Iaido Journal May 2011
Iaido: How to Take it to the
2011 Bradley Anderson, all
At the end of last summer, I had a phone conversation with my sensei
in Japan, Mr. Takeda. It had been a while since we had spoken, and
it was really nice to catch up on news with him and my home dojo in
Numazu. I knew that August was when they have their rank testing
(shinsa) and asked him how it went for my dojo mates.
I guess that several of my former dojo-mates had tested for rank,
and for 4 dan and above, about half had passed. I guess that's
pretty consistent with when I tested. For my 4dan rank test, 3 of
the 5 people testing passed.
I was glad to hear that Sano sensei passed his 6 dan, and also Mr.
Takato, whom I received a very nice iaito from when I left Japan,
passed his 5 dan. However, my classmate, Mr. Hasegawa who started
the same time as I did and always tested together, did not pass his
5th dan test. According to Takeda sensei, the higher rank testing
requirements have stiffened up over the last few years, and the
testing board is passing a lower percentage of applicants even at
the 3 and 4dan levels.
So I got to thinking how I could try to improve and check my own
technique for my own upcoming shinsa. There are no upper ranked
sensei nearby to compare notes with, and short of sending a video of
myself doing kata to someone, I was pretty much on my own.
Later, I read this interesting article http://social-issues.org/community/node/255
in which 8dan Hanshi Ogura sensei talks about when he was preparing
to make his third attempt for 8dan. After his regular practice
session, he would go back in alone, turn off the lights, and
practice in the dojo in the dark for an additional couple of hours.
So, I decided to try this. It was pretty hard to get the dojo to be
completely dark - there was some light bleeding in through the
outside window above the door, and also from the exit sign, but it
was still pretty dark. After all, it was the middle of winter in MN,
and the sun had long since gone down.
I went in, sat down, and proceeded to start through the first few
seitei kata. It was an experience that was unlike any I had before.
I found that the kata in seiza were okay - I had started in the
middle of the floor, and knew that I wouldn't be getting too close
to any walls. Starting with the standing kata kesagiri was a bit
different. I became much more conscious of how big my steps were,
and I kept thinking how close I might be getting to the front of the
dojo. It was really difficult!
The other thing I noticed was my nukitsuke and noto had reverted
back to being extremely slow. I felt like it was the first time
using my shinken again and feared for cutting myself on my nukitsuke
and noto movements. Again, very difficult.
I only tried this for a short time, my regular practice was about to
start, but it's a different type of practice that I think is
valuable and I'd really like to do again - maybe this time after a
Also in that article, Ogura sensei gives some of what he felt are
grading requirements for rank. What he states for 5dan (my next
attempt) are as follows:
Being able to perform all the kata nearly perfectly; having learned
the basics of position(s) of the imaginary opponent(s) and suitable
distance(s), based on learning from written references and teachings
from one’s Master. Being able to show an extension of your soul in
the sword movements, facing the imaginary opponents; instilled
calmness, metsuke, kihaku (unmistakable determination to vanquish);
the harmonious unity of ki (energy) - ken (sword) - tai (body);
smooth and controlled movements; mastering in both kokoro and waza
(mind/heart/soul and techniques).
Wow. "Being able to show an extension of your soul in the sword
movements." Now I guess that I have something additional to think
about when I'm practicing.
Iaido - it's truly a lifetime of learning.
Musoshindenryu Iaido - Moorhead dojo
2011 Moorhead Dojo - MWKF Iaido Seminar: http://seminar.musoshindenryu.com