Monday, January 26, 2009

Iaido Thoughts

Well, it's been about a year since I have started Iaido. It's amazing how fast the year went and all the things that have happened, but it's all been fun.

I had an initial interest in trying Iaido back in college when I was hearing about how it can sometimes help with Kendo. Unfortunately, due to time and money constraints that usually plague the college life, I never had the chance to really start. I did go down to Indianapolis to watch a practice and hopefully join there, but things didn't work out, but was hooked after seeing that class. I got a job here in Cincinnati and found out that there is a place that does Iaido down in Covington, KY so I just signed up there and have been doing it ever since.

On the outside, Iaido does look kinda boring. You're just doing various forms over and over again without a real opponent in front of you. There are no self-defense aspects to it as one wouldn't expect someone with a katana to jump out of the bushes to attack you. But it's obviously much more than that or I wouldn't be doing it. I would say that, on the surface, Iaido kinda feeds my desire to improve myself. When it comes to doing the techniques, there is way more than meets the eye. In addition to just memorizing the seitei waza, I can always hold my hand out further for noto or cut more steadier. There's always that small thing that I could do better, and each point is easier said than done. As far as whether or not it will help my Kendo remains to be seen, but I'm still having fun either way.

It's been a really fun year and I'm glad to have started Iaido and most definately would like to continue. I wish that there were more people doing it, but one has to realize that it takes a special kind of personality to really appreciate what is going on there. But I wouldn't let that deter ya if you want to try though.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Interesting Revelations

Well, I'm sitting here in bed waiting for that stupid Rhinovirus to die and let me get on with my life (the common cold). So I thought I'd take some of the copious amount of free time I now have since I can't really do much else and go over some things that I was taught in Kendo and Iaido class this week.

In Iaido, we spent some time going over breathing techniques while doing the kata. Breathing is something that is emphasized, but not really discussed, so it's a nice thing to actually go over some possible ideas on how to break things down. I have been looking for ways that I can go from just doing the various seitei waza to actually putting some meaning behind the techniques. And after learning what I did in Sunday's practice, I think I may have found at least one way to reach that particular goal.

I'll use Gohonme: Kesagiri (五本目:けさ切り) as an example since that's what we applied it to in class. I was basically told to try slowly breathing out as I stepped forward and make the nukitsuke and take another slow breath while doing chiburi and noto. After trying it out a few times, Atkins-sensei said that he noticed a big improvement in my execution. The main thing that breathing did was help me actually concentrate on how I make my cuts and how I can better execute techniques. I really would love to add this to my regimen of the other kata to see how things work compared to last time.

Tuesday's Kendo practice had some shiai-geiko in it to help us prepare for the Detroit tournament. Here are some notes that Takano-sensei expressed to me and the class:

- Whenever I go for an attack, I need to try to make sure my hit makes a distinct sound before the other person to make sure I get the points scored in my favor.

- I really should try to pay more attention to spacing. If your back is close to the boundary, the normal reaction seems to be to try to go forward and forcefully push the other person back. But another option to use would be to actually move to the side in case the other person has the idea to taiatari you right out of the boundary. Conversely, if the opponent is in a similar position, it is possible to taiatari them out of the court, but then you run the danger of being at a disadvantage. Another option is to use pressure to get them to unconsiously move back and get them to step out.

- When moving back to reposition ourselves, it's best to hold the other person's shinai with yours so they can't easily go for any openings that come up.

Out of all the suggestions that she gave me, the most important thing is that I needed to make use of "tame." I've never really heard that term before, but what I gather, I need to make effort to build up my energy and then explode with an attack instead of just moving when ready. There really isn't too much I can say beyond that since I haven't had a chance to work on it (I was supposed to do that yesterday...), but I'll be sure to get that straightened out the next time I can go to practice.

Friday, January 09, 2009


Someone on the Kendo World forums was asking about tips to learn the Japanese language. Having studied the language for a couple of years now, I thought I would offer some of the things that worked for me.

One of the resources I gave was this television show called Irasshai that aired on Georgia Public Broadcasting back when I was in high school. At the time, I had just been starting out in learning the language. It really helped me in memorizing hiragana and katakana which paved the way for learning kanji and grammar.

The show consists of two seasons. The first has 73 episodes and the second has 63 episodes about 25 minutes each. Generally, each lesson starts off with a short skit to introduce the topic, continues on with the main lesson and then finishes of with some hiragana/katakana and maybe a cultural lesson. Some of the devices they use can be kinda corny (like jump roping while singing the days of the week), but they generally work for me.

If you've been interested in starting out learning the language, I definately suggest going to the Irasshai website and at least take a look. These sorts of video lessons of decent quality can be kinda difficult to come by.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Overall Kendo/Iaido Goals


We're beginning the hopefully wonderful year of 2009 and I wish everyone good luck and hope that the future works out for everyone, economy and all.

We here in the Ohio/Kentucky area have been very fortunate to have Nagata Sensei teach us and pretty much beat the crap out of all of us while giving some very valuable instruction. Unfortunately, he's had to go back to Japan but it's not without some great times. At his farewell dinner, one conversation that came up was to make goals for the short term and long term and dream big and go for those dreams.

In conversations about doing Kendo or Iaido and what sorts of goals we have, they usually center around the following questions:
  • Why did we start?
  • What keeps us going?
  • What goals do we have?
I want to go further with the last two questions. When we talk about the things that keep us going, we talk about how it makes us better and gives us exercise. But what about the drive to achieve some big end goal? And when it comes to making goals, they usually are pretty short term if it's within a few months or a few years. But what about beyond that? What specific milestones does one want to reach?

I already made a blog entry about my New Years resolutions, but these are pretty short term. I want to take things a step further and talk about my long term goals. Despite all the benefits I have reaped thus far from doing Kendo and Iaido, I think that these are the things that give me the true drive to improve in however much I can. I have two main things I would like to achieve.

I would definately like to gain enough rank and have enough time to start up a dojo of my own and be able to spread my knowledge of kendo and Iaido (when that time comes) to as many people as I can. I have had the opportunity of instructing some classes here and, after breaking the ice with it a bit, it seems like something I could get used to doing. There's something about telling people what you know and having them walk away from something while doing what you can to help others shape their Kendo that makes me feel even more accomplished than attempting to win any tournament.

The second goal is a very big one. I want to be able to participate in the World Kendo Championships. No, I'm not looking for fame in the Kendo community or anything. I just think that it would be really cool to know that you got to participate in the most prestegious event within one's community and walk away learning something new. I've just had this big drive to see some awesome Kendo and experience that myself. Of course, I have to go through the ranks and natural progression to even think I'm good enough, but I think I'm willing to take it.

One thing that does concern me though is the time committment that it may involve. According to an article on, training for these tournaments involve more than just you. If you have a family, kids or limited budget, things can get a bit hairy. The only thing that I know for certain is that I would really like to achieve that goal and I'm also willing to make consessions for the other people and things in my life to make sure that things go as smooth as possible.

Okay, now that I made these goals, what do I do once I achieve them? We talk about all these goals and stuff but we don't really talk about what we will do once we achieve them. To be honest, this isn't something I haven't thought about too much in the specific manner. But the good news is that, even if I achieve both goals, there's still places to go. Participating in a big tournament is, for all intents and purposes, just an experience. Even if you make it to first place, there is always room for improvement and things you can do to feel accomplished in whatever you do. For the teaching, this is more of a milestone than anything. The teaching/learning cycle never stops and I think that I would feel accomplished every day I do my job, even if things don't go as planned.

I hope that this makes people think about what their overall goals may be. I'm not talking about just improving a technique, but some sort of big milestone you want to achieve, like a specific rank, having a certain responsibility or performing in a specific event.
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