Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Thankfulness

Picture of Sunrise over Lake Michigan

I recently made it back from Milwaukee to visit the sister and see other family for Thanksgiving.  There was no Kendo or Iaido involved for the trip, but it was all worth it with the good food I ate and the cool things I saw in the area. 

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to take the opportunity to list the things I am thankful for when it comes to my martial arts circles:

  • I am thankful for the support I have received from my family from day one of me starting Kendo and Iaido.  I have heard of many cases of family members not giving people any support due to lack of understanding on the parties involved or general family dynamics.  I have been lucky enough to even have my family willingly fly out to see some of my tournaments at their request.  That really means a lot to me and it’s been a major catalyst for me sticking with it.
  • I am thankful for the friends that I have gained from doing Kendo and Iaido over the years.  When I moved to Cincinnati almost three years ago, I was able to instantly make friends due to having a common activity with people that are very willing to support each other.  I do sometimes wonder how my life would have been if I never continued with these arts.  Beforehand, I was playing video games, watching anime and hanging out online.  I imagine that I’d be living a lonely life similar to that, which honestly wasn’t all that much fun when I look back on it.
  • I am thankful for the many opportunities that I get when it comes to participating in Kendo and Iaido events.  Because I have limited obligations outside of work, I have been able to participate in various seminars, tournaments and promotional exams throughout the country.  I have also been able to participate in up to five practices per week which gives me a lot of chances to improve myself throughout the week.  I’m even able to lead practices for some of those times, which has helped me in ways that I never thought it would in terms of ability and confidence.

Whether or not we have ample access to reliable resources to improve ourselves, we should always be thankful for what we have in front of us.  On one end, having one practice where one can learn a lot and reflect for the rest of the week is better than having no practice at all.  On the other end, one must be happy to have such opportunities for ample training.  Because or lives can change at any moment, there are possibilities that we might not be able to do it with such frequency as easily later in life.

Well, I hope that everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend, whether or not you celebrate it.  Now that everyone has eaten their fill of turkey and other random food stuffs, it’s time to sit back, relax and prepare for our return to the regular work week.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Quality Over Quantity?

I really, really want to improve in my Iaido…

I’m very fortunate with Kendo because the three dojos that are in the area provide me with up to five days of practice per week, but I’m not so lucky when it comes to Iaido.  Usually, we have two days per week to practice, which is fine.  But due to some scheduling conflicts with the Corryville Rec Center for the fall/winter season, we only have time to do Kendo on that day.  As a result, I am now down to one official practice per week.  The club is getting an additional location that should be opening up within the next couple of weeks, but with my busy Kendo schedule on top of work and other activities to keep me sane, I’m not sure how many of those I would be able to feasibly make on a regular basis.

One thing that I like to do on Sundays is to get to the dojo about an hour early so I get some time to warm up and work on some things before the main class starts.  Unfortunately, that means that I’m there at around 7 AM on a Sunday morning, but that’s a sacrifice that I’m willing to make.  For the most part, it works out pretty well.  Though lately, I’ve been learning how to take better advantage of the situation.

Recently, I’ve been able to give my practice a little more focus.  Instead of just doing the kata for the sake of getting the movements down, I’ve been able to really pinpoint the things that I would like to improve, like my balance, blade direction and zanshin.  It gives my practice a little more purpose so I can feel that I’m improving.  It also helps me form any questions that I might have so I can ask them when one of the instructors comes in. 

One particular example is me working on one of the exercises that was taught during the Iaido national seminar earlier this year.  It was a modified form of seitei mae where yoko chiburi is performed at the end, instead of the usual oochiburi.  Then, this was done once in the front, once to the right, once to the back and once to the right.  In essence, it’s like doing the first four kata in the shoden set without really formally learning it.  I’m most certainly am getting some leg work out of it but I’m also getting so much more.  Being able to do proper cuts from all directions and maintaining zanshin while keeping balanced are some of the things that I would like to achieve from doing these.

The advantage that Iaido practice has over Kendo practice is that it’s much easier to be able to practice on your own.  While there are some things in Kendo that can be done solo, like suburi or footwork, a lot of the execution is dependent on having at least some tangible object in front of me to work on various other aspects.  Iaido, on the other hand, involves a lot of imagination to perceive that someone is there that you’re cutting.  At the same time, the balance and zanshin can be done on my own time.

While the practices may not be as numerous as what Kendo in the area provides me, it’s more important that I do what I can to get the most out of the time I do have.  Using technology like video cameras, Youtube and even blogs like this one allows me to expand the dojo outside of the place I practice in and gives me time to reflect on what I particularly want to achieve on a given aspect of Iaido.  So maybe the situation is not so bad after all.
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