It occurs every so often on Iaido forums. A prospective student would ask about a dojo, a sensei, and whether or not it's possible to start learning from books. Inevitably, forum "veterans" and most likely seniors in the art would jump on them saying "It's only possible to learn from a Sensei". Of course there are merits to this, but it seems rather black and white, and not a bit unyielding.
Lacking the experience, wherewithal, and eloquence with words, I'll link to Kim Taylor-Sensei's blog for a reply to this perception: http://sdksupplies.com/001blog.html
I remember a similar thread, a couple years ago, on Kendo World, and his stance back then was the same as it is now. What's interesting is, I believe most of those seniors were also around at the time and possibly, grudgingly agreed with Taylor-Sensei's opinion, and yet, they all jumped on the guy as if it never happened.
I actually believe that the further you are in your studies, the MORE you have to go into books.
There's just too much information out there that can be applied to an individual that another person can't possibly be aware of, including your instructor. It's not that your instructor is incompetent, but if they are true to the martial art, they are also learning how to improve themselves. They will be drawn to information that can help their specific needs.
There's not enough time to learn everything. That's why it's also important to find someone who learns, acts, and moves the same way as you so you can share experiences.
There's a time in your training when you reach a plateau. A period where you can't seem to improve and nothing feels right. A lot of juniors will see this as the pinnacle of their training and quit. Those of us who've been around long enough will realize it's just another barrier that must be challenged and defeated. Sometimes you just need more practice, other times, you need a new perspective. This is where books can assist you.
In my experience (and it is brief in comparison to many others), I've found solutions and inspiration for Iaido in all sorts of reading material:
- All Japan Kyudo Federation - Kyohon (Kyudo Manual)
- Articles and Discussions on Kendo
- Articles on Taichi
- Articles and Discussion on Yoga
Just thinking about all the knowledge available in books and how much they can help each individual nearly overwhelms me.... Patience.... Just keep reading.