I was going through my first Iaido class when during a brief break, it hit me. This is one those moments when I realize my life is about to get better. Much better.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of training with Iaido master, Bob Elder Sensei. Elder Senei is the head instructor for the Hombu Dojo for Toyama Ryu in America. I am also happy to call him friend.
I knew Bob for several years. Yesterday, I met Elder Sensei. Bob is a relaxed, knowlegeable, easy going individual. Elder Sensei is a detail oriented, experienced and highly skilled Iaidoka. Bob talks to you in a casual fashion. Elder Sensei teaches like the master he is. Bob may sometimes forget to place an order or return a call. Elder Sensei misses nothing — seeing details the way an eagle sees its prey.
I thoroughly enjoyed my private lesson tremendously. We covered the 7 major cuts – 3 from above, 2 from the middle and 2 from the bottom. My experience with Iaido is very limited, having done a bit when I trained in Kendo and some bokken work from my Aikido days. (I still remember one of my Aikido teachers, Dan Linden Sensei referring to the bokken as “a toy.” Well stated.) In short, I am a beginner (again) and it most certainly showed.
The one thing about Iaido that jumped out was the tremendous amout of details involved. The masters like Elder Sensei make it look effortless but that is an illusion, a byproduct of decades of dedicated training. Starting with the grip, details, details and more details. The “cutting” fingers — that is, the fingers that generate the power to do the cuts — are surprisingly, the pinkie and ring finger. The others are simply there for the ride for the most part.
Each cut should be at a 45 degree angle (with the exception of one flat cut) and as such the hands, arms, hips and entire body must be in unison, working as a complete unit for such precision to happen. Next week will be my first ventures into the actual cutting.
I have been training in martial arts for about 25 years. Iaido feel like the missing piece. . . that is no longer missing.
Yesterday was the first step on a journey — a long journey but one that will be filled undoubtedly with many life lessons to come. For me, this is the real value of martial arts.