The evidence. My certificate arrives

2017 02 16 - 16:38

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2017 02 02 - 16:53

I will take any hour in the dojo with my sword in my hand that I can get. I don't care who's leading the class. I'll share the dojo with kendo, which - as I've said before - is like inviting a military onslaught into your living room, along with its sound effects crew. I'll go out of town. I'll go alone. I'll get up at 6 on a Sunday morning even. You can always learn something, and always do. If you aren't learning something, you're not trying hard enough.

I haven't yet met a sensei that I didn't learn from - even Ohmi Sensei who, a great deal of the time, I can't understand. A Japanese accent + echoey room + unpractised ear = confusion. At least I've got past my Cruise Sensei freaks me out issue. He's a nice guy; he just looks stern. He does like to keep things going quickly though, which utterly threw me off during last Saturday's Lunar New Year special class. (At least we got use of the dojo <em>before</em> kendo, who were coming in for their annual New Year's beating.) But, when you're trying to work with a large group of people with a limited amount of time, you pack as much in as you can; which does sometimes mean going quickly.

My sensei did ask me during class tonight, how I'd enjoyed Saturday. I always, like I said, enjoy my time in the dojo; but I can't settle in to my body or the waza when Cruise Sensei has us working so quickly, so I felt thrown off much of the time. I can't perform things very well or precisely when we go that fast.

Shiho-giri, I think, is fast becoming my favourite waza. Maybe it's because it involves so much - three cuts, one strike, piercing, waka, jodan, and four imaginary foes. Someone once said to me, somewhat snootily, that what I was doing was useless, that at least she knew how to get a sword out of someone's hands. And all I could think was, "Rule number one in that game, is that you don't <em>try</em> to get a sword <em>out</em> of someone's hands at all." With shiho-giri you do learn how to at least slow down someone with a sword, and that's by striking their hands/wrists with the flat part of the tsuka of your sword. If it doesn't make them drop the sword completely, it will at least cause them enough pain to slow them down long enough for you to get back to them.

Tonight I did learn something that this video, though fabulous, does not mention about this waza: when you're turning from striking the first opponent's hands and push forward to pierce opponent number two, the force does not come from the arms - it comes from the right hip, which you push with as you're moving forward, throwing the weight of it forward, which moves the rest of you forward.

This video should start where Ogura Sensei is showing the thrusting pierce.

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Happy New Rooster Year

2017 01 29 - 17:01

Saturday afternoon we had a special New Year class with my sensei's sensei; a man that used to freak me out just by looking at him. I have since discovered he's a nice guy, but he still freaks me out some.

I end up doing poorly with him teaching sometimes, especially when he's just having us do drills, because he wants us to move quickly with no zanshin, and speed is my worst fault. So if I do things as quickly as he has us do them, I don't do them well. Every week I work to keep things slower, paced, so it throws me off when I'm asked to move more quickly.

I did pick up a couple of good tips though, particularly about what I do during furikaburi (a position right after nukitsuke - normally - and prior to bringing the sword down in a cut from an overhead position). Apparently rather than sending the tip first, I have a habit of pulling the tsuka (hilt of the sword) forward a little before I send the tip. This would be okay were I about to clock someone in the forehead prior to cutting them, but not so good elsewise. Being more mindful of that, reminds me to place my left hand more towards the end of the tsuba than I normally do, which is probably the biggest reason for my sword bouncing at the eend of overhead cuts - also the fact I don't lock my wrists enough.

I never fail to learn something each week. Now let's hope I can remember it from one week to another - long term.

I was glad to spend the afternoon in the dojo though - any excuse or chance I can get to spend another hour with my sword in my hand, I'll take.

Lunar New Year

For a samurai, nothing says Happy New Year (rooster) like spending your Saturday sweating.

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Jo Ha Ew

2017 01 26 - 18:15

For the longest time I was quite unable to gauge my own improvement or performance. I think, in some ways, perhaps my brain just isn't wired that way. I keep thinking that I'll have no idea what, if anything, could improve - until one day something does, and I do notice it. I still feel a little disconnected from it all; sometimes I forget the bunkai, and the details of what I'm doing, but I'm not remotely the same waving-the-sword-around person I was when I started. (I honestly can't believe sometimes, that it's been a year and a half.)

My worst fault, still, is speed. I move too quickly. The jo-ha-kyu will come with practice, but the rest of it I still have to work on. I think part of my problem is simply that I hate making people wait, or I fear I am making them wait, so I rush through things so that I'm not holding everyone up.

Slower Iai's more luscious; a samurai never rushes.


Don't hold it

2017 01 26 - 17:51

I think our natural tendency is to hold our breath when performing an action, but that's actually a physically taxing - even weak - move. When you breath in, and then hold a breath, you use muscles to do it. It takes power away from the body, from the actions. Breathing out, however, does not. It takes no power. We breath out when cutting/striking, because we can put more force behind it. Breathing out is an action of power.

It's also a part of why so many parts of the waza end together. Wasted motion is, well, wasted motion. Stepping, strike, and exhale at the same time. Step back, end chuburi, and exhale at the same time.

One time I stumbled and lost my balance in class because I didn't realise I'd been holding my breath that tightly or much. I got dizzy.

Tension in the body also takes away from your power, including locking your knees. You can't put force behind a cut if you're too tense, because you've used all your force, and there's no give when you move. I think ballet is the only thing in the world where locking of the knees is desirous. It actually makes you terribly unstable in iai (and other things), to lock the knees.



2017 01 07 - 16:59

The kamiza is a place in the dojo where a shrine for Shinto spirits (kamidana) is located, a place where they reside. These spirits can include venerated dead - family, past teachers. You see them, on a shelf sometimes, always over head height. In terms of seating or placement in the room, it is the best seat in the house - warmest, safer. It is traditional for the doors of the kamiza in a dojo to be opened for the first classes of the new year, so that the spirits can see how much you've improved over the year. You make a promise to them, to work on something, and the doors are shut until the next year.

I got stuck when, at the end of class, sensei asked us to make a promise about something specific we'd work on throughout the coming year. I said 'everything', because don't we all have to always be doing that? But it needs to be more specific, so I chose speed; because a) I was on the spot, and b) that is my worst fault - I rush things. Fast is my four-letter-word, he says. And now, given that I've passed Ikkyu, now it's really time to concentrate on my jo-ha-kyu.

Slower iai's more luscious; a samurai never rushes? Sorry. Canadian. What can I say?

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2017 01 05 - 16:57

My body knows better than I do what it's supposed to be doing, apparently.

In class today we did some exercises, some of the waza even, with our eyes closed. We'd switch from doing it the usual way, to then doing it with our eyes shut, and it's impressive how much of a difference it actually does make, how much our vision can throw us off. Apparently the performance difference between eyes wide open and eyes wide shut (sorry, Stanley), was beyond noticeable.

You'd think the blind girl would be ahead of the game on this one, seeing as how I'm none too good at seeing; but, sadly, I was not.

Interesting exercise though. I'd like to try that again.


To obi, or knot to obi

2017 01 01 - 16:51

Men and women have different ways of wrapping and knotting their hakama and obi. For females, the front himo – when brought around back for knotting – are tied and knotted under the butt - though I'm not sure if this is a Jikiden thing or an all women in Iaido thing. This works better in some ways, but I have noticed that sometimes the obi and himo shift around a little more than they used to before I started tying things this way. I don’t have the same shifting problem that necessitates wearing the stretchy obi, but I hear they’re fab.

The problem I now have, though, is that when I sit down in a chair with my hakama on, the knot’s right in my butt.


Weapon Wednesday

2016 12 28 - 16:37

I’m having breakfast in the mall today (because who wouldn’t for $1.56 tax included?), and thinking about how lightweight I feel.

It’s Wednesday – Sword Day – so normally I take all my gear to work with me (hide it in the one manager’s office) and go to class from there; but, the Wednesday between Christmas and New Years, is the one Wednesday the dojo is closed and we have no class.

It feels weird for me to leave the house without my gear.

The operations manager once asked me why I brought a sword to work, and I told him it was just in case he fired me.

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2016 12 23 - 16:00

Recently I had a conversation with the person who initially told me about Iaido, during which I thanked him for having done so.

He admitted that he was surprised I’d stuck with it; he thought I’d get bored and give it up. He’s not off-base in having thought or said that. I’m sometimes surprised too. I haven’t lived a life where I had to get used to sticking with anything, so it’s a source of wonder to me also. I do know that one of the reasons I have stuck with it, is because of the people I am there with, my sensei not the least of them. Had I started this with someone else, having met many of those someone elses now, I do not think I’d still be at it – with one notable exception. There is nowt wrong with any of the people who teach this art in this area, they’re all wonderful in their own way, but there’s a certain feeling of rapport that you get with certain folk, a sense of rightness also, that makes some relationships work better than others, and makes some folk a bigger inspiration.

I’m glad I stuck with it. I can’t see my life without it.