Black belt in sword; she’s 5th in nation |

Black belt in sword; she’s 5th in nation

by Jo Rafferty

It seems Carson Valley has its own gifted person in the martial arts, Brandi Gibson, an instructor at Northwest Martial Arts in Gardnerville.

On March 24, Gibson, 40, received her black belt in samurai swordsmanship, making her one of five women in the U.S. who has a black belt in the sword “system.”

“I’m the only woman on the West Coast to have it,” said an enthusiastic Gibson. “It is cool. It is cool to think about it.”

Robin Ramirez, who taught Gibson’s instructor, traveled from Bakersfield, Calif., to conduct Gibson’s testing in the sword system.

Gibson remembers something Ramirez told her early on that inspired her.

“Robin said, ‘You have a gift. All you have to do is practice,'” said Gibson.

Carson Valley resident Dave McNeill, one of Gibson’s students at NMA, a ninth-degree black belt who has practiced martial arts for 36 years, acknowledged Gibson has come far for training in the martial arts for only four years.

“The sword system is 450 years old, a very old system,” said McNeill. “It’s one of those very, very precise systems. Sometimes you go through your whole life learning it. Brandi’s case is very amazing.

“I’ve seen how people move who really are good in the martial arts,” said McNeill. “To watch her with the sword, it’s really remarkable. She’s so smooth. It’s that precision you need to see in person to really appreciate.”

McNeill said his biggest fear is that people will take Gibson’s talent for granted.

“Our small community has someone available to them with great expertise,” he said. “Who would think we’d have someone so rare here?”

Gibson began training in iaijutsu four years ago, with Ron Taniguchi as her instructor for the last two years.

“He and I trained six days a week,” she said. “We did this for six months straight. We were constantly doing sword.

“Ron said, ‘That sword in your hand doesn’t look like a weapon, it looks like an extension of your body,'” Gibson recalled.

Gibson said she felt this was the highest compliment she could have received.

Taniguchi, who has practiced the martial arts for 26 years, said Gibson started with him as a beginner.

“She’s fantastic. Every rank she’s gotten she’s skipped ahead,” said Taniguchi. “She went from seventh, to fourth, to second and then to first and to shodan-ho, which is what she is now.

“She’s definitely gifted. A fantastic instructor as well.”

Since Gibson received her black belt in sword, she began teaching swordsmanship classes on Fridays – youth at 5:30 p.m. and teens and adults at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call Northwest Martial Arts at 782-8858.

The Japanese martial art of swordsmanship, muso jikiden eishin-ryu iaido (iaijutsu), emphasizes drawing and cutting with the samurai sword in a single fluid motion, according to

“Iaido requires extreme precision of its techniques and demands tremendous concentration during practice – both of which ask a great deal of self-discipline and sincere personal commitment on the part of the student in order to master. As a reward for these efforts, it can offer the individual a lifetime of physical, mental and spiritual growth, as well as an enlightened and peaceful state of mind,” states the Web site.

— Jo Rafferty can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 210.