As usual I wrote ahead and set an itinerary down for myself for the 14 day trip... 7 days training at Seinen no Ie Ozu, down to Kannonji to visit sensei's grave, then back to Kyoto for a bit of iai related shopping/touristy stuff, with night time training...
The original plan was to hammer away at the partner work with Neil after the days' main training was over... That went out the window as Dirk, Neil and Yuriko were translating Iwata senseis notes every evening! Fortunately Chin san from Taiwan stepped up as my partner, so although I didnt get to practise with Neil, I still got some reminders and also extra insights from Nishimoto sensei...

As usual I overdid the first day, (started 9am and finished 10pm) with the result of my dodgy knee playing up the next day. This turned out to be not such a bad thing as I got to speak with Isshikki sensei, (late 80's, old student of Iwata s.) and went through some stuff I had seen previously but not had a chance to speak to him about. His approach to iai, and cutting in particular, has always fascinated me, and as I guess I am finally at a place I can understand what he is doing, the day flew by, with anecdotes and demonstrations reinforcing points and timing. Any money I had spent getting there was worth every penny just for that day...

Final day we got the afternoon in a class room with Nishimoto s. and his insights in iai. His cartoon type drawings are brilliant and get the point across easily. This time I particularly liked the thoughts on flowing iaido, not sure if everyone picked this up, but at least it goes into peoples notes so they may understand later on...

I had been thinking a lot recently about how to 'sharpen up' my timing, so had questions to ask about my relaxation times and focus. It turns out I am far too tense at the start and give away my intentions too much. Which then begged further questions on preventing an attack in the first place by your demeanour! It occurred to me that Taniyama sensei's opening 'study' of his opponent was always calm and observant, with a lightning response into nukitsuke, which to me always came across as realistic and effective, but also a very naturally instinctive and reactive technique. Nishimoto and others were helpful to watch as they have this'calmness' I have been looking at, but not been able to do.... Now all I have to do is practise it. Again a question I needed to ask but as usual the answer is never what I expect, but I tend not to ask questions that confirm what I know, its always stuff I don't know or can't work out...

The Kannonji trip was something I needed to do... I laid some flowers on sensei's grave and went down to his house to visit his family. Sadly his wife passed away shortly after him, (around the same time as my dad died in fact). His dojo is something of a shrine, with everything left as it was, swords everywhere, mountains of books, and his students' names on the wall.... I hadn't known mine was up there until it was pointed out! I did feel like clearing out the other guys so I could do a little embu, but that wouldnt have been fair and time would have prevented us all doing it! The family grows satsuma oranges, so we had some straight off the trees, (and yes they do taste better).

I got to drive for the first time in Japan as Nishimoto s. wasn't feeling too good. You realise very quickly how much you rely on ENGLISH words for town names. By the time you read the sign, with a tiny bit in english, you are nearly past the turning! Fortunately he took over just before we hit the big city area, so although I didnt get to drive over the bridge into Kobe, I was quite relieved to pass the controls over....

Finally got to go to the little sword shop near Nijo castle and drooled over some of the stuff in there. I should have bought one but exchange rate this time was a killer... even though it was a gorgeous balance and I need another shinken...

Training on a night time this time was... different. I got the opportunity to just get on with what I needed to work on, with Nishimoto s. popping off random comments as needed. I usually expect a lot of 'interruptions' during training when I am being a student (rather than me teaching) but this time it was strangely quiet compared to normal. I asked and was told I only needed random comments on stuff I had forgotten about... (I am renowned for my bad memory and my ability to learn new stuff... which I forget just as quickly...)
The strangest moment was being asked to teach some of the students, as Nishimoto s. was struggling with his points in English to the junior foreign students in the class. He watched, nodded his ok, and let me get on with it. ERRRRMMM... excuse me, I am here to be taught!!! Turns out its another little lesson and he is checking what I know... Teaching iai in Japan, whatever next...a full seminar / class there perhaps?hahahaha!!!

Travelling around always takes longer than planned, but Himeji trip was great, a night in the dojo with Yabe s. followed by a day wandering around the castle and local tea house and gardens. I had been to the dojo before, when they had run a shoden shinsa with 30 odd 7th dans and 4 8th dans, so it was nice to visit a local dojo on 'normal practise' night. As usual the foreign students got paraded out in front as an example of commitment to train hard, and to be fair its a reasonable thing to do although slightly embarrassing for us....

One of the nicer things is seeing iaidoka I had met before at the dojos I visited, and seeing how they have come on since my last trip. I also got to meet up with quite a few new people this time, but the best was seeing Morinaka s, who was one of the sensei who came over on Iwata s' first time to the UK. I always remember him arguing with Iwata sensei over how much they could show us, with Iwata s. saying no to this, that, and the other, with us watching saying 'wow look at that!'

This trip gave me a sense of closure with Iwata sensei, knowing his students are still hammering away at his methods. I particularly enjoyed Yabe sensei enforcing the basic kihons Iwata sensei came up with to get us all to understand how the body really works. the effects on basic training of new students is obvious and showed me how much of an 'iai genius' my sensei was.... although anyone who was hachidan hanshi for longer than most of us have been alive did give him an edge I guess...

The question now is 'do I need to go again now sensei has passed away?' If so, why and what will I go for? Fortunately I already have the answer from sensei, which is 'a good swordsman is a good thief, he takes what is best and builds it in to his own iai'. The hard part is finding who to steal from and making sure it does not change the roots of what you already have. So.... next time I have to wander around all his students and learn what they considered his important points. Nishimoto s. is a mine of information both on history of the ryu as well as technical stuff, so you can guess who is first on my list....