On Saturday, May 25 - the first weekend following Victoria Day - Mu Mon Kai held a special "recap" class to review the specific instruction and comments made to our senior members (4 Dan+) . The goal was to consolidate the information and ensure key points are focused on for the year leading up to the 2014 Guelph Iaido Seminar. While mostly consistent, a couple of points came up that require further analysis and commitment by Sensei on which alternative to adhere to.
The following notes are beneficial to everyone, but are especially relevant to individuals in the following groups in decreasing order:MMK Students
- Students with direct lineage under Goyo Ohmi Sensei
- Eastern Canadians
- All Canadians
- North Americans
- Rest of the world - excluding Japan
Having said that, we would very much welcome input from anyone regarding their perspective on any of these points.
General Theory and Observations by Sensei1) RESPECT and ETIQUETTE• Attitude is crucial, even when not practicing• Sitting and standing posture while Sensei is talking shows respect – Do not cross arms. Always have thumb on tsuba or hand on tsuka.• The sword is used to protect yourself, your family, and your country.2) PURPOSE OF IAIDO• To develop personal character rather than killing the opponent• The goal is to make the opponent give up – to destroy their “killing intention” rather than their life• The body is the target, but not the purpose• The Japanese sword can be used for both offense and defense, unlike other weapons that are only offensive• Don’t think about the killing – Iaido is a heart-to-heart conversation with your opponent – this differentiates Iai-jutsu from Iai-do• You can take this philosophy into your everyday life3) FOCUS POINTS• Beginners – Form and Technique. Students should understand the philosophy and purpose of Iaido (mentioned above) so they do not abuse it – otherwise, society would reject Iaido. (get rid of crazy students)• Intermediate – Distance and Timing – ki-ken-tai-ichi and rational as budo (understand the scenario)• Advanced – Feeling – kihaku (dignified presence) and riai (theory)4) BREATHING• With proper breathing, all kata can be performed correctly• Exhale on every cut – should be forceful then stop quickly – matching the timing of the cut• Exhale when standing up after noto and when hand comes off tsuka.• Use “belly breathing” (using abdominal muscles) on both inhale and exhale – full abdomen expands on inhale – lower abdomen pushes out on exhale (upper abdomen squeezes in and pushes out lower abdomen)• Actions during keiko:o Kata 1-4 – On hajime, exhale wherever you are in the breath cycle, then inhale, put hands on tsuka and start exhale on breaking of koiguchi with thumbo Kata 5-12 – On hajime, exhale wehever you are in the breath cycle, then inhale, start to walk at start of exhale• Point of Contention – Timing of hands startingo Inhale to 50%, then start with hands reaching at 80%o Inhale to 80%, then start hands and exhale• Ideally, kata should finish in one breath, but you may inhale at key times when stationary if this is not possible.Grading and JudgingOn Sunday afternoon at the Guelph seminar, the 6th Dan+ participants were called into a judging class with Kishimoto Sensei. Hanna was asked to help with translations, and a few lower ranked members were asked to be examples.• Justin Lee (MMK) – No rank eligible for 1 Kyu in December• Joe Oliveira (MMK) – 1 Dan eligible for 2 Dan in December• Martin Stabler (Kenshokan) – 2 Dan eligible for 3 Dan in DecemberBasic (non-kata) Judging points were explained followed by a breakdown for specific ranks.Grading Standards• In Japan, gradings up to 5 Dan are held locally. In Canada it is the same.• In some countries certain levels are harder/easier than others. It is very important to have consistent standards world-wide. Therefore, judges must have uniform understanding.• The number of judges required for pass/fail and who are eligible to judge is different in different countries, but basically follow the guidebook• Chakuso, dress code, is part of etiquette and is crucial judging point. Ushers and administrators should help graders prior to entering the grading area. (eg. Help ensure the hakama back is higher than front)Grading Tape/Line• The tape is 30cm and with its corners stretching back (away from judges) forms a square 30cm x 30cm• The challenger’s toes must be within this box (preferably feet inside the box) for ONLY opening and closing shomen-reio Q: What if knees go over line on to-rei? That’s oko Q: What if feet are over line after closing to-rei? Take steps back until you are inside box before closing shomen-rei.• Tape disappears afterwards in terms of start/end of kata and to-rei• Disclaimer: In a shiai (tournament match) it could make a difference in terms of awareness, but not in gradings
Rank Judging Points 1 Kyu • Level should be close to 1 Dan• Judged on Reiho, Dress code, and Basic technique• Dress code is a major deduction, but not a fail point (unlike all other ranks)• Challenger can make lots of small mistakes, but not large ones• Errors in reiho may be corrected by the judges (i.e. koiguchi is open during to-rei, starting walking with wrong foot)• Most 1 Kyu challengers should pass 1 Dan • Judging should be stricter than 1 Dan• Dress code MUST be correct from this rank onward• Etiquette MUST be correct from this rank onward• Technical points: Correct nukitsuke, kiritsuke, chiburi, and notoo Accuracy should be the focus, not speed or power (i.e. finishing positions of the tip)o Correct form is more important than good technique 2 and 3 Dan • There seems to be a large variance in skill between countries – some are stricter than others, some have longer time periods between eligibility to test.• Accuracy is even more important at this level. (i.e. Toes need to be aligned when sitting in seiza)• Challenger should have some idea of having an opponent (i.e. metsuke and timing should be evident) – doesn’t have to be good, just evident• Being weak is ok as long as waza is correct (i.e. proper grip)• For 3 Dan, overall technique should be stronger, smoother, and show a better understanding of opponent 4 and 5 Dan • Challenger should not be nervous and make nervous mistakes• Need ki-ken-tai-ichi and kihaku• General attitude and character is important• Technique should make sense as a budoReview of KataThe focus of this session was to recap the corrections/instructions we specifically received for each kata. We are not going over points that are written in the seitei manual. Several pointers (especially from Hatakenaka Sensei) mentioned “Too many people” – indicating general faults that everyone needs to fix; other points may be person or dojo specific and should be reviewed with your Sensei before attempting.Variations in opinion are marked as “Points of Contention” and require clarifications or decisions from 6 Dan and above.0) GENERAL• Too many people have their stance forward rather than equal between both feet.o Q: Where should knee be in relation to foot? Depends on the person’s anatomy. Key is that you are balanced.• Sword Tip – In the Japanese manual, it differentiates between kissaki and ken-sen. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in the English version. Need to pay attention to kata the specify the difference.1) MAE• On furikaburi, need more emphasis on blade turning upwards• On furikaburi, need to bring body under tsuka• Too many people making an additional hip shift (eg. Okuri-ashi) on cut – This is MJER Koryu, NOT seitei• Too many people do not have their knees at 90⁰. Most stances are too long.• Too many people have their tip ending above knee on O-chiburi. This has been a repeating point for several years now.• Need to have strength in the back foot – this is something you lose as you get older so needs extra work2) USHIRO• Right foot must be planted behind right knee before nukitsuke• Too many people do not have sufficient sayabiki as opposed to in Mae. Need to pay attention.• On turning:o Beginners – Hands on, look over left shoulder, raise toes under before starting the turno Advanced – Hands on with minimal movement (don’t give away your intention to teki). Rise in a “corkscrew” motion – movement of head leads/initiates the turn of the body – all of this is done in a smooth motion.3) UKE-NAGASHI• Timing: Different than other seitei kata since go-no-sen requires immediate and quick reaction. Unlike others where the goal is to pressure and stop the opponent’s killing intention.• Point of Contention – After the cut, the tip of the sword should be centered in front of your navel, unlike Kesa-giri where the tip is outside your left hip.• Too many people’s metsuke is incorrectly looking straight beyond the tip after the cut. The opponent is not directly in front of you like other kata, but slightly to the right• The uke and nagashi are both equally important => ½ block and ½ flow. The trick is to have kime left hand and not right.• Your body does not face the opponent until the uke moment. Until then, it stays pointed to the right (no angle specified)4) TSUKA-ATE• Too many people using right hand to draw – instead must use left hand and sayabiki, this will allow the tip to snap onto chest• Too many people have incorrect timing. Too robotic without jo-ha-kyu.• Too many people are using hands/arms to perform hiki-nuki rather than the turn of the body• Loosen wrists after tsuki to allow for a proper blade angle when bringing the sword up• Too many people are opening their knee out when performing noto (like MJER Koryu), must keep it in.5) KESA-GIRI• First and second cut are on the same line• Too many people have their hands ending farther from body than regular cut. Need to pull into a fist/fist-and-a-half.• Too many people are leaning forward because they’re not using their left-hand to draw• Too many people squaring up the sword before bringing back to Hasso-no-kamae – it should be one smooth motion• Q: When does the sword start turning back to the down angle after first cut? Start turning the sword as soon as it’s out of the body, but do it gradually so it ends up at the right angle only just before the second cut starts.6) MOROTE-TSUKI• On nuki-uchi, the kensen (actual tip), rather than the kissaki should end just under chin.• Point of Contention – Footwork on 180⁰ turns – Rotate hips and turn on balls of your feet until you can no longer do so due to position of left foot, then step out (left) and through (right). This is unlike ganmen-ate where the right heel must be square before starting the movement towards rear opponent.• Too many people have incorrect timing. Too robotic – described as gobu-nuki (plucking a carrot) – sudden movements without the continuity and jo-ha-kyu. Need to have a flow – mix up the timing – meri hari.• Timing is important as the opponents could be close or far. Need to show by keeping hands relaxed and free to bring above head and cut quickly.• On tsuki the stance should be shorter than standard to make it easier to perform hiki-nuki• On tsuki, the body should move first, then the action. Same for all tsuki like in #8 and #10• Too many people are not using enough arm motion on tsuki – need to show commitment by extending the arms7) SANPO-GIRI• Too many people are doing okuri-ashi on first cut resulting in an incorrect shift forward.• Too many people have their jodan flat – need to point higher• On transition from first to second cut, bring hand naturally up beside face and do not block vision to frono Too many people are bringing the sword in then upwards in a square motion rather than smooth and straight.• After second cut, the “parrying motion” does not have to be overhead – in fact, it is below head height during the turn and only reaches centre line just as the final cut is initiated8) GANMEN-ATE• Perform an inward-twisting motion with the right hand on the tsuki – Just before the edge facing slightly down, after the edge is facing slightly up• Sayabiki motion is and draw should be performed solely with the left hando Beginners – Turn saya with left-hand before turning body which finishes the drawo Advanced – Turn saya at same time as body turn – more difficult (not safe for beginners)• When sword is on hip, it is the thumb that touches the hip bone so the tsuba is in-line with the front of the hip• Point of Agreement – Sayabiki is performed on ~45⁰ angle down and around• Too many people have feet angled – need to work hard to ensure both feet are always pointed straight9) SOETE-TSUKI• Too many people are not drawing high enough – must be above head• Too many people are moving their foot in during the recovery – foot should move back a bit, but not in towards the other foot (maintain hip width)• Use a short-sharp exhale on tsuki and make sure front kneed does not move past heel. (maintain weight centered)• Just like in Ganmen-Ate, the thumb should be on hip, not the tsuba• Point of Contention – Where does the cut starto Hatakenaka Sensei – Cut starts on monouchi, but not any specific point. Depends on distance to opponent.o Kishimoto Sensei – Cut starts at tsubamoto• Chiburi – hand is not at hip height – stays at chest height.10) SHIHO-GIRI• On the turn for tsuki prep – left foot needs to be adjusted back and body rotates around balls of the feet with kiseme• Q (to Hatakenaka Sensei) When sword is on chest just before tsuki how does the hand hold the tsuka (using pinky as leverage)? Not necessarily, this all depends on body structure. What matters is where tip is and that the left-hand is used to get the sword to snap into place.• New Point (Kishimoto Sensei) – Do not have to return to starting point at the end – do each technique rational as Iai without contortions to get back• Point of Contention – Waki-gamae is not square to opponent and do not stop or pose11) SOU-GIRI• Draw-and-step-back once right hand is fully out, the rest of the draw is done with the left hand• Too many people are bringing the sword straight up after the 3rd cut, rather than following the line back around and above before preparation of the horizontal cut.• Point of Contention – Just before horizontal cut:o Instructed by both Sensei (180⁰) - Sword starting position is pointed directly out to the left and ends directly out to the right before recovery for last cuto Demonstration from Kishimoto Sensei (Greater than 180⁰) - Sword may start pointed backwards a bit before starting cut12) NUKI-UCHI• Point of Contention – Distance on step backo Further – return to starting point on final stepo Closer – return to starting point on cut• Too many people are rushing this technique