The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Iaido

When we think of Iaido, we tend to think of a martial art that is on the "fringes." Yes it has a martial history, but the goal is mostly self cultivation and has few applications (like kyudo) in our daily lives. This might be a hasty conclusion.

At Ichijogi, Chris Hellman, the author of The Samurai Mind posted a very good article on the history and background of iaido. An excerpt is below. The full article may be read here. Please pay a visit.



The art of iai seems to be one of the most understood of the Japanese martial arts. It dates from at least the 16th century, and probably before that, and yet it falls into that uncomfortable ground of not being quite one thing or another. Is it for use in combat, or is it primarily a tool for self-discipline?
Of course, the comparatively modern discipline of iaido has as one of its stated aims the refinement of the character of the practitioner, but there is some contention about the whole discipline, based largely on the fact that the principle form of practice involves starting in a kneeling position known as seiza. Given the importance of this position in most forms of iai, it has always been something of a mystery as to how it developed.
There have been all kinds of explanations, some of them quite dubious, as to the origins of iai. For example, it has been explained as a battlefield art. It has also been claimed that there was no time that samurai would have the opportunity to draw their long swords from the waist when seated on tatami, it is essentially of no practical use.

Although iaido (and some more traditional styles as well) are quite far removed from their ostensible purpose, i.e. drawing the sword, cutting down an opponent and returning the sword to its sheath, the direction in which it has developed – as a tool for polishing the self ­– does, in fact, owe something to elements that were an important part of the practice from the start.
Along with the physical practice of wielding the sword, it has a mental component that is vital – one might even say it is the basis of iai.
The ability to influence the opponent, to control him, before coming to blows, is at its heart, as earlier practitioners were keen to point out:
The founder of the Suio ryu, Mima Yoichizaemon Kagenobu wrote in the early 1600s:
The essence of our tradition, and the attainment of an unassailable position, comes from cutting down our opponents while the sword is still in the scabbard, stifling our opponent’s actions and achieving victory through not drawing the sword.







5 comments:

Paul said...

A brilliant way to incorporate zen practice into the life of a samurai who did not wish to part with his sword 7/24. Whereas there ain't no samurai as such nowadays, but, with some creativity, I believe we can incorporate zen (or other chi-related practice) into our daily chores too.

Rick said...

Good insight, Paul.

We could certainly do worse.

Compass Strategist said...

While there are many unproven moves in Kenjitsu, the practice of Iai is focused on the truth.

Iaido is about three moves.
1. Drawing one's sword quickly.
2. Cut
3. Sheathing the sword.

Does that sound simple?

Rick said...

It seems to me that there is just a little more to it.

Compass Strategist said...

While there are many unproven moves in Kenjitsu, the practice of Iai is focused on the truth.

1. Drawing one's sword quickly.
2. Cut
3. Sheathing the sword.


One draws the sword when there is a cut. ... That is the truth.

By mastering all of the relevant strokes, the sword slinger would instinctively synthesize their tactical movements to those three macro moves.

That practice is in my red notebook. ...