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Dan Coglan, known around the country as "Samurai Dan," and his Japanese Akita named Kiba recently brought their skills and wisdom to the Fredericktown BASE Anime class.

BASE stands for before and after school enrichment. The program extends the school day by providing enrichment-based curriculum to foster the interests of students.  

Coglan travels around the nation to teach classes and instruct students in the way of the samurai.

The club raised funds for Coglan's visit by selling buttons with different designs such as a Pokeball, a Deadpool face, a Dragonball and their catchphrase, "What the Nani?" which means "What the What?" in Japanese. Members also sold shirts and were fortunate enough to receive donations from supportive community members including Casey's.

The students were engrossed for an hour and forty minutes with the majesty and history of Coglan's 700-year-old katana sword, also known as the water dragon, and they were even given a demonstration as he sliced through a wet bamboo mat with ease.

After each of the students received chunks of the sliced up mat, the sword was safely tucked away and wooden swords were brought out.

The students were then placed in pairs and shown formal samurai fighting techniques. Class teacher and sensei, Morgan Comnick, along with Coglan, demonstrated each technique, step-by-step, making sure each student fully understood the motions.

Comnick said Coglan is careful, a planner, observant, flexible and always keeps safety as his number one priority.

"We discussed safety plans at length before his trip, making plans for each situation," Comnick said. "We procured mats, spaced students properly, used wooden swords that he has mastered and knows well for the Anime Club and we always had hawk-eye alertness on our students."

Comnick said the moves learned promoted self-defense which will benefit anyone to feel safe.

"I have taken two sword classes with Dan, but I have watched him and his wife Jillian's sword and combat classes a few dozen times," Comnick said. "Learning sword combat and self defense from them helps build my listening and coordination skills, makes me feel more confident and safe, fuels my love for Japan and is also a fun way to meet new people who enjoy the culture of the land of the rising sun like myself."

Comnick said the district has been very accommodating and supportive of all of its students and providing opportunities for them to express and explore their individuality in clubs, the arts, and after-school sports, programs and events.

In order to gain approval for Coglan's visit, Comnick wrote an essay to the principals and BASE coordinator explaining the rarity, educational benefits and historical impact of the sword and how impactful watching a test cutting with a trained swordsmith would be for the students who love the Japanese culture.

"I am thankful they trusted us and supported my students," Comnick said. "I am overwhelmed and joyous by the support of my BASE school and this community. Mrs. Amy Long, the BASE coordinator, is always there for our club, encouraging the students to make wonderful memories and going along with my crazy, intense ideas."

Comnick said Anime Club brings her personally so much happiness and satisfaction in her teaching profession.

"I didn't always have acceptance or chances to truly be me when I was my students' age, but Fredericktown and our high school cheering in our court will help mold these young people more than they know," Comnick said. "We are grateful and I hope to keep giving my students engaging and unique experiences."

Comnick said she wants her students to look back on their time in the club with fondness and to always be proud of who they are and what they love.

"My goal as the sensei for Anime Club is to provide my students with a safe and fun place to learn more about their passion for Japanese culture in an array of ways and to be themselves," Comnick said. "Culture, traditions and history are important for us and Samurai Dan provided this with his interactive style of educating in the arts of the samurai and swordsmanship."

Comnick said she became friends with Coglan and his wife after meeting at a convention.

"Samurai Dan, for some reason, has chosen to me to be a friend in his life out of hundreds of thousands of people he meets across the country," Comnick said. "His wit, teaching style, compassion, dedication, organization, communication skills and talent astound me each time I go to one of his panels, classes and performances."

Comnick said it is a pleasure to watch someone she admires and a friend share their passion and it is a gift to share that with her students. 

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Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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