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7th dan iaido grading due in

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Iaido Training Session 72, 73, 74 and 74a

I wonder again, am I unable to get much writing on this blog done because I am so busy with work and martial arts foolery or am I using that as an excuse? I think it would be interesting to have a read through my past posts and see if a trend underlies it as I am pretty sure that my preparations have gone through a few phases and I am now in the quiet and hardworking one.

I haven't had anywhere near the same frequency of "revelations" in the last few sessions; I have been trying to build up kata mileage and consolidate my technique. As Peter commented to me, my focus is now on how the training feels rather than what conscious concepts I can pull out of it. This I think is important.

Session 72 was the evening before the European Jodo Championships and I remember us working into the iai time with some jodo preparation so not much done there. The championships were an effort in themselves in mental juggling and emotional control, I'm sure they were good for me somewhere although I wouldn't be surprised if I have reduced my life expectancy by a few days (insert smiley tongue-out emoticon here).

The Wednesday after the EJC (session 73) we were visited by members of the Austrian Jodo Squad who came to do a bit of Jodo and then join the Iaido class. They are very nice people and it is easy to see the hard efforts they have put into their training. We ran through seitei in a variety of ways as there were something like 15 people in a 9-people space. I didn't pay particular attention to my training that evening but I was happy to be getting some in. My feet are still particularly stiff and I am having to spend a good 20 minutes at the beginning of a session in warming them up and stretching the toes.

I joined Hilary's class on the Saturday (session 74) and asked to be left to do just iai. After a long stretching session I started working through the katas doing Seitei first and then combinations of my 4 koryu plus 3 seitei, making 4 combination sets. Tried to focus on centreline management as well which was good in that dojo which has lines all over the place. Daniel Silk had kindly arranged a squash court for the two of us to do another hour after the normal two hour session which I found very useful. I was able to calm myself a bit and work on composure within the form. I do find any kind of time restraints on an embu practice to be quite destructive at the moment. I guess it is personal taste (and maybe a liking for pouting and scowling through my eyebrows) but I feel the essence of iaido is in the zanshin and any feeling of a clock ticking completely wipes away that ethereal mist and it becomes a mechanical tempo exercise instead of an emotional expression. This is something I think I would like to discuss further with other high grades and get their feelings on it.

I also noticed that towards the end of a three hour session, my legs and feet were finally starting to warm up and do their work and the whole performance became easier and sharper. I have to keep this in mind for my grading and ensure I am training right up to the examination and keeping warm while others are on. Whoever is around me, don't let me sit and watch, get me doing exercises at the back!

On Sunday after Jodo practice I did another two hour iaido session, I can't say much more than that.

So where am I with stuff...

  1. Shohatto - not too bad although I have to be careful not to stall after nukitsuke. My toes are making it a little difficult to move into the kirioroshi but I hope through stretching and ibroprofen that that can be worked out.
  2. Oroshi - once I can sit in tate hiza not too bad. I have to learn to lean in slightly into the nukitsuke and not let the sayabiki pull me back.
  3. Tozume - once the legs are working I have managed to arrange the hasuji to work the nukitsuke properly. This is such a critical failure point if done incorrectly. Maybe I should work on this and Oroshi tonight...
  4. Ukenagashi - Again not bad to need to push the seme a bit more before leaping away to the right.
  5. Mae - good, if my feet and toes are working.
  6. Ushiro - see above, I want to slow the draw down a bit and engage my hips forwards into the nukitsuke a bit more as I was able to do a few months ago.
  7. Ukenagashi - not too ragged. Starting slowly and building the tempo up makes a nice kata.
  8. Tsukaate - actually going faster than maybe it should. Not sure if I should slow it down, it might seem instinctive to do so but I believe this form is about certain and direct delivery, not posing.
  9. Kesagiri - again, nice done slowly.
  10. Morotezuki - I need to work on this, the feeling this kata used to have isn't so obvious to me now.
  11. Sanpogiri - I also need to work on this. I understand the important points in each component movement but haven't yet pieced them all together.
  12. Ganmenate - no complaints from me.
  13. Soetezuki - I want to practice this a bit more and get the flow back.
  14. Shihogiri - not too worried about this.
  15. Sogiri - need to get the buttocks working here!
  16. Nukiuchi - happy that I haven't yet cut off my left arm.
Only 11 days, 3 hours, 17 minutes and 29 seconds to go. I received a nice good luck message from Dougie Evans the other day. I have also received lots of votes of confidence from other people as well as some disbelief that I am cramming as much training in as I can at the moment. I want to stress that for me the importance is in changing my iaido in light of the grading rather than passing 6th dan itself; the grading is a means to an end not an end unto itself. I don't mind if I don't pass (well, at least after a good cry and a beer I won't), I have trained for it, that is the most important thing and for me at least, here is the evidence of that.

Well, back to work. It's my last official iaido training session this evening before the European Iaido Championships and the grading. Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittttt!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Iaido Training Session 71

Things don't always go so well...

Arf! It's funny how sometimes it's hard to disbelieve in biorhythms and rubbish like that and how they might affect you. Tonight was an ideal opportunity to get some consolidatory practice done, there were a few people in the dojo, enough high grades to supervise and some space for me to swing me steel. I wanted to work on Ushiro for a bit for a couple of reasons, a) to see why David Mc was having problems with this one at the weekend and b) to even up the hole in the knees of my hakama.

For some reason it just wasn't feeling good. Something of this I suspect is down to the fact that my feet are quite painful at the moment. The joints of the big toes and balls of the feet are all a bit swollen making seiza and tate-hiza quite painful. Not so much that I can't sit down but I can't do it in the relative comfort I normally have. Some might say I'm getting old, to that I say "shut up and stop talking in my head - GAAAHHHHHHHHGGG!!!"

Anyway, Harry observed me for a bit and said that Ukenagashi wasn't bad. I noticed that I am getting fairly good at not swinging the sword over my should before the cut (unlike some others in the dojo - ahem!)

I went onto the standing forms to see what kind of mess I could make of those. Kesagiri isn't too bad now especially as I have discovered the secret "special way of doing it"....you want to know what it is? It's a secret....

...

...

oh, okay then. It's this. Most people, in an effort to make sure that the upper cut is at a diagonal don't rotate the sword enough. The result is a) the grip isn't strong, b) the hasuji isn't correct, c) it becomes difficult to arrest and reverse the movement at the apex of the cut. Turning the sword so that it is near enough vertically cutting downwards gets rid of all that. One will still find that the cut is inclined enough to hit all the targets and it becomes incredibly easy to reverse the cutting angle at the top.

....however chiburi while gripping the koiguchi is still bloody hard. I'm hoping that the montsuki sorts all that out as I'm convinced that some of it is down to how my uwagi fits.

Sensei worked me on Morotezuki and Sanpogiri quite a bit which was interesting but I now have to reconstruct the latter quite a bit...I hope I have time before the grading...

We all did an embu at the end, I went up on my own. I didn't feel very good, even nervous. When I had finished, Sensei said that the quality was quite low and I didn't look confident. It was true. Some days are better than others....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pfm0nGiN46o

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Iaido Training Session 69 and 70


Making the most of efficiency here and squeezing two sessions into one post. I test-drove my montsuki and hakama in the last two Wednesday sessions to see how they might affect my iai. The answer - they do. A bit.

First the bad bits. Ukenagashi was comical in that the arm movement tends to make the left sleeve slap you in the face. I had to slightly modify the speed to stop this from happen.

Other than that....not much really.

The good bits, it fits nicely, the hakama is very light moves nicely. Apart from that not much to report.

My sensei gave me some very good feedback on the last two sessions concerning lower body preparation for Mae and Shohatto. My left leg is not quite as active as the right and there is more tension on the entire right side. I worked on trying to get a balance of tension on both sides by rising up and getting both sides with an even feeling. This is a good way of getting the body moving and having a feeling of pressing forwards by pressing inwards.


Did some embu training last night and found I need to:
  1. Shorten my forward movement in Shohatto to join up furikaburi with the taisabaki.
  2. Speeding up the Tozume link between the two opponents.
  3. Lower my arms in the Chinugui position in Ukenagashi.
  4. Introducing some merihari into Morotezuki.
  5. Sharpening up Sogiri without going into koryu timing.
More later.