Finally, we've worked out what the problem with my chiburi was - and it's been an ongoing issue with me in one way or another - breaking the wrist. In chiburi I was doing it either during the downward swing, or right at the end of it. It was causing me to slap the blade down, and that's sure not what the samurai intended.

- - -

I am coming up on my second Iaidoversary next month, and although I'm not always one to celebrate anniversaries, I do use them as a time of reflection. I think about who I was and what I was doing when I started, about how far I've come, about the people I know, the people I keep meeting, the sense of community that I've felt sometimes, the way in which this art has become so much a part of my life that I could not imagine it not being there. I remember saying that the first time I picked up an iaito, it was like picking up a paintbrush - I had this "why hasn't this been in my hand my entire life" feeling. It has long since ceased to be merely a thing at the end of my arm that I wave around separate from me.

Am I good at it? Not really - not yet. Sure, I passed Ikkyu, but that's not hard - do the waza in order, don't drop your sword, don't make a face. I suspect that when I test for shodan at some point in the future, it'll be a whole different story. I'm hoping that I'll at least find the tape this time around; I lost it during Ikkyu testing. I was never good at nine ball either; but that never stopped me from playing. I'm better than I was. Things get a little better each week. Honestly, though, with some things I'm just not capable of assessing myself. I wouldn't know if I was good at it unless someone else told me.

I have never really belonged to a "club" before. I was in Girl Guides, but I never truly felt at home there. Feeling like a stranger in my own house is not an uncommon thing for me though. But in the dojo, I forget what separates me from other people. I forget about separation entirely. Being there has given me this art, given me a concept of dedication that I'd never experienced before, given me friends, given me a thread that runs through my life - like my art does, given me something to be proud of and look forward to.

I remember seeing something somewhere - Aristotle or Socrates, I can't remember which - about lives that are too busy are barren. I think it's because you never truly stay in one place long enough to find what is truly important to you. I used to worry about that, about not being 'busy' enough. I thought that if I wasn't doing 'enough', or 'more', that meant I was wasting my life. I realised a long time ago that a quiet life was just as valid a thing as any other, and I recently realised - when I encountered the idea of the barren busy life - that picking a few things that complete or augment you, that you love, that bring you peace, joy, or contentment, was more important.

Being too busy is just noise - you won't be able to hear the music.

And speaking of music, my complete and utter lack of jo-ha-kyu is like a melody with no rhythm; or, rather, an unchanging one. (Rather than moving in 4:4 time, move in 3:4 time; like a waltz, only with somewhat different emphasis - slow, quicker, quick-stop - slow, quicker, quick-stop - slow, quicker, quick-stop. All actions should begin slowly, speed up, then end swiftly.) I'd never thought about that until my sensei said something to me about my lack of rhythm in class today - he made that analogy, about a melody that doesn't move; and much like not breaking my wrist, jo-ha-kyu came together better than it normally does.

One of the things that my sensei has us do, is demonstrate for the class whatever it is he's teaching us. We learn a waza, do it a few times together, then each of us in turn will demonstrate it for the rest. Most of the time we do this with the specific intent of having the rest of the class point out things that could be improved or things that were done particularly well. He's teaching us to evaluate. This is as important to your own work as it is to the person you are critiquing. Today, though, he switched that habit up a little. He'd give us each a koryu waza to do, and along with that, we had to give two main points - things that are different from seitei, things that are significant to the waza, things that would be important to know were you teaching or explaining the waza to someone else. I used to loathe this sort of thing with a firey hot passion. I hate being the centre of attention in that way; hate being under scrutiny by so many eyes at once. I hate being stared at. It's why I don't sing in public. Today he explained why he has us do this, has us explain points and try to teach - part of it is because at some point in our lives - either at work, or volunteering, or something - someone's going to need us to do something, ask us to do something, and we'll be able to just do it. It's to help strip away performance anxiety, to teach us to learn how to teach. Knowing something is one thing, but knowing how to explain it to someone else is a completely different matter.

In the dojo, at least, I've long since lost my distaste for demonstration. Maybe one day it'll carry over into the rest of my life.

2017 06 22 - 00:05

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