In the study of Iaido, and many things, it is important to copy what the teacher is modeling. Doing exactly what the teacher is doing, or the model student is showing, is the way we learn the proper technique. Matching our bodies to the exact position that is being shown allows us to learn the ultimate refinement of the technique, and tests our self-control.  We must learn the form before we can transcend it.

It is easy to watch a technique or a movement and think, “Oh, I know what he is doing,” and then do something completely different that we think is the same. Instead, try to make your thumb like the teacher’s thumb, try to make the arc of the sword the same arc as the teacher’s arc, match your teacher, copy exactly.

I remember one day training in the dojo and Sensei had gathered a few of the senior students around him as he watched my sempai and I train. He had scolded the group about their lack of progress in the art and told them they had plateaued. Silence settled as they reflected on their development. He then said, “Do you see how Steve uses his saya? He learned that by watching.”

It is difficult to see all the movements of our teachers. There is so much to learn, but if we don’t learn everything we can from our teachers, how can we expect to preserve the teachings? The art will pass from us, and the old teachings will become lost. We must preserve before we can rip it apart, separate it, and reconfigure, “Shuhari”. We must train our minds to see what is there and train to copy the form to preserve it. We are the living legacy of our teachers and in order to honor them we must preserve that which they have taught.  Keep training!

Speaking the Language

One of the biggest obstacles to learning anything is its language.  No matter what it is, each career, occupation, skill, family, organization, country, region, etc. has its own language.  For a learner, the vocabulary specific to the discipline must be acquired in order to think about the different aspects of that discipline.  In basic Mathematics, sum, product, quotient, and factor are some of these content specific words.  With each level of understanding, sometimes new vocabulary accompanies that level, as in literature we first learn a figure of speech before refining further between a simile and a metaphor.  Using the vocabulary of a discipline provides the vehicle for communication and transmission of the skills.

Attached here is a basic set of words used commonly at Iaido Tanshinjuku, and in Iaido practice.  Keep Training!

Iaido Tanshinjuku glossary