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.

, ,


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.



2015 10 18 - 21:05

iaido, personal


2015 10 17 - 22:11

I made my sword whistle the other day – rather, the sword I was borrowing that I cut myself with. This might seem like a very small accomplishment, but it’s how you know you’re swinging it properly, especially with the big swing cuts from over your head. The air whistles along the bo-hi. It’s that whoosh sound. I did a couple of practice swings when I first got it into my hands, and didn’t realise it was me making the whooshing sounds. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. “Was that me?”

So whenever someone swings a katana and you hear that whoosh sound, it’s not a sound effect. They actually do do that.

Some refer to the bo-hi (or hi) as the “blood groove”. That’s not what it is. As I understand it, the groove is cut along the blade to help lighten it, without sacrificing much/any of its strength. They can be very heavy, carbon-steel katana – and so can alloy iaito blades.


Week in Review

2015 10 10 - 21:12

iaido, personal


2015 10 08 - 22:14

I have discovered that the dojo is a refuge.

It is a refuge from the unhappy week I’ve had. It is a refuge from the world in general. It is a room full of swords, and still a safe haven. I go in, and I can leave the things that have frustrated me this week outside.

Running the waza in my head is meditative. I run them when I’m laying in bed trying to sleep and can’t.

Iaido a very elegant art, refined. It makes you aware of very small things, and how important those small things are. Small things mean the difference between success and failure. They always said that ‘god’ was in the details.