“Paint your own picture” is something I’ve been challenging my students with lately. One of the hardest things about iaido is not only identifying that hidden opponent, but putting them in front of you and reacting to them as you move through your kata.
Seitei is pretty much a “by the book” style, so there’s not always that much room for creativity in some of the basic movements (kihon). It can become a routine of prescribed movements.
However, there is creativity in how you see your opponent and react to them. This emerges in timing (maai), distance (ma), pressure (seme), and continuing awareness (zanshin).
Much like an artist has to visualize the subject they are painting, the iaido practitioner has to visualize their opponent. Without seeing them, how can we effectively react? Without visualizing their movements, their spacing, and their timing, how can we avoid their cut and then counter?
Anybody can draw a stick figure and call it art, but that’s boring and uninspiring. It’s the composition, details, skill, and perspective that make it beautiful and unique. No two paintings are the same – ever.
If we apply those concepts to our iai every time we execute a kata, and start to “see” our opponents, we create something unique and beautiful.
I challenge you to “paint our own picture.”