First Iai Class of the New Year and “First” Kendo Class Ever


I could have started off the new year a little better in my practice as I was late after peeling my car like an orange.

Ottawa was hit pretty bad by freezing rain. I felt like I needed ice skates to reach my car. I also had a fun time parking near the dojo as is common with this kind of weather because it seems that although class doesn’t start until 1pm, whoever is contracted to clear snow on that road never cleans the snow from the only side of the road that the parking signs are posted on. With my tiny car, I can’t take the deep snow without ending up stuck.

We ran through Oku Iai kata. They were on number 4 when I got there. I did my standing etiquette and joined the others. It was a smaller than usual class because of the weather.

After spending the holidays doing an abundance of artistic things, I felt more in tune with my spirit and it wasn’t so hard to understand some of the things that were taught. I’ve also started to read Musashi’s book and I have a new appreciation for some of the Iaido kata. There are so many things that could be happening that could be either strategic or happenstance.

The heater was malfunctioning in the dojo, so my feet were so chilled they felt like they were losing circulation. It kicked back on during kendo when we didn’t need to be warmed up anymore. That “Murphy” is a character.

I went to Kendo today after Iaido. It was my first class of Kendo, well, technically my second. I did Kendo one day in June 2013. The first day I ever attended a class at Tateyama, I did all three, Jodo, Iaido, and Kendo. It was too much. My feet were killing me, so I decided to just do Jo and picked up Iaido soon after. I also thought it was silly that they yelled the name of the body part they are attacking in Kendo, but they don’t do that in an actual match, just practice.

I initially studied Jo because I thought it would be like the Bo techniques that I was already somewhat familiar with. It wasn’t familiar at all. I left Jo when I began my career in roller derby, which is currently on hold due to a neck injury that hasn’t fully healed.

Having more than a year in between when I first tried Kendo and now, I understand more why it’s important to study Kendo, if you are able to, while studying Iaido. I felt a sense of urgency with Kendo that can only help my Iai. Also, my arms are quite sore from the weight of the shinai and the frequency that I had to move it. Kendo does more to teach Ki Ken Tai no Ichi because of the need for Kiai (battle cry) as you cut. I can feel callouses forming in my hands from tenouchi, which is applying a grip as though you are ringing a towel out. It’s purpose is to stop the sword at the appropriate height. You get more of an idea of timing. You also work on targets constantly with a more clear necessity. With Iai, often we are practicing against an imaginary opponent, which can make it hard to judge things. In Kendo, we faced a different direction that made use of the mirrors, so we could always see our target even while practicing the fundamentals with no partner.

There’s a lot of fast footwork in Kendo, and loud yelling with the Kiai. Being less than 5 foot tall, it was quite challenging to make it across the dojo floor with any expedience. With it being my first day too, I just tried to do it as best I could without knowing if I was doing all right. It’s quite difficult to get the footwork down for some reason despite the fact that it doesn’t change much, if at all.

My main goal currently with Kendo is simply to use it to improve my Iaido. Maybe it’ll grow on me though and I’ll come to love it just as much. Right now I doubt that, but stranger things have happened.

– Roy Iaidoka

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