Ultimate Bo Live 2022

The Thrill of ‘Ultimate Bo Live 2022’!

On July 14 I travelled from my home in Vancouver, B.C. to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to take part in Sensei Nathan Douglas’ ‘Ultimate Bo Live 2022′ weekend of Ultimate Bo training.

I joined two other GMAU students from out of town there, Quinn McCutcheon and Sean Robinson, who both live in North Carolina. Quinn has a brown chevron in Ultimate Bo, and Sean has a 2nd black chevron in Ultimate Bo and a black belt in GMAU Shotokan. Sean is also a GMAU student leader. They’re both superb guys and excellent martial artists. And because they live close to each other they often spar together.

On the first evening, Sensei Nathan and his wife, Sarah, made us feel very welcome at their lovely home for refreshments on the patio.

Day 1 – Bo Sparring and Kobudo Concepts

Ultimate Bo Live 2022 Participants
From left to right: Richard (Moose Jaw Bojutsu), Tracey (MJB), Steven (MJB), Quinn (GMAU), Greg (GMAU), Jenna (MJB), Ram (MJB), Jake (MJB), Sean (GMAU), and Sensei Nathan.

When we arrived at the Bojutsu Moose Jaw dojo on the morning of Day 1 (July 15), Sensei Nathan and several of his local bojutsu students were there to greet us. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming. Sensei Nathan ran us through a fun ‘touch my shoulder if you can’ exercise to get us warmed up, and then threw us in the deep end with bo-sparring concepts and practice.

As a green chevron in Ultimate Bo, I’m new to bo sparring. So, jumping into combat on Day 1 was a little daunting. But we were well protected, including padded bos, helmets, and chest protectors. My sparring partners, including Sensei Nathan and his son, Jake, took it easy on me. I got pummelled but they let me score a hit or two on them.

In the afternoon, we ran through some Kobudo (traditional Okinawan) sparring concepts — bo vs. bo and sai vs. bo — which I found fascinating.

That evening, we enjoyed a delicious barbeque in Sensei Nathan’s backyard, where he and Sean spontaneously showed us some eiku (Okinawan paddle) techniques and katas on the lawn.

Day 2 – Bo Katas in the Park and Bunkai Applications

Bunkai in the Park
Sensei Nathan (left) and Sean Robinson (right) do bunkai (kata analysis) in the park while others watch

On Day 2 (July 16), 14 of us spent the morning doing katas in the shade (the weather was very hot) at a local park. We broke into smaller groups, and I was privileged to be taught Bo Kata 3 by Sean. (I’ve nicknamed him “Mr. Kata” on account of his current knowledge and expertise of 38 martial-arts katas.) And then Sensei Nathan ran us all through a traditional Okinawan bo kata called ‘Shushi no Kon Sho.’ I love Japanese martial arts, so I really enjoyed learning that kata!

That afternoon we ran through some very cool bunkai applications (kata analyses) and made up our own movie-like fight sequences. Quinn and I created and demonstrated an amusing, 70s-style fight scene. Sean and his training partner (another Sean, of Bojutsu Moose Jaw) treated us to a stunning bo vs. tonfa sequence.

That evening, we dined at one of Sensei Nathan’s favorite resturants, Hopkins Dining Parlour, that’s in an old mansion that dates back to 1905. We were also given a private tour of the house and were told about its ghosts.

Day 3 – Practical Bo Self-Defense

Two Seans
Sean Robinson of the GMAU (left) and Sean Biehl of Moose Jaw Bojutsu (right) in action

On Day 3 (July 17), ‘Ultimate Bo Live 2022′ ended with a morning class focused on practical bo self-defense techniques. That was super cool, but unfortunately I had to cut out after an hour to grab a shower back at the hotel and head to the airport. As I left, Sensei Nathan had set up a couple of BOBs (Body Opponent Bags) for the participants to line up and practice their bo strikes on.

Lasting Impressions

Overall, I had a fantastic time at ‘Ultimate Bo Live 2022’; I’m still on a martial-arts ‘high’ from it!

Sensei Nathan is a highly skilled, enthusiastic, and encouraging instructor. I benefited hugely from his guidance. And meeting, training, and socializing with other bojutsu students in person was fantastic. Overall, It set me up wonderfully — mentally and physically — for diving deep into my Ultimate Bo blue-chevron training.

As for Sean Robinson, he said, “It was an amazing and wonderful opportunity to train with people I had only met online. I truly had an excellent time with everyone both on and off the mats.”

Quinn McCutchen commented, “Sensei Nathan is an excellent teacher. He really put together a fun, informative, and well-rounded curriculum. It was great to have the opportunity train with his students. They are a very nice and accepting group of people who made us ‘onliners’ feel welcome! I got a lot out of the experience and would definitely return if there is another one.”

And to sum it all up Sensei Nathan said, “I had an absolute blast training with everyone. My biggest take away was that the social meet-ups were just as fun as the training. The random ‘let’s bring out the eiku’ at the barbeque was just perfect.”

Huge thanks to Sensei Nathan for organzing the weekend, his amazing instruction, enthusiasm and supportive words during training, and his expert barbequing; his wife, Sarah, for her kind hospitaility and to-die-for brownies; Sean for his student leadership, patient Bo Kata 3 instruction, and the custom GMAU mugs he kindly made and brought for us; Quinn for all the fun he and I had training and making up sequences together; and to all the Bojutsu Moose Jaw students for making us visitors feel so very welcome and supported.

‘Ultimate Bo Live 2022’ was a total blast! If you missed it, I strongly encourage you to enroll in the next one when it comes around so you can have fun, train hard, make new martial-arts friends, and build up your Ultimate Bo skills!

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