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Campus Now

Spring Verdure Issue (May)

A WASEDA Miscellany

Glenn Stockwell

This theme: The many faces of internationalisation...

Glenn Stockwell
Professor, Faculty of Law

We often talk about the fact that the world is becoming more internationalised. Internationalisation, however, can take on a range of different shapes and forms, so to give a simple description of how the world has become more internationalised is not an easy thing to do. The School of Law where I work, for example, has shown a tendency to take on an increasing number of international students over the past few years, and the Graduate School of Law has outlined a policy to become a "Global-Hub Graduate School," outlining clear goals which include not only taking on more foreign students, but also engaging in active exchange with foreign universities, and providing global education for Japanese graduate students.

Internationalisation in my own case has also taken on a rather unusual form. I have been practicing the art of Iaido now for over 20 years, and it has now become a very large part of my life. Despite having a history of nearly 500 years, Iaido is a relatively unknown art even within Japan. Put simply, it is the art of swiftly drawing the katana (the Japanese sword) while performing a cut with the same movement. After dealing with the opponent, the katana is then smoothly returned to the scabbard, all while maintaining poise and presence.

I had trained under two different Iaido teachers in Australia before I met Yasuyoshi Kimura (10th Dan Hanshi) in Osaka in 1991, but fell in love with his style immediately. I trained nearly every day with Mr. Kimura, and I used to love going to see him and train with him. I eventually had to return to Australia in 1993 for career reasons, and the day that I told Mr. Kimura, he cried and made me promise that I would open a dojo (club) in Australia. I told him that I knew that I was not enough, but promised I would make a dojo he could be proud of.

I found there were great difficulties in being an Australian opening a dojo in Australia at first, and there were people who felt that only Japanese people could teach the art correctly. I persevered and continued to train hard, returning to Japan when I could to keep improving my own skills, and the dojo membership grew, including some Japanese living in Australia. After two trips to Australia over the next four years, Mr. Kimura was satisfied with how things were progressing, and I was then hit with the biggest hurdle of my Iaido career - Mr. Kimura passed away from cancer in 1999. As often happens when a great teacher dies, the immediate students under Mr. Kimura fought for power, with most eventually drifting off in different directions. We continued to train by ourselves in Australia, but our existence was fragile in terms of a parent organisation.

In order to solidify our position, it was suggested that I take a few of the students from my dojo in Australia and compete in the National Iaido Championships in Kyoto to show that we were training correctly. I did, and the result was that my students won gold and silver medals in each event they participated in. We continued this trend for several years, each year bringing larger numbers of students, and each year being very successful in our results.

The outcome of our efforts was a strong bonding between my students in Australia, and the teachers and students in Japan. Iaido practitioners from Japan occasionally visit my dojo in Australia, and it is possible to see a closeness between everyone which goes beyond nationality and language barriers.Now ranked 7th Dan myself, I established a dojo here in Tokyo in 2006, and I now have students from Japan and all over the world. As a non-Japanese teacher of Iaido in Japan, I expected to find resistance or suspicion from people, but have been pleasantly surprised to see that most people accept my Iaido for what it is.

Most importantly, it always moves me to see people from different languages, cultures and backgrounds, all joined together through the art of the sword, and I feel that this is perhaps one example of what internationalisation may be.