Friday, August 21, 2009

Iaido Training 2.0

There's nothing like being able to see yourself on camera to knock your pride down a few pegs.

Last night, I took my video camera to the racquetball court at my apartment complex to record myself doing the seitei kata to see how I look with a different set of "eyes." Needless to say, there are a lot of things I need to work on, but for the sake of sanity, I'll only concentrate on a few of the things I saw for now:
  • I noticed that my back wasn't straight for a lot of the kata. There were times when I could feel it, but there were a lot of times when I did it unconsiously as a function of the various stances I would take that I haven't quite gotten use to (tate-hiza, I'm lookin' at you!) and trying to look down at the dead opponent to make sure he or she is dead.
  • There were a lot of involuntary movements that I was making while swinging. Maybe it's because my movements were counter-balancing the swings during kirioroshi or moving the saya back during noto. For the noto, I had my obi and hakama on a little tight so it was a little difficult to move, so there's still some need for me to find that happy medium to make sure my hakama stays on, but the iaito is secure enough
I am a huge supporter for using video to help with fixing your Kendo and Iaido technique. There have been many times where I would be told to fix something, but seeing it on video really made me realize the extent of the problem. Recently, I have been able to use it to show to Takano sensei before tournaments where she would look at it and then pull us aside during one of the practices to show us what needs to be fixed.

The former case is probably one of the best tools that you could have to supplement your training. Note that I said supplement because there needs to be some actual face-to-face training in order to get correct reference material to see what is wrong. It should NOT be used as a replacement for instruction as there are some things that can really only be best corrected when someone can walk around you and see how to use your body type to improve your abilities. The latter case is great as well, but it depends on who you show it to. Showing the video directly to your sensei or senpai can be a great tool for whenever you can't interact directly from time to time. There is also the option to post your videos on Youtube, but the caution there is that there are a lot of ninja and samurai people who think they know what they are doing, but have no clue since their perception is only what was seen in historical and instructional books and movies. Then there are those that may have formal instruction, but give suggestions from only training for a few weeks or months with little perspective for what is going on. For the most part, it can be used to just show off your skills and have people remark on how you did or ask questions, but shouldn't really be used too much as an instructional tool.

I have used video cameras before as a self-instructional tool, and plan on using them in the future. While it can be a little embarrassing to see yourself, that small ego downer is small potatoes to the potential benefit you can get from actually seeing those errors that people talk about. If you have the ability to film yourself and haven't done so yet, I really encourage you to do so. And it doesn't really require fancy equipment to take advantage of that either. With cameras coming on point-and-shoots, laptops and cell phones, most already have the ability, but might have an issue of setting the camera right to film yourself. Then, with the ease of transferring data with the use of memory cards or just connecting it by USB to a computer or TV, it's a lot easier to see it in multiple spots on larger screens to make the watchers more comfortable. It's definitely a far cry from 20 years ago with the camera my parents had where everything was recorded directly to VHS tape. Being the young kid I was, that thing was HEAVY.

If you can't use a camera for whatever reason, then there's no reason to fret much about it. Using the camera is just a tool to use, but has very little bearing on how good one can become. There are many people that have some of the most respectable Kendo and Iaido skills and got them just by spending time in the dojo and feeling things out with a back-and-forth dialogue between you and the sensei. The only thing that matters is one's dedication to improve with the tools that are laid out for them.


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