Book Learning for Iaido?

I’ve seen several FB videos and posts of people doing iaido the last few weeks to varying degrees of maturity and accuracy. One fellow admits he’s only learned from videos, and has mixed things up a bit without having a sensei or a consistent style to base it upon, though he’s calling it “seitei.”

Another, a self-proclaimed Master steps through some kata to which he’s changed some of the basic techniques, and moves through them with no consciousness of the opponent(s) of whom he’s supposed to be reacting to, no timing or grace. There’s no depth of practice, though he boasts years of experience and some level of mastery.

Maybe I’m too critical, after all my own iaido could easily be criticized on various levels and faults found. I know I have a long list of things to work on and improve.

Kihon, breathing, posture, timing, “presence” all come from experience and time practicing with someone to correct you – putting in the time with a heart set to listen, apply, and learn.

I think that learning from books and videos as a supplement to receiving instruction from a sensei is absolutely possible and encouraged – as long as the materials are accurate and detailed. But without that initial “introduction” to something, say jo, it would be very hard to capture the essence of jo. Without getting swung at in tachi-uchi by the Uchidachi, it would be very hard to capture the reaction and timing in a video. Without having a sensei to say, “Show me,” and then getting points for improvement, is improvement to a higher level even possible?

I don’t know what inspired me to write this, or where it’s even going, except maybe to say, “Find a sensei, or at least go to a seminar or something on occasion to get the “real” thing. If you can, stick with them and attend regularly. Then study the writings and the videos to “tune a bit,” but make sure they’re the right videos and not just guys doing iaido. Stick with one style. Then get back with a sensei again. And most of all, have a heart that is humble and open to being corrected. Practice without distraction and with an attitude of not just “doing” the moves, but with thinking why and how you’re doing the moves. Execute, analyze, repeat. Get some feedback. Take to heart that feedback. Then execute, analyze, repeat again.

Then, maybe someday you’ll be able to execute one of the kata you’re practicing to your satisfaction.

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