Year End Thoughts on
© 2009 Jeff
all rights reserved
Quick fix for Hikiotoshi in Jodo
There are few "quick fixes" in budo, or at least few that I
stumbled onto, or been taught. But occasionally, you do get something
that instantly fixes a problem you've been having. Sensei had us do an
exercise the other night that really helped me, and I thought I'd share
we do hikiotoshi, most of us start out too stiff and rigid, and don't
use our arms to full advantage. To fix that, most of the teachers I've
met have emphasized using the forward hand. Let's say you're standing
in "right hikotoshi", so you're looking at teki over your left
shoulder, your left hand is over your chest, and your right hand is
down by your right thigh. Most of the time, Sensei will tell you to use
more left hand, squeezing as you strike. This is good, but it leads to
another problem: neglecting the right hand! Of course you need to use
both hands to their fullest to get a powerful hikiotoshi.
other day, Sensei had us go into hikiotoshi no kamae, then just let go
with the left hand, and do the strike using the right hand only. It's
okay to "cheat" a little bit here and choke up on the jo by 10 cm or
so. The feeling is almost like you are doing a one-handed sword strike
to teki's sword. Suddenly, without the support of the left hand, you
are using the right hand properly, thinking about things like "hasuji"
and getting your hand and wrist in the proper position. You are also
more-or-less unable to stop the jo, so you naturally do a beautiful
follow-through after the strike. One-handed, I was doing better
hikiotoshi strikes than I usually do with two hands. Remembering this
feeling, I returned to the two-handed grip, and did some of the
smoothest, quietest, most effective hikiotoshi strikes that I've done
in a long time.
Try it and see if it helps you!
I think I've
fixed the problem with my cut. (Readership: "Hurray! We were all losing
sleep over that!") Sensei had been watching me with a sense of
annoyance. I thought it was just annoyance at me for being unable to
fix my swing, but now I'm guessing that he was a bit annoyed with
himself for being unable to get to the root of my problem. A couple
weeks ago, he got me to change the timing of my footwork with the cut.
Before, I was doing a kind of 1 .. 2-3 timing, which means the front
foot steps, I cut, and the back foot comes up at almost the same time.
He tried to get me to do everything at the same time - not possible, in
fact, but that's the feeling. I couldn't get it at all, until I started
imagining I was doing kendo. Then I got it.
One thing I've learned
since I've come to Japan is that there isn't one way to do things. You
could be forgiven for thinking so in the west, at least for a while.
You have a seminar, and a bigwig comes over and tells you, "This is THE
way it is done." You silently think to yourself, "But X. Sensei told us
to do it THIS way last year ... but I guess it's changed. Okay." The
fact is, though, that not only does Seitei iai change from year to
year, but it changes depending on whom you are learning from. This is a
good thing, to some extent: everybody has their own way of doing iaido.
Why should there be ONE way to do everything? If you analyze the way
the top dozen golf pros hold their clubs, I'm sure you'll find a couple
who do it differently than the others. But if they can all hit the ball
roughly the same distance, with the same accuracy, who's to say who's
right? Same for tennis, same for baseball, same for iaido.
bummer part is that most teachers think they're right, and so whenever
I have changed teachers, I have gotten some criticism that runs
directly counter to what somebody else has just told me. Oh well; it
keeps me from getting complacent, and that is a good thing, despite all
my whining. All of this is just my long-winded way of saying that I've
fixed my cut, for now, but when I change dojos again in the future,
I'll very quickly be working to fix it again.
Winning and Losing in Kata
was thinking the other day at jodo practice about "winning" and
"losing". Even though it's already decided that the Jo side always
defeats the Tachi, there is a dynamic within the kata that means that
there is a "real winner", I think. I don't want to overstate this, nor
do I want to make anybody think that the point
of Jodo is to
be the winner. But sometimes it's hard to ignore. You know you've "won"
the kata when:
- you're the tachi side, but your kiai overwhelms that of
your partner; his kiai is weak and unconvincing
- you make your partner blink a few times with a look of,
"What just happened?" on his face
- you have to slow your movements down because your partner
wasn't ready to block the strike you were preparing
you're on the Jo side and you drive your partner back almost into the
wall; then he goes to step back and bumps into the wall because he
forgot the wall was there, he was so focused on getting away from you
- when your partner can't look you in the eyes
you're on the Jo side and you almost knock the bokuto out of your
partner's hands, and he is clearly thrown off-balance, mentally, by this
- conversely, when you're on the Tachi side, and your
partner does a strike which doesn't work, or has little effect
I'm not saying that your goal is to beat your partner up - although
there seem to be many people in the Jodo world who think so! But if you
can maintain an unperturbable mental state, while throwing your
opponent off-balance mentally, then you've won.