Freeze and Thaw

Winter is here. Snow covers the ground and the warm-up to daily highs in the 30s makes going outside a desire instead of a chore, but inside is warm, quiet, and reflective. It’s easy to settle into a comfortable position and stay in the hibernation mentality accompanying Winter.

The best and most difficult way to accomplish something is to just start, find the movement and help it continue. In Iaido the sword is at rest until it gets the impulse to move, and then it wants to move until it comes to rest. This is simple to understand, but at times difficult in practice. Many pauses and stops in the movement occur when the sword should keep moving. It is common for a beginner to stop and admire the cut, or allow his mind to drift to something clamoring for his attention. Furuya Sensei said that Iaido’s movement within a technique was like a drop of water on an inclined plane. The droplet rolls down the slope never stopping. As we progress, there are places within the technique where the slope becomes steeper and the flow faster, then the slope becomes more shallow and the movement slows. This looks like a stop or pause because the eye has been following the faster movement and perceives the slowdown as a stop, but really the movement continues.

A beginner learns the technique in pieces typically. First, eyes and hands, then raise to the knees and up on toes, blade halfway out, then step forward and complete nukitsuke…and this is the way a beginner thinks as opposed to doing Shohatto.

This is no different from our lives. There are no stops or pauses in training in the way. It continues with or without us. We must learn to join the movement and flow instead of succumbing to the freeze of Winter. O’negai shimasu.