Today, one of the beginning iaidoka of our dojo made a very interesting point when he came back from a mudan tournament.
He’s words were; “if I had a coach I could have been informed about the repeating mistakes I made during all the takai”..
After the tournament one of the judges had told him that all his kata were really good but at each kata he adjusted his hands just after kiri oroshi.
Competitions and tournaments are indeed great opportunities to study one’s own iai. Personally I would say that winning the takai is more or less inferior to the self reflection that is made possible during the whole tournament.
It is very understandable that one feels the need for a coach during any sort of tournament or competition. The coach can (re)direct you, give you valuable feedback that indeed might give you the difference between winning and loosing.
But the absence of a coach is actually more effective for your iai.
During a tournament you will be performing under pressure. Pressure that is coming from several perspectives. And you have to perform your kata as good as possible within this pressure. This basically means that your kata as well as your inner nature must be well balanced.
A kata you will learn through practice. you repeat the same motion over and over again without the knowledge that it will get any better. An effective way to keep your awareness on top of this process is that your focus with each time you practice should be the same as when you learned that kata the very first time. This way your attention is open at all time and you can alter the movements, the motion the intentions where ever needed.
Whenever the practice becomes a routine all the unwanted inner, most of the time unconscious, habits start to manifest itself in the kata. And because the practice became a routine, these manifestations are so much harder to recognize.
It are those inner “distortions” that become visible under moments of stress like tournament, competition or exam. In a way you can say that these are the time your inner demons are brought to the surface.
It is during practice that you can find the possibilities to pay attention to those ‘demons’ and use them for a greater good. unfortunately this demands a great deal of discipline from the iaidoka and the ability to some introspective skills.
But when this is done and the inner demons are indeed becoming your companion in battle, like a tournament or so, not only your kata will be performed in a much more convincing manner but you are indeed becoming your own personal and inner coach.