Disclaimer and Stuff

Firstly I would like to say that all of the material contained within this blog is of my own opinion and any inaccuracies in technical content or other's personal quotations are completely my own.

Secondly I would like to thank everyone in advance where I have used photos of you or photos you have taken. I have quite a library of digital photos and virtually no record of who took them so I hope you will take this general thanks as adequate gratitude. If there are any photos of you or taken by you that you would like removed please let me know.

Thirdly, some articles have been published on my dojo website if you would like to read them in an easier format

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7th dans achieved. Come and visit Ryoshinkan Iaido and Jodo Dojo Website at www.ryoshinkan.org

Thursday 29 April 2010

The last couple of weeks

Well, here I am, the other side of the BKA Iaido and Jodo Referees Seminar. I have since my last blog actually been to the dojo to do iaido 3 times but the last seminar took something out of me and I haven't had the time or inclination to write.

I think possibly some of this has been caused by the rather grounding effect that Ishido Sensei has on people. I spent nearly one and a half weeks with him, training at different dojo and of course absorbing nearly everything that he has said to nearly everyone during this time. If nothing else, my Japanese has improved.

I have found that the majority of his advice to me has been about getting the basics right (surprise) and it has, as I have said, been quite a grounding experience.

I have for the last couple of weeks found myself standing in the dojo unsure what to actually practice. This hasn't been overall a difficult period; it has caused me to view what others are doing and try and appraise my own iaido through comparison with others. I sincerely think this is a good thing. It has caused a bit of a hiatus in the physical side of my training and last night's practice made me realise how quickly leg muscle tone can say bye-bye.

Just after my last blog I also spent a weekend in Poland teaching koryu. I found this to be quite an enlightening experience as well - there's nothing like forcing yourself to do things correctly when showing them to other people.

Anyway, down to the technical side of things, I will try to summarise all the things that Ishido Sensei has instructed me in the last couple of weeks, some of which are "new"ish, some I knew but just had started to fail to do them properly, some I was doing okay with them....

  1. Preparation in mae and shohatto is much more critical than it seems. The gathering of the grip, the realignment of the tsukagashira, the closing of the knees...these all need to be deeply embedded before the sword is drawn and much before the hips are raised.
  2. The correct level of the sword and the arm in nukitsuke is far lower than is normally presented. One should clearly be able to see the upper flat of the sword.
  3. Sayabiki needs to not only clear the sword out but also add to the cut in nukitsuke.
  4. 99% of people don't do the prescribed furikaburi in mae and ushiro.
  5. The build up to the cut in kirioroshi must be sharp - not hard, or fast but sharp.
  6. Kirioroshi is generated by a gripping action of the hands.
  7. The front foot must take position first both in nukitsuke and kiritsuke - this closing but not overlapping of the gap has been a major challenge for years for me.
  8. The right hand position after ochiburi is of course the same for yokochiburi and the forward sword angle is about the same as well - no need for the kissaki to aim inside so much.
  9. Noto needs to project the sword out to 45 degrees - no more, no less (this makes it considerably easier).
  10. One shouldn't load the weight onto the bending knee when lowering the body during noto.
  11. Ukenagashi - don't get me started!
  12. Okay then, the deflection must occur as part of the body rising (hane-ageru).
  13. People's sword position is often correct, it is the body position which is often wrong. It should be the same as kesagiri but about 15 degrees to the left of the centreline.
  14. Tsukaate opponents are REALLY close and the rear thrust can allow the right hand to go past the left elbow.
  15. Morotezuki - hikinuki is performed with only a slight pulling caused by the turning of the hips - after that the lifting of the sword is more or less the same as ukenashi ni kaburu.
  16. This kaburi is meant to represent the most efficient way of moving the sword and should keep the sword as close to the centreline as possible.
  17. At the end of each cut in Sogiri, there must be a feeling of seme rather than just setting up a rhythm.
  18. The cuts need to have a sense of urgency.
  19. Ukigumo needs the same intensity of practice to get right as Ukenagashi (10 of these to every other kata).
Jodo had lots of learning points as well but I think that is the kind of information that requires people to buy me boxes of chocolates or boxes of money for me to reveal....

Anyway, I think that's enough for now. I will try to get back into the habit of doing this blog but other duties are always calling....

Thursday 8 April 2010

Iaido 6th Dan Training Session 14

This evening marked the last iai practice with our sensei for a while as he sods off to Japan to try for his 8th dan Iaido. This means hopefully that I will now be able to spend a bit of time just working by myself and getting some shaku in.

This evening I set myself a plan of combining my four chosen koryu with three seitei into 7-form circuits thus gradually making my way through the seitei but getting the koryu practice stuck in as well. I did the 28 forms (woo hoo - 28!) and then my arm started hurting. It was a bit achey before the practice and I think that most dreaded ailment - gardening - might be responsible.

Perversely I am finding the koryu easier to perform well at the moment, seitei is becoming a bit of a drag.

Ah well, this is it for now, not much to report really. Next Wednesday I will be sensei wrangling to maybe no blog for a little bit.

Friday 2 April 2010

Iaido 6th Dan Training Session 12 and 13

Session 12 - Koryu Development

So I am now more or less decided on my range of koryu to pick from depending on the shitei waza:

1. Shohatto
2. Oroshi
3. Towaki
4. Ukenagashi

I spent this session after being filmed (posted later in this blog) trying to work through shohatto and oroshi as slowly as possible and get the legs in time with the sword. This it seems is more challenging than it appears.

One of the things that I have had uncovered for me is the way of "levelling" the sword as sayabanare is achieved so that it flies in a relatively flat plane into nukitsuke. Counterintuitively, this isn't achieved by consciously flicking the kissaki up. Instead if one exerts a slight amount of pressure so that the back (mune) of the blade presses against its lower face of the saya, at the point of sayabanare the action of the grip changing the force to motivate the kissaki forwards then seems to automatically bring the kensen up to horizontal. This has the additional benefit of course of stopping the sword either rattling in the saya or the kissaki cutting the koiguchi. I stress though that this pressure only seems to work if it is applied lightly.

I am feeling more at home with all my koryu at the moment and I'm pretty sure this is coming about with a strengthening of my legs. More on this in the next blogpost thingy...


Quite by accident rather than intention I spent most of last Wednesday night's practice physically trying to answer the question posted on this webforum...

Kendo World - Why Iai Kata from Seiza Are Wrong...

I found this post originally quite annoyingly provocative and the post had been answered to death before long. However during our initial warm ups I decided to spend the whole session just doing Mae, Ushiro and Ukenagashi. I found myself remembering that Iaido is 75% (give or take a chunk) about the feet, in fact the whole form was either made or broken by not having the feet right despite what the upper body did.

I rediscovered a bit of truth with nearly every response on the forum supporting good reasons why iai was done from seiza, not least the reason which I regurgitated from Ishido Sensei that:

Iaido was originally all performed outside and standing. In order to make the training harder, more and more exponents begun their forms from a more prone position, stating the rationale that if one could move quickly and fluidly from a more compromising position then it should make one's performance from a standing position even more expedient.

I am feeling the after effects of this training a bit today, in a good way, and I am hoping that it kicks the rest of my performance into shape a bit. I am definately feeling better all round for having my lower body become stronger.

Anyway I think I will do more of this type of training for the duration. My own teacher was quite pleased when I made all the movements in seitei very softly and simply and emphasised that the synchronisation of certain parts of the body, blended with the stillness of other bits are what made a good 6th dan.

To finish I am going to use this blog to critique my own little koryu embu that I did for the record in session 12:

1. Shohatto - maybe needs a little bit more forward movement on nukitsuke; timing of ochiburi and standing needs improving (actually I worked on this in session 13 by triggering my stand just before the sword started moving from the head); need to keep the end of the chiburi movement more forward (also worked on this in session 13 with mae); need to stop pushing sword down at the end of noto.
2. Oroshi - working on moving noto; need to maintain posture a little bit more during kata.
3. Towaki - need to keep body more stable on 2nd cut.
4. Ukenagashi - actually I was quite amazed that I could get my lard-ass to move this quickly; need to move a bit more off the centreline and forward on the cut.

For those who weren't on the new L2 Coaching Course I recommend VLC Media Player for anyone who wants to use video for a similar purpose. It supports most file types and has slow and fast features for viewing.