Combined the iaido and aikido classes last night because there weren’t many in either class. It worked out well since I am currently working on a set of sword kata for aikido, the second set I’ve developed actually, this one on empty handed entries. (The first set is about entries with a sword in your hand).
Don’t ask me why I’m doing this, I don’t have enough other stuff to practice I guess, so I make up stuff.
This is all about my favourite topic in aikido, the entry. The idea is that the various techniques folks are so fond of can’t be done if you’re not in position to apply them. That means being on the right spot on the floor, but also in a good posture. Hence the kata set which is sword against empty hand. It’s either good posture or owie time.
The very first kata is called maai and consists of the sword side moving from the proper distance (any distance) to cut and stop above the partner’s head. Said partner does nothing at all except serve as a target at the correct distance. Seems simple enough but it’s one of the hardest principles in budo. You have to swing correctly at the target in the correct angle and to the correct distance if you want the kata to work.
No helping. Those who have done sword kata might have run across the helpful partner who will swing short or to the side of your head, forcing you to move further or not far enough or whatever so that the lessons of the kata are simply lost. I remember the first time I did some sword in aikido after a decade out of the art doing Niten Ichiryu and other such fun things where people try to take your head off. My helpful partner stepped forward and swung his sword two feet in front of my face, then got a puzzled look that matched my own as I just stood there looking at him. My body didn’t figure it had to move so it didn’t. Strange feeling all around, but I took it as a sign that my sword training hadn’t been a waste of time.
So last evening we spent ten minutes learning how to reach the target from proper distance and then went on to the next 9 kata which involve the defender moving from target distance to a good position where a technique could be applied if so desired. If the sword cut is accurate this isn’t much problem, if it’s off to one side or, more usually, short of the target, the defender finds himself in a stretched out stance, leaning, or otherwise shuffling around trying to get into the correct position. Back we go to the first principle, don’t help your partner, hit him on the head with the sword.
A good attack on the other hand produced a balanced, powerful, upright posture in the correct place with no hands or arms flopping around to get lopped off. This opened up all sorts of possible techniques which the more experienced students started noticing.
A bit less helping out and a bit more trying to hit the target and it may become safe enough to start doing some techniques.