Tuesday, 8 January 2013

High Level instruction is both simple AND complex

Learning Iaido outside of Japan is difficult for many reasons: Equipment expense, appropriate training space, cultural misunderstandings, but most importantly, the scarceness of high level instruction. That's why it's so important to attend the annual seminars that are available in most western countries, where Kyoshi and Hanshi are invited from Japan to teach.

The opportunity to watch them demonstrate and receive even one specific piece of advice is well worth the expense and time spent at these events. In my experience, these tidbits of knowledge (sometimes only one sentence) are so essential that I would dare say it can replace months, or even years, of below Kyoshi instruction.

In May 2008, at the Sei Do Kai Spring Seminar, I received a specific tip from Hatakenaka Sensei, regarding how I was moving my feet, going into a tsuki in Seitei-gata #6: Morote Tsuki. I tried to correct it immediately. She said "no". I tried something else. Still no. I knew what she wanted me to do, but I just wasn't able to do it! This was a new experience for me.

About six months later, focusing most of my four-times-a-week training on this one simple thing, I was finally able to, more-or-less, perform the technique to my liking. So now what? I tried to apply the same tip to the footwork for drawing in this kata. Oh My God, it works! A couple months later, let's try it on 180 degree turn cuts. Still applicable! Another few months, let's try it on seiza techniques. <insert expression for giddiness here> =P

Before I knew it, the 2009 seminar had arrived, and I was only just getting the hang of what she told me 12 months ago. I still find myself referring back to this one simple correction:
When moving forward, don't step with the front foot, push off with the rear foot
 So simple, yet so deep.

That year, the May 2009 seminar, I received another simple tip from Hatakenaka Sensei. It was on nukitsuke. Almost four years later (2 days ago to be exact), at a reduced training schedule of twice-a-week, I finally feel like I'm getting it. And again, a whole world of learning and possibilities has opened up. Nukiuchi? Yeah, it applies! Kirioroshi? Yup! Noto? Of course!

Six months ago, I was feeling in a rut, but now my motivation is again sky high. All it took was perserverence and not losing faith that this Sensei, now Kyoshi 8 Dan, knew what she was talking about.

Upcoming Posts:
Mu Mon Kai 2012 Year-End Celebration
We held our Iaido club's last class of 2012 two days before Christmas, and had over 40 attendees including special guests Kim Taylor (Renshi 7 Dan) from Guelph and Sandra Jorgenson (Renshi 6 Dan) from BC. A regular practice was followed by an Embu Taikai, Demonstrations, Speeches, and a Toast at the end.

A Discussion Over Drinks
Two weeks ago, during a holiday trip to Japan, Hanna and I had the opportunity to meet with Hatakenaka- and Tsubaki-sensei for dinner. We were hoping to catch up, and ask a few casual questions, but got much more than expected.

I will be recounting the discussion between the Sensei and Hanna (Unfortunately, I still don't understand Japanese) where they go over such topics as:
  • How to train outside Japan and maintain high standards
  • What makes a good and bad student/sensei
  • Benefits of competition and gradings
  • And a very personal admission
Stay tuned!