So recently, I attended the Iaido National Championships in England and as you can tell by the title, I learned something (duh, duh, duuuuuhhhh!!)
Disclaimer: I’m not a Iaido expert, I was attending to support someone close to me.
For those of you who don’t know, Iaido (pronounced ee-eye-do) is a traditional Japanese martial art that focuses on training with a traditional Japanese sword (katana). In the West, it’s not as well-known as Karate or Taekwondo, but it is an incredibly important martial art with a very rich history.
Iaido focuses on controlled movements with the sword and according to the Iaido Sheffield website:
“The at involves the practice of formal kata or preset forms using a blunt Iaito or sharp Skinken. Practice involves learning how to draw the sword; cut and handle the sword in various ways, shake off any imaginary blood and re-sheath the sword in a pre-set way.
The kata are performed from seated or standing positions and represent the movements one would use (and have in fact been used in the distant past by samurai) to defend oneself against a wide variety of attacks by a person or persons armed with a sword.
There are over 60 different kata in the style we practice most are short and quick. The practice does not involve “sparring” or contact with another practitioner.”
All info available on http://www.iaidosheffield.co.uk
So in today’s world, you are not fighting with anyone as opposed to the context of 1700s Japan, where carrying a sword was everyday along with fights, wars and rebellions.
When practicing Iaido, you would train with bokken (a wooden sword) if you are a beginner and after significant training and given the green light that you are ready from your sensei (teacher), you would progress to training with Iaito (a blunt practice sword).
More advanced practitioners are able to use Shinken (sharp sword) as well as Shinken’s use in gradings, competitions, ceremonial etc.
When watching the championship, the practitioners make work with the sword and movement look so effortless, but it certainly isn’t! Mastering the kata and sword takes years worth of dedication. Whether you practice Iaido or not, I could certainly appreciate the work that goes in to it in the form of weekly training sessions.
Watching this championship made me feel back at home with my own childhood roots in martial arts.
When I was growing up I practiced Jujutsu (westernized pronunciation: Jiu-Jitsu), another Japanese martial art that focuses on disarming an attacker by using close combat, with or without a weapon, where I got to training for my Blue Belt (three away from Black; where I learned we didn’t start training with weapons until Brown Belt).
In both Iaido and Jujutsu, the mental and spiritual teachings are just as important as the physical, if not more so in certain respects. You don’t learn the syllabus and then go out picking fights with people, whoa no!
Learning martial arts teaches you not just self-defence, but focus, mental clarity, confidence and most importantly, respect for all those around you and your surroundings.
We are taught to take what we learn from practice outside the dojo (a room/hall where you practice) as well as inside, so we can incorporate these values in to our everyday lives.
When you enter the dojo, you remove your shoes and bow as a sign of respect, as well as bow when you leave. If you practice on crash mats (as I did in Jiu-Jitsu) you bow when you go on and leave the mat. You bow before you start the session and as you finish.
Even now when I enter a dojo or greeting a sensei, I always bow.
Never fold your arms, as it is symbolic of not being trustworthy and have something to hide (I was told by one of my senseis some warriors folded their arms to conceal weapons, so folding your arms is a BIG no-no). You always refer to your teacher/s as sensei as a sign on respect.
Watching the practitioners in the championship made me realise just how much I still use the values I learned from Jiu-Jitsu and very grateful I learned the teachings of a Japanese martial art as a child so I could take these with me in to adulthood.
And overall happy to see how people are still interested in learning these arts.
Hope you enjoyed this post guys, Happy Monday! 🙂