Fifteen Good Years – Nov 14, 2014, Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

Something my son said the other day triggered a quick calculation in my head. I figure I might have another 15 good years to do what I want to do with my life. After that I’m likely going to be doing a lot of sitting around or mouldering.

So when the “powers that be” start to do what they inevitably do, I find I’m much more inclined to just let them do it. I’ve done my kicking against the watzits and it’s time for the youngsters to step up. The fact that they don’t seem inclined isn’t of much concern to me. If they’ve decided it’s more valuable to be a victim than to fix the problem maybe they’re right. We didn’t fix the problems did we?

I was following a conversation on the Kendo World forum the other day and the folks were complaining about an iaido demo with anime masks involved. It was cute and why the hell not. Life is too short to be so serious about a hobby like iai. One of the posts linked to an ad for a video of opening demonstrations at the Kyoto Taikai, a few opening kata from some of the giants in the iaido world demonstrating the kendo federation standard set for the rest of the demonstrators.

As I watched all I could think was “life is too short to watch the old farts futzing around with their sageo”. Giants and heroes they may have been, I suspect they’d be the first to tell you they were past their “best by” date. You’ve got to respect the career that allowed them to go out there and do their iai without worrying what they looked like. Who knows, maybe if I’m still breathing in 20 years I’ll even do a similar demonstration to show folks I’m still breathing, but for now I’ve got a narrowing window to get where I want to be and I’ll fast forward through demonstrations of old folks trying to get arthritic fingers to tuck string under too-tight straps.

On the other hand, I seem to have less power and respect than I did ten years ago, maybe I won’t be asked to demonstrate at all, maybe I can just sit back in the audience and enjoy myself with an ice cream while I tell the unfortunate kid sitting beside me how we did it in the old days.

Where do I need to go for my personal goals? First, I need another winter like the last, full of finishing off book projects that I started 20 years ago. I’m well into one on a couple of the “other” iai schools we practice, I have one sitting with the head of style who is proofing and will likely get back to me if I poke him, and then I’m going to look at my master list to see what else needs doing. All those books are going to be left for my students so that they can read it ten years after I’m gone and wish they’d read it while I was here so they could ask me what the hell I meant.

Yeah, I’ve been there. You always figure sensei is going to be around forever so you don’t have to write it down and ask.

Trust me, ask now, while sensei can still show you what he means.

After this coffee I’m heading for the photo studio to do some selfies. That’s another thing I’ve got to get at, fourty or fifty years of photographs… no wait, I don’t know where my old film negatives are… ten or fifteen years of digital shooting on a two terabyte drive on my desk. Would be nice to get that stuff worked into some photo books along with my writing and get them out there before that drive craps out and I lose the lot. Another project for the winter months. I need to start thinking like Nobuyoshi Araki and put out a book a month for the rest of my life. I need to go to Japan and hang out with Araki and the rest of the Japanese photographers from his generation who are still around.

Why wasn’t all this digital wonder-stuff around when I was younger? The ease of video these days keeps escaping me, it’s too far beyond what I’d ever imagined. If I’d had digital cameras when my budo career was at it’s height…. now that my joints are shot and I’m 40 pounds heavier I’m not producing anything video that will impress anyone. Sure it’s good enough for instruction but nothing whiz bang. On the other hand, what video I do have from a decade ago might indicate my amazingness was mostly in my own head.

Ah that golden age when budoka didn’t have stairs to the second floor of their houses.

When you’re old enough for people to want to film you, you’re too old, which is why I’m not too fussed about doing more videos. I likely will, but I’m not keen to do it like the books. Now writing, that’s an ability that doesn’t disappear with age. I can write exactly what it should be, or what it was, but demonstrating it? Not so much as they say.

I’m already on this earth more than twice the amount of time I thought I would be, so I’m on borrowed ground. How about you? Anything you’re waiting to do? What are you waiting for? Life is too short to watch old men futzing around with their sageo, or to watch re-runs of bad 80s sitcoms because you’re tired from a hard day of sitting around at work.

You think 15 years is a lot of time? Trust me it’s going to go by like water over a bridge. Listen to the old fart!

Less making money, more making art!

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