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  • Iaido as a performance?

    Hi everyone,

    This is something I’ve been thinking about on and off. I’m just curious in terms of what people think on this matter, especially those that have practiced Iaido for a long time.

    In short, many instructors have talk about Iaido as a performance. When being instructed, you would hear terms like “the judges want to see this, the judges want to see that.” Moreover, in explanations of
    “jo-ha-kyu” and gasso-teki, there’s quite a bit of emphasis on how you need to be able to tell a story from your movements.

    So, where’s the question?

    In kendo, I try to control tell-tale signs or telegraphs that could give away my intention. Hopefully, I only reveal intentions when I want to use my opponent’s response against them. Even more hopefully, when I reveal my intentions when I don’t intend to, I hope I can clue in to the fact that my opponent caught some of my telltale signs and still use it against them.

    So, when I hear about Iaido as a performance, I really have a difficult time understanding what is done for the sake of performance alone, and what aspects of performance could have a martial application?

    On a very basic level, if you are practicing with the idea that you are showing the judges certain key points, doesn’t that conflict directly with the idea of concealing your intentions?

    Also on a very basic level, I guess you could say by being able to tell a story with your body language, you could forestall any conflict and hopefully discourage any situation before it becomes a situation.

    Anyway, I’m just rambling, but I hope I wrote enough to get things started.

    And just to state the obvious, my obvious bent on things is I’m wonder what I could bring from iaido back to kendo, especially in terms of dealing with a live person that wants to whack me.

    Thanks!

  • #2
    Think of the difference of going through the moves mechanically vs. "telling the story". For example in Mae, I try to see my opponent and as I draw, I think to myself, "see my sword? don't you dare to draw or i will kill you." I have heard something like "saya no uchi no kachi", to win within the scabbard. I really don't want to kill, it'd be best if I can get my enemy to back down, something like that. In that sense, it's a bit different than kendo where you want to get that ippon, I think.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by DCPan View Post
      And just to state the obvious, my obvious bent on things is Im wonder what I could bring from iaido back to kendo, especially in terms of dealing with a live person that wants to whack me.
      The most important lesson I have transplanted from iaido to kendo is the mindset of saya-no-uchi -- victory while the sword is still in the saya. In iaido, this is of paramount importance. In kendo, the sword is already drawn, but the mindset should be the same. As my sensei likes to say, "Don't hit to win. Win, and THEN hit."

      As for iaido as performance, whether it's embu or shiai, I'm certainly not conscious of trying to show key points to the judges. All that stuff should be sub-conscious. Embu or shiai is a time to unleash all the training you have put in to the best of your abilities. If you start thinking "I have to hit this mark here, and then I have to keep my sword at this angle there," etc., then your iaido does indeed turn into a performance akin to a dance. Ideally you want to get beyond this stage if you want your iaido to have a certain depth. Iaido is a martial art. The ultimate goal is to overpower your opponent without having to draw your sword (another interpretation of saya-no-uchi), but if forced to draw, to dispatch your opponent effectively. I think this is one way in which iaido differs from sports such as diving or figure skating, which are also judged on form. But they are not judged on intent/ki, which you must somehow project.

      Comment


      • #4
        FWIW, the few times I was praised for somehow doing Kendo kata relatively OK, was told it was likely due to Iaido study.

        Comment


        • #5
          An interesting question. Although I'm far from qualified to answer it I'll try a anyway

          I've never seen the movements in Iai as trying to hide or prevent telegraphing of ones intentions/movements but rather overwhelming the enemy with seme such that they simply can't respond to an imminent attack. When seme is demonstrated with the tsukakashira in ones face, it's surprising how intimidating and off putting it is. Your attention becomes wholly occupied by it and before you know it, you're lying in two pieces on the floor! As for kizeme....well I'm skeptical of such things, but others claim they can use it to overwhelm their enemy too.

          I also think that treating Iai as a performance alone is probably missing the point if not 'incorrect', but it's certainly part of Iai and if one can become 'convincing' in ones movements then adding the spirit and energy into the performance will come with specific practise. Jo Ha Kyu and Kankyu have their origins in Noh theatre after all so perhaps Iai has borrowed these useful analogies to deepened the understanding of what's going on, but some have taken them too literally and distorted their usefulness. I'd suggest Budo 'competitions' are partly to blame for that! I'm rambling now!

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          • #6
            Performance? When I read this I am reminded about my thread from last year. Some very good responses there: http://www.kendo-world.com/forum/sho...do-Reenactment

            Comment


            • #7
              I think you have made a conflicting distinction between two things that are not related in that way. Showing correct movements to a referee in a grading is not the same as telegraphing your intention to the enemy.

              Certainly Seitei has some element of performance in that certain points must be performed correctly in much the same way that an actor must speak the correct words and move to the correct place on the stage and look in the right direction. That said, taking the theatre analogy further, there is a difference between a poor amateur performance and a professional performance of the highest level, even if they both say all the right words, and make the right movements.

              It is necessary to practice so much that the correct movements are so absorbed into your movements that you almost cannot make them incorrectly.

              Making a correct movement though, does not mean telegraphing your intention. When you perform a kata to a referee, they know the kata and know what you will do, whereas an enemy faced with you making the same movement will not know that is what you will do, so hopefully they will not anticipate your movement or timing.

              I'm rambling, I think I've made my point.

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              • #8
                So, when I hear about Iaido as a performance, I really have a difficult time understanding what is done for the sake of performance alone, and what aspects of performance could have a martial application?
                As Peter has said, you've got the wrong idea when you think of 'performance'. The way I understand it, picture yourself as an observer. If you were watching someone doing kata, could you tell from the person's movements where his opponent was? Can you tell where he cut his opponent? Can you tell if his opponent was standing or kneeling when he was cut? Which way did the opponent fall when he died? These are all questions that you should be able to answer just by watching the movements of the person performing the kata. When your instructor watches you performing kata, he shyould be able3 to answer those questions based on your performance. If you can't tell, for instance, what target was being cut, then whoever was performing the kata was enough off in their targeting to make it indistinct. I was told once that a good swordsman can see his opponent in kata well enough to see exactly where he's cutting and exactly what his distance is. However, a really good swordsman will enable an observer to see his opponent and see exactly where he's cutting and what his distance is.

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                • #9
                  All I care about seeing are 5 things:

                  1) where the power originates from

                  2) Pressure

                  3) pressure

                  4) pressure

                  5) pressure (which feeds back into element #1).

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                  • #10
                    For me, though, it is not so much the telegraphing that’s an issue (and now I know, a false one), rather it is more me a matter of mental placement.

                    And really, I’m coming at this from an angle of “practice” rather than an angle of application.

                    Here’s a small example, which I may have mentioned on the forum before.

                    For yoko-chiburi, someone showed me that they could increase the strength of the flick by introducing a counter torque in the left hand before the release. To me, that would be something that appears to be performance for the sake of performance. Add more torque to the tsuka just doesn’t sound like a great idea to me, from a tool maintenance perspective if nothing else. I suppose developing that kind of control and hand strength could translate to something else, but is it even a priority compared to other things one could work on?

                    Here’s another example, more in terms of mentality, that just happened this weekend.

                    For a long time, it has always bothered me that when I’m going down as a part of noto, my back knee feels like it is being torqued/twisted, such as the gyaku-noto in seitei #3, Ukenagashi. So, I kept “focusing” on finding the proper width and foot placement so when I “go down” my knee is aligned in such a way that it doesn’t feel torqued/twisted. Needless to say, I am unsuccessful.

                    Finally, this weekend, someone told me something that fixed it. Go down by controlling the alignment of the hips and feel the noto as part of the compression. No more torque feeling in the knee. I was looking in the wrong place all along.

                    Come to think of it, I’m not sure I associate such a strong negative connotation between performance and practice. That said, I’ve not been very successful in using these performance landmarks as symptoms to find the cause of what isn’t working.

                    I’m just slow I guess.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by DCPan View Post
                      For me, though, it is not so much the telegraphing that’s an issue (and now I know, a false one), rather it is more me a matter of mental placement.

                      And really, I’m coming at this from an angle of “practice” rather than an angle of application.

                      Here’s a small example, which I may have mentioned on the forum before.

                      For yoko-chiburi, someone showed me that they could increase the strength of the flick by introducing a counter torque in the left hand before the release. To me, that would be something that appears to be performance for the sake of performance. Add more torque to the tsuka just doesn’t sound like a great idea to me, from a tool maintenance perspective if nothing else. I suppose developing that kind of control and hand strength could translate to something else, but is it even a priority compared to other things one could work on?

                      Here’s another example, more in terms of mentality, that just happened this weekend.

                      For a long time, it has always bothered me that when I’m going down as a part of noto, my back knee feels like it is being torqued/twisted, such as the gyaku-noto in seitei #3, Ukenagashi. So, I kept “focusing” on finding the proper width and foot placement so when I “go down” my knee is aligned in such a way that it doesn’t feel torqued/twisted. Needless to say, I am unsuccessful.

                      Finally, this weekend, someone told me something that fixed it. Go down by controlling the alignment of the hips and feel the noto as part of the compression. No more torque feeling in the knee. I was looking in the wrong place all along.

                      Come to think of it, I’m not sure I associate such a strong negative connotation between performance and practice. That said, I’ve not been very successful in using these performance landmarks as symptoms to find the cause of what isn’t working.

                      I’m just slow I guess.
                      Sounds to me like you're thinking too much and not listening to your body enough.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Peter West View Post
                        Sounds to me like you're thinking too much and not listening to your body enough.
                        Well, I'm definitely guilty of thinking too much

                        But, to follow up on your second point, it is actually also unclear to me when and what to listen to my body. I say that because how much of kendo and iaido feels natural at first? There are some forms of training where one has to push through a certain threshold (which includes pain) before one breaks a plateau?

                        Isn't this where the teacher-student relationship comes in where you trust the sensei to push you to the next level because he's been there and you haven't?

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                        • #13
                          I guess in other words, being able to listen to your body is already a challenge of sorts.

                          What is even more confusing when and if you heard something, what do you do or not do about it.

                          I guess that's why we practice.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by DCPan View Post
                            I guess in other words, being able to listen to your body is already a challenge of sorts.

                            What is even more confusing when and if you heard something, what do you do or not do about it.

                            I guess that's why we practice.
                            Listening to your body is a huge deal. Its one of the reasons why I think kendoka should take up iaido if this is something they want to do long term. The "slower" pace makes it much easier to listen and feel whats going on.

                            Who knows, you might wind up doing iaido kind of like tai chi....

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by DCPan View Post
                              Well, I'm definitely guilty of thinking too much ?
                              (Don't ever stop thinking, just don't admit to it on this forum! )

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