Friday, June 18, 2010

AUSKF Iaido National Seminar 2010


I got to spend five days last week in San Antonio for the AUSKF Iaido Seminar.  While I have been to two Iaido seminars in Cleveland, this is the first time I've attended the national seminar.  To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect to experience and learn.  In the end, I was very pleased with the organization of the event, the people I met and the things I learned (minus some political issues, but that's for a different discussion).

The seminar had the welcoming party on the first day, the seminar on the second and third day, tournament on the fourth day and the promotional exam on the fifth day.  It was the perfect recipe to finish each day with sore legs from all the seiza and tatehiza, and a sore brain from taking in all that new information.

The seminar days went over some new exercises, such as a modified ipponme where we do the nukitsuke to the front, left, right and back and adding some kiai to the nukitsuke with the modified ipponme.  We also basically spend some time with each of the 12 seitei kata, learning various things like what's required for the movements and what's required for effective zanshin after we swing.  I would say that these were the most intense days as it was filled with tons of new information.  At the end of each day, I was mentally exhausted due to taking in so much.

The fourth day was just the tournament which was a whole new experience for me.  I'm more used to the Kendo tournaments where there's a lot of screaming and whacking going on and people running all over trying to get to where they need to be.  Because there was complete silence, the pressure was more intensified than the Kendo tournaments since there aren't any other sounds to drown yourself into.  In the end, lost at the second match against a really good opponent.  It was one of those moments where you could tell someone's skill just by looking at them.

To be honest, I wasn't all that wild about participating in Iaido tournaments in general.  It was something to do just for the experience, but I wasn't sure about really traveling as much as I would for a Kendo tournament to participate in one (if there are even such events existing in the US).  My initial impressions was that there wasn't all that much to gain from participating in these things because I saw it more as just doing the same thing in class, but having a different set of people looking at you.  After actually participating in one and feeling the different sorts of pressure, I do feel that there is just as much to gain from these tournaments compared to the Kendo tournaments

The final day was the promotional exam, which I also participated in.  There was a little less pressure on me that day because:
  • I was just going for whatever kyu rank they felt I deserved.  So this exam wasn't a matter of "pass-or-fail".
  • The tournament prepared me for the procedures and atmosphere so the experience was less jarring.
I was able to make it to 4th kyu, which I'm happy with.  It serves as a jumping point to know what the Federation expects of me to improve, which is pretty much all I feel gradings are for anyways.

Overall, I was really pleased with the seminar.  Not only did I learn a lot, but I met a lot of great people from all over the country.  I look forward to seeing them again in Cleveland next year (which is great since the driving distance is small :)).  In the meantime, I'll take what I learned and work with that until I find out more that needs to be fixed.

I had a chance to use my camera skills while I was there.  I think I'm starting to get the hang of using the camera so I feel that these came out better than some of the other ones.  A friend of mine told me that the ISO might be set too high so I guess that's another thing I should spend a little time with.  Without further ado, you can view the pictures on the flickr slideshow.

Until next time!!!


Anonymous said...

What were the pass rates of the upper ranks, say, fourth dan and above?

Christopher George said...

The overall pass rates for the upper ranks were actually quite low. I recall that there were only a handful that passed their 4th and 5th Dan exams and nobody passed their 6th Dan exams.

One of the visiting sensei told us that pretty much all the people there did their reiho wrong and that, even when doing the koryu kata, the reiho should be the same as seitei. The fact that nobody knew about that and that they didn't even go over the reiho during the two days of the seminar kinda opens up a big can of worms on the political side of things.

Anonymous said...

I'm not too sure about that. The reiho changes depending on whether you're doing a combination of seitei and koryu or koryu only. For instance in MJER, the reiho for an all koryu demonstration is, with slightly modified particulars, two closing torei: once at the beginning and once at the end.

Both opening and closing torei remains the same as seitei if you're doing a combination of seitei and koryu.

Despite that, it's a shame that few passed at those ranks. Do you have the exact numbers of failures to challengers for each of the ranks?

Christopher George said...

Well, it's more an issue of information transmission than anything. I could see if it was the case where a few people didn't pass due to reiho, but it was the case where just about everyone that didn't pass in those higher ranks was because they didn't do the reiho right, which seems kinda suspicious to me (like when everyone misses the same question on a math test because the teacher didn't go over it).

It's really easy to fix the problem and clear up any confusion that people might have. Since it was one of the visiting hachidan sensei mentioned the reiho gaffes, maybe things will get cleared up, maybe not. In any case, I'll just continue as normal and worry about that stuff later.

As for the exact numbers, I'm sorry that I don't have those. I was mainly focused on my results, my instructor's results and those of the people that I interacted with. I do know one person who passed her 5th dan exam though.

Anonymous said...

Do you recall what parts of the reiho the visiting sensei were singling out when they shared their concerns with you?

Christopher George said...

Because of some confusion near the end as to where all the lower ranked people needed to stand in the case of separate advice for higher and lower ranks (we ended up gathering in one large group about a minute later), I missed out on the first parts of the conversation, so I'm not sure if more was said about it in the beginning. But what I did catch and what I discussed with my sensei was that the seitei reiho needs to be done when doing the koryu kata, which pertains to that koryu/seitei mix performance you were talking about earlier.

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