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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Thursday 24 February 2011

Iaido Training Session 47

"Tome" and "Tame" and How "Nukiuchi" Should Nukiuchi Be?

It's barely credible that I am writing this given all the computer nonsense I have had to get through over the last week. Still, at least I don't have to buy a new Mac as I might have done if the power cut had kicked in as it did.... :-P

Last night's session was almost a carbon copy of last week's to be honest, the normal Seitei run through and then splitting into Seitei and Koryu practise. The high grades wanted a play at Standing Oku so we started to work through those (or rather they started to work through those and I came over and criticised frequently).

Before getting on about Koryu blah I want to reflect on a question I posed to the group last night. What I saw was that some students were doing Seitei Nukiuchi very very quickly and being the sceptical type that I am I wondered how and why this was happening. I asked if everybody thought that the purpose of Nukiuchi was to dodge out and back as quickly as possible. Nearly everyone thought yes. I responded by saying that this might well be the case but if it was so then it was the only form in the entire Seitei and MSR koryu set that had this as a feature. They looked puzzled. Surely, I said, it was important to gauge the timing right and currently it looked like the Tasmanian Devils in the class weren't giving any thought to the timing. Now I think about this more I can see this argument/discussion on this form looping back to something very fundemental and basic which I will get to shortly.

Last week while working on this form I informed the class that many of them were not moving their right foot back adequately to avoid the enemy's cut. Most of them had sorted that out this week. I discussed with them briefly that surely there must be a 'development' of speed at the apex of the draw up and back. It is possible to do this form very sharply especially if one aims to squeeze the kensen up to horizontal as sayabanare occurs instead of leaving it at it's drawn angle i.e. hanging down the back. If one is nimble footed as well it's possible to do this form during the echo of a clap. The question I ask is, should you?

With this form, the course of the enemy's sword is not specified however it is unlikely that it is a vertical cut stopping at horizontal albeit it might be possible to cut your enemy's head without you skewering your belly on their sword but this is a tad risky. Of course, this is as much a Toho form as any other so in reality one might dodge and enter from the left or right but keeping to the prescribed form as much as possible it becomes more viable to imagine the enemy making a horizontal cut or a kesa cut. Once their cut has cleared your entry path then the counter cut should take place pretty quickly. If we imagine the kesa cut, there is a time between the enemy's sword just missing your shoulder and passing across your body to clear at the hip. One can imagine doing this perfectly by the body just evading at the right moment and using this short period of the sword passing by to evade the rest of the body, prepare the sword and deliver the counter-cut. Easy-peasy. My problem is that I don't even think people are mentally visualising this.

In a way not dissimilar to Jodo's Tai Hazushi Uchi, there surely has to be a precise moment of actually clearing the opponent's sword. I'm not suggesting that this should be a long time and definately not suggesting that one should stop but should there not be a contracted moment of tame?

I did a little hunt around the net to find examples of Nukiuchi and I was delighted to find this demonstration by Yossi Luria Sensei of Israel who I hope doesn't mind me using his demo video project here...


Yes I realise it would be very easy to critisize this demo as it would be to do so for anyone's videod performance but this demo actually says a lot. There is a definate moment when some work is being done at the apex of the draw and this is just enough in my mind to show that point of tame.

Anyway, I mentioned earlier that I would show how this loops back to basics and fundementals of this forms and here it is...

  1. If one does this form too quickly they tend to make their hands go forwards where their head was and therefore sacrifice their right hand and ergo, their life.
  2. If one does this form too quickly their upper body tends to be left behind making it a very convenient target for the attacker's sword.
There you have it, the seen and unseen reasons for working on timing on this form rather than raw speed.

Anyway, we spent a bit of time on Yukizure and Rentatsu, these being quite technically complex forms considering how simple they look. I wanted to stress to the kodanshas that the body position and sword position remains virtually unchanged in the draw of Yukizure. This can be seen below in that the body and sword are already in the correct position for the finish of the drawing cut.

The feet take a natural position for this draw, not dissimilar to Soetezuki although not quite a turned around as the seitei form. With the head turning into the metsuke only, this movement is quite minimalist in nature but allows a smooth and discreet transition into the first and second cut.

Anyway, back to rebuilding my compyoota...

Thursday 17 February 2011

Iaido Training Session 46

Why we fight

Considering how long we are dead for I think there is often a danger of forgetting one of the outcomes of doing martial arts i.e. it should be something that one enjoys and gets something out of. I guess last night's practise revealed to me how much that had been missing of late as it was, almost by accident, a very enjoyable practise.

We had a very full dojo, I was in charge, we had the whole evening ahead of us. As usual I got everyone to go through Seitei together, twice each form, in an abstract order and with a focus to deal with each kata as a "mini project". This gave me a little bit of time to slow things down and work on posture and in seconds of spare time spot the faults that I had identified with my own performance in others. I find that immensely enlightening and realise that often it is good to do the reverse i.e. to spot faults in others as a means of evaluating if you are doing it wrong yourself. Quite often these are unconscious human responses to particular technical challenges, like for example, performing noto without twitching the thumb to lightly grip the mune.

We went on to split the groups up with some guys doing seated Oku, a bit of Shoden and the rest working on Seitei. I spent most of the time working with the seated Oku group. This in itself can be quite hard work even showing the forms once or twice at a reasonable level of intensity.

Anyway, we got through them all and finished the practice. I don't know quite why but I somehow felt the practise very enjoyable. I am sure part of it was doing some light exercise and stretching before the training to get the endorphins flowing and feeling physically well. Anyway, a gentle reminder of a good reason to train and one not to be forgotten.

Thursday 10 February 2011

Iaido Training Session 45

What happened to our dojo? One minute there's about 4 of us in there, rattling around like peas in a tin and then there's barely enough room to swing a cat (ana). Lucy is back from Yapan for a bit, we are being visited by Andrea Setti and four of our beginners turned up tonight (although they remind me that tonight was their one year anniversary since beginning training - oops).

Anyway, I was determined that I should get some practice in so we started with everyone doing a couple of shots per seitei form. I insist that we don't do them in order these days as I am sure it tends to make people's mind see it as an objective to get through them all as soon as possible. I prefer to do them in a more abstract order, the first one of each being done slowly and expansively and the second being at normal speed. By having this abstract order it is my hope that everyone views each kata as something of a mini-project to work on while we train.

People started filtering in and all too soon our 10-person training space was filled with about 12. It becomes too dangerous to even try practising at this so most of the high grades dropped out and helped teach.

After a while I was getting itchy feet so I asked everyone to stop, for the lower grades to clear to the sides and got everyone else to do a 7-form embu. This was repeated at the end of the lesson with a 5 form embu.

So what did I do. Well I focussed on the bits that I know were highlighted in the recent video analysis including:
  • Making sure the front foot is placed before nukitsuke is executed
  • Ensuring furikaburi actually passes by the left ear (this by the way makes a much nice rhythm to the kata instead of just launching it above the head)
  • Lifting the elbow into ochiburi
  • Keeping my posture straighter instead of leaning back
  • Doing noto without moving my thumb
  • Trying to relax the hands so that hikinuki and ukenagashi ni furikaburi happens more naturally
  • Driving the sword forwards and out on the draw of Kesagiri
  • Making a larger initial cut in Sanpogiri
  • Keeping wakigamae moving and keeping the sword behind me in Shihogiri
I think I am doing quite well on this so far and want to keep up this attention to detail while I focus on some of the other stuff that people have advised concerning hara and posture.

Thanks for tuning in...

Sunday 6 February 2011

Iaido Training Session 44

Quite a nice quiet class tonight so that I could work on my own stuff and have some beginner's presence to keep me on the basics. One of the things that stuck in my memory of this evening was demonstrating how the feet need to assume the cutting position just a slight moment before the cut is delivered thus ensuring stability. My nukitsuke in one demonstration just seemed to fly out on a really regular arc once I had ensured that my right foot wasn't moving during the actual drawing action. This is definitely something I need to work on more so that it happens when I train at regular speed. It is something which adds to the technical challenge in that obviously you shouldn't be standing there for a second while your sword lags behind but equally it makes no sense to try and draw and cut when you don't have a secure posture.

I used the evaluation of the last embu video as well to fix some other things such as making sure that I didn't open my thumb when I did noto. I realise that this is actually quite a deeply embedded bad habit as it felt quite foreign to do it right. Looking around I saw lots of other people doing it with this bad habit as well - oh well, at least they're keeping in line...

One of the things I really wanted to get right was the upper cut of Kesagiri as well as I had realised that while it might feel really good to swish the sword up and down in one action, most of the time I am not actually making a cut on the upward action, the monouchi is in fact following along the same path as the tsuka more or less. Once I tried to ensure that the kissaki was actually moving forward into the cut then this did two things:
1. I could hear the tachikaze - a good sign that I was cutting
2. It gave me ample time to join this with the rising left hand and establish a grip for the downward cut.

In fact it felt like there was time to do a kata (would'ya believe it?) rather than just a flurry of movement a question mark left hanging in the air. I have tried to demonstrate this difference of movement in the image below.

I was also able to work on the first cut on Sanpogiri which bothered me that it is far too small. This is a difficult one, easy to do in a linear action such as Morotezuki, more difficult to do when your body has to enter inside the movement. I will work on this more at the next session.

I am trying to incorporate a lot of Chuden into my training at the moment as I find this one of the best leg strength developers in iai. Toraissoku is my kindly nemesis which is training me to get my big ass up and moving. Quite often this kata doesn't come to life until after a good 20 minutes of solid repetition. Once that is working better then Inazuma seems a lot easier. Chris Sensei told me that my final cut of Inazuma was too dependent on my body and left me to work that out. I realised what he meant after a while and started to ensure that my metsuke was kept correct during this dropping and cutting action and that seemed to work (well, he said that was better anyway).

I have been working on one of the Okuden kaewaza versions of Ukenagashi as this might be a selected koryu if I have to pull one out of the hat. It is one which I feel I can do quite well (a right foot seme-seme-seme then a "leap" off the line to deflect and cut in one action while still keeping the right foot forwards). It is the fact that I feel good about this form and that I get very little feedback on it that is now bothering me. I think I will have to get Ishido Sensei to give me some feedback to work on this at the next opportunity.

Anyway, till next time.

...ooh, thought I would post this rather entertaining photo of a couple of BKA peeps a whole lifetime and hairstyle ago...