Shodan

2017 12 03 - 02:35

In all my born days, I never imagined I'd ever say "I have a black belt" in something.

Except for a brief flirtation with Tai Chi about ten years ago (something I'll eventually do again when I can find a class that's not on a Wednesday), martial arts was never an aspiration or draw of any kind. It had never been on my radar. And, when I got old enough to truly understand the limitations of my vision, I gave up hope of a lot of things. Along with issues of distance and detail, I have no real depth perception nor peripheral vision; so even simple acts that others take for granted - driving a car, facial recognition more distant than arm's reach, reading packaging - were either beyond my reach or had to be handled differently enough that it put me at odds with certain aspects of daily life. It limited a lot. Oddly, though, I sometimes forget I have a disability at all. Sometimes I have to remind myself of it, because I was never raised with the idea that I was disabled. My grandparents, through the ineptness of having no idea how to deal with a disabled kid, did me a huge favour that way. Accommodations were made when needed and requested, though; so schools did their best, and work does its best. It's limited my choices in a way that's done me very few favours, but it didn't limit all of them.

You learn to alter your focus a little when you have an impediment. I haven't yet figured out how to work this to my advantage so far as work goes, but I have figured out how to roll with the punches when it comes to my art. Given the limitations of my vision, it's a good thing it turned out that I like surrealism and abstraction. It limits choices with sports, also. Not a good idea to get into contact sports, y'see, when you can't see without your glasses, and still can't see with them. Knowing this, I figured I could still one day learn how to use a sword. At least sort of. I figured I could learn how some moves without learning how to fight with one. Hey, when you're me and can't tell the difference between melon and cheese cubes on a buffet table, it's not a good idea to get into any sport that might involve skewering someone - intentionally or otherwise.

So when I found out about Iaido, I was curious. It's not at all what I was looking for, but is. It's surprised me in a lot of ways. Although, what's surprised me the most about it, is how dedicated I've become to it. I've never been dedicated to very much in my life - especially not something that is so contrary to my impatience. Iaido is exacting, fussy, can sometimes be tedious; requiring that you do the same thing repeatedly; again, and again, and again. Everything has a reason or a purpose - every bow, every pleat in the hakama, every angle, every step. Not at all the thing you'd expect someone to be doing who wishes everything was done yesterday. But, two and a half years later, and here we are.

Apparently the hard work is just beginning, though. I've got one more lazy Wednesday, and then it's off to the races of preparing for Nidan (second degree); according to my sensei, that is.

We'll see. :)

- - -

Unlike last year, I didn't completely lose the tape this time around. A strip of tape is used to mark our starting point, and the point at which we must stop. We should be behind the line when we bow, with the sword on the other side - whether we're standing or kneeling. I lost my grip on the sword during the third waza (seitei soete-zuki), and I thought I'd be done for at that point. Then, after I finished my next to last waza, though, I realised I was about a foot too far to the left of the line, and had to compensate a little to step forward and to the right enough to be right at it. I was shaking like a spastic colon though, and my hands were sweating like things that are sweating a lot. This, though, is one of the reasons the sword hilt (tsuka) is wrapped in cotton, silk, or leather - to facilitate grip. I was told by observers that I was very smooth, which is good. I don't feel like I had much, if any, jo ha kyu. I was most concerned about reiho, though; which is half the battle. If you've got sloppy reiho, you're screwed. I almost forgot what waza I was going to do though, which would have been bad. Ah well, it's all over - for now.

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Cannon Knitting Mill

2017 11 28 - 08:39

I've never been able to put a finger on what it is I find so fascinating and compelling about abandoned buildings. One thing I have noticed, though, is that I find the older ones far more interesting than modern abandons. Maybe t's because they've seen more life. Maybe it's because they seem more haunted by that life.

I remember once asking a local rampant urban explorer what the most interesting thing was that he'd ever found while exploring, and he said it was the hind end of a freshly butchered deer on the roof of an abandoned building. What, one wonders, is the though process behind that... behind hauling a deer into the city, butchering only half of it, then leaving the other half on the top of a building.

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Target

2017 11 27 - 09:32

Two years have passed and memories of the Target stores with its white shelves and red labels may be faint for some of us, but not for Robert Motum. When Target first announced it will be closing all stores across Canada in 2015, he felt there needed to be more focus on how employees would be affected. After speaking with staff and lawyers, he was on a mission to learn what happened.

It was felt, by some outsiders, that one of the reasons Target failed in Canada, was that it had banked on Canadians having the same allergic reaction to shopping at WalMart that some sections of the American population does. We don't. Canadians were going to Target stores here expecting the same low prices they could find when shopping at Target stores in the U.S.; and when they weren't finding them, they went off to WalMart (or other bargain stores), and never looked back. Target also made a huge error in buying up the empty Zellers locations, many of which were - at the time Target bought them - located in economically depressed neighbourhoods; areas not likely to attract destination shoppers, and inhabited by people who were not financially able to afford Target's prices. To clarify, Target did not buy out Zellers. Zellers had already closed, and Target just bought the empty stores.

There were also a lot of remarks from various corners about the number of empty shelves and lack of product. The rumour was that Target was using some of the same suppliers that WalMart was, and the big wigs at WalMart had more or less told the suppliers that if they dealt with Target, they would no longer have WalMart as a client.

I had worked at Target briefly during its initial roll-out in the Hamilton area, and I recall the store was largely empty a good bit of the time, with no overhead music to create a more welcoming atmosphere. The management was also so restricted in the money they were budgeted each month to cover expenses, that I got in trouble for staying an extra half hour (without permission) to help a customer who had mobility issues and couldn't get out of their power chair. We'd all been promised full-time hours, but after starting the job in May of 2013, by September I wasn't even getting 24 hours a week. In fact, the week of my birthday I'd received no hours at all.

One of the things we were encouraged to do, was - if we saw a customer with a hand basket that looked full - was to offer to get them a cart. This had not one thing to do with ease for the customer, but was completely about the fact that a person with a cart was more likely to buy more stuff. This is one of those smarmy things I despise about retail in general, and one of the things that made me glad to see Target die.

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Disclosure

2017 11 19 - 03:33

Recently, in regards to "Me too" and other recent surges in open discussions of assault and abuse, I saw someone comment something along the lines of how victims should just "suck it up", that life is hard for everyone, that talking about it is just avoidance of self-responsibility, etcetera. No offence, but... actually, yes. You offended me, so I'm potentially going to offend you also, and I really don't care. To that end: Fuck you.

Now, to business.

It is not your right to decide when or how others grieve, what they need to do in order to heal, nor what others do when they're trying to show support. What you did, is show that you don't care, that you are not sympathetic, that you are not safe, and that you trivialise some of the worst pain another person can feel. I get the fact that it comes out a lot; but, guess what? If it didn't need to keep coming out, it wouldn't. We are all guilty of bad things; but sometimes reminders can stem that tide, cause us to rethink, stop us from continuing to do shameful things, or better able us to help others to stop behaving badly.

Not everyone who talks about it is laying blame; sometimes they're just detailing fault. Not every vocalisation of blame is an attempt to escape from self-responsibility either. But, when there is a victim, there is someone who deserves to be blamed; or do you not believe that someone who is guilty of something deserves blame and/or punishment? At the very least, a lesson? When I talk about my experiences, the people who abused and hurt me, it's not a question of blame, by the way. It's far more about trying to illustrate to others the sort of behaviours that hurt people, in hopes that they are more careful of how they treat others. It's also to help illustrate a little of why some of my behaviours might seem a little less than of the norm. Don't you think people deserve to know why I perhaps don't trust them as they deserve, or have as much faith in them as they deserve? Why I don't allow too many people to get too close sometimes? Should I hurt someone else by poor behaviour stemming from other poor behaviour, just because you think I shouldn't talk about the things that have happened to me?

If you were a victim, and you managed to either bury it, shrug it off, or recover from it such that you don't feel the need to "me too"; good for you. But others aren't so readily able, and it doesn't make them weaker or less valid than whatever situation it is you might have experienced. If you have never been a victim, I hope like hell you never are. It would be terrible, wouldn't it, to experience something so wrenchingly traumatic, turn to look for some sympathy or help, and find that everyone around you is telling you to suck it up and stop bothering them with your trivial concerns.

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Reiho

2017 11 01 - 22:12

I've talked about reiho before, but going into grading for shodan I need to do a written exam, and one of the questions is: Why is it important to learn reiho in Iaido?

This is my answer:

Iaido, amongst other things, is about kihon - basics; basics in the sense of small details, fundamentals, and integral parts; not in the sense of rudimentary. If you don't know the basics, your art falls apart. You can't build a house without a foundation, and you have failed.

Reiho encompasses all the basics of respect - for the art, for the people who made the art, for those who teach and study the art, for the places where you practice the art, and for the tools used while performing the art. Everything, in fact, that you do in the dojo is a form of respect - from the moment you enter to the moment you leave; from the bows to something as seemingly minor as how you're standing when not doing a waza, your posture, the position of the sword and how you hold it, whether or not you're leaning on a wall, etcetera. Reiho encompasses gratitude for the present as much as respect for the past. You thank your fellow iaidoka for sharing space with you, and thank the sensei and senpai who teach you and give up their time for you. Reiho is giving acknowledgement of value to all of these things. Reiho also teaches you to pay attention to details, and without the attention to details, you are just waving a sword around. Reiho teaches one of the most important aspects of Iai, that of readiness. If you are aware of (and respectful of) your environment, you can be ready for whatever it throws at you.

And - through reiho - much like through the act of dressing before class, you have another opportunity to settle yourself, to switch your mind from being 'out there' to being 'in here', to facilitate readiness.

- - -

Also, and I know I've mentioned this before, though I'm not going to say it on the test - if your reiho is sloppy, you will fail your grading, no matter how good the rest of your performance is.

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My Sword

2017 10 30 - 12:51

An iaito is an unsharpened blade (sharpened katana are called 'shinken'), generally sandcast of aluminum-zinc alloy (as opposed to a forged carbon steel shinken). They are used primarily for the practice of Iaido. The length of the blade depends on the user's arm length and the style of Iaido they practice. The method of noto (re-sheathing of the blade) is a primary factor in ryu-related sword length. My style (Muso Shinden Ryu) uses the - to my knowledge - longest blades because of sayabiki - how far back we are pulling the saya during nukitsuke and the start of noto. In a lot of schools/dojos, you aren't allowed to use a shinken in class until you're of a certain rank - third or fourth dan. Because shinken are so hazardous to use, iaito were created to facilitate the study of the art without lopping off body parts.

I acquired this sword from Taylor Sensei in Guelph in July of 2016. In so many ways it is not aesthetically what would I would have chosen had I the opportunity to get a custom sword made, but the first time I held it in the dojo, I knew this sword was <I>mine</I>. It felt right. For the detail-oriented - it's 2.45 shaku (about two and a half feet), with dragonfly menuki, vines around the fuchi, and Musashi tsuba.

I read somewhere that samurai used to name their swords. I haven't yet come up with a name for this iaito yet, but I figure that someday I'll just know what's right. I need to take some better photos of it. One of these days.

You can get swords with very ornate sword fittings. Mine are fairly simple, except for the dragonfly menuki (the fittings under the handle wrapping - they facilitate grip). Vines on the fuchi, a Musashi tsuba (hand guard), and a very simple tsuka-gashira (pommel).

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Here's what I believe about the art world, and art itself

2017 10 29 - 03:20

This list is, of course, subject to alteration at any time - and it no doubt will - especially in the middle of the night when I get extra chatty.

art



Pro-no-tion

2017 10 28 - 06:15

I found out that someone who was hired after me, got a "promotion" ahead of me. This in no fashion bothers me, as it's not a job change I'd have wanted; but what does get me, is that it's more work, demonic amounts more stress, and she won't be getting paid a single cent more for the 'privilege'. She also has no choice in the matter. You either take the position, or you quit your job. I'm not even certain that's legal, to have your job changed like that, without request, permission, or assent.
 
Yet more joyful aspects of working a customer service minimum wage job.
 
She'll be made what's called a "superagent" - which means she'll not only be taking calls for customer service for accounts and appointment bookings, but also e-commerce calls for online purchases; which I am told is a brutal job - customers are more demanding, and they're working with systems that are hampered in some pretty spectacular ways, which makes their job slower and harder to perform. It means less likelihood of getting out of work early ever, because there's too much demand on a superagent's time and abilities; it also means less ability to swap shifts, as a superagent and a regular agent can't swap; it means the likelihood of more required overtime, even if you don't want it.
 
And not a cent more in your pocket.
 
Not that money is the answer to all things; but if you're going to change a person's job into something more demanding and stressful than what they're currently doing, you could at least do them the courtesy of paying them more.
 
The impression I got from her is that she's not too keen on the idea, but she's got no choice but to take it, or quit.
 
Thankfully, I don't excel at my job (purposefully), or I'd be stuck in the same position. I do my job 'well enough', but not 'too well'. I found out early on about the forced superagent thing, and am making sure I never get stuck doing it. I don't feel compelled to increase the amount of meaningless stress in my life.
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Pre-grading Inspection

2017 10 25 - 09:24

I hauled myself out to Etobicoke today for a pre-grading inspection by my sensei's sensei. I have been pronounced fit for grading. Well, at least he never said I shouldn't, or couldn't; so I'm good.

Although Cruise sensei's version of "Sensei, I need to leave when kendo gets going because I absolutely cannot deal with that noise, and if I can't hear you OR see you, we have a problem", seems to be "But you need to do [enter name of waza here] one more time." Fourth try, though, I got out. I think the only thing that might beat out sharing an echoey room with kendo for noise, is standing next to a jet engine when it starts, without earplugs.

That floor in Etobicoke is going to be the death of me. I was doing ganmen-ate or sanpo-giri, and when I went to slide forward, I stuck and actually pitched forward. I did manage not to fall on my face; but it was like when I first started Iai, when everything I did was me pitching one way or another and trying not to fall on my face.

He did seem surprised when I said that I was doing morote-zuki for grading, that I found it easier than kesa-giri. I gotta tell ya, I hate kesa-giri - and ushiro. With ushiro I just can never feel anything but awkward with that turn and draw - it's never aligned properly, and I can't get enough saya-biki. Kesa-giri is just plain awkward and flappy and - quite frankly - the downward cut is impeded by certain parts of my anatomy. I know the workaround to it, to loosen the grip on the right hand when you cut down, but it's not enough to make me a kesa-giri cheerleader.

Flaws (read: things I need to work on) (at least the ones I remember):

iaido



Transition

2017 10 21 - 12:59

I was talking with one of my aunts the other day, and mentioned testing for my black belt in December. These are not words I would ever have imagined coming out of my mouth. I was such a shy, timid creature when I was young; so much so, in fact, that very same aunt I was talking to used to call me Mousie. Lots of things that are part of my life surprise me now, nevermind what my former teenage self would have thought of them. I won't waste time on regrets of not having figured things out sooner, though.

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