Next Saturday I will be challenging the Shodan grading. This is also referred to as First Dan. It is the first black belt level in our martial art, Iaido. We don’t have coloured belts and we don’t actually wear our ranks around our waists. Our obis, or belts, are to help keep our hakama, or pleated pants, up and our sword where it should be when it is sheathed. Shodan is thought of more as the level where learning really begins. Previous to it one is learning, but it has mostly been fundamental things like where to stand and how to hold a sword. I don’t know what learning comes next, but I’m hoping I’m ready for it.
What I’m thinking about the most is Mae. Ippon-me Mae is the foundation of our art. It contains so much more than it appears to within it. Aside from the horizontal and vertical cuts, there are options to stab in case it isn’t just a one-on-one situation after all. The cuts are used in many situations and crop up throughout kata in all of the sets. If one cannot learn those basic moves, one cannot go further.
As I was pondering Mae further, I realized that without a sword in my hand, I’m doing moves that are similar to other arts like karate.
As I perform nukitsuke without a sword in my hand, my right hand is performing a block and my left is chambering to provide power to the block. When I would normally bring my sword tip up past my ear on my way to furi kaburi, I could grab someone’s wrist. For kirioroshi I could be grabbing the head of the opponent and bringing it to meet my knee. When I perform the stabbing motion in between the center line cut (kirioroshi/kiriotoshi), I could be grabbing a wrist in preparation to throw someone over my hip. O chiburi could be a circular block as is performed in Taikyoku Shodan.
Green Sensei often speaks of martial arts in distances. There are different distances for kendo from iaido. Karate and Judo or Jiu-jitsu are used when you’re too close for swords.
All of this is in my head today. At grading, I need to be able to get my body to show that I have a clue and I know where my sword tip should be. I also have to perform etiquette properly.
Tonight, I can practise etiquette, but not kata. I had my final physiotherapy appointment today and my going away gift was dry needling. She told me not to lift stuff today. Etiquette can always use improvement anyway, so that is my plan for tonight. My legs are fine too, so I can do some footwork. There isn’t much time left until grading day now. The last few times I practised, I was too fast. Hopefully I can slow down to a reasonable speed and just do Iai.