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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2016 08 13 - 12:14

Recently I had an … I was about to say argument, but it was more like being under attack; but we’ll say argument for the sake of argument … argument with a … let’s say ‘friend’ for the sake of argument, though that is clearly no longer the case … friend, who chose to redirect my personal admissions back at me during whatever bout of rage it was she was having at the time. Angry in return, I merely told her to “shut the fuck up”, but I didn’t attack her. It all revolved around my experiences with Iaido – which you already know, having seen me mention this vitriolic situation previously.

I’m not one for overmuch spiritualism – it’s not my bag, never has been, and when I was younger and tried to make it so, it all gave me a headache. I do dabble a little in the philosophical aspects of Buddhism and Taoism, but that’s as far as it gets. I’m very much rooted in the here and now and what’s around me at the time. So when I mentioned, along with many other things that she attacked, the “personal journey” – something that I think a lot of folks go through when involving themselves heavily with certain Asian martial arts – she referred to all that as hippy bullshit. It really is not. There is a lot going on. There’s an enormous amount of stuff I am being forced to face by virtue of being in that dojo, by virtue of the art I study, and by virtue of the people I study it with. Trials and tests and lessons and all that. I just have not discussed it with anyone, because some of it is grossly embarrassing.

But what is bullshit, is someone who’d prefer to attack you with the gift of your honesty, rather than merely offer the opinion that they don’t agree. I don’t care if my friends don’t like what I do, don’t agree with what I do, don’t care what I do, etcetera, and feel the urge to tell me – because people can disagree with you, and disapprove of you, and still support you.

Was it hurtful? Yes, it was. It’s always hurtful to have someone you trust devalue you so meanly, but I have no time for vicious children; and I have no time for people who’d rather attack than talk it out.

As an aside: I told my sensei about this entire situation, about being called a ‘cheat’ and why I had been, etcetera; and, he doesn’t judge me. So. That’s the only person’s opinion other than my own that I need to care about in this situation.


Iaido Sword: Kamimoto-Ha Techniques of Muso Shinden Ryu

2016 07 31 - 15:29

Iaido Sword: Kamimoto-Ha Techniques of Muso Shinden Ryu

This book, which I have a well-used (by me), copy of, is somewhat of a bible in the form of Iaido I study – though not exhaustive, it’s well-packed with information regarding history, etiquette, techniques, and other information. Books are useful, of course, but nothing can take the place of a teacher.

Anyhow, one of the things it addresses, is the idea of rank in Iaido. Unlike other martial arts, there is no coloured belt ranking system in Iaido. You would never know upon entering a dojo, except by observance of their work, who was at what rank merely by looking at them - and even then you wouldn't know. All you would know is how good they were, not what rank they're at. Ranks exist, in the dan/black belt concept that is commonly understood, but anything that draws attention to the person and distracts others, is discouraged. It is felt that striving for a belt/rank might defeat the purpose of striving for quality. In fact, prior to the 1950s, coloured belt ranking didn’t exist in Japanese martial arts – it was an idea stolen from the Koreans, I believe.

To quote:

“The introduction of a rank structure into Iaido is a mixed blessing. On the one hand it defines an outline for the student to measure his progress, so in the best of circumstances it provides positive feedback. It also may provide motivation. This is a Western tactic. On the other hand rank structure runs the risk of becoming the objective instead of the means. […] The attainment of rank carries the seed of self-contentment, complacency, and vanity. The black belt who loses his “beginner’s mind” because he thinks he has attained it all will never come close to his potential. Ideally the student, either Eastern or Western, should practice Iaido for its own sake. He or she may not be able to ignore rank, but it should be of minimal importance. The quality of the Iaido should be the issue […]“

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Iaido Etiquette and Customs

2016 07 31 - 12:03


An Introduction to Iaido: Its Purpose and Benefits

2016 07 30 - 11:58

An Introduction to Iaido: Its Purpose and Benefits

Someone called me a ‘cheat’ because I don’t feel a strong inner need to go test and therefore grade in Iaido. I want to do it, but I don’t need to do it. They are not the same animal. This person also appears to have failed to comprehend that there is more to a martial art than learning to use a weapon or, to borrow a song lyric, “trash bozos”. I am not a person for whom competition is a motivator, nor do I need a piece of paper to tell me I’ve either done well or succeeded. While there is nothing wrong with those things, and at some point I will test and get my piece of paper, they aren’t the be-all and end-all for everyone. I need to improve myself, not compare myself to others.

I am getting the feeling that the utter lack of contact in Iaido, its complete lack of practical application, and my appreciation for its aspects of moving meditation, are not being grasped. I think, in some cases, it is one of those things that has to be done to be understood, at least for some folks.

Anyhow, this article explains some aspects of Iai that might clear up the mystery.</p><p>But, before I leave you, a couple of thoughts:



2016 06 19 - 11:51

The room I have my class in every Wednesday.


Friday night’s all right for fixing

2016 06 18 - 11:49

Tool Number One in the sword-handler’s repertoire, is apparently dental floss. Tool Number Two is clear nail polish. After long use, things can loosen up a little – particularly the tsuba – so to avoid the cost of sword repair as long as you can (because it can sometimes cost nearly the price of a sword to take it apart and put it back together again to tighten it), you can wind dental floss under/over the seppa (which are like washers above and below the tsuba) to tighten it up; and the saya will loosen over time also, so to tighten that up a little, you can coat the area around (inside) the opening with a few layers of clear nail polish.

That was my Friday night.

I really know how to live it up.


What I wish I could do, is afford to get this sword fixed before I give it back to its rightful owner; because though it’s not mine, I have been using it, and it’s the least I can do as thanks for the loan.



2016 06 06 - 11:46

Since last September it’s been a never-ending series of hand-washing and dry-cleaning my hakama – one does not put an expensive piece of black martial arts clothing into public use washers where people frequently also use bleach. Tie-dye, not acceptable in the dojo. It finally occurred to me that the simple solution was to get my hands on one of the two washers in my building before anyone else could get at them, do a load of laundry that doesn’t care if it gets bleach marks first, then wash the hakama.

Success. Keikogi and hakama still acceptably ninja black, and daisy fresh.

I do so like the idea of $2 to wash my gear at home, as opposed to the $30 it costs to have them dry-cleaned.

Yes, I do lead an exciting life.

There’s this idea in some circles that one’s dojo gear should always be a little bit dirty. Where and how this came about is kind of beyond me, but I’ve seen it mentioned in a few things I’ve read. The Japanese are aggressive bathers as far as I understand, and dirty or smelly clothes, or your person, would be disrespectful to yourself and your fellow budoka. Cleanliness, tidiness, and proper appearance are very important.

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