Arts council offers training in Japanese martial arts
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News October 3, 2012 11:16AM
Men engage in martial arts practice. Instruction in Japanese martial arts is offered at the Three Rivers Arts Council in Minooka.
Updated: November 5, 2012 6:05AM
MINOOKA — Robert Schmitt of Joliet stepped into the garage and immediately felt peace, until he came face to face with 30-inch blades.
“Maren Sensei and another senior student were practicing with real, razor-sharp swords,” Schmitt said. “The hairs on the back of my neck didn’t relax until practice was over and we were dismissed. Exhilarating!”
Schmitt is an instructor at the Three Rivers Budokai, which meets at the Three Rivers Arts Council in Minooka. Here, individuals 16 and older may learn classic Japanese martial arts along with related aspects of Japanese art, language and culture.
Students focus on learning Tenshin-ryu (kenjutsu) and the Yamate-ryu (aikijutsu). Previous marital arts experience is unnecessary as new students are carefully guided to assure proper development and safety.
Because prospective students must prove serious commitment, they cannot simply sign up for classes; they must apply. Nor do they sign contracts. Instead, students must display high personal standards. Street clothes are not permitted, only proper uniforms. Shoes are not worn. Class fees are not publicized.
“The best way to show how grateful you are to the instructor is to become the best student you can be,” Schmitt said.
He explained the unfamiliar terms. A budokai is two or more dojos (training areas) united under one head master. Thus, Shoshin Dojo (William Maren’s private dojo) and Kitae Dojo together represent the Three Rivers Budokai.
Maren is the Kaicho, the head of the Kai (the suffix in “Budokai). Schmitt is the Kancho, or head instructor of Kitae Dojo. As Kan denotes a building, a Kancho is the head of the building or “dojo.”
Fifteen years ago, after Schmitt’s son signed up for a karate class, Schmitt wanted to take a martial arts class, too, but one that offered more internal discipline. The seeking process led him to Maren.
Maren’s garage dojo was a trip into ancient Japan. The room, trimmed in natural knotty pine, had a single wood and paper sliding door on one side, a matching window on the other and canvas covered tatami (rice straw mats). At the head of the mat on a shelf sat the dojo shrine.
Through Maren, who also teaches at the Three Rivers Budokai, Schmitt learned both Aikijutsu — beautiful and well-executed unarmed combat art — and Kenjutsu, the art of swordsmanship and the most highly respected of all Japanese martial arts.
“Technique is not the ultimate goal. This is not a gym,” Schmitt said. “The ultimate goal is to let go and be ego-less, restrained and elegant. It’s like how James Bond never gets disheveled. He is always the gentleman.”
Muhammad Sarthia, 25, of Plainfield, an engineering student, is in his second year of training. For him, these martial arts reduce stress and promote balanced priorities.
Weston McCauley, 26, of Channahon, also a second-year marital arts student, feels he is now more present to the moment.
During his 10 years of training, Keith Freeman, 27, of Joliet, has acquired other skills — writing, selecting a suit and tying a bow tie — that reflect the discipline he is learning and enhance the dignity he maintains.
“If you put in effort and time, these arts will become part of you. Quitting or ‘going away’ would be like losing a part of myself,” Freeman said. “You’ll not only learn true martial arts and martial discipline, but also how to transform yourself, as a person, into something more than you were when we accepted you.”
For more information or to apply for an interview www.budoforge.com.