23 May, 2011

From Iaido to a new World

This past weekend was a long weekend in Canada (still is, as I write this).  As luck would have it, this was the perfect opportunity for an Iaido and Jodo seminar.

I may have mentioned that I am studying Iaido.  I originally started as this as a requirement for my upcoming (1.25 years still left!) yondan grading.  Since starting Iaido a whole different world of martial arts and living have opened up to me.  I previously had no idea what the true benefits of the weapons arts were.

Let me start with the story of my training before and after my first Iaido seminar.  Here I reveal the levels of my own ignorance! (I write that as if there isn't more ignorance still to come... :) )

I originally started karate as I thought it to be an immensely practical style.  After all, the most common attack anyone can launch is a strike using the hands or feet.  I think back to rough-housing as a kid, and this was always the first reaction.  So what makes the most sense than to study an art known for its punching, kicking, blocking and general striking techniques.

As I grew up and as I grew into my art, I found that there was more than just striking.  Some throws, locks and pressure point strikes.  Kobudo, which did exist alongside karate, was never really a part of class as much as it was another art.  Even today in my current dojo kobudo is taught as a separate program.

Fast forward to about two or three years ago, when my Sensei told me that we needed to have some basic Iai sword forms for yondan.  I didn't really see the importance of weapons arts.  I had done a little sword work before as a novelty, and some sai and escrima stick work, but nothing formal and nothing with any intent behind it.  It was just another aspect of training, as much as the pushups were.

As a side note to a rambling narrative, was I the only one who hated pushups when rising through the ranks?  My arms are tiny when compared to my legs or core, and I never thought I would get better at them.  Now I can crank them out with a decent amount of ability, although I still prefer to perform different types of pushups (wide, narrow, forwards, backwards hand positions) rather than tons of the usual.  I think it helps with general strengthening rather than bicep overload, but that may be the reason for my thin arms!

Back to the story!  So I was studying Iaido once a week with my Sensei, when he recommended coming to an Iaido seminar with his Sensei.  This Sensei is rather well known, highly ranked in Iaido and Jodo, teachers self defense at a university, and is a key member of the Canadian Kendo Federation, which in turn is connected to the All Japan Kendo Federation.  In short, he knows his stuff.

One question that kept circling my mind was how he taught self defense.  As far as I could tell, he had no training in a practical, empty-handed art.  It didn't really compute to me how weapons training could possibly help with defense when empty handed.

Then came the seminar.  And with it the understanding of what it means to train in a weapons art.  And the power and possibilities behind it.  And then the realization dawned on me.  I need to get another black belt in another art!  Oh no.  Oh yes.  Oh no.  Those were the three following thoughts.  Not that I was worried about starting at the bottom.  But a realization.  I can compare it to climbing a mountain, reaching a good height, and being proud of your accomplishments.  Then looking up, because now you can see above more clearly, and you realize that you are so far from the top.  You realize your hubris and insignificance.  What you thought was climbing to the clouds is only an ants journey to an elephant.  To reach the greatness of those who came before, it is a long and arduous journey indeed.

Anyways, this weekend was great.  I was only able to attend one day of a three day seminar, but I felt like those 8 hours of training were longer than the 12-hour trainings I have done in Karate.  My feet never felt so tired.  I gained a whole new level of respect for everyone in this art, and for the art itself.  And I realized how much more I have to learn.  I don't find it daunting.  I am thoroughly excited with the prospect of learning more.

If have I time, I will write up my experience(s) with the seminar from this weekend.


  1. The study of weapons based arts is very interesting. There is so much to learn from using weapons. They can improve you empty hand techniques and your empty hand techniques can improve your weapons work. In general, I believe that weapons should be an extension of your empty hands, otherwise, there can be confusion when you respond to an attack. Confusion equals hesitation and hesitation can mean injury or defeat.

    There are tons of benefits to be had, distance, timing, entry, unbalancing - most of these are the core of weapons work. Happy you enjoyed the seminar.

  2. Thanks for the comment Journeyman. I couldn't agree more. There is so much to learn for an empty-handed artist from the weapons side. But you are right, they need to come together. Part of the fun I am having is trying to put them together - karate never had sword techniques, but the maai, kuzushi, everything is so key with a sword.