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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Monday 18 October 2010

Iaido Training Session 28

A really excellent session this afternoon at Hilary's dojo in SW London. We started with some usual warm up cutting exercises which naturally knackered my right arm during nukitsuke. We next were able to go through each Seitei form 3 times spending our attention on control and making sure each element of each kata was balanced and significant. It was a really good opportunity to do some technical tweaking.

After this was a session of free practice and I managed to get a couple of embu practices in. I am still finding a combination of three koryu plus either all the odds or all the evens of the Seitei makes a nice long but concentrated duration.

We finished with a grading practice and I did Towaki exactly how I wanted to, enough tame to control the form and give it some meaning and enough seme to drive the form at the right okuden speed. It was a bit weird at the end of the form as it kind of went automatically and I wasn't aware exactly of doing the form. Strange.

Anyway, a nice session.

Friday 15 October 2010

Iaido Training Session 27

Why does Chuden make so many references to clouds? Because I've discovered that you need to climb mountains into the clouds to get your legs strong enough to do the bloody forms!

Prior to this training session I had spent the weekend hiking and scrambling up a few Welsh peaks with some friends. Though I missed a Jodo training session having this nice time away it does have the effect of strengthening up my legs and hips, or more likely, reminding me how pudgey I am becoming sitting at a desk.

This Wednesday in question, we were visited by Aram from NY who is an absolute gentleman and it is always great to have him train with us.

We started going through the seitei in front and back sequence as before and I do find this order to be of benefit in waking up the brain a bit. Each kata starts to become an individual challenge rather than just another step in the sequence.

I noticed that Aram's cutting, while quite powerful, tended to bounce at the bottom of the cut thus inclining his body forwards in a slightly jerky motion so I spent some time with him getting him to put the power into the right place (i.e. at the commencement of the cut) and avoid forcing it through the vertical stroke. The use of tenouchi to motivate the cut, to focus the cut and to brake the cut is so important and I am finding it more difficult to teach these points as it starts to become second nature. I realise that there is a slight difference in emphasis between Ishido Sensei (who I learned this tenouchi from) and Oshita Sensei, however both use a graduated tenouchi to control the sword and I think that this is something vitally missed by lots of people. There is a lot of talk of using tenouchi and shibori at the point of the sword hitting the opponent's head but this kind of misses the point.

(Note, images will enlarge if clicked)

Tenouchi is a continuous action of adding energy to the sword (and I mean the literal physics-based energy, not the woo-woo) starting by moving the sword, accelerating the sword, focussing the power of the sword and braking the sword. These are all smooth transitions and can be easily emulated in "normal life" - try:

a) shaking an umbrella
b) hammering in a nail

If you are confident and competent in both these activities then you will spot the parts of tenouchi being used to certain degrees. When I learned how to do kirioshi from Ishido Sensei it became very obvious that the arms (and by that I really mean the shoulders) do less and less work and rely more on the inertia of the sword being driven by the tenouchi than by rotational kinetics.

It's an interesting movement to study as the whole framework is dynamic: your grip is accelerating the sword, the sword is accelerating your arms, your arms are accelerating the point of grip, the grip further accelerates the sword etc. I think it is this mechanism of positive feedback which really accelerates the kissaki at an exponential rate and marks the difference between Joe public swinging the sword and someone who does iai. It also underlines the important of tenouchi. Have I already said this?

Anyway, this coaching session went on for nearly 30 minutes and I found various things that Aram was doing which was causing problems, one being pulling the rear foot up with too much effort.

I interspursed this with working on my Chuden which felt much smoother with my legs feeling a bit stronger. I hope to continue some kind of regular exercise to keep this muscle firmanent in place. My sensei pointed out that my left hand wasn't being used properly in Yokochiburi and I have to train this tomorrow at the Saturday class. Not enough to simply place the left hand on the hip: it has to utilise as much energy as the right hand.

Thursday 7 October 2010

Iaido Training Session 26

An early arrival at the dojo on this evening allowed me to spend a bit of time doing embu practice. My typical sequence at the moment is two kata from each koryu set and then either the odd or the even numbers of the seitei. If I can do this as "one movement" without anything being too bad then I am pretty pleased with myself - it certainly takes a lot of concentration.

As the others arrived and I started the class I could think of nothing more mind numbing that just allowing people to do free practice (= 50% standing around thinking about stuff) or everyone doing seitei 1-12. Instead I thought I would keep people's concentration a bit alive by starting with 1 and then going to 12, back to 2, then 11, then 3, then 10 etc. This seemed to make the thing feel a bit less like "7 kata down, 5 to go..." kind of practice.

As we went into free training I decided to work on the first three okuden suwari waza. The first two offer some specific difficulties for me. Kasumi is a bugger to do with a long sword (although I am the proud owner of the "kotsu" or bones of the form) and Sunegakoi is a bugger to do with long legs especially as you should end up at the same height at the point of the block as if you had one knee down.

I then spent some time working on Shihogiri and its myriads of kaewaza. I find this form so interesting in the pressures that the exponent is supposed to deal with, I really think that getting this one sorted would really move ones understanding of iai to another level. Ahh well, still quite a way to go...

Anyway, I then decided to spend some time helping Raj Jeer, one of our new visitors from the Midlands and with a Jikiden original background. He is always working so hard on his seitei and I saw him go through it a few times and asked him if he knew any koryu. On the basis that he didn't I thought I would put all that Oshita-sensei-translating time to some use and taught him the first 6 Omori ryu kata. I found this very enjoyable actually to have to spend some mental bandwidth remembering exactly what I was supposed to do. Raj picked it up well.

I would like to close on a mention of warming up. I have now put myself in the habit of spending about 20 minutes on warming up and stretching if I arrive early enough at each section. I try to do this systematically and stretch further than I would have to do in actually doing a kata. I am hoping that this will build up some core strength, improve flexibility, reduce wear and tear a bit and it definately makes me work better and for longer. I simply don't feel so fatigued towards the end of a class or the next day. I heartily recommend it.

Right I'm off to march up mountains in Wales...