No Seiza No Iai – October 9, 2013, Kim Taylor, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph, Nanadan

If you don’t do Seiza you aren’t doing iaido?

Ask yourself “What would Eishin do?”. In 1600 at the time of the 7th headmaster of my Iai school, what would he think of not doing Seiza when practicing iaido? Not much I suspect, since the practice of iaido from Seiza didn’t come into the lineage until the next headmaster or two. Iaido started being practiced from Seiza when most folks started sitting in Seiza, so I look forward to the time when we are doing iaido from chairs.

But never mind all that, it’s just a fun observation, what would Eishin have done with a student who had caught an arrow through the leg or who just blew a knee and couldn’t get into tate hiza? He’d have taught him standing techniques I suspect, after all at that time iaido was a practical art taught to warriors who were expected to be able to use their swords if called upon to use them. You don’t throw away an employee because he can’t stand at the work bench any more, you find him a chair. Eishin, I suspect, would have had no problem with not teaching a fellow who can’t get down on his knees, techniques from his knees. If he’s never going to be in that position, why worry if he can’t fight from that position. If you are concerned today about knowing every aspect and nuance of the art you practice, maybe you will get upset that you can’t practice from Seiza any more, but that’s a modern problem, not one from the origins of the art where it was taught as a practical skill.

I’ve seen the same concern in a fellow who is a pretty good sword polisher but at six foot four inches can’t sit for hours any more with his left knee all folded up. Is his work of any less value if he does it standing at a bench instead?

Well, yes it is of less value if you figure sword polishing has to be done from the traditional squat. And no it isn’t if you get the sword back in the mail and you are delighted (and never find out he polished it while standing up).

So what about getting down into seiza and being in so much pain you can’t draw the sword and hit a target? Is this correct Iai? It is not. If you can’t draw and cut from a position you should never put yourself into that position. If the only place you ever even try to sit in Seiza is in the Iai dojo, the art isn’t very realistic is it?

Again, I wait for the powers that be to create a set of Iai from a chair.

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