Once again I have managed to get delayed in writing these blogs up. The last few weeks has seen my training progress downwards somewhat from folded steel to lumps of wood. How did this happen?
I started regular training on session 35 with my now regular warm up but as soon as I started kata practice my right arm started to bloom with pain. Harry suggested that I use a bokuto for this session and I took this piece of advice.
It is a funny thing to train with a bokuto at this level. I think one realises quite quickly that there is no point trying to use excess strength because the sword isn't heavy and it won't whistle much either. It does however make one concentrate on the body and the feet a lot more though.
I worked through the session like this and quite liked the after effects of not having a burning in my forearm for the next day.
That following weekend was Oshita Sensei's Koryu Iaido Seminar in Okehampton organised by Peter West. I was invited to go and translate which I was delighted to do as Oshita Sensei's advice is always a) very practical and b) very close, if not identical, to what Ishido Sensei teaches. Koryu aside, there are of course some stylistic differences but these are easy to classify into what is good advice generally, what is good advice for me now and what is good advice for another me in another time. I arrived Friday afternoon a little ahead of Oshita Sensei and Peter and thus used up the time doing some Jodo training Mike Reilly in preparation for his 4th dan.
Sensei arrived and we started with some seitei practice. Sensei went through some points of clarification which were presented to the 8th dans at the central seminar this year. What was very nice was the fact that he was able to specify whether these points where absolutely necessary for us to ponder over or whether we were already obeying them in some other format (difficult to describe this point).
On Saturday morning we continued with a bit of Seitei before starting koryu. Shoden Omori Ryu was practiced and I always enjoy learning these Jikiden versions as I have said before, it helps me to use other feelings and parts of the body in the iai when I have other models to emulate. I also led David Parker and Themis Woellwarth through the Shinden Shoden although to be fair most of the techniques are almost identical.
Sunday saw a continuation of the koryu into the Chuden and Okuden, all of which were equally enjoyable to try the Jikiden versions as well as practice the Shinden.
Throughout the whole seminar I continued to use a bokuto and plastic saya. It really helped me to work on effortless sword action, body movement and balance while not having to worry about the screaming pain in my arm. This, I consider, a bonus.
Sensei went onto discuss the requirements of leadership to the group while relaxing in the bar afterwards, it was very enlightening.
The following Wednesday I carried on with the bokuto working through the seated oku and trying to get my legs to work better. Chris Sensei showed me a slight change in the timing of Shohatto, something I am sure to struggle with in the forthcoming duration. We also all had a go at Sodesuregaeshi, experimenting with some kaewaza.
Last night's practice was a quiet one with only myself, Steffi and Eiko there. I thought I would use the time to simply go through all of the seitei and koryu kata and then do a bit of work on the forms with kaewaza. Some of this is in preparation for this weekend's Iaido Koryu Seminar in Poland which I am supposed to be teaching at.
I also helped Steffi with her learning Shoden and laid it on quite thickly about Junto. This form is of course quite different from others. My original teacher told me that it wasn't actually iaido in the clearest sense as it did not have a combatitive engagement to it traditionally. Instead, it was trained in in order that if a competent swordsman were to be called upon to carry out Kaishaku duties then they would be able to do so.
In my opinion I feel that the training of Junto/Kaishaku should be different from the other kata as well. For whatever "practical" purposes one has for training in iaido they might not apply or begot from this form. Instead, as this form has no real "practical" purpose i.e. we are unlikely to be called upon to cut off a friend's head while they disembowel themselves, we should use it in another aspect. For me, this is the training of "The One Cut". This means that in other forms, one is always carefully balancing the full committment to a cut against the necessity to defend oneself and possibly changing the technique or direction. This is something of an enigma how one can instill 100% seme and generate 100% tame but I guess this is the purpose of training. In Junto/Kaishaku however, this necessity is not present. All one need do is delivery the one perfect cut. It has to be perfect, there should be no second chances. This does not mean cutting as strongly as one can but merely that one's whole mental focus and emotional strength are coupled with a natural level of physical power to make this something like what a karateka feels when he has to break a very challenging piece of wood. So this is it, The One Cut. Just my opinion.
From last night I ascertained a few things:
1. Doing a long warmup and stretch and definately very beneficial to training. I noticed very few of the usual pains and I was able to move myself off my feet with a fraction of the effort I normally experience.
2. My legs are definately getting stronger and this is helping my iaido no end. Seated okuden in particular which requires getting up swiftly is far easier with responsive legs.
I'm just experimenting with Windows Movie Maker to chop up a video of one of my embu that I did a few weeks ago. I'll post it when it's finished.