The 2008 Konigun Ninjutsu Gathering has just concluded, and so we'd like to take a moment to catch you up on all the incredible things that transpired. This year was an action-packed and intense experience with plenty to keep us busy for the whole nine days.Arriving at the Gathering was a task in and of itself. Some drove from Mississippi and New Jersey, some flew from Massachusetts, others swarmed from various parts of Tennessee. It was a veritable stampede of ninjas, which begs the question, "Can you hear a ninja stampede?"
Each morning students were greeted with a series of grueling physical training exercises at the hands of their loving, but stern instructors. All of their hard work, however, was well-rewarded with a much-anticipated piping-hot breakfast. Every night, the students went to bed not knowing what kind of chaos they would wake to, courtesy of four mischievous puppies. One Monjin, in particular, had his Senpai essay eaten. Truly, the dog ate his homework.
This year, as an added surprise, a water tower had been erected, so showers were available to students without ever having to leave Koyoma. Perhaps next year, the showers will include hot water?
Throughout the week, emphasis was placed on weapons training. This year, the weapons of choice were Nunchaku and Tonfa. Students learned nunchaku basics as well as tonfa rolls and grapples. Students were very pleased with the vast array of weapons available for purchase.
Certainly, everyone at camp this year realizes that hard training equals cuts, bruises, and bumps. Fortunately, this year we had a very capable person assigned to the position of medical officer. Meiyo Bushi John was never in short supply of superglue and applied it generously. Whatever ailments could not be solved with superglue were treated with a special cream for itching and rashes lovingly made by Shidoshi with help from Meiyo Bushi, or with sulfur to keep the bugs at bay.
Senpais going up for Meiyo had their hands quite full with categories necessary for their next rank. They were required to spend eight hours off the ground in a tree as part of their wilderness training; sleep was optional. This particular task was more difficult for some than for others. One Senpai had a knee injury, and we're still wondering how he got in the tree (levitation, perhaps?) The joy of finally exiting their leafy abode was overshadowed by bug bites, sore bottoms, and lack of sleep.
All Senpai were required to fight eight opponents simultaneously after, of course, running four miles and demonstrating all katas. The Senpais were pushed to their limits and their opponents are still recovering. Also, mouth-guards were made mandatory after one match in particular.
Another aspect of brown sash testing was the endurance swim. Due, to a mix-up, it was believed that a mile-long swim was required to rank. It was discovered, only too late, that a half-mile swim was all that was required. Even so, now Meiyo-Musha Oyston has qualified for her 5th degree swim category.
In the last days of camp, tightrope walking and balance beam sparring were made available to the students and everyone really seemed to enjoy that aspect of training. Also, students were given a chance to run a nighttime navigation course and draw fire-watch duty.
On the final day of camp, in a picturesque park by a lake, and with their fellow students looking on, the Monjins were afforded the opportunity to check off on their board and staff breaking categories. Every Monjin executed all their required breaks with all the skill and determination that one looks for in a brown sash.
After the Monjin board breaks and a few rounds of sparring, everyone was called to formation for the sash award ceremony. This year, we are pleased to announce that every student was able to achieve their next rank, and they worked very hard to earn it. We are also pleased to announce that we have four new Meiyos: Patrick Duckworth, Dan Ford, Sarah Oyston, and John Westcott! As an added treat, Taibushi Bonnie Specht came down from Massachusetts to present black sashes to Dan and John, who are her personal students.
The 2008 Gathering was an amazing experience and a great opportunity to meet with many people from throughout the United States and train together. Students were able to share knowledge, improve themselves, and create lasting memories. Truly, this year was one for the books, and the 2009 Gathering can't get here fast enough.
Story by: Sarah Oyston, Christy Butler, and John Westcott
PS. More pictures from the Gathering 2008 can be found right here.