The secrets are out – May 30, 2015, Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

Back in the day we were not supposed to demonstrate anything in Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu iai except the formal kata. Now I see folks demonstrating the bangai and hayanuki and all sorts of variations, some of which they seem to have made up.

Why the change?

I think it has to do with the same reason karate demonstrations include kicking and punching drills. The purpose of the demonstration has changed. A hundred years ago a demonstration was likely a presentation before high-ranking officials. It was an honour to be invited to show your art and you treated it as such, showing only the pure form and certainly not showing practice exercises.

Now we organize our own demonstrations in malls and parks in the hope of attracting students. A different purpose and so a different demonstration. Karate clubs will show kick and punch drills so that potential students can see what they’re signing up for. The equivalent in iaido is the bangai and the variations in kata? Along with, perhaps, walking up and down the hallway cutting.

Is this a good thing? I’m not sure, why show people that iaido can get even more boring than doing a kata? Who will that attract? Similarly I’m not sure doing three minutes of mokuso followed by ten minutes of explaining the scoring system is a good way to attract kendo students. Do some kiri kaeshi to warm up and then whack each other I say. Show the good stuff and leave them wanting more.

On the other hand, to an intermediate student the iaido variations are the fun stuff, so perhaps that’s the reasoning, the bangai are longer and so more interesting than doing the fundamentals.

Do I have it right? Are demonstrations including the variations and bangai to attract new students or are modern students just not thinking about what they’re doing when they present the art to the public?

Kim Taylor
May 30, 2015

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