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 20 May 2010

Iaido 6th Dan Training Session 17

Flexibility, stability and mobility.

All wise aspects of iaido teaching or merely rants from tonight's posting.

Mostly both.

To be sure, these are aspects which I believe are the key physical benefits from practising martial arts. Because they are output benefits means that they are aspects which are exercise during training and thus the performance of the art is greatly improved if these factors are well developed in a person.

...sadly these are factors which I am finding not up to scratch in my own iaido. I have quite nicely settled into a good training regime. I turn up, I warm up a bit and I then slowly work through, one at a time, each koryu kata. I rarely repeat a kata unless it is one of the sticky ones like Ryuto or Ukigumo (in which case I stick to doing it about 3-4 times only). I don't believe that my current shortfall is either a lack of understanding on the construction of the kata or a lack of ability to demonstrate the unique points of certain kata. My problems lie in the execution of basic movements in the kata.

For instance:
  • the angle of inclination of my sword in nukitsuke is often too "down"
  • I am frequently in a state of uncertainty just before I start to draw - I think this is born out of a lack of confidence around timing of the foot and sword.
  • My yokochiburi is inconsistent - often jerky, too large or too small or based on hand movement rather than sword movement.
  • Noto is a constant pain in getting the balance of spontanaeity without losing control
Aside from those points, I can walk okay.

My training regime is focussed on just exercising and improving those basic points in the various scenario in different kata, therefore I don't spend too much time on any kata.

I completed Shoden and Chuden tonight (it's amazing how little gets done in two hours when you practice slowly and methodically) and worked on a few seated koryu. Doing so much Chuden is showing where my lack of flexibility, mobility and stability is most prevalent. I think that just doing repeated training is the best thing for this - I need to build up more lower body and core strength. I am enjoying working on these by doing a bit of slow training of Urokogaeshi and Namigaeshi. Both are quite challenging in those three factors as rising and turning in tatehiza is quite rare in the koryu.

I have also added Shihogiri from Okuden Surawiwaza to my list of koryu to focus on, I think it's a very good stability developer and will also hopefully go onto building natural cutting speed.

Well at least I hope so.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Iaido 6th Dan Training Session 15 and 16

Thankfully due to the now, more focussed, approach to my training I can remember what I have done for the last couple of weeks.

During last week's practice everybody wanted to go through both okuden sets so we started with suwariwaza and then finished with tachiwaza. The sheer number of kaewaza reminded me of a friend's interpretation of what Oshita Sensei had recently told his students - "focus on the hon-waza; when you have got that right then do the kae-waza". I wanted to share this with our dojo members but at the same time make them aware of the various kaewaza (not that I know them all, far from it). It is tempting to indulge in kaewaza practice but it sometimes reminds me of people who run off and do various styles in order to deepen or broaden their iaido experience while not realising that they are just thinning it. While these two activities are separate, they are not so far apart. Kaewaza exist as representatives of regional differences which are grown from local senior sensei spreading their interpretation amoung their dojo members and possibly visitors from other dojo. I have seen such variations not just in the execution of technique but in the order, naming and assignment of technique as well. Influences from Jikiden and Jushin also sometimes prevail.

Bringing the focus into last night's session, with the return of my sensei from Japan, I decided to work through each koryu form, once each only, in order to a) refocus on honwaza and b) improve individual aspects through varying kata. I decided to not give myself second chances, I would do each kata only once and if I didn't do it to my satisfaction then tough - move on.

I actually found myself making more progress than normal. I think the "one kata only" introduces a certain urgency to technical detail rather than throcking technique. Legs are feeling a bit odd today having done only suwari waza last night (and quite a lot of seiza/listening practice) but it was good to focus only on my own training for a change.

I am still set on trying to lift all my koryu up to some semblence of 6th-dan'ness although will eventually give more priority to my chosen few koryu for presentation.

I also considered my upcoming schedule today, I am going to Villingen, Eindhoven and Brighton so about 3 weeks of intense practice (and some scrutiny I hope).