First of all, I apologize for the long break in between posts. It’s been a mix of lack of time, laziness and figuring out just what my next post would be about. I’ll have to consider a better system for more frequent posting sometime.
I attended the 2011 AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. The entire seminar lasted four days which included a seminar for the first two days, a tournament on the third day and a promotional exam on the fourth day. There was also a jodo seminar that occurred right after the exam, but I wasn’t able to attend that.
I signed myself to participate in everything the seminar had to offer. My time in the tournament was short-lived since I was knocked out in the first round by the person that got second place in the mudansha division. Despite that, I wasn’t all that disappointed since I was mainly there for the seminar and promotional exam, with the tournament being included in the seminar fee. But that doesn’t mean that I went through the tournament with nothing to gain. Seeing the nice Iaido that people performed to move up the brackets gives me ideas on what is expected for me to do the same the next time I get the opportunity.
The promotional exam went really well for everyone from my dojo that attended since everyone passed their exam. My instructor got his 4th dan, a kohai got 4th kyu and I passed for 3rd kyu. There was some confusion as to how the grades were handed out because I had signed up to go for 1st kyu, but only went up one level for the test. Since this happened for everyone who was testing, this was some sort of institutional thing which is different from how most Kendo exams are handled, which allows you to test for 1st kyu after initially getting a lower kyu rank for the first time (Kendo and Iaido are under the same federation, which is why I thought that way). In any case, all I can do is just improve myself the best I can and test when the opportunity comes and if my sensei allows me. If anything, it should just make it that much easier for me to test for the higher ranks when the time comes .
For the seminar, we were broken up into smaller groups based on our present rank at the time and given Iaido information commensurate to our experience level. In my group, each day started off with a discussion session before moving on to learning about the actual kata. First, we would go step by step through a particular kata before trying it out on our own. In some cases, we did those things and then moved on to another kata. But then, what we did next proved to be the most enriching experience for me.
After doing some of the kata, we would break into groups of two or three people to do a set, and then critique each other on them. At first, it would seem kind of odd that they would let us loose to let us give our thoughts on the kata to other people given our rank, but there really wasn’t much to worry about and it was handled quite well. For one, other people are able to see some of the smaller twitches that I might not notice, like for instance, dropping my hands before swinging. It also gave us a chance to examine how we were taught to do something and then provide suggestions to our partners based off of that and then compare notes.
The seminar itself was a lot of fun and very valuable. I was able to learn a lot and bring the information back here to Cincinnati for the rest of the club to chew on. I was told that the seminar next year will be in Washington. It’s such a long way from here, but I would really like to go if time and finances go my way.
P.S. The picture above was one of the photos that I took during the seminar. If you want to see more, they’re on my flickr account here. And comments are welcome.