Sunday, August 02, 2009

今朝は居合道の授業は何人いましたか? (How many people were at Iaido class this morning?)

I only ask that question because today's class was larger than normal for a Sunday morning practice (Iaido starts at 8 AM). Usually, we have about three people show up for the Iaido portion on Sundays with another one that only shows up for Kendo at 9:30. But this time there was eight including two new people and three others that don't show up on a regular basis. It's really unusual to have this many, especially for an iaido practice. But hey, I can only sing praises for it as it really allowed for quite a different atmosphere as opposed to a normal day.

Anywho, for today's class, one of the instructors took the two beginners to one side to work with them, and the other instructor took three others and me to work on shi-ho giri, or the four-directional cut. This was kind of convenient because I was sort of working on this kata a little bit before practice began. What I was working with at that time was the fact that I could hear the iaito cutting inside the saya just before I pull the iaito out to stab the person who is behind me. During the instruction period, we were told that we should make sure the iaito is pulled out of the saya up to about the tip, which is when the rotation of the body takes over to pull the saya the rest of the way. I tried chewing on that for the many repititions we did with one successful attempt out of the five to ten that we did that session.

I have no complaints of the Kendo portion either. There was just as many people that showed up for that half of the class as did the iaido portion. Despite two people having to leave early, they were replaced by one of the regulars and a visiting go-dan (fifth dan) from Louisville who recently got back from Brazil. Since it was the first practice of the month, we started off with Kata. There was an issue that we all had with the seventh kendo kata at that last step. We really weren't entirely sure if the uchidachi needs to take an additional suriashi step back or if it's not necessary. This was cleared up thanks to the visiting sensei as he was telling us that all we needed to do was step back with the left to get in the correct position before we begin the motion to reset. I'm not really sure why, but I have heard multiple versions of this particular kata. My main goal is to know the version that is most accepted and allows me to pass the exam whenever the time comes.

We didn't have as much time left for general practice due to the kata portion but, per the instruction of the visiting sensei, we certainly made the best of it. It also helped a little that we were able to stay a little later than the posted time. We are in a dance studio where they may or may not hold classes immediately afterwards which, in this case, they didn't come in. This extra time gave us the opportunity for everyone to fight with everyone.

There are two things that I wanted to accomplish here. First, I wanted to stop with the hesitating. There is this concept called sutemi that I have written about before that I would like to employ a bit better. The few times that I have been able to do it, I've been faster and more accurate since my attention is on the strike itself and not the many things that could go wrong. Second, I wanted to keep control of myself in a match. There are times where I can easily modify my fighting to keep the tempo up with the person I'm fighting against, or I might get overly excited and attack. What I want to do is be the one to set the pace of the match so I can do what I want to do and do it well. I wasn't all that successful in it, as I eventually reverted to my old ways. Speed, dexterity and strength are great things to have in a Kendo match, but they can only get me so far. When I feel I can impose my presense on the opponent and truely gain control of the situation, then I think I can gain the kind of victory that I am seeking.

There have been times when the attendance of Kendo and Iaido have been larger than usual, but these are usually anomalies due to a number or circumstances instead of being the norm. Despite that, it's very refreshing to know that there is a market for Kendo and Iaido for it to continue growing over the years in Cincinnati. Was Sunday's attendance a sign of Jim's hard work paying off or is it just the planets lining up? Only time will tell over the next few weeks, but I really hope the former scenario is the case.


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