Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Iaido - How to take it to the next level?

At the end of last summer, I had a phone conversation with my sensei in Japan, Mr. Takeda. It had been a while since we had spoken, and it was really nice to catch up on news with him and my home dojo in Numazu. I knew that August was when they have their rank testing (shinsa) and asked him how it went for my dojo mates.
I guess that several of my former dojo-mates had tested for rank, and for 4 dan and above, about half had passed. I guess that's pretty consistent with when I tested. For my 4dan rank test, 3 of the 5 people testing passed.

I was glad to hear that Sano sensei passed his 6 dan, and also Mr. Takato, whom I received a very nice iaito from when I left Japan, passed his 5 dan. However, my classmate, Mr. Hasegawa who started the same time as I did and always tested together, did not pass his 5th dan test. According to Takeda sensei, the higher rank testing requirements have stiffened up over the last few years, and the testing board is passing a lower percentage of applicants even at the 3 and 4dan levels.

So I got to thinking how I could try to improve and check my own technique for my own upcoming shinsa. There are no upper ranked sensei nearby to compare notes with, and short of sending a video of myself doing kata to someone, I was pretty much on my own.

Later, I read this interesting article http://social-issues.org/community/node/255 in which 8dan Hanshi Ogura sensei talks about when he was preparing to make his third attempt for 8dan. After his regular practice session, he would go back in alone, turn off the lights, and practice in the dojo in the dark for an additional couple of hours.

So, I decided to try this. It was pretty hard to get the dojo to be completely dark - there was some light bleeding in through the outside window above the door, and also from the exit sign, but it was still pretty dark. After all, it was the middle of winter in MN, and the sun had long since gone down.

I went in, sat down, and proceeded to start through the first few seitei kata. It was an experience that was unlike any I had before. I found that the kata in seiza were okay - I had started in the middle of the floor, and knew that I wouldn't be getting too close to any walls. Starting with the standing kata kesagiri was a bit different. I became much more conscious of how big my steps were, and I kept thinking how close I might be getting to the front of the dojo. It was really difficult!

The other thing I noticed was my nukitsuke and noto had reverted back to being extremely slow. I felt like it was the first time using my shinken again and feared for cutting myself on my nukitsuke and noto movements. Again, very difficult.

I only tried this for a short time, my regular practice was about to start, but it's a different type of practice that I think is valuable and I'd really like to do again - maybe this time after a practice sometime.

Also in that article, Ogura sensei gives some of what he felt are grading requirements for rank. What he states for 5dan (my next attempt) are as follows:
  • Being able to perform all the kata nearly perfectly; having learned the basics of position(s) of the imaginary opponent(s) and suitable distance(s), based on learning from written references and teachings from one’s Master.
  • Being able to show an extension of your soul in the sword movements, facing the imaginary opponents; instilled calmness, metsuke, kihaku (unmistakable determination to vanquish); the harmonious unity of ki (energy) - ken (sword) - tai (body); smooth and controlled movements; mastering in both kokoro and waza (mind/heart/soul and techniques).

Wow. "Being able to show an extension of your soul in the sword movements." Now I guess that I have something additional to think about when I'm practicing.
 
Iaido - it's truly a lifetime of learning.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Core Con and Other Upcoming Events

Hello everyone! Spring melt is starting up, and I sincerely hope that wherever you are, you won't have to deal with any flooding. I know they're estimating Fargo - Moorhead Red River levels to be pretty high again, and the community is moving well towards it's sandbagging goal.

We've got a few events coming up. I've got some detail updates for you.

2011 CoreCon - April 15- 17th
The Musoshindenryu Iaido - Moorhead Dojo group (us) will be doing a demonstration on Sunday the 17th.

1PM-3PM Sunday, April 17th
Japanese Swordsmanship
Presented by Moorhead Iaido Dojo
Woods Room

The Moorhead Dojo will present a two hour discussion on the history and traditions of iaido (Japanese swordsmanship), followed by a demonstration of kata, some of which have origins dating back over 400 years ago. There will be an opportunity for attendees to ask questions, and view the Dojo Members' various katana (swords). More information can be found at the dojo website: http://www.musoshindenryu.com/.

CoreCon 2011 will take place at the AmericInn Lodge & Suites and Event Center in Moorhead, MN - the same as last year.

The CoreCon's website is: http://fargocorecon.org/ and the theme this year is "Myth and Magic." Sounds interesting, and I would encourage intersted people to check out the whole Con.

THE 2011 SEI DO KAI SPRING JODO and IAIDO SEMINAR
University of Guelph, Ontario Canada, May 20 to 23

This is Kim Taylor Sensei's annual seminar. Excellent and with some of the top iaido people from Japan coming in to instruct. More details can be seen at: http://www.uoguelph.ca/~iaido/iai.seminar.html


2011 AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp - June 9 - 12th
The dates have been confirmed, all else is tentative right now.

Dates: Thursday, June 9 - Friday, June 10 AUSKF Iaido Seminar
Saturday, June 11 AUSKF Iaido Championships
Sunday, June 12 (morning) AUSKF Iaido Shinsa
Sunday, June 12 (afternoon) AUSKF Jodo Seminar
Monday, June 13 AUSKF Jodo Seminar

Location: Mac Center Gymnasium, Kent State University (KSU), 800 East Summit Street, Kent, OH (pending confirmation in April 2011 after approval of camp budget and submission of deposit to KSU)

Lodging and more details to be announced.


2011 Moorhead Dojo / AUSKF Iaido Seminar (1st Annual) - July 29-31

This is our iaido seminar. We've got an application in for two 7dan iaido sensei, and are awaiting their confirmation. The venue and pricing has been set, and we are taking pre-registrations at this time!

This will be an excellent opportunity to see some top notch AUSKF iaido instructors, and brush up on your skills.

We've got three, yes THREE excellent vendors coming with iaito, and iaido gear for sale.

Check out the website for registration and seminar information: http://seminar.musoshindenryu.com/

Pre-registration is encouraged!


Thundar Bay - Annual Fall Seminar - October 22nd and 23rd
with Ohmi Goyo Sensei Iaido 7-Dan Renshi

This is another excellent seminar, from our neighbors to the North. Eric Tribe's dojo hosts this event, and is another great refresher on seitei iaido and some koryu. More information can be seen at: http://my.tbaytel.net/etribe/index.html

So you can see, there's a bunch of stuff coming up! Hope to see you there!

Brad