Enzan no metsuke is not a thousand yard stare. yet I see that a lot. Usually on seniors, believe it or not. Beginners can’t keep their eyes straight, they blink, they do the up and right thing as they look for the next move, but seniors know the moves and they are bored.
At least they look bored to me as they do the unfocused stare of the unseeing. Mostly because they aren’t seeing anything, they aren’t looking at anything, they are going through motions that are as familiar as brushing their teeth. When was the last time you actually looked in the mirror as you brushed your teeth? I often have to go back into the bathroom to check the spots on my head.
The thousand yard stare usually goes along with “brain dead” or at least shocked into silence, and again, this is something seniors need to fight against. If you’re doing a kata for the 10,000th time there’s a real risk of being in a rut. This is why we want you to have an opponent if you’re doing iai, or why you want an opponent who is on a different sleep cycle than yours if you’re doing partner practice. Anything to stay awake, to make this kata as fresh as if you’re a beginner.
Shoshin, have a beginner’s mind.
In the short term, just pick some distant spot in the dojo and look at it as you do your kata, at least this will put some life in your eyes, but better yet is to look periferally. The class last evening was actually a demonstration I guess, we held it in a small space in the front foyer of the gym and two pairs were just able to work, if they kept an eye on the guys next to them. This was good for those jodo kata they knew, but when we got into the new stuff the eyes went back into the heads and there were some closeish calls. It was also a bit jarring to see that we have not worked in small spaces for a while, the concept of bending the kata to avoid the wall, the table or the post wasn’t there automatically as it once was when we were dozens and were not concerned with passing grades but more with not slamming into the walls or each other.
Keep it lively, judges expect to see eyes that are looking at something, if they end up dead in that thousand yard stare they will not see your brilliant kata, they will get caught in those soul-sucking windows to the depths of blackest despair.
Sept 8, 2017
Fall seminars coming up for me:
Sept 30-Oct 1 Ottawa iaido, jodo and niten seminars, Taylor
Oct 28-29 Peterborough koryu iaido, Ohmi sensei, Galligan and Taylor
Nov 17-19 Jodo Grading and Koryu Seminar Shiiya sensei and Kurogo sensei, Mississauga