Mindfulness, respect, and vulnerability


A theme from this weekend’s seminar was to think. Don’t just flail the sword around in the approximate direction. Think about every cut, every motion. Think about where the tip is rather than where your hands are.

Mindfulness is the buzzword for this. All too common in life we run on autopilot. We drive to work in a zombie-like state. No thought that we should tell others around us that we are going to do something that requires action on their part (braking, for example). I don’t know what the statistics might be for how many people get through their work day without ever thinking about what they’re doing, but I do know it happens.

At my rank in iaido, a key focus is on respect. There are different thoughts on respect. One thought is that it must be earned. That’s valid. Tell me who you are and what you’ve done that I should care about.

Another thought is to give it freely until someone does something where they no longer deserve it.

Both have advantages and disadvantages. WIth the first, you are protecting yourself from being duped, but you may miss out on incredible opportunities.

With the second, you are open to everyone. This means that you’re unlikely to miss out on wonderful people, but it also means you’ll probably get taken advantage of. Also, if you’re not careful in how you retract your respect, you might go too far and be overly disrespectful with the person.

In one you are preventing pain and in two you are inviting it. In one you are closed off and in two you are wide open.

What may be needed is a filter.

My martial art, iaido, is about being prepared. We do a lot of “up shit creek” techniques. One kata, Ukenagashi, has us facing a different direction than our attacker while kneeling and we “catch something” with our peripheral vision. We spring up to deflect their sword and cut them down. The likelihood of this working in a real fight? Pretty low. But low is better than zero.

We also strive for balance at my dojo. If you want to know what that means, we talk about Goldilocks often.

Back to thinking and respect then. Think about every move, but not so much that it causes inaction. In other words, don’t fall into analysis paralysis. And respect? You can be respectful and still disagree with something you are taught. Do what the sensei at seminar says, but do it the way your sensei does it when you get back to your dojo.

I spent a lot of time on tip control this weekend. Fine tuning for grading. I didn’t focus much on looking meaner, though I know I need to. I joke and say I’ll pretend my imaginary target is my ex-husband, but I’d rather not live with hatred in my heart. It’s not about anger anyway. If you’re reacting with anger, you’re probably not thinking. My sensei likes to project annoyance. He says we should be annoyed that we have to draw our swords rather than eager. He also says we have to act like we’re really in a fight. There’s a middle ground there somewhere. Goldilocks again.

We also need to respect our swords. This is key. So important that we even bow to it. Don’t be in a rush to get a sharp one. You need to learn to respect the wood and unsharpened one to properly wield a sharp one. Or go ahead and get a sharp one to test the medical system.

I used a wooden one this weekend. Some of the sensei noticed. I didn’t feel embarrassed. Sekreta Sensei offered suggestions to try and heal my chronic shoulder pain and tension. Had I decided to pretend like everything was okay and used my iaito, not only could I have done further damage, but I wouldn’t have a new resource to try.

Whatever you’re facing, own it. In owning it, you reduce it’s power over you. Only then can you put yourself back in the driver’s seat and get back on the path you yearn for.

Ciao,
Roy Iaidoka

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