Friday was a class of two, the Pamurai and I. She wanted to do some iaido so away we went. I can still see, and let’s face it, you don’t get in there and mix it up when teaching iai, you just point and grunt so I was of some use.
Seitei and Omori Ryu mostly, and I was looking for seme and to smooth out what is already a pretty smooth performance, but everything can be improved.
Which brought me to the major value of iai as far as I’m concerned. The ability to teach us to know what we’re doing. I started iai to work on my posture and it hasn’t changed as far as I’m concerned. Pam has some twitching in her right thumb and forefinger between the cut and chiburi. Not the sort of thing that most would notice or that I’d correct before 4dan or so, but time to fix it. Typically for students who get this correction, she didn’t know she was doing it, she couldn’t feel it.
And that’s the thing, with nobody else swinging stuff at us, or bumping into us, we can pay attention to our position in space, and look out for small shifts in weight and balance. The other things we were working on. For instance, moving back after the foot switch after chiburi. If you aim for a balanced weight between your two feet, you’ll often end up rocking back a bit too far and then the front toes pop up off the ground. Again, something most won’t see or feel, but something that needs fixing.
You can’t fix it if you can’t feel it. Once you feel it, iai is the place where you can fix it.
Of course that’s the trap of iai, falling down the rabbit hole of perfection. You can believe that there is a perfect performance if it’s solo. With a partner hanging off your arm there’s not the same temptation, although Aikido types do fall into the anxiety of throwing without any sort of “muscle” at all. It’s the same trap.
What’s beyond perfection of technique? The opponent of course. What opponent? Kasso Teki, the invisible one.
So how did I teach about him last evening? I asked the Pamurai to do Seitei Mae, Omori Mae and Yoko gumo. Then I asked her to tell me what was going on in each. I didn’t teach what was happening, she’s too senior for that, but I made her think about it. She needs her own story for each and every kata she does, when the story is there and she’s “dancing it” the opponent will appear. If you are trying to place your sword here and there in the air, you have no chance of showing anyone what’s happening beyond “wow you’re really good at putting your sword here and there, I bet you could close your eyes and touch your nose!”
My story? I do teach it, and reminded Pam (when she seemed to be waiting for me to tell her what to think) that I have told her before, it’s part of learning the kata, to be told sensei’s story. Seitei Mae cuts the eyes or forehead. Work that out and it means you are reaching forward and doing that first cut while your opponent is still sitting in seiza. He hasn’t got his sword out so you can take your time sliding your back foot up and cutting again. Distance and timing, yes they matter in iai, even if you can’t see them yet.
Omori Mae? We cut across the chest or the neck, that means that he’s rising and drawing, it means he’s closer, so the little shift that you do when cutting vertically? Not for distance, make the shift all about putting your hips into the cut, not going from point A to B.
Yoku Gumo? Same kata, just from tate hiza (one knee up). But Eishin Ryu is about close range, it’s about shoto range if you want to experiment some time. So what’s happening with that first draw and cut? Are you reaching across the floor to cut your opponent? If you reach as far as Mae you may be cutting with the tsuba moto rather than the monouchi. Look that up, it’s your homework.
Three situations with three ranges, and because of that, three timings.
All from waving a stick around in the air… sweet.
Feb 16, 2019
March 2-3, Clark Hall, Port Credit seminar, Iaido and Jodo with Galligan and Taylor.
April 6, Seito Bugei Juku seminar in Peterborough.
May 17-20 Annual CKF International Jodo and Iaido seminar and grading, (Kurogo sensei and Mansfield sensei) Guelph.
August TBD. Montreal Jodo seminar and grading with Eric Tribe, Ed Chart and Japanese instructor (TBA)
November 8-10 Annual CKF International Jodo seminar and grading (Kurogo sensei), Mississauga (Port Credit).