Well the subject appears to be a word I’m using a lot lately, and regardless of that I’ve not really written anything serious here in a while. So I thought I would. Since its a Wednesday night you all know what that means by now:
So today I almost didn’t make it to the weekly sword-waggling. I got home late from work, was tired, thought about more work to do, was tired due to lack of sleep etc. etc.
So I had a bit of a sit down, took a few deep breaths and went and got my stuff ready. Which was groovy. For one reason or another we were light on people this evening which meant we got to work on all sorts of little crazy things. We started with some light cutting exercises as a fairly standard warm up, and this was followed by being taught (briefly) a short kata (Kesa Giri I think, which makes no sense to me. Kesa are diagonal sashes worn across the body, which makes sense. But Giri (in my limited understanding) refers to honour or obligation, duty, that kind of thing) from another school of iaido.
The style of that was very different, which was refreshing. It also featured some mighty fine cuts, as given away by the name it was two kesa-cuts, both from standing, one up then a straighten of the blade then back down. This was interesting as most of the practice kata are reasonably simple in terms of straight-line cuts, horizontal or vertical, so doing a pair of large, enthusiastic cuts across the diagonal was quite a refreshing change. The chiburi and noto (cleaning and sheathing the blade) were likewise a little different. Interesting :)
The rest of the night was spent mostly working on the introductory kata (Omori Ryu). The first kata in the introductory set is an attack against a single opponent to the front when you both start kneeling. facing each other. The next three are when the opponent is to your left, right and behind you respectively, meaning you need to learn to perform a turn of 90 or 180 degrees on your knees at speed (apart from that they’re largely identical to the ‘front’ kata).
These are, as I’m sure you can guess from the preample, actually surprisingly complicated movements when it comes down to it. Well … thats not really true. They’re actually quite simple movements, once you get the trick of them, if you know what I mean. Thus getting this knack and not doing them, not really wrong, but in such a way that is a bad habit that’ll bite you in the arse later, is tricky.
I find all three turns at times easy, and at times complex, depending on a million factors. Tonight I basically just worked through turning left and turning right from behind, with a cursory nod at turning right, the turning left one I need to do slightly different from the Dan’s (being as both Dan-grade instructors were tall lanky whatsits today, the only other bloke of my kind of build (Dan-I) was also in the line working with us plebs on his turns), but I think I’ve almost cracked it.
The 180 degree turn I was simply blagging in a bad way, a way that lead to all sorts of issues later in the kata (since it was throwing my posture off, causing a lean and much instability). But I’ve definitely made some work on it now, Dan-D was on hand who has always been the instructor I find perhaps the most enlightening, he basically sat next to me and poked me, trying to work out how I was shifting my weight about, finally working out the problem (its a similar one I have in Uke Nagashi about moving from the hip as opposed to say the foot, leg, shoulder or even sometimes knee, which are my normal body-parts to move from :).
Although the really fine moment of this evenings practice is still to be documented, I was asked to start demonstrating the Omori Ryu, since Dan-D hadn’t seen me perform the later ones (as it was he didn’t anyway, since we got sidetracked by turns). Dan-M was also watching (and is very sharp in such observance), Dan-I was working on his own stuff, I think hes up for a grading this summer. Anyway, back to the ramble. So there I was, told to do each kata twice. I started with Mai (and in my opinion cut a little high on the first cut, didn’t get the saya back far enough I think) and when I was done got a few pointers from Dan-M then Dan-D stepped forwards and while I was replying to Dan-M he said something like “Perhaps you should try it with this.” and offered me the use of his iaito.
At first I made to protest, then since it was offered I hooked my bokken from my belt, offering it to him in exchange (he sensibly just stacked it against a wall :) and took his iaito , carefully sliding it into my obi (and getting a few tips from Dan-M in the process about “How not to ding it on anything”, specifically lots and lots of left hand when drawing, also the noto required a lot more care to get it lined up properly (with bokken its just a wooden sword in a plastic saya, its like parking a robust boat in that it doesn’t matter if you bounce it gently off the sides and it handles like a cow, a proper iaito requires much more care).
Its an interesting experience handling such a weapon, its the second time I’ve handled such a thing. I’ve cut with Dan-D’s iaito before, but only a few swings to get a feel of such things. This was a full hour or so of use. It showed up some little bits of misdirection in my work, the direction and motion of such a thinner blade requires more control, because its obvious when you’ve got it wrong, getting a bokken at the wrong angle is easy to do and hard to spot comparitively (some stuff in standard chiburi and noto, also the across-the-knee style chiburi).
Also I found my kata improved by the use of this particular blade because I was incredibly focused on not dinging the thing on the floor, or ripping up the scabbard when replacing the sword. Since it was not only not mine, but also Dan-D’s favourite iaito I found myself rather in a position of being very, very careful with it. Still a lovely thing to handle. About the right length (2.45 shaku, someone there had a 2.5 which was considerably bigger) and also very light (but not whippy and flicky like a rapier, still with a nice solid feel).
I must say a most enjoyable experience, left me with a big grin after the first kata (where I hadn’t damaged anything), a lovely blade to have handled and a very generous offer, much thanks were given for it.
Also got my deposit back from my old house, so time to do the sums, I think I can buy some Hakama and a top with that comfortably without denting my living allowance, rent or bills, but I fear obtaining my own iaito may well have to wait for the October pay cheque unless I can get a really nice deal. Ahh well, such is life.
p.s. Poo to the Linux kernel! More patches again for local priveledge escalation!