Let's hear it for Seitei
© 2009 Kim Taylor, all rights reserved
Let's hear it for Seitei
When I was younger I used to write
every day, usually bad poetry of the 20 year old existential angst
slash wounded in love type, but I would always start with a warmup
verse or two. I always wrote about my pen and my notebook... well let
Little white computer
mouse, almost larger than the screen
and a flexible keyboard that wobbles
almost worse than my feelings
toward seitei iai
that endlessly changing, always static
never to be owned
art of the sword.
for just a little inspiration.
you have it, another in a series of hundreds of poems dedicated to the
tools of my trade. It's a warmup, a way to get the pen moving over the
paper, or in this case, my fingers moving over this silly roll-up
keyboard which is better than the tiny little thing attached to the
eeepc I'm using, but not much. Nor is it much more wobbly in the keys.
Regardless, now I'm writing and in the warmup I've even managed to
catch my reason for writing.
Which is "thank kami for seitei gata"
spent three days in Boise Idaho at the AUSKF national iaido seminar
being a student again, I am thoroughly worked over. My left foot is so
damaged I'm still limping almost two weeks later. I suppose tromping
through the woods with a chainsaw cutting wood so my students don't
freeze to death this winter doesn't help.
Yes I cut wood for
my students and yes that's a plea for some sympathy. You have to be
brutally self-honest in the martial arts... but that's another story.
in front of Kishimoto sensei, chair of the iaido section of the All
Japan Kendo Federation, I was back in school, twisting and turning my
feet, trying to catch the latest nuances of Zen Ken Ren Iai or as we
all call it, Seitei Gata.
This set, which has been around for 30
years, is still being refined, with the occasional "change" but mostly
with explanations that come down from the top fellow, through the
committee, down to all the 8dans, then the sevens, and maybe, if we're
lucky, to the students in the west. See why I was there to watch the
man himself?... and Yamazaki sensei too by the way, not sure if he's
number three or number two at the moment, but either way, he's worth
My thoughts during the seminar, being right up
front, listening carefully as I was told that the furikaburi motion was
now back to where I did it 15 years ago, before spending ten changing
it to what was then the correct motion? Well after I finished laughing
out loud I thought "chewy".
OK it's a strange word to pop into
my head but let's face it, I've now got months worth of things to chew
over in my head and especially in my practice. Months to work the
details into my own iaido, to force myself to pay attention and to
refine my ability to control the sword.
Which is of course, the
intention. Seitei is where everyone in the organization demonstrates
that they can control their sword. By working on the details forever,
by concentrating on the physical refinements and the riai, the meaning
behind the movements, we all understand the sword a bit better each
time we practice.
Compare this to an iaido practice where you
"own" the techniques. You do them as you feel they are right and
correct and you never change them due to outside instruction since they
are "yours" and you do them as a demonstration of your own
understanding of iaido.
That can get pretty stale pretty fast.
As you get older and fall into bad habits your iaido will drift and
change, usually not for the better. With no need to pay attention to
what you're doing you can start to get sloppy. Of course you can
compensate for this if your ego will let you study and learn from
others, and if you're still a junior the problem doesn't arise since
you're still learning, but for those who are at the top of their
particular hill.... well as I said, "thank the kami for seitei" because
if I ever get to the top of my particular hill I'll still have
something to keep me honest, something chewy.
Oh, how do you get to the top of your hill? Stick around long enough and you'll be there