Monday, December 21, 2009

Schedule update!

The next class will be on MONDAY, DECEMBER 21 at 5:30 PM. I will be there from about 4:30 to get in some extra training if anyone wants to come early.

Grand Masters

Originally uploaded by Sung Moo Kwan
About a month ago, I had the honor of sparring with come visiting masters, including two grandmasters (other than my own teacher). Obviously, this was was an incredible experience. They each had a very distinctive style, and I learned different lessons from each of them.

I try to always keep an open mind, and remember that there is no one way to do anything. Each of these extrodinary gentlemen have reached a supreme level of ability walking their own paths, and it's just breathtaking to see them learn from one another.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Swords and Dating - Time Out NY writeup

Time out has done another write up on the class. I may try that restaurant after the next class! My date will be Vivian, my sword ;)

Samurai sword class and venison-chili nachos
Sword virgins get in free to the weekly samurai sword class at the Workmen’s Circle (NYR Studios, 45 E 33rd St at Park Ave, sixth floor; 201-317-9517; Thu 6–7pm). Equipped with a wooden sword, you’ll learn basic etiquette, like “how to respect each other,” according to instructor Raab Rashi. Postbattle, bury the hatchet over venison-chili nachos ($12.95) and a refreshing Doc’s Hard Apple Cider ($7) at Waterfront Ale House (540 Second Ave at 30th St; 212-696-4104, Just watch out for a final lunge if you try to snag the last chip.

Read more:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ok, this made me so happy this morning. I've often wondered if Mario ever had formal training, or are his (in)famous exploits in the Mushroom Kingdom borne solely of his sheer will of perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds? I think he's probably had training with SISMI

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Photo shoot with Lauren Rutten

This is a photo shoot that I did with a very talented artist and friend of mine, Lauren Rutten. She is actually one of the artists I work with at my day job, and is also an incredibly talented teaching artist. You can see more or her work at her website,

You can see the rest of the pics HERE

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

8 Forms

This is a video of me demonstrating the 8 forms of Siljun Dobup. These forms are exactle the same as those practiced in Nakamura Ryu - a school of iaido founded in the 20th century from which Siljun Dobup draws heavy influence. These 8 basic positions lay the foundation for all the cuts practiced.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New video up!

There's a new video on youtube of Grand Master Seong performing Set Gi (Earth), Cut Number 1. This is the first maneuver you learn after getting through all the basic cuts. It is a diagonal-downward cut, from left to right, ending in the center.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Samurai Exhibit at the Met Museum

Check this out! There's going to be a fantastic exhibit at the met all about Samurai! I'm definitely attending this on November 8 for the panel discussions and especially Okisato Fujishiro, "Japan's leading sword polisher and connoisseur."

Let me know if you're interested in going with me!

Art of the Samurai: Japanese Arms and Armor, 1156–1868
October 21, 2009–January 10, 2010
The Tisch Galleries, 2nd floor
View images from this exhibition.
Learn more about a special one-day lecture and panel event.
Search the calendar for related programs.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Class is NY PRESS "BEST OF 2009!"

From the NY Press. Click here for the entire list.

Best Way to Feel Like a Stud: Samurai Sword Class
The Workman’s Circle, NYR Studios, 45 E. 33rd St. betw. Madison & Park Aves.
You need a physical hobby and yoga isn’t butch enough and Karate might involve getting hit, right? So what’s left? There’s always swords. No we’re not talking swallowing or any other sort of swordplay (such dirty minds!) Raab Rashi offers a class in “Siljun Dobup,” or “the art of the Samurai sword” for only $15 bucks a class. We’re not endorsing any sort of Kill Bill antics, but how often can you learn how to kill a man for cheaper than what it costs to buy him a decent dinner? We’re in. Visit to learn more.


Friday, October 9, 2009

This is an amusing anecdote from my friend and student, Sarah. She has the uncanny knack for attracting people on subways... Enjoy!

"I'm not sure exactly why, but people on the subway always come talk to me (or do other things at me... but that's not what this note is about). I suppose I generally look pleasant and approachable, and I have this really bad habit of looking at people directly in the face. In any case, I wasn't terribly surprised when on my way home from sword class last night, a guy sat down next to me and struck up a conversation.

"I know this is going to sound really strange if it isn't the case, but... is that a Katana in that bag??" he asked.

"Well... no, technically it's an Iato, a practice sword..."

*inhales sharply* "Oh my god. YOU STUDY."

"I just started," I said. "I'm actually just coming from class."

"Okay. I swear, I SWEAR I'm not hitting on you. I'm REALLY NOT. I have a girlfriend, I love her, I'M NOT HITTING ON YOU. But, THIS is the sexiest thing I've ever seen. I really hope that there is somebody that appreciates just how AMAZING all of this is." *he makes a sweeping motion toward me*

I blushed and thanked him and reiterated that I have just begun studying and that I'm not very good... but, that he had made my night.

"No," he said "you made MY night." And then he got off of the train.

If I haven't mentioned it before now, I love my sword. Though, should I be worried that I'm still approachable enough for someone to come talk to me on the train when they think I'm armed (and actually am armed)???

OH!!! Come take sword class with me! First class is free, and it's $15/class after that! Thursday nights @ 6pm on 33rd between Madison and Park! I can guarantee the presence of at least two very attractive women with swords... if you're in to that sort of thing. :-)"

So there you go. I loved this story because I remember what it felt like the first time I held my practice sword. I had always liked swords, and have, through various times in my life, had a impressive if not alarming array of historical blades, wall-hangers, and other sword and dagger-like accessories. But nothing ever felt like receiving my first practice sword. This was MY sword, and it was the sword I was starting a journey with. It was my traveling companion, my comrade, my peer. It's a feeling unlike any other. I hope you will have the opportunity to experience it!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Buying you first iaito - Part 1 - Size Matters

The Student Mind.
Buying you first iaito

I've asked my students to purchase their first iaito. I know that when I purchased my first sword for training, I wish that I had a guide or reference to help me navigate the many aspects of what can be a quite sizable and significant purchase. I hope that these posts will help you to make an informed decision when choosing your own sword!

There are many things to consider when buying a sword for training. Weight, size, blade curvature, aesthetics, and "feel" - the most intangible but arguably the most important aspect of choosing your sword. Of course, there's one more very important factor: price. In my following posts I will discuss each of these qualities and how to make a decision to find the sword that's right for you.


Size matters. It's the truth. But this doesn't mean that bigger is better!

Generally, iaito blades vary in length from 27-29 inches. The handles, or "tsuka" usually range from 10-13 inches. Of course, as there is no "standard" sizing in sword creation, it is not unusual to find much longer or shorter swords often custom made to the purchaser's preferences and proclivities. It is important to note that the blade and handle lengths must be considered separately, as these lengths will vary from person to person based not only on the practitioner's height, but also on their training style and preferences.

Blade Length - The length of your sword's blade should not be determined by your height alone. You height will of course play a factor, but arguably more important then your height is your arm length. When drawing the sword, the right hand not only draws the sword forward, but simultaneously the left hand draws the scabbard (sword case) or "saya" back until only the tip of the blade remains in the mouth of the saya. When in this position, the body may turn a little bit, maybe 10-15 degrees, but should not turn more then that. Ideally, the body should remain almost completely square and faced-front and all but the tip of the blade should be out of the saya. Those with shorter arms will find that they have to compensate with turning their body more if they have a long blade, which should be discouraged. Likewise, a person with long arms and a short blade will find that the sword has exited the mouth of the saya before they've fully extended their right (drawing) arm.

Generally, a longer blade will be heavier and a shorter blade lighter. There are merits and deficiencies to both, but I will address this in a following post.

Handle (tsuka) length - Determining the proper sized tsuka depends mostly on hand size, and usually will vary in length proportionally to the size of the blade. The longer the blade, the longer the handle. Again, this is not a hard-and-fast rule, and will vary according to preference, but less so than the blade length. The reason for this is that longer blades have a different center of gravity than shorter blades, so the fulcrum point of the sword must be lowered in order to optimize the cutting potential.

To find the proper length of the handle, you must maintain the proper grip. This is similar to the relaxed "golf" or "tennis" grip where the last two fingers on each hand are doing most of the work, and the blade "rests" in the rest of the fingers. An incorrect grip is one in which all the fingers are grasping tightly. The left hand should be on the bottom, with the little finger about 1 - 1 1/2 inches from the end cap of the sword. The right hand grips in a similar fashion, with the right hand little finger at a space of two finger widths above the left. Ideally, this should position the right hand index finger just below, or even just grazing the blade guard (tsuba). If there is more then a finger's width between the right hand and the tsuba, your tsuka is too short.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I'm happy to announce a new sword class that I will be teaching in New York City. Much like the Hoboken class, it will be offered on Thurdays from 6-7:00 PM. I will be offering these classes in conjunction with KINESIS PROJECT, a dance/theatre company. The classes will actually be held at the historic Workman's Circle center, a place with direct ties to my family. I'm excited about these new classes. Melissa Riker, the Artistic Director at Kinesis has been wonderful to work with so far. The best part is that I can offer the classes for less then I've been charging, now only $15/class. This can even go down if you'd like to commit to a longer study period (3 months, 6 months, etc...)

The first class will be on SEPTEMBER 17 at 6:00. Remember that the first class is always FREE!!! Bring a friend!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Elemental Balance

Originally uploaded by amylitt
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to be invited for a getaway to a beautiful estate in Red Hook, NY. The house itself was gorgeous, and our hosts were fantastic (not to mention the jacuzzi!), but what left the greatest impression on me was the beautiful landscape surrounding the house and the breathtaking view. You see, their house faces the Catskills National Park, so their view will never be tarnished by ungainly development, sprawl, or logging.

I took the chance to exercise and practice my forms surrounded by lush fields and mountain views. Additionally, my good friend Amy Litt - social networking guru, amateur photographer, and all-around powerhouse - was kind enough to take pictures of the occasion . While training in this incredible setting, it felt... right. I suspect that the progenitors of the Asian sword arts similar to Sil Jun Do Bup studied in this manner. In most Asian cultures, and especially in the Japanese culture, there is a close kinship between man and nature that has never fully developed in Western cultures. There is a bond between our actions and natures' and we affect each other in everything we do.

In Sil Jun Do Bup, after learning the basics, you progress to the four forms that comprise the art: Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. This is no coincidence. In each elemantal form, you are performing similar movements, ie. in Set Earth, the first cut is an overhead diagonal cut. After you make the initial cut, you stop. Solid. Powerful. In Set Water, the first cut you make is still an overhead diagonal cut, but your body and the sword continue to "flow" into a more natural finishing position. Fluid. Adaptable.

For the warrior, the sword is an extension of the self, and the self is a balance of the elements. By focusing on one element, we can incorporate its characterists into our training and become more powerful in that element. By training in a natural setting, we are closer to the elements and can more freely associate ourselves with them and let their energies flow through us without the blockages imposed on us by the 'modern world.' We can free ourselves, and feel the elemental forces of nature both around us and within us.

You can look at the rest of pictures HERE.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Greetings to visitors from the Midsummer Magick Faire! I'm very excited to be leading a workshop at the Faire where I will give an introduction to Iaido - the Way of the Sword. Using wooden practice swords, we'll learn the 8 basic cuts and forms that have been practiced for centuries. We'll discuss the mythos surrounding the curved asian sword known as the "katana," and explore other questions: How and why were eastern and western sword styles similar? How were they different?

Availability for these workshops is extremely limited, due to the space requirements and the supply of wooden swords available. Please show up early!!!

For more information about the Faire, go to their page:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hello everyone.  New images for the class.   The symbols above are the traditional characters for SIL JUN DO BUP - real sword training.  the image below was created as a postcard to promote the class.  Check it out, send it on to others and, most importantly, come to class!

From Kendo

Monday, April 27, 2009

This weekend: Sakura Matsuri

This weekend I will be attending Sakura Matsuri - the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botinical Gardens.  Throughout the day, I will offer free introductory Sil Jun Do Bup classes to anyone who might be interested in picking up a wooden sword!  I attend this event every year that I can, and according to the forcast the weather is going to be very agreable this Saturday. 

Let me know if you're going to be able to make it!  I'll update again once I know where I'll be setting up shop for the day.

For more information about the festival, check it out here:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Your first class is free" and other marketing questions

One of the challenges of teaching a non-traditional martial art such as Sil Jun Do Bup (or than the difficulty that many non-Koreans have in pronouncing it) is the question: "how do I market this?" 
Aside from the regular challenges of marketing a martial art class, there are a few unique challenges to marketing a class in Sil Jun Do Bup.  These are:

1. Sil Jun Do Bup is indeed a martial art, but unlike many other arts it is for the most part practiced individually rather then with partners.  One obvious reason for this is that you are using a real sword, and although it is blunted along the edge, you are still capable on inflicting grave injuries if it is handled carelessly or disrespectfully.  

2. New students of SJDB do not usually begin their studies with a focus on self-defense.  Although many of the skills obtained during your study of the form help to make you a more aware, healthier, and more powerful person, most students do not assume they'll be carrying around a sword with them on the street (probably not the best idea...)

3. Many (most) people simply do not know what SJDB is.  When explaining it, I first make mention that it is closely related to the Japanese art of iaido.  Then, assuming I gauge no reaction of familiarity with the latter, I usually go on to explain that it's the art of drawing the sword, cutting, and re-sheathing that the Samurai of feudal Japan studied, "you know, like in Samurai movies such as 'The Last Samurai' and 'Seven Samurai' or even 'Kill Bill.'"  Karate?  Familiar.  Kung-Fu?  Familiar.  Sil Jun Do Bup?  Is that some kind of rice dish?

So given these unique challenges, how can I target my marketing?  To begin to approach this, I need to first identify what kind of audience I am looking for.  When thinking about this, and from feedback I've received from friends and family, I've narrowed it down to a few groups.

People who:

1. want to get into shape.  - This is similar to the yoga-set.  These are people who want to improve their flexibility and overall health but don't want to run for an hour on the treadmill.  
2. practice a non-traditional martial art. - Many of these people study eskrima, kravmaga, or other exotic forms.  
3. have a broad appreciation and awareness of global culture.
4. really like swords. - This was me.  It started with lightsabers, moved to knights, samurai, or anyone who could swing a sword and make it look really cool.

And, arguably the most important:

4. can afford to take the classes. - This is one of the most challenging, not because the classes are expensive, but they do take an initial investment on top of the class fee.  The uniform is $100, and the sword (which doesn't have to be purchased until after the first promotion test - usually 2 months) runs about $350 (and is actually a great deal).  Depending on how long you want to commit to, the classes run for less than $18 each.

So these are the issues in a nutshell.  Here's what I've done to market so far:

1.  Press release - This was the first thing I did, and got some great responses, including the feature run in the Waterfront Weekly.
2. Flyering.  I post these around Hoboken, and although they're gone within a couple of days, I'm hoping that people will begin to recognize them and take notice.
3. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter
4. I've been posting any martial arts sites and discussion boards I can find.

What other ways can I reach out to the local community?  I think that one of the best ways is to actually show people the art, to demonstrate it, but it is not easy to find the opportunity to do so - I can't exactly just go into the park and start swinging  a sword around, right?  So, any ideas?


New Sword Class in Hoboken, NJ!

Hello everyone, I will be teaching a new sword class in Hoboken NJ on THURSDAYS at 7:00PM. The style is SIL JUN DO BUP, similar to Iaido, but focuses more directly on actual cutting. More details are below. If anyone is interested, you can email me at or call me at 201.317.9517

The following is a repost from the Waterfront Weekly Journal, where it was featured as the cover story:

Get moving ... with swords

Monday, April 06, 2009

A new kind of martial arts will soon be coming to Hoboken.

Sil Jun Do Bup is a Korean form of sword practice, which literally translates to mean "real sword training." It is similar to Iaido, a Japanese form of sword practice that focuses on the drawing of the blade from the kneeling or sitting position. Sil Jun Do Bup, by contrast, focuses on cutting and strikes.


But don't worry, the classes being offered by teacher Raab Rashi at Monroe Movement Space are completely safe.

"You begin training with a wooden or plastic sword," says Rashi, 29. But even before the sword is picked up, "we focus on respect."

Rashi began training unofficially seven years ago, later being taken under the wing of Grandmaster Jin K. Seong, a seventh degree black belt from Korea.

"I was always into swords and martial arts, but I never had the opportunity (growing up) to formally train," says Rashi.

He soon took up teaching at Grandmaster Seong's school, The Kendo Academy in Dumont. The school has two other locations in Closter and East Brunswick. Seong was interested in expanding the school, and Rashi thought Hoboken would be a good fit for this unique style of practice.

"It's a community where people are very open to international ideas. There's a real global awareness and consciousness in Hoboken."

During the first class, Rashi will explain the form of Sil Jun Do Bup, the etiquette involved and then begin to introduce basic movements such as bowing, drawing the sword, stance, basic cutting and sheathing.

"(The basics) are things you work on throughout your journey," says Rashi. "Even masters will be working on these things."

And even though the art involves a lot of physical discipline, what is most important is the mental discipline that practitioners of Sil Jun Do Bup will develop.

"You can go into it with some expectations," Rashi says, "but you will find other things in the art that you weren't expecting to find. You can want to improve your stamina and physical well-being, which you will, but you will also improve your mental focus and reaction time. It will make you a more aware person."

For Rashi, who says that studying sword movement has made him more "grounded," he hopes his students will develop "a sense of calm and focus."

Classes in Sil Jun Do Bup are wholly unique to the Hudson County area, which makes it an even bigger draw to anyone interested in martial arts or sword training.

"We're the only program around like this. There's a few wonderful Kendo schools in the area," he says, but none in the county that specialize in Sil Jun Do Bup.

Classes in Sil Jun Do Bup will run Thursdays at Monroe Movement Space, 720 Monroe St. in Hoboken. Prospective students may show up for a free first class, and then sign up for six months, 24 months or a full year. For more information or to register, call 201-317-9517.


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