PREPARATION FOR IAI TRAINING
Iaido is not only drawing and cutting a target with a sword. Obviously handling the sword plays a substantial part. However mental training is more important in achieving a good human character. There is a proverb that says, There is no end to learning an Art. The time to stop is the time one dies.
CHOOSING A GOOD TEACHER IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT POINTS IN TAKING UP THE IAIDO PATH.
This is not an easy task. One should get advice from friends. Once you have found a teacher you should follow and comply to his tuition without hesitation or doubt. Notwithstanding all teachers are human beings. You may end up inheriting some of your teachers bad habits. However once you reach the same standard as your teacher it is easy to separate unnecessary attributes.
A LIFETIMES RESPECT FOR ONES TEACHER.
Possibly because of democracy coming to Japan after World War II , I see a lot of students acting very selfishly. To begin with they appear to be polite obedient and diligent. However once they reach a certain standard they seem to become ignorant and forget their respect towards their teacher. Its a rather sad development. No matter how much a student has achieved in technique and knowledge, the teacher should be treated with highest respect. Oh-e Masamichi was treated like a god by my teachers during his life and I have followed in their footsteps.
PRIDE AND RESPECT FOR LINEAGE.
To study Iaido the practitioner must have a knowledge of the lineage. Before starting actual physical practice. Even within our Ryu, the original style of Oh-e Sensei and the Shimomura Ha displayed a difference in technique. No one can say which is right or wrong, but there are different points of movement because the theory or method differs.
IAI TRAINING SHOULD BE CONTINUED AS LONG AS ENJOYMENT IS FOUND IN IT.
There are many students who give up a short time after they have started learning. For these people training must be very boring and simply hard work. Both Iaido and Kendo training should be continued with patience. I have noticed that some people give up on entering into the Tatehiza forms of our Ryu. They could either felt that they had achieved enough or that they had started to experience real difficulty. Tatehiza requires a higher standard of technicality and knowledge of Iai. Seiza technique is not sufficient enough to be able to understand the quality and history of Jikiden.
YOU MUST NEVER IN ANY WAY SHOW OFF YOUR SKILLS TO OTHERS.
Politeness and moderation are considered to be virtuous in Japan. Even amongst veteran Iaidoka, some of them seem to be over confidant about their own abilities and display a lack of sophistication. It is of considerable importance to listen to the advice and opinion of others to advance and improve.
Rearranging traditional techniques must be thought out very carefully.
Recently I have noticed that some instructors are rearranging things to facilitate easy practice. This mainly seems to be connected to Shiai and Gradings, as smooth and smart movements seem to get more points. When comparing technical differentiation between the early 70s and the present 90s, the following changes are noticeable.
Different Chiburui (Chiburi):
In our Ryu (Seiza section), during Chiburi action the Hasaki (top part of the blade) used to stop at a point near to ones own right foot, so that the blood was shaken off near to ones own body. However recently a more horizontal Chiburi is becoming popular. As a result the blood is shaken off towards the front. As to performance, it seems to be dynamic and smart.
Reduction in Iai-goshi: To take the posture of Iai-goshi is to;
Open both knees
Drop the upper body
Push the Tanden forward as much as possible The side view of this posture does not look at all smart. However this Iai-goshi was created to react to an attack by an opponent from any direction. The posture of today seems to be more upright and the knees are much straighter.
Reduction of hip twisting in technique: In the case of cutting a target with a single handed cut (right hand) in Iai technique, considerable hip twisting motion has been used to create a better result. With this hip twisting action the back foot (left) momentarily holds Shumoku-ashi(L or T shaped foot position). But in modern Iaido, Shumoku-ashi is inhibited in many schools. This could be because Kendo prefers foot position and footwork to be straight forward.
For the purpose of cutting (Iaido), a body twisting action is imperative.
To hold a good posture (as in Kendo), both feet are kept straight forward.