So, I thought now would be a good time to share these thoughts with the community of faithful followers of this blog. Here is the initial English draft which was translated into Japanese with a few small bits cut out.
The Significance of the Sword
In my Iaido training in more recent years I have tried my best to ensure that my activities with Iaido contain both aspects of Katsujinken and Setsuninto. In the study of Setsuninto, this means training that is highly technical and concerned with survival in a combat situation. In this case it is with reference to the main points for examination and judging taikai particularly those concerned with technical skill that are important:
- Correct height, position and angle of sword
- Correct cutting and drawing
- Correct ashisabaki and taisabaki
- Ma and maai
- Compliance with the main points from the ZNKR Iaido Manual
In the study of Katsujinken, this means that when one is doing kata one must be aware of the life of ones enemy, not just so that one can cut down the enemy but that one might prevent the fight and achieve “saya no uchi no kachi”. In this case it is with reference to the main points for examination and judging taikai:
- Ochitsuke (calmness)
- Depth of training
- Kigurai, hin’i and fukaku
If someone can master these points above then one should be able to control the encounter: to injure instead of kill; to subdue instead of injure; to inspire peace rather than war.
When one trains in these Katsujinken points it then becomes easier to realise that the purpose of one’s training is not just about self-centred improvement but generally using Iaido to bring good things into the life of others.
When instructing others in Iaido I try to balance the emphasis between technical points and those which reflect the mental state. Through concentration on jo-ha-kyu and kan-kyu-kyo-jaku one is able to quickly combine and switch between aspects of setsuninto (killing the enemy) and katsujinken (saving the enemy). Of important consideration I believe that the –ken of katsujinken refers to the double edged tsurugi with one edge facing the enemy and one facing the self. In my mind this reverse edge is for the dual purpose of cutting off unnecessary and unwanted parts of the ego as well as reminding that any attack on a person is also an attack and a degradation of the self.
Finally, I try to emphasise to the people that I teach, the words of our shisho, that the luxury of being able to train in budo is due to the cooperation and goodwill of others and we should be thankful and considerate to those that provide that opportunity through their sacrifice.