16th-century swordplay highlights festival

October 20, 1997|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

The 16th-century Japanese art of swordplay demands that its warriors begin "as still as a mountain," then pounce "as powerfully as a raging river."

"This is not the Errol Flynn school of swashbuckling sword fighting," said William Buckley, a 53-year-old Hampstead resident who teaches computer science at Catonsville Community College.

"Iaido [the technique of swordsmanship] is quiet," he said. "There is complete stillness, inward concentration, then the explosion. It is the art of learning patience in addition to controlling yourself."

Dressed in black robes and holding a razor-sharp, yardlong curved sword, he instructed an audience in the nuances of the traditional Japanese martial arts.

The demonstration was the centerpiece of the fall festival of the Japanese-American Fellowship Society, whose 100 members and guests filled the Chesapeake Room of Towson University's student union building yesterday afternoon. While some lunched on traditional fish and rice dishes, others sipped soft drinks and ate chocolate cake.

The society, founded nearly 20 years ago, operates a school to teach the Japanese language to U.S. residents and operates a scholarship fund.

Dr. Hiroshi Shimizu, a retired Johns Hopkins School of Medicine audiologist who lives in Lutherville, said his group was established to bring aspects of Japanese culture to Baltimoreans.

"The Japanese community here is very small," he said, adding that it is a distant third among Asians, after the Chinese and Korean communities.

Buckley led a number of his iaido students through a series of stylized sword maneuvers, strikes and stabs which he said demanded the complete concentration of its subject. "You have to have a clear mind, what we call 'a mind of no mind' -- no thinking about work or appointments."

Pub Date: 10/20/97

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