Iaido Journal May 2005
Iaido on the Beach
copyright © 2005 Alexander Cook, all rights reserved
I have to say when I began on this journey months ago I did not expect
it to be quite like this. Now is only the beginning of where I plan to
go with my Iaido career: fittingly, this is the recent story of my
first trip traveling with a sword. Truthfully I did not travel
with a sword, as I am going to the Iaido seminar in May and I did not
want anything to happen to my Iaito, so I took my Bokuto.
Wait. First I will explain a few things. I started Iaido in
October of last year and I am planning on grading for Ikkyu in the May
seminar. Also, my girlfriend lives in Florida, which explains my
reasoning to go to Florida in the first place.
So, beginning the story, it had been a long and painful bout of school
and it was time for a break. For spring break I booked a trip to
visit my girlfriend. Everything was packed, except for my
Bokuto. I yanked it off my sword stand (gently lifted it with
both hands) and threw it into my rifle case (went into seiza and
carefully placed it within the protective foam). I was on my way.
I discovered something interesting: you can carry a wooden sword out of
Canada and into the United States with no problem, but when you try to
bring it back...I’ll explain later in the story.
At Calgary International Airport, while trying to clear customs to the
USA, my friend and I got the custom agent with the bad attitude.
Naturally the man with the rifle case gets into the more difficult
situation because of the above fore-mentioned attitude. There were some
definitely interesting looks because of the rifle case not to mention a
sort of chilling ice stare from the customs agent.
Eventually we made it through customs and even all the way through
Tampa to Eckerd College where we were to spend the week. It was
an uneventful shuttle ride except for the driver asking what was in the
case. When I told him it was a wooden sword he let out some kind
of scoff. That was definitely one of those experiences where you
need to refrain from replying to those who do not respect you. I
did refrain, and the rest of the trip went smoothly.
Among the piles of homework I brought with me I was not about to forget
the reason I carried a wooden sword 2000 miles. Waking up at some
time (I did not care as I was on vacation), I grabbed my belt and my
saya bokuto. Together my girlfriend, my friend and I made our way
to the beach. They laid down their towels and I tied on my belt.
There are a few things that you need to know if you are to undergo
Iaido on the Beach.
First of all choose a suitable patch of sand. You don’t want any
glass, cigarette butts, or other foul or sharp things to catch yourself
on. Not to mention, bits of grass and roots are a no-no.
Secondly, for all you males out there (and this applies to females),
watch for the opposite sex. Bikinis can be a huge problem: I
learned the hard way. Just imagine finishing the opening cut of
the first kata (Mae) and as you look down to your imaginary opponent a
bikini passes through your peripherals. I find that it definitely
tests your focus on Iaido.
Moving on to the third consideration when training in the sand; always
be prepared to get sand absolutely everywhere. I am serious. You
will be picking sand out of places you did not know you had, for
days. Yet another reason to train with a saya bokuto and not an
Iaito, I found that after my training, even though I was very careful,
there was still sand in my saya. I do not believe that my Iaito
would like that. I know I would not like that.
The fourth item on this list applies to far more than sand
training. In fact it applies to all public training. If you
are one of those people who does not like it when people watch you, or
you believe that if anyone looks at you for longer than five seconds
they are trying to kill you, than I would strongly urge you to practice
publicly with the utmost of caution.
Finally the fifth and what I would consider the most important aspect
of training in the sand… Drum roll please… Check, double check, and
triple check that the sand you are training in does not contain fire
ants. Though this may not be a problem in Canada, learn from
me. I may not have that much experience with Iaido but this is an
experience that everyone should avoid. FIRE ANTS GRAVELY IMPACT
There was some more training after that, but the details are
unimportant. The trip back was uneventful save for trying to get
back into Canada. Naturally the rifle case caused problems, the
more so since I was coming from the United States. The customs
agents pulled me to the side and asked to X-ray my case. I find
it interesting how they didn’t want to see that it was a wooden sword
but they in fact needed to X-ray the wooden sword. I was
unimpressed. After some debate they decided that the sword was in
fact legal, with my constant assurance that it was in fact purchased in
Canada. Alas I was nearly done. Indeed not. For some
reason, even though I declared the sword, they did not trust me and
they wanted to scan my entire suitcase. They found a long piece
of metal. The woman there instantly wanted to arrest me or
something, you could see it in her eyes, but the man was better
“Yes,” I replied, “I do have a ruler in my bag. I am an
engineer. That is what we do.”
At some point the woman gave up as she found I was not in fact a
terrorist attempting to take over Canada with a wooden sword and ruler,
though I am still questioning her decision.
There it is, laid out straight as can be: My first experience
taking a sword out of the country. The moral: make sure the
customs agents you get have at least half a wit or more, not to mention
they know what is legal and what isn’t. And my last piece of
advice before I bid you adieu is, and I cannot caution enough, ‘FIRE
ANTS GRAVELY IMPACT IAIDO TRAINING.’
Despite what happened, even with all the fire ants, broken glass, butts
and bikinis, the beach still is a great place to train.