Today I helped a new guy with his obi. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Green Sensei was helping me with mine. I still have trouble with my hakama, but I know eventually I will conquer it. Today I was the most senior student in attendance and that felt odd. It doesn’t seem that long ago to me that I was having trouble telling if my bokuto’s blade edge was the right way. Now I use an Iaito and I work on more advanced things like saya-biki.
The two newbies made me smile today as I remembered how I used to get embarrassed when Sensei told me I was holding my sword upside down. I remember how badly I wanted a saya for my bokuto, so I didn’t have to hold it at my side and pretend. I remember wanting the outfit because it looks sweet.
It was a year ago this month that I joined Iaido at Tateyama Kendo and Iaido Club. I actually started with jodo because I used to do bo and thought that it would be similar. It wasn’t. I fell in love with Iaido because it has a mix of soft and hard like Goju Ryu karate and a depth that goes far beyond what most see on the surface. It’s beautiful and lethal.
We often discuss theory at the clue as we work through kata. While doing Nanahonme Sanpogiri, I started thinking about how we do something odd in this kata. I brought up how I thought it was interesting that we usually go back and ensure that the attacker who we only issue a face cut to is dead, but in Sanpogiri we don’t. In Sanpogiri, the first cut is a face cut to attacker 1, the second cut is a full body cut on the center line with no step to attacker 2, and the final cut is a full body cut on the center line after a step forward to our main target. Usually we go back and finish attacker 1 because a face cut isn’t enough to kill someone, just mess up their face and vision. It’s possible this cut is a deeper face cut, which makes the attacker less likely to come back and try to kill us, Jarvie Sempai mentioned. We go into formal Jodan after the final cut to ensure our attackers aren’t going to keep coming at us. This leaves us ready to finish anyone who decides to keep attacking.
Green Sensei talked about how Samurai went into battle not thinking they had a 50% chance to live or to die, but a 66% chance to die and all that mattered was completing the goal, not preserving one’s own life. In this kata, the goal is to kill attacker 3 and the other 2 are just in our way.
Where does the 66% come from? The three possible outcomes in battle. The three outcomes are:
1. Opponent dies.
2. You die.
3. Both die.
Jarvie Senpai mentioned that if you think you have a 66% chance of dying, then you make sure your attack is your best since you only have one shot. Put everything you have into that one shot. Green Sensei said you don’t want to die with unused effort left within you. He also said that the Samurai didn’t care about whether or not they died, as long as their target also died.
This all got me thinking about the other applications in life. If we woke up every day thinking that today was our last day to live, would that be good or bad? I think some people would be paralyzed by the idea because they would think that if they play it safe they could live a couple more hours than they would otherwise. Others might go to the extreme and do things that would certainly land them in jail. What about the middle, balanced road where you take some chances like telling those you love how important they are to you and working on goals you hope to achieve?
Should we need to think that tomorrow we won’t be alive in order to accomplish things today? I don’t believe so, yet the tragic truth is that most wait forever for someday to come. Many play it safe throughout their existence on this planet. Is that truly living?
Imagine what the world would be like if everyone put everything they had into loving each other and achieving their goals.
Sound idealistic and impossible?
I believe anything is possible. One only has to accept the challenge and find a way to work through barriers.
A lot can be accomplished simply by having the guts to go for it.
Each day I work on my first novel. Some days I cut more than I write. Some days I spend networking with others in the writing community. Some days I spend lost in thought about the current predicament I have thrown my characters into and don’t put words down. I’ve had people tell me they don’t think my ability to write is good enough. I’ve had people tell me they could never try to write a novel. I’ve had others tell me that the chance I will get anywhere with my writing is slim to none. I continue to write because I have a goal I believe in and I know myself better than others do.
People look at me like I’m crazy because I play a rough sport like roller derby. I’m under five feet tall and I weigh 110lbs. I get on the track and take hits from women double my weight. Sometimes I go flying and other times I dish it back.
I swing a sword around for fun. Some people think that is odd too. Lucky for me, there are very few people on this planet whose opinions matter deeply to me. Iai isn’t a martial art that everyone gets or enjoys. Learning the kata is challenging for me, but I keep going.
In life, I think you are the only thing standing in your way. Believe in yourself and you can accomplish anything you want. You might have to go about it in a different way than another person would and it might take longer, but you’ll get there.
In high school I nearly failed math. In the present day, I hold a business degree in technology management. Math and economics brought me to tears on my first day of university. I didn’t give up. Instead, I got help with those subjects. It’s okay to get help from others from time to time.
What are you stopping yourself from achieving? Ask yourself if you are living the life you want. If the answer is no, then perhaps you have some hard decisions to make. Don’t be scared; be excited.
– Roy Iaidoka