A quick run through Tachi Uchi no Kurai to warm up, then Omori Ryu until everyone’s knees gave out and finally the standing kata of ZNKR iai until class was over.
The theme was supposed to be “functional iai” in that we were to use the combative ranges and timings to find the proper shape of the kata. “Do I step in all the way on this cut?” Answer: “Where’s the target”. We did some of this through the koryu kata, trying to take the lessons of Tachi Uchi into Omori, but once we hit the ZKR iai we ended up with “What do you mean your back foot is square to the target, it’s not square, can’t you feel when your hips are square? Here, that’s square, what does it feel like?” “Uncomfortable” “Good embrace that, use uncomfortable to teach you where square hips are”.
We should have an awareness of where our body is in space. We have propioreceptors that tell us that but we also have attenuation. We can’t process every input we receive, it would overwhelm us, so our brains are really good at ignoring most of what is there. We are told to watch the actors in front of us and miss the guy in a gorilla suit who walks across our sight in the background. It’s focus, it’s not a bad thing but it can get in our way. We drive, we are talking on the phone, we text, we think we can multitask but that’s a fantasy. We miss the pedestrian stepping into the crosswalk as we turn right because “they’re not supposed to be there” and we kill someone. “Not our fault, we didn’t see them…” that’s the downside to the way we are built.
This cutting down of input, this focus on the unusual includes, requires, not feeling long term aches and pains (unless we consciously, continually, focus on them), not noticing my tinnitis that has been there for all my life, louder than most other noises but starting when I was young enough to figure it was normal, and not feeling where our body is in space if it’s in a position we are in a lot.
This attenuation includes thinking we are straight when we are not. We “face the front” and our back foot is facing somebody off to our left. It’s not an easy thing to overcome this attenuation, it requires looking for it or being told about it and then consciously forcing our body into the new position until that becomes the new normal.
As I type I become aware that my left shoulder is higher than my right. I know this is true generally, a youth spent with a backpack over the left shoulder, then another 30 years with a saya at my left hip means my normal is the left shoulder higher than the right. My right suspender strap keeps falling off. This looks far less sexy on me than a spaghetti strap on a girl at the dance club, trust me. So I correct whenever I become aware of it. I lift the right shoulder and drive down the left until the pressure of my hands on the keyboard evens out.
I really should load all my bags onto my right shoulder but I’m right handed and that means my dominant arm is encumbered should I need it. Also the bags slip off when I lose awareness and drop the shoulder.
The fight to correct posture never ends I’m afraid, so if you have a sensei who cares enough to tell you to change the angle of your back foot, do try and change it, if only for the practice in body positional awareness. Hmm, a phrase as awkward as I feel pushing my left shoulder down right now.
Remember, if sensei says your hips are not square, despite what it feels like to you…
Your hips are not square.
Oct 7, 2017
Oct 28-29 Peterborough koryu iaido, Ohmi sensei, Galligan and Taylor
I wish: Oct 27-29, Toronto Budokan Niten with Kajiya soke. Can’t make it but if you’re not going to Peterborough, attend this one for me.
Nov 17-19 Jodo Grading and Seitei/Koryu Seminar, Shiiya sensei and Kurogo sensei, past and present heads, jodo section ZNKR. Mississauga location tbd