The Iaido practice last Wednesday night was another lonely one. Jim had some other commitments, so he wasn’t able to make it to practice. There are only two people that attend Iaido practice on Wednesday nights, this is actually quite a common occurrence (man, we should really get more people!).
I do admit that it has been about two weeks since I did anything Iaido related, other than watching Youtube videos. I injured my left leg and foot during Kendo practice by using it harder than I really should have. I think all I need to do is get massages more often on my leg to loosen up my muscles since I feel a lot of knots that tie up quite a few things. Then, since Thanksgiving was last week, I had my parents over so I was using my time entertaining them.
It’s great to have someone more experienced to help fix various problems with my kata performance, but it’s just as nice to be able to take some time to have some uninterrupted time to work on some personal issues that I want to work on. Lately, I’ve been performing kata two ways. First, I would just work on the technical stuff, such as making sure my hasuji was good and performing enough saya-biki. After doing that a few times, I would switch to performing the kata with more mental feeling behind the movements to not only apply the technical stuff to the kata, but to put more feeling behind each individual movement. I did a mix of Seitei and Shoden kata with little rhyme or reason for performing each one.
The great thing about an art like Iaido is that the overall basic techniques are the same, but just applied differently. For instance, doing nukitsuke for “mae” is performed differently than the nukitsuke for “San-po Giri,” but the overall concepts of saya-biki, hasuji (blade angle), and body posture are the same. This allows me to approach the same technique from different angles and better understand the backgrounds behind each technique.
This makes me think about a post I recently read on the Budo Bum blog. In this particular post, the author was talking about his thoughts on being able to do many techniques and being able to do a few techniques well. There is a certain allure to being able to move on to the next step, which is commonly learning about the newest technique but, after doing a Judo for a while (or even just growing older), he started to appreciate the inner workings of the techniques he does know. There’s a lot more to the physical aspects like angles, heights and necessary force, but adding the mental aspects to everything literally adds a whole new world to what he knew. At that point, he began to take more value in learning more about the things he already knew than just learning more techniques on top of what he already knows.
I consider myself to be mostly in the category of being enamored by being taught the latest Iaido kata. It could be easy to just say that it’s due to my age and/or experience level, but I think it runs a little deeper than that. Learning a new technique seems to be the easiest way to feel that I’m progressing in Iaido. When I’m introduced to a new kata, I feel like Jim has said that I performed the previous technique well enough to move on to the next kata. With that thought in mind, I can really see why people advertise and emphasize the amount of techniques one can learn in their marital art style and how it can be beneficial to attendance and retention rates. It’s easy to sell something that’s so tangible and easily understandable to the public at large. I could go deeper into this subject, but it’s not really the point of this post, and I feel that I should do more research and introspection on the subject to even begin to understand what I want to say.
At the same time, I can understand the value that I get from being able to perform the stuff I already know better than I did before class started. The source of this sentiment is likely from the fact that I also do Kendo, have been doing Kendo for five years longer than I have done Iaido, and that simply, Kendo has fewer techniques, so I’ve been forced to be able to better my performance of the few techniques that are available in physical and mental ways. I feel like that this is where the real magic of martial arts comes from. It’s one thing to say that I am X-rank, so that means that I know #-techniques, but it’s another thing to say that I was able to learn more about Seitei “mae” and be able to examine and perform the kata better than when I walked into the dojo. Since Iaido is mostly done with imaginary opponents, that measure for me is feeling more comfortable with each technique I do and be able to perform it more effortlessly than before. There are actually sets of kenjustu kata, but I don’t really know much about those, but I certainly would love to know more about them!
Again, it could be age, or it could be my Iaido experience level, but I feel like I have a lot of years left before I really start to not care about the number of techniques I know. Maybe it’s simply when I learn all of the kata available in Muso Shinden Ryu, or it could be after I reach a certain age or experience level to where I feel overwhelmed with improving on what I already know before I start to shift my thinking. Maybe my sentiments will change years in the future after I get older and learn more about Iaido, but I feel like I’m within the range of having a decent enough thought process to these martial arts I’m doing.