Welland Iaido Seminar, 2016

2016 03 12 - 20:36

I have survived my first all day Iaido seminar. What a wonderful experience that was. We got to train with each of four different top-level senseis, each of them taking a different chunk of the seitei-gata. I learned an awful lot, some of which I know I’ll forget, and some of which I’m still processing.

I also managed to win three of the five door prizes, including a wonderful piece of ceramic by Chris Sora (which I’ll take a photo of when I have better light), and the Year of the Monkey artwork by Cruise sensei that I really wanted, because I’m a monkey. I think I received at least half a dozen friendly death-threats from fellow students. :)

Also worth nothing that I did not poke any eyes out, nor cut anything off, and I think I may accidentally have eaten eel at our sushi dinner afterwards.

After the past couple of weeks, a really good day was overdue, and desperately needed.



2016 03 02 - 18:53

I also learned how to strike down three annoying people at one go. Look out, world. I work in a call centre. You can imagine how handy this will be.

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Fast is a four-letter word

2016 02 11 - 20:29

My biggest problem in Iaido, is that I don’t slow down enough. I go too quickly. If you go too quickly it throws off your balance, it throws everything off, and you don’t internalise the waza so that when you’re a 70 year-old 8th dan master, you can make it all look as smooth as butter.

While I was on my own doing a little work on Kesa-giri today, sensei was making some commentary to another student about their work with the same waza, and then he said, of me, “She’s a completely different person when she slows down.”

I prefer to take that as a compliment.


Eyes and Balls

2016 02 06 - 20:39

A friend and I, talking about our respective sports loves - she's football and I'm baseball, ascribed it to the fact that you love what you grow up being used to seeing. That's true, in a lot of ways. She grew up watching football with her father, going to Tiger Cats games and the like; and I grew up watching baseball with my grandfather, and classic Dodgers/Yankees grudge match world series. I don't watch baseball much anymore - I don't have cable (nor even a TV), watching the games online can be flakey at best, and the strikes kind of did a number on me years ago that I never quite got past. I've only ever been to one major league game, where the Red Sox beat the pants off the Blue Jays 14 - 1. I swear, as a visually impaired woman I'm sure I could have played outfield better that day than the guy who was doing it.

Here's the thing... I can still watch games if I want, but unless I watch them on TV it goes right by me. That's the one beauty, though, of watching baseball on TV - they always make it very clear where the ball is at any given time. With hockey, football, and basketball, to my eyes it's merely bunches of men going back and forth across various colours of surface. I can't see the detail. It's all lost on me. It just sort of hit me yesterday, when I thought maybe I should watch some of the online Coal Bowl games (it's a basketball tournament in Cape Breton that, as it happens, some of my cousin's children are playing in), even though I've never had a love of basketball, just to see what's going on - to keep in touch with what my family is doing and all that. But, there we are, all the detail of what's going on would be lost on me, so it's more groups of men running back and forth across a surface.

I used to think all the time about what I was missing in life, but not really in a participatory way. It was more of a can't-drive-a-car, can't-be-a-doctor, can't-operate-machinery sort of thinking. Today, though, I think about all the things I've missed because I can't see the detail. No animals-in-the-forest-watching, no people-watching, no shared sports experiences, no eye contact games with men. People have accused me of being rude because I don't look around when I hear someone who shouts after me without using my name, nor do I look at honking cars. No point. I can't see the people in the car, and unless you're within a couple of feet of me, I won't see you standing across the road shouting at me. Rather, I might see you, I just won't know it's you.

So, I spent a lot of my life not bothering with certain things, because there was no point in learning them - there was no point in learning the details of a sport I could never actually enjoy - either as a participant or a spectator. I never learned the details of most sports for that reason. I never bothered flirting with people for the same reason. At times, not being able to participate has been incredibly frustrating. It hasn't stopped me from having adventures and enjoying my life - but a lot of my pursuits are solitary, individual, and late-blooming.

Oddly, one of the things I enjoy most - making art - is only augmented by bad vision, rather than being hampered by it. Do I live the life of a photo-realist? Hell no; but I wouldn't want to. I'm a surrealist, an abstractionist, I like art made from accidents, and bad vision only helps. I prefer abstract art to representational art. I never much got into landscapes, unless it looked like a Dali-esque nightmare. I don't care for portraits either. I get more feeling out of abstract works - from colours, shapes, patterns - maybe because that's sometimes all I see of the world. It was great when I was taking a lot of photographs, because I did what I called abstract photography sometimes. It was never about taking pictures of Things, it was about taking pictures of their shapes and the way they fitted in to what was around them.

My life is a piece of melon on a buffet fruit tray. One time I took a couple of cubes off a tray because I thought they were cheese, because from my eye-level looking down at a buffet table is just a sea of colours. My friend Diane spent a week in Cuba walking behind me at the resort's buffet line whispering in my ear about what was on the dishes in front of me. It's why I like buffets that label the food trays - at eye level. Makes life a little less gastronomically surprising.

I've missed out on a lot, which I suppose was my point - and it was sad, and sometimes still is; but I haven't missed out on everything, and that's good.

Incidentally, I hate melons - but I ate the cubes just the same, because I was too embarrassed not to.

art, iaido, personal
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2016 02 05 - 09:11

This is the kata I learned yesterday.<br /><br />I only hit myself in the face once!

This may look simple, but as you step forward and draw the sword from the saya, you need to turn the saya and sword such that when fully drawn and swung up over the head, the ha (cutting edge) swings through your opponent from hip to shoulder, and thus the mune side of the blade (the back edge) is initially facing forward when swung up over the head. You then turn the blade around so that you can do a second diagonal cut along the kesa – the diagonal line of the monk’s robe (opponent’s gi) from shoulder to hip.

Incidentally, this man is a) going to be teaching at the Iaido seminar I’m going to in March, and b) will be selling me my very own big girl sword.

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2016 02 03 - 20:32

Today I also stayed for the advanced class. How to put this…

It’s a damned good thing I’m not working with a shinken, because I would have cut my left arm off at least once, or given myself some very interesting scars – which might have looked like a very enthusiastically botched suicide attempt.

Come to think of it, I’m almost sorry I didn’t. I’ve run out of things to talk about with my buddies at work.

Note the position of the left arm and the closeness of the sword to it as it emerges from the saya and comes up the side and back.

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I hope my clothespin fu is strong

2016 01 03 - 09:01

The biggest bitch of wearing hakama, other than getting the tab thing in the back into your obi, is the whole pleat situation. There are seven pleats in hakama (five in the front, two in the back), representing seven virtues of bushido; which, according to whatever list you happen to find, or what goes for acceptable in your dojo, can be any of the following: Yuki (courage, valour), Jin (humanity, benevolence), Gi (justice, righteousness), Rei (courtesy, civility), Makoto (sincerity, honesty), Chugi (loyalty), Meiyo (honour, dignity). Chi (wisdom, intellect), Shin (sincerity), Chu (loyalty), and Koh (piety).

See, here’s the thing – if you can’t find some magic that will miraculously keep the pleats in your hakama, they will eventually come out, especially after you wash them. You can add stitches in here and there to help keep the pleats, and after they’re dry you can iron the pleats back into place if you can find where they were, but it’s the whole washing/drying situation that’s the problem.

I found a little trick online a while back; where, after washing his hakama by hand (which I have just done, along with my keikogi), the gentleman in question squeeze-pleated the wet hakama for each pleat – from top to bottom – with his fingers, then used clothespins to hold the pleats in place at the hem until they dry. If you’re lucky, you won’t need to iron them back in after that, but if you do, it’s not difficult, just a pain in the ass incongruous-wise.


Addendum: Looks like it worked a treat!


Week In Review

2015 12 25 - 20:58

iaido, personal


2015 12 17 - 08:55

Something in my mind has changed when it comes to Iaido. I don’t know what, can’t put a finger on it, but today I had a moment where I connected to it in a way that I previously hadn’t.

I also learned that when it comes to testing, since I am learning all kata standing (even though many are traditionally done starting from a kneeling position), I only have to use standing kata. I really do need to work on the kneeling kata actually in seiza or tatehiza, but it’ll come eventually. I’m just too unfit to handle it at the moment.

Today’s mission was learning the seitei kata Ganmen-ate. Since we (by ‘we’ I mean ‘me’) have a little issue with our footwork, turning and not either tripping in our hakama or falling on our face takes some work. I have a very bad habit of not standing wide enough, leaving my stance too narrow, which will throw off anyone’s balance. Think railroad tracks. Since the first video is shot at an angle, it’s sort of hard to picture, so the second one is better illustration. Being a girl, standing wide is something we’re taught not to do. So it, along with standing with my toes pointing out instead of straight ahead, are habits I need to unlearn – at least in the dojo.

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2015 12 10 - 08:22

Yesterday's evening at the dojo consisted of learning the difference between the seitei waza Ipponme Mae, and the koryu waza Shohatto.

Life would be so much simpler had taking this up not occurred to me.

The differences might not even be obvious to the untrained eye, but when you're swinging your sword up by your head in one style, when you're supposed to be doing it in the other, or unsheathing the sword at the wrong angle, and the difference between the two is a matter of centimetres, your sensei sure notices. And he tells you.

I heard the word "no" a lot last night.

I was hoping the word 'no' had some other definition in Japanese than it does in English, but it does not.

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