The 2 Rules

Why hello there!

I was surprised to find how many Japanese martial art blogs there are when I first started searching, so I am glad you ended up at this one. If you have any question regarding the Japanese words used, please check the bottom of this post for a brief glossary.

Let’s see, what should I go on about today… How about the two basic rules of Iaido:
Don’t get cut, and cut.

During my first trip to the AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp in 2017, the sensei and senpai there provided plenty of feedback with an overarching theme: Your iai is like a robot pausing after each move, and your cuts are not cuts. In other words, your opponent has ample opportunity to cut you, and you will not cut them. Both rules of iaido BROKEN and I’m dead!
Anderson-sensei appreciated this feedback and moved to focus on these pain points. I like to think this meant we were technically proficient enough in our seitei iai to move on to these issues, but that’s just my ego talking 🙂

In any event, how do we improve upon these concerns?

Don’t get Cut
Anderson-sensei had us make our kiai audible and powerful. This was a deviation from our typical kiai as it is normally quiet, but this turned out to be a useful tool to improve our breathing. We begin our audible kiai when the kata begins, and strengthen it when we strike, trying to make a single breath last the entire kata. This forced us to move through the kata with little pausing for the simple fact that we run out of breath if we stop. Now we were much harder for the enemy to hit because we gave them fewer openings and less time to respond. **

Cut
The second issue was our inadequate cuts.

What sensei taught us next can best be summed up with this anecdote. We went down to Des Moines Iaido in Iowa for a seminar led by my sensei this past August. One of their students asked for advice on how to enter seiza. He found it easier and more relaxing to open his leg up to the side as he went down, but that was different from what he was being taught. In response, Anderson-sensei brought another student to sit in seiza in front of the standing inquisitive student. Sensei pointed at the seated student, looked at the standing student, and said

‘He is trying to kill you. Now sit in seiza.’

And wouldn’t you know it, his entry to seiza was much improved.

What does this mean? This means that when you begin a kata, the enemy must be right there with you.

Before we perform a kata, we take a moment to breathe and place an opponent(s) in the room with us who plans to kill us. As we move, we must also move the opponent as they strike or retreat. This visibly made our cuts more accurate and improved our cutting power. We were actually cutting through someone in our mind’s eye.

In conclusion
These are important principles that I find useful in all of my iai. I am far from mastering even these basic points, but now I know how I can improve: Don’t get cut, and cut.

 

**Note: This is not to say we rush through the kata. We still consider proper timing, our zanshin, and a jo-ha-ku approach. The latter two of these will likely be the subject of future blog posts.

Glossary:
Senpai = senior student
Kata = sequence of moves
Iai = synonymous with Iaido
Kiai = spirit. In this case, inaudible or audible breathing/shouting.
Seiza = traditional Japanese seated position. Sitting on the tops of your feet and knees with your legs together.

2017 Iaido Summer Camp

It was a busy day of testing at the AUSKF Iaido and Jodo summer camp.
Iaido ranks received: Michael Jacobson 2kyu iaido, Michael Schuldt 1dan iaido.

Michael Jacobson 1kyu jodo, Adam Sandor 1kyu jodo, Michael Schuldt 1kyu jodo, Bradley Anderson 1kyu jodo.
This was the first AUSKF sponsored jodo rank testing to be offered at a camp, and ALL members who tested for 1kyu and 1dan this time PASSED.
Tomorrow rounds out the event with more jodo seminar, and then back to regular classes at home in Fargo.
Congratulations to all who passed, and a special thank you to everyone who attended and participated.

Nancy James wrote a very nice Facebook article and provided some excellent pictures of the event.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fnancy.james.92%2Fposts%2F10212666582967125&width=500

We just finished another awesome AUSKF Iaido summer camp. This year it was held in Bryn Mawr college near Philadelphia, PA. What a beautiful campus!
Attending sensei from Japan this year were Sakono sensei and Oda sensei, both 8dan in iaido.
Excellent teachings and seminar!
Two students from the Agassiz dojo placed in the tournament today. Adam Sandor won 3rd place in the unranked division, and Michael Schuldt got 2nd place in the 1kyu-1Dan division. Congratulations fellows,and nice job!
Tomorrow rounds out with the rank testing for both iaido and jodo, and then will be followed by the jodo seminar.
It’s been a great week so far!

2011 AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp

Camp 2011

My student Kelly and I spent last weekend in Cleveland for the 2011 AUSKF Iaido Summer Camp. There were several high ranked sensei there, and the guests from Japan were Kishimoto and Yamazaki sensei. It was my second time to meet and study with Mr. Kishimoto, and I enjoyed his humor and kind, but very thorough way of instruction. Yamazaki sensei I have met and trained with several times. While living in Numazu city in Shizuoka, Yamazaki sensei would come to our dojo every month along with several other 7 and 8 dans from the Tobu region to help “tune” us up on our seitei. It was very nice to see him again, and catch up a bit on things happening in Shizuoka.

The USKF representatives included Murakami, Yamaguchi, Kato, and Konno sensei, and a whole bunch of others who helped with the taikai and shinsa. It was great to see so many high-ranked sensei in the same place at the same time – what a roomful of talent!

This being my first AUSKF event, I had no idea what it would be like. We had two days of excellent instruction / embu and keiko. Then there was a day of competition for people who wanted to compete. I think that almost 60% percent of the people participated, and I was recruited to be a shinpan (judge) for the 3dan and lower divisions. Sunday was the dreaded rank testing, where we had a chance to try and apply all of the teachings we received along with our technique and waza.

Kishimoto sensei wanted to be sure everyone understands about reiho, and is performing the basics correctly. He kept stressing reiho and kihon as the main points. Being “good” at the kihon was less important than understanding what is correct and trying to achieve that. These finer points of iaido were extremely important in the taikai and shinsa as well. For my first round of competition, I blew my 11th kata (sougiri) by stepping out of bounds on my last cut. Chalk that one up for learning.

The last two times I’ve seen Kishimoto sensei at seminars, he’s indicated that there is a perception that testing in the US and Canada is not as stringent as Japan, and that he’s trying to correct that and make gradings consistent everywhere in the IKF.

This year I attempted 5 dan, and Of the 9 people who tested for 5 dan, only one passed (not me) and both of the 6dan candidates failed as well. Testing was tough this year – the pass percentages was about 75% shodan pass, 50% nidan, 25% sandan, and 25% yondan. Brutal, but hopefully more in line with what Japan’s testing requirements so everyone will stop saying the US has a lower level of iai. Kelly did pass his ikkyu, and is very happy about that.

New this year to the Camp was the introduction of Jodo. We did some jodo Sunday after testing for the first time, and that was fun. We learned a few different basic stances. They were going to continue on Monday with strikes and maybe introduce the first kata.

It was exhausting standing and sitting so much during the week. The instructors in their thoroughness tried to make sure everyone knew what points in the waza and kihon are expected and how they are to be executed. As a result, we stood and watched a lot. The learning was invaluable, but my feet, legs, and back suffered for it. Thank goodness for ibuprofen and some stretch time before bed!

We also had a chance to hang with some of the Canadians from Kim Taylor and Eric Tribe’s group. It was a lot of fun to dine and drink together, and I look forward to seeing some of them again in July for our seminar. Taylor and Tribe sensei offered good advice and guidance on some of the finer points for testing – thank you for that!

The Cleveland iaido club that was hosting did a wonderful job, and really went out of their way to make sure we were taken care of for lunches, etc, and that we had rides to and from the venue from our hotel. Our driver really went the extra mile for us to get us to the places we needed to be!

Matt Swisher of Cleveland and his group were a lot of fun to hang with, and I enjoyed meeting a fellow 5 dan candidate to compare notes in teaching and experiences. It’s funny, both Matt and I spent time living in the same small town of Toyama in Northern Japan. We shared stories of that place as well – it’s a small world!

Next year’s 2012 camp will be held in Tacoma Washington. I’m already looking forward to that! With any luck, we’ll be hosting the 2013 AUSKF summer camp right here in Moorhead Minnesota. Yes, you read that correctly!

Moorhead Dojo July Seminar

At the Camp, I spoke to a lot of people who said they were interested in coming. I was surprised that so many people outside of the MWKF had heard about it, and hopefully we’ll get some more attendees!

We did secure a second sensei for our seminar – Pam Parker, 6dan Renshi in iaido. She has very nice iaido, and it will be great to have a second sensei to work with the participants.

People planning to come who haven’t registered yet, please fill out the online application and submit it along with payment as soon as possible. The housing and restaurant would like a firm number of people planning to come.