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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2015 12 04 - 08:18

One of my least favourite things in the world, is being scrutinised - stared at. I don't like being 'on display'. It's part of why I don't sing in public.

So, when I realised that my sensei would sometimes spend the end of classes making us all display what we'd learned that day, how we were progressing overall, I sure wasn't tickled any shade of any kind of pink. The class is split into groups based on experience, and frequently I'm the only one in my chunk of the class. So it's me and the sempai who worked with me that day. I think I'd find it a tad less traumatising if he'd let the more newbie of us go first - but he doesn't.

He did it again Wednesday night.

Katas one, two, and six - me and D. (who, I have to tell you, is a fabulous teacher, an absolutely lovely man).

I (figuratively) closed my eyes, grit my teeth, and ripped off the performance band-aid, as I do every time, and after it was all over, sensei complimented the improvement he found in D. (which he attributed to his teaching me. Sensei is a big believer in teaching - a) because teaching others helps you improve, and b) because, and I quote, "it is wrong not to teach".), and then he talked about my improvement, while everyone else watched, and how it was a far better thing than the first time I walked into the dojo.

… and then he clapped.

… and I got a round of applause from the entire room.

Go me?<br /><br />I still don't like being scrutinised.



2015 11 09 - 21:17

My sensei is a very complimentary man; as in, he is very good at telling you when you’re doing well. He’s also very good at telling you when you’re not, and doing so without being at all mean, or making you feel in any way bad. So, for weeks now, I thought he was saying ‘yummy’. He’s a funny man, so this didn’t cause me any pause at all. Turns out, not so much. He’s not saying ‘yummy’, he’s saying ‘yame’, which is the Japanese word for ‘stop’.

Clearly I must learn more Japanese than the names of sword parts.



2015 11 06 - 21:21

This is an instructional video that goes through all the twelve basic ZNKR seitei Iaido kata. However, there is a section at the end (at 35:09), where he goes through all the kata without stopping. This man is 8th dan, which will not happen in my lifetime. I started too late. It takes about thirty years (or more!) to get to that level.<br /><br />There are certain moves that I am absolutely in love with – like the kesa version of chiburi, which you see in the first kata – the wide swinging arch of the sword as you bring it to your side, and the flick of it from your temple downwards. This move is for shaking the blood off your blade before you re-sheath it. Also, the way you sink as you re-sheath during the first kata.

It’s all so engrossingly elegant.

I may be biased.


Turn, turn, turn

2015 11 05 - 22:04

I cut myself with my sensei’s sword again today. Oddly, this does nothing but make me laugh in a sort of “war wounds”/“I did it right” kind of way – which I’m not, because I’m not supposed to cut anything at all, except invisible enemies, which is basically everything seeing as how I’m blind, or not seeing at all, because I’m blind.

I am starting to wonder why, though, outside the consideration of expense, they make us start off using bokken. It’s shocking to me how much of a difference it makes using a real sword as opposed to the wooden one. Absolutely everything is easier – with a generous interpretation of the word ‘easier’. There is not a single movement in any of this, not from the beginning to the end, that doesn’t have a purpose, or isn’t prescribed in some way. The ways you stand, kneel, bow, turn, the direction the kashira faces, the distance between your belt and the tsuba when your sword is sheathed, the knotting of things, all of it – there are a thousand little things to be mindful of at every turn – which today seemed to be my big problem, remembering where my feet were supposed to be during each turn.

One day I’m certain I’ll end up on the dojo floor flat on my face, because balance seems to be – frequently questionable.



2015 11 05 - 18:40

The source of last night’s imbalance - placement of feet on the two turns - which are not the same, though they look similar.

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2015 10 21 - 22:08

I accidentally hit someone else’s sword in class today… with my sensei’s sword… while people were looking. I do okay when I’m only being observed by my sensei or whichever sempai is working with me, but the minute it gets to the point in the show where we have to display what we’ve learned that day, I turn into a bumbling stooge. Everyone. Stops. And Watches.

I am no fan of being scrutinised. I can’t sing in public. I don’t like being ‘looked at’. When it comes to ever testing for Iaido, it’s going to be a disaster. When you test, it’s large groups of people. It isn’t in your dojo. A gymnasium full of people could be there. I figured out on the way home that this may be one small part of why my art is the one situation in which I don’t care about the observance – because they aren’t looking at me.

Far as I know, they only do testing every December, so I have just over a year to get over it.

And clearly I am getting to the point where using a bokken is no longer appropriate, because my sensei keeps taking it away from me and giving me one of his swords.