I have cultivated in Shinkage-ryu. I call this activity Gassan-ryu in honor of the place (Gassan Dai Jinja) where I changed my path from modern jujutsu/goshin-jutsu to classical and traditional martial arts. That is a solo practice, and not something I generally share with others. There are excellent resources for learning TSKSR in the United States at this time, and I recommend interested parties seek out licensed instructors.

In 2016, I moved to Seattle and began to teach a small group portions of the Jiki Shinkage-ryu in order to maintain my practice of that art. Because my perspective is somewhat unique, having trained in more than one koryu and maintained a practice focused on developing an understanding of internal martial arts principles, I use the name Gassankan Heiho (月山館 兵法 ) to describe my Japanese swordsmanship practice as a whole. Simply, it is a name for the swordsmanship practiced at my school, the Gassankan.