“If you can feel it, you can steal it”. That’s the comment that came up the other day when I showed something and the Pamurai “got it”. I asked how she “got it” and she said “I watched and I could feel how it went”.
That’s the good stuff!
Chris Mansfield sensei has some good ones, apparently, I hear them repeated a lot. One is “do you practice to practice, or do you practice to change?”. Another is “Good iai is felt, poor iai is seen”.
Great, pithy statements that you can unpack for a long time. A good saying is like a good kata in that sense, it goes on for a very long time, like cucumber in a salad.
I often base an essay around an offhand remark by a good teacher or by one of my students. I try to jot them down in my little notebook and let them expand as I write about them. Again, just like kata.
Practice to practice? Practice for the sake of practicing, like doing situps, like running. Nothing wrong with that, and as we all know (those of us of a certain age) from “The Zen of Running”, you can get into a trance-like state which is really good for you while you are doing your exercise. The mindless state is produced by mindless movements? Do you think so?
Practice to change? Who does that? Not most people that’s for sure. To practice to change is to accept the four Mits.
First you must admit that you may not know all you could know about iaido. This is the biggest hurdle.
Next you must remit payment to an instructor. This might be in the form of money, time, travel or attention, but it’s going to cost you something, even if it only costs you a bit of ego. The instructor might be someone with a title (sensei), or someone you’re watching, maybe someone you’re teaching. It might even be a kata that you repeat until it talks to you.
The teacher you seek must then permit you to learn. Some teachers are tougher than others, not all teachers agree with all students (like cucumber). Permission goes both ways, it’s not something granted, not a gift, it’s an agreement. One must ask and the other must answer. One must approach and the other must open the gate. One must spill the beans and the other must gather them up.
Finally, and this is the circular nature of change, of learning, you must submit. Submit to the teacher, to the lesson, you must bow down to gather up the beans. Change starts with admitting you need to change and continues with submission to the engine of that change.
The four mits.
“Good iaido is felt, poor iaido is seen.”
I think I’m going to leave that one to you, I’ve said it for years, just not that well.
June 2, 2018
Several new jo in the house, waiting to be finished. Cumaru (a light brown wood similar to ipe, very dense), bloodwood (deep red, stiff and heavy) and teak (waxy, straight grained and very flexible, light brown now, will grow darker with the years). The teak is so light I may just steal one for my own practice.
On to some more bloodwood jo today, then suburito of various laminations, shapes, weights and fun-ness. Nice to be back in the shop after a long winter.