Senpai as Sensei

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been having my students all “teach” a kata that they feel they know well.

We’ve been using the ZNKR Seitei iaido series, but I’ve done this in the past with our koryu Musoshindenryu as well.

It’s been a great experience both for myself and the rest of the dojo members as well as we switch roles and take turns showing the other members not only our unique style of teaching, but also the self-realization that comes with having to explain something as you’re doing it with specific attention to detail.

TylerSenpai
Tyler Teaching Ukenagashi

Methodology

Each student-teacher would have 10-15 minutes to self-practice and brush up on the kata, how they want to present it, and the kata-specific grading points found in the Seitei iaido manual. Then the Senpai would demonstrate the kata with the appropriate timing. Next, they would teach / demo more slowly pointing out specific points to watch for, foot positions, blade positions, etc. There would be a review of the grading points either from memory or the book itself. Then the Senpai would lead the group through the kata at least twice. During or before the Q/A, I would offer specific comments that were to add clarification or emphasize any additional specific points that were either relevant for grading or the performance of the kata. The senpai would lead the group through one more round as I observed, final comments, and then we’d move on to the next person to lead.

Every person took a turn, and I can safely say that every version of the methodology of how to teach a kata was as unique as the Senpai presenting it.

Group Ukenagashi

Takeaways

What I heard from everyone was:

  1. It was a good experience because it forced people to focus on the points and explain them as they’re doing them instead of just “going though the motions.”
  2. That focus really required specific though on footwork, positioning, angles, cuts, and all of the kihon that go into a kata.
  3. The grading points in the book were sometime more or less than what they’d believed for the specific kata.
  4. It was challenging.

What I noticed was:

  1. We all learn and teach differently – some by using more words and some by using/hearing less words combined with more actions. When I learned the kata originally from Takeda sensei in Japan, my “Budo Japanese” was pretty poor, and so I had to rely on learning from sight, visualization and emulation, correction, and repetition.
  2. There’s no “one way” to teach something or reach a specific point.
  3. My students focus on specific points in kata could be very different from my own. This isn’t a bad thing, just different. Points that I considered very critical to the execution of the kata were less emphasized by some Senpai, whereas they emphasized some things that I rarely did. I will learn from this and consider my methodology as I go forward.
  4. Kihon is extremely important. Specifically consistency in correct kihon. We will need to work on this a bit. Examples being cut and swing, chiburi, and noto.
  5. It was nice to be a student for a change.

I look forward to incorporating this type of practice more in the future as I think it’s a valuable way to mix things up a bit.

Core Con 2010 demo – a big success!

I’d like to personally thank Paul, Kelly, and Bert for all their help setting up and participating in the Core Con demo last Saturday.
We had a pretty good turnout for both the open discussion on Bushido, and especially the demonstration of iaido kata. Each member did excellent demonstrations of kata, and I think the audience enjoyed it very much. There were lots of good questions about the history of iaido/budo, the katana (Japanese sword), and iaido in general.

We demonstrated seven of the twelve All Japan Kendo Federation (Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei) seitei kata. Using bokuto (wooden swords) we broke down several of these, showing the functions of the kata and positions of the enemy. I think this helped the audience better understand the movements we were making and the underlying meanings of the patterns.

I performed several of the Musoshindenkoryu kata (dating back over 400 years) and answered questions about that.

Paul Dyer (4kyu) wrote up a brief article:
“A day to remember, a moment for the learning and sharing with others, the Moorhead iaido dojo presented a demonstration at the Core Con 2010. There are many reasons for people to attend this grand event, but one we do know is to understand the art of Bushido from the art form of iaido. Sensei Bradley Anderson developed an open forum of communication with the audience. Many asked questions, but very few understood the importance of patience and the meaning of Bushido. In the art of iaido, there is a quiet enemy within. The enemy becomes larger through our lifetime, and in the practice of iaido there is a battle of peace and unrest happening within our self. In iaido we study and learn how to defeat the unrest within ourselves. This was explained in the demonstration, both verbally and visually.”

“A warrior must cultivate the feeling that he has everything needed for the extravagant journey that is his life. What counts for a warrior is being alive. Life in itself is sufficient, self-explanatory and complete. Therefore, one may say without being presumptuous that the experience of experiences is being alive.”
~ Carlos Castaneda quotes

That’s about it for now.
Brad