I focused on Ryuto recently, trying to do it by a factor of 10 against other forms as I realise it really is a form that requires some kata mileage in order to be good at it. Like most other forms it's performance is related to leg power as the entire speed is dependant on getting up quickly. The bits I am trying to focus on in particular are:
- Ensuring that the draw is done with a relaxed attitude so that the sword glides out smoothly instead of it being snatched. Snatching the sword tends to cause the action to stop at it's conclusion which then halts the form. By drawing smoothly the draw leads nicely into the block without pause.
- Getting the weight accurately balanced on the knees at the end of the draw so that the left foot can quickly be brought into position and action.
- Trying not to spend too much time posing once the stand has taken place and the blocking sword brought out of the way. At the same time I don't want this to be a rushed moment.
- Ensuring the body is turned to face the opponent before stepping in to cut.
- Being careful not to reach for the sword as the cut takes place but to rather let the left hand catch the sword at the end of the moment.
I have tried to emulate Ishido Sensei's timing of "tatum-tum" but it is very difficult. It might be better for me to do the form less sharply and more gracefully given my size but I still want to be able to do it quickly. I think I have written this all before in a previous post.
I want to jump forwards to Iwanami now. I train in guilt that I always tend to skip this kata a little bit, not doing it more than once or twice compared to the grating I have been giving the other Chuden katas. I'm not sure why I had this reluctance but it's probably to do with the difficulty I have in controlling my weight distribution and being able to slide back cleanly and rapidly. Still, I decided last week to give this one a bit more attention and set to work on it. The first thing I was steered to do (in fact this bit of advice came a long way back) was to try to get the body moving back without the whole body coming up first. After that it is a case of nice timing as there is a propensity to do this form quickly but without much in the way of meaning. It's difficult to write about the mental block I have around doing the sweeping cut but it's probably hesitance about doing something quite strenuous like this cut while both feet spend a bit of time off the floor. Perhaps I don't understand that bit properly...
Jumping back now to Yokogumo. I like this kata and I think it probably has a longer history than Shohatto and would thus be a primal seed of all the seated kata. Chuden, being shorter in distance and timing than Shoden, tends to move quite quickly and I have been aware that Yokogumo may well lend itself to speed training in iaido. To this end, and on the basis that generally my iaido is a bit sluggish due to my size, I have decided to make this form "one of my own". By this I mean, I am putting a little bit of me into the version of this that I want to do. In my opinion (only), the rapidity of the form is created thus:
- The sword is drawn approximately half way out before the hips rise (although they are tensed while the sword is moving to lend themselves to a quick movement forwards).
- The last half of the draw and the nukitsuke is performed at the same time as the hips rising and moving forwards into quite a quick draw.
- At the end of nukitsuke, the feeling in the feet and lower body is to be pushing the body forwards into the kirioroshi. This doesn't have anything more than a very subtle effect on the posture, most of the contrast is felt internally.
- The furikaburi footwork is similar to Seitei mae and should be done simultaneously with the sword-work of furikaburi and the following kirioroshi. It should really be done quickly.
These last two points are the ones I was working on last night in particular. The diagram below sort of shows what I mean in terms of the tension and position after nukitsuke:
In Shohatto, even if nukitsuke is created with a forward feeling of the body into the draw, the final position should be quite well centred and upright. The rear foot is gently pushing back, the knee is gently balanced into the floor and the front foot is gently pushing forwards.
In contrast to this, I feel, the feeling in the body is slightly more forwards. This is more so in the lower body where the rear foot is quite strongly pushing back, the body weight positioned so that the rear knee inclines some force down and back and the front foot being pushed strongly forwards.
At this point in Yokogumo, to create a fast furikaburi-kirioshi action, the tension is released in the lower limbs and hips and the body quickly moves forwards and under the sword as it is raised and quickly brought down. I spend quite a few goes just practicing this intermediate sequence and it can become very fast after a while.
I think this is something I am going to go onto practice a bit more in the next few weeks as it has the propensity to become either something quite nice or at least be good for my development of lower body strength.