2016 12 01 - 14:55

At the end of class my sensei will sometimes ask if we have comments. Most of the time, odd as it may seem, I don’t. A lot of what goes on for me there, is stuff I can’t articulate, or don’t want to, and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time filling the air with something simply for the sake of doing so. The dojo is a very private place for me in an odd sort of way for a public room, so sometimes talking about it would be like inviting a stranger into my home to rifle through my underwear drawer. It’s exposure, and sometimes I just don’t want to be exposed.

Wednesday, though, I did talk – about how I feel about the whole idea of being there, especially after Saturday’s grading; about why I thought I might hit a plateau and stop.

I did not grow up with the idea of dedication. My grandparents were not driven people, and I did not discover much of a passion for anything outside books until I was an adult. That passion was art. Then, years later, after volunteering and working and all the things that life throws at you in one way or another, I discovered Iaido – and now, I cannot imagine my life without it. Sometimes I feel about my sword the way I feel about the paintbrush – I think, “Why hasn’t this been in my hand my entire life?”

Even less than being dedicated, am I comfortable with talking about feelings related to such matters, at least not without very careful curation of the audience. I am always, even at my age, worried that I’ll make a fraud of myself. I know myself very well in some ways, but in others I am… well, it’s more like I never feel comfortable in my own skin. I do not feel like ‘me’. In contrast to that, I am oddly willing to talk about absolutely anything – from the colour of my underwear, to my fallopian surgical procedure, to the name of my imaginary friend when I was five.

My sensei said, after I was done speaking, that it becomes a way of life. On that point he is absolutely right. There is something going on, and one of these days I might figure out exactly what that going on is.


On display

2016 12 01 - 14:52

I was not nervous on Saturday, in regards to performing the waza satisfactorily. I knew I would; or, rather, I wasn’t nervous that I wouldn’t. What did bother me was the idea of public performance. It is deeply uncomfortable for me. I do not like to be stared at; and that test is six and a half minutes of being stared at by six people whose sole purpose in life is to judge your every move.

Dislike of public performance is why I don’t sing in public, despite the fact that I know damned well that I’m beyond capable of singing well enough to do so. I don’t like being the centre of attention in that way. I did do an open mic one time a couple of years back, but I blew it I was so shaken.

I think, perhaps, that this is why I have no problem with people staring at, and judging, my art – which is pretty much the opposite of what most artists seem to feel. Look at my art, and hate it if you want, because at least you aren’t looking at me. I can detach myself from how people feel about my art; for that reason, and also because I know that out of six or seven billion opinions, negative ones are going to happen, and it’s all right if they do. It’s not possible for everyone to like everything, and you either get on board with that idea from the get-go, or get off the train.

art, iaido
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2016 11 27 - 14:45

Because I did my testing from a standing position, I was not allowed to use standing versions of waza that begin from seiza/tate-hiza, so that limits me to choosing from eight, one of which would be grossly arrogant of me to attempt (that’s number 11 of the seitei forms - it’s an advanced move). I did do number 10 though, which is complicated in its own way, and it turned out I was the only person testing for ikkyu that did it. This is an instructional video for number 10.

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2016 11 27 - 14:27

I was halfway through this long thing I was going to post about my Iaido grading, when I realised I didn’t really want to share too much of it publicly after all. I will say, though, that I thought that grading would be a plateau I’d hit and stop at, but all I want to do is get back into the dojo and do better.



2016 11 26 - 14:43

I passed!

I looked down once right after my first waza, to look for the tape – which should not do; and quickly after that I realised I lost the location of the tape entirely, but decided not to care. You have to not care at my level, if you lose the tape, because you can’t look down for it. Higher up, they’ll start caring a lot more about that sort of thing.

Basically, at this level, it’s all do the waza in order, don’t drop your sword, and don’t make a face. Even if you do the most spectacular screw-up, you might still pass if you show no reaction to it and just keep on going. I must have managed that one.

I did the waza in order. I did not drop my sword. And I am pretty certain I did not make a face.



2016 11 24 - 14:40

Sharing a gym with a kendo club, is like sharing your livingroom with a military onslaught, and its sound effects crew. It’s the next morning, and I still feel pukey from the headache I got last night from the noise. All things considered, I should have stayed at my home dojo; but when your sensei’s sensei beckons…

Also: To spend a year and a half having the zanshin beat into you, only to have someone try and beat it out of you again… not so simple!

When asked how it had gone, I said:

Not as well as I’d have liked. We were late because of traffic, so no real warm-up, and I felt very mistakey the whole time. Got a couple of good tips, but the noise from kendo was way too much for me, and made it hard to learn/think/absorb/etc.

In the well-over-a year since I first learned ganmen-ate, I have only gotten my saya stuck in my hakama once. Tonight? Four, maybe six times. It just wouldn’t stop.

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Ball sports

2016 11 23 - 14:35

These guys are standing around talking about ball sports, and all I’m thinking is, “Ha ha ha, I’ve got a sword.”

ball sports

Grading / Reiho

2016 11 12 - 14:29

Fourteen more sleeps until my grading. I'm trying to decide if I'm nervous about it at all. I know they don't expect too much from people testing for ikkyu - do the waza in order, don't drop your sword. It's all pretty simple in that sense.

But, I don't like public performance, and I don't want to screw this up - because I loathe embarrassing myself, and I don't want to embarrass my sensei by sucking any more than is expected of me at my rank, and by fucking up. His reputation is on the line also. Every time one of us is at a public event or testing, I feel like we have a little something extra to prove - not for ourselves, but for him.

Am I ready… yes. In a technical sense I am.

This is an old-fashioned method of standing reiho (etiquette or respect, but that doesn't fully define it) - now we keep the sageo (the cord hanging from the saya (scabbard)) all in the right hand. Otherwise, this is the bow I will do when I start and when I finish during testing. It's far less complicated than the bowing we do at the start and end of classes, which is comprised of four separate bows - two to the kamiza (spirit seat/shrine) - one standing and one sitting, one to the sensei, one to the sword. But it's also more complicated than it looks, and is open to a lot of booboos that could lose you passing a rank, especially at higher levels. They count reiho for a huge portion of your grading, even more so than the waza. In some cases, once they see you doing your reiho properly, they stop looking at you. Proper reiho shows depth of practice.

I still lose control of the sageo sometimes, but the trick is not to show it. Don't make a face. Keep going on like nothing happened, and you could still pass. Because schooling yourself is also part of the art, the game, and if you can master that, then you can master the art of psyching out your enemy so you can win before you even begin.


Coping / Praise

2016 09 20 - 22:01

My sensei (and others) has made comment on my ability/strength/etc given my vision issues and other life events, and my ability to cope so well/easily/whatever with them; sometimes saying that I'm a strong person for being able to have dealt with what I've dealt with, and saying I deserve praise, etc.

Yet, to me, I don't see that (no pun intended), as my life is my life, all things are, in a sense 'normal' to me, so I feel uncomfortable accepting praise.



2016 09 19 - 20:17

Now that my sensei lets me play with the big kids, he’s teaching me the big kid wazas. Ryuto translates roughly to “flowing sword”, I believe.

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