I just enjoyed a very pleasant 5 days in Zawiercie for this year's Polish Iaido and Jodo Championships. There were examinations for both with iaido going up to and including 4th dan. I only sat on the 4th dan panel and only 1 out of 4 candidates passed. Those that failed came up to me afterwards to ask for some feedback and advice and I wasn't able to offer much. The problem was that no one made any big mistakes, I believe the main reason for not passing was a conglomeration of many minor errors. What has become very obvious to me is that Jodo technical performance is much easier to self-evaluate as the visible effects are there and a good partner will also provide some feedback. Not so with Iaido of course.
I wanted to write this short post especially for those who didn't pass but I hope it will be useful to many.
Firstly I don't believe that any of the failures were due to not enough "practice"; everyone looked quite strong and vigorous. If one reads the earlier posts in this blog I think you will see where I am heading. To cut a long story short I will explain the main preparation for my iaido 6th dan in a few short paragraphs.
Every Wednesday evening that I went to the dojo I would be videoed by a dojo elder, Tony Brocklebank. He would transfer the few embu that I did onto VHS and give me the latest recording a week later. I would then, at home, review every recording and make a note (actually a spreadsheet) of:
- Which particular kata were giving me problems and
- Which individual technical components were giving me problems.
I would then focus all my training on those problem areas until they were up to the same level as everything else. With the one week delay between being videoed and seeing the video, then the three to four weeks of repair-and-improve training and then a one week video check, this meant that all problems went through an approximate 6 week cycle. This would of course overlap other video cycles so there was always a variety of things to do.
The main point was though that it forced me to do frequent, detailed self-evaluations. This has become my regular approach to training (although these days with mobile phones and great apps like "Coaches Eye" this has a much shorter feedback loop). I thereby become responsible for identifying all of my shortfalls and doing something about it. I know which are my strong techniques, which are my weak ones and what to do to make improvements.
This is, I believe, a key stage of preparing for a grading. Allow me to reiterate:
- Regular (like every week) videoing.
- Self analysis and training planning at the same frequency.
And I also think that this is what was missing from the training schedule of those that failed 4th dans. I don't think they actually know what they look like when they do an embu, or at least, I didn't get that impression.
For more information on this I introduce the entire rest of my Shugyo Blog….