Personal Perspective

as mentioned in my latest post I wanted to write about an interesting phenomenon that seems to affect how we experience and more important how we perform iaido.
Now, up front I would like to make some sort of disclaimer by saying that this might not be recognized by everyone. So keep in mind that this is from a personal perspective 🙂 

As we progress in our training we for sure will indulge ourselves in some leisure time to watch videos, movies and YouTube channels about people performing iaido to see how other people translate that what we are trying to make our own.
I remember watching a video on YouTube where Ide Tomota Sensei was performing an embu.

I was rather thrilled by his performance and immediately started to try to copy his way of performing as to feel and understand this different way. For me it is a great way to experiment and to experience different ways of performing and to see where certain improvements can be made.
But I took the liberty to ask our Sensei what he thought of this embu by Edi Tomota Sensei and to my surprise he told me that it wasn’t as great as I thought it was.
Next to the fact that I started to look very different at this video from that moment (or any other iaido video for that matter) I also was urged to ask myself why he thought that this performance wasn’t as great as I thought it was?
And the thing that came to my mind was that how we look at others performing iaido on video or even during competition is influencing our own performance.
And I don’t mean that you, because you like this particular person’s iai or that particular video on YouTube. No, I mean that it is an actual vicious circle that keeps itself in balance.

To some point you are aware of your own performance and your progress in iai. whenever you look at someone else’s performance you will automatically, consciously and unconsciously look for all the aspects of that particular performance that you can identify with and make your own, so to speak. And on the other hand, while your iai, your performance is slightly (or not slightly but major) influenced by what you saw, you will start looking at other people’s performances just a little more different then before. Although you can’t be aware of that because you didn’t know that you would be in this state of growth before the moment that it actual is happening….

Isn’t that a glorious and wonderful thing? And did you know that this doesn’t only happen in your solitude moments of practicing iaido but with everything you undertake in your life!
It is one of the beautiful ways of how life works for us.

(if you’re interested in more metaphysical articles and inspiration I would like to invite you to visit my other blog: inspire – encouraged ) 



Ishido Cup = No Go

And just when you feel comfortable in participating this tournament, You know you did some serious homework and even did see some improvement in your overall performance….You have to decide not to participate because you feel to exhausted from a cold running through your body.

It is to bad.
But…not for nothing!  All the extra training I did gave me an immense good insight of some new points in the iai.
also, I will take all these homework with me, keep training and owning the new received feedback and insights and take it to the coming Dutch championship this spring.

Also I will write something about an interesting topic later…How different we approach iai and how our own reality influences our view on other iaidoka there performances. stay tuned….

Hyaku Ren Ji Toku

Four hours of intensive iaido organized by Ren Bu Kan in Eindhoven.

It was intense indeed 🙂 but very worthwhile.  For the whole four hours we repeated only the seitei. Sandan and higher should also ad two koryu kata. 

I lost count on how many times I was able to repeat the whole serie (probibly I didn’t reach the 100) but it was truely an interesting and very educational experience. 

It started a bit slow. Although I don’t hold these things as excuses…I had a bad night sleep because my throat started to hurt as if a cold was introducing itself. 

The focus was hard to find in the beginning but it was slowly getting stronger. My body seemed to not be in harmony with my wishes and all the movements (kata) felt like physical obsticals. All the previous mentioned improvements seemed to be far away. Only after the first one and a half hour the flow started to come and I could feel the kata again. During the following last two hours this flow was steady. 

I was in luck to receive some very good feedback from Andre Schiebroek Sensei:

01. Tsuka ate:   I should pay attention to my left foot while making the thrust. I tended to move my left foot more than 90 degrees. 

02.  Kesa giri:   I don’t think Andre saw me perform this kata otherwise he would have said something about it. Still this kata is a mystery for me. The two cuts over the kesa (line) should be natural and vluently but for me it remains a struggle to do so. 

Same with soetsuki. Allthough this kata ‘felt’ better today it still needs attention. 

So giri:   This kata got some attention. As I mentioned in a previous post I wanted to get the first cut more smooth coming out the uge nagashi. Again I focused on this issue and with the help of Andre Schiebroek Sensei I could see the actual points of improvement. 

But the most significant feedback I received was general valid for all kata. Which means for the whole iaido. Gnagna. 

01.   The blade should stay flat for as long as two third is inserted. Only than one should start turning the saya back into starting position. 

02.   Keep my head up and fixed. That is, not cramping up but keep the upper back and attached head in a proper upright position. I tend to lower my head a bit when looking doen at my freshly conquered opponent. 

I am very greatful for being able to attend this seminar. It is really an enormous benefit to get feedback from as many people possible to keep one’s iai awake. 

Thank you so much. 

Preparing for Ishido Cup (additional to part 4)

As I described in my previous post I experienced some improvement in my iaido performance.
Because this improvement is quite significant I want to give it a bit more attention here.
as mentioned one of the things I wanted to focus on was an improvement on the overal tenouchi. And it was!
yesterday before training I watched the video again which I made last Saturday to get a better feel on what I should focus on during the training. I decided that I should focus mostly on four of the kata: Uge nagashi, Kesa giri, Soetsuki and So giri.  I trained them in backward order just to keep me on my toes. But something else occurred.  What if that nice improvement of mine was just a glitch? What if it was just a little taste that I could not bring back?

well, I went to the training and luckily the improvement was still there. haha..
But after the training it did made me think about how I made this improvement happen. I wasn’t in the possibility to do much training due to the Christmas holiday. most of the training I did was in my head mentally (something that is of high value: mentally imagine and visualize the movement or whole kata for that matter. One can indeed train in one’s own head.) and some short try outs at home to get myself familiar with a variety of grips and motions. But what mostly helped me a lot was reading an article written by Andy Watson about tenouchi in 2010. He managed to explain the concept on tenouchi in a very accessible way (at least for me) that it perhaps lead to an actual physical understanding of the whole collection of motions.
Anyway..I feel really confident now about my cuts and surprisingly it also feels so much better in my right shoulder where in previous training I sometimes felt an annoying pain due to a wrong cutting. Also, what I noticed in the video, my body isn’t swaying back and forth anymore while making the kirioroshi.
I have to keep focusing on this to really make it my own.  (happy..)

But, as mentioned I focused on four kata during yesterday’s training.
In So giri I wanted to create a better motion during the draw of the sword. There was a hick-up between the uge nagashi and the actual cut. I worked on it for some time and managed to make it more smooth and in one motion. The main thing was that I now focus more on a proper uge nagashi…the cut then comes more natural.
Soetsuki still remains a mystery. Although there is a proper understanding of the kata I keep having difficulties with the leading cut. I hope to get a good focus on this during the special Hyaku ren ji toku training coming Sunday with Sensei André Schiebroek.
Kesa giri the same. it is (for me) one of the more difficult kata because of the two cuts in one motion. Two things seem to be the hick-up:
01. to get a smooth saya banare without having the sword scraping the saya while drawing.
02. to get a smooth and most of all a relaxed second cut.
Also this is for coming sunday 🙂
Last but not least Uge nagashi. Here I tended to duck my head in while receiving the sword of the opponent. Still needs attention but it was an easy fix.

So far for today…looking forward for the Hyaku ren ji toku training coming Sunday..

Preparing for Ishido Cup (part 4)

It has been 2 weeks since my last post about preparing for the Ishido Cup.
During that time I did quit some research on a variety of technical details in my performance. I did get some great feedback from different sources that where all very valuable. Thank you to everyone who contributed!

Here is a little list of the main things that I put my focus on:

01. Improving the overal tenouchi and especially in Morote Tsuki in combination with saya banare.
02. Getting a better feel on the concept of ma (timing) and ma’ai (distances).
Increasing the natural flow in every kata.
04. Connected to point nr. 01 also developing zanshin. (Here mostly meant in the sense of increasing the comfort in the kata while focusing on a better motion of tenouchi)

There is an improvement in my performance and that makes me happy to see. In today’s training I could see the slight improvement of tenouchi and the was a good comfort (calmness) in the kata. Also I could see an improvement considering the ma and ma’ai although this still needs some good attention.
nevertheless I need to keep the focus on all these pointers. A slight improvement doesn’t make it a second nature.

Two more weeks to go.
Ishido Cup will be another wonderful opportunity to wake up my Inner Coach