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!