Merry Monday: Canada Day Weekend

 

It’s Monday again!

On Canada Day, I decided to go geocaching. Out of three attempts, I found one cache. My friend, who has hundreds, assures me that it will get easier and that finding any at all was pretty good. Between cache one and two, there was a Bridgehead that was open and had delicious watermelon rooibos iced tea. It was a welcome refreshment on the warm summer day. Cache number three seemed like it should be easy, but I couldn’t get to the coordinates for some reason. I’ll try again soon. Cache number two is very close to CSIS and it feels weird to be climbing through bushes and whatnot with their cameras pointing at me. I don’t really want to have to explain that I’m urban treasure hunting. But I’ll probably get up the courage eventually. I should get some high DEET bug spray so I’m not worried about ticks in the long grasses. After that, I finished my one garden box but the new roll of chicken wire pinched my fingers so I couldn’t start the others and switched to writing my MTS blog post and working on a short story for a Hallowe’en collection. You’ll hear more about that in the months to come. In the evening, I watched a shark-themed B-movie with some friends in honour of shark week. I also kicked off a month of love poems on my site and finished my first garden cage. You can read my view of staple guns here.

 

cage

The first line in squirrel defense!

 

Saturday morning, I watched the cutest group of martial artists. My friend’s toddler is in the class and they’re too adorable to be scared of them. Saturday evening, I cleaned up the mess from drilling and stapling the cage. No more sawdust and failed staples littering the floor. Then I listened to some new-to-me records (The La Bamba Soundtrack and Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits) that I got for $2 each. I also have Man of LaMancha and a Neil Diamond album, which I’m not sure about, but for $2 I thought I’d try as I do like Sweet Caroline. I also bought a few trumpet, trombone, saxophone, and marching band albums. I never went to band camp but I was a band geek in my younger days.

At iaido on Sunday, I was the senior student and had to pretend like I knew what I was doing as we demonstrated Tachi Uchi No Kurai. I hope I was convincing. In my mind, I could hear someone reminding me that as a lowly shodan, “I know nothing”. Or maybe that was the finale of Game of Thrones lingering… There were a couple of newbies and they’re always cute rather like the Taekwondo toddlers.

I’ve had to put together a schedule to keep track of everything I have going on as far as writing goes and ensure I have time for other things like learning French and practicing guitar. I’m learning the art of putting a hard stop on my writing time and trying to stick to specific writing times because I was burning myself out.

As far as French goes, I’m working my way through L’Etrange Vie de Nobody Owens by Neil Gaiman in comic book format. The pictures help fill in the gaps and I’m enjoying the story, which is quite silly in a lot of ways. It’s about a little boy who is raised by the ghosts in a cemetery and one vampire who goes out at night to get him food.

I’m currently working on a short story involving one of the characters from The Page & The Magician. It’s a mystery and I suppose it’s also a fantasy/romance. I’m aiming for 10,000 words and I’m on a deadline. About 9,000 words to go!

My first post at My Trending Stories (MTS) is up. You can read it here.

Ciao,
R~

 

Merry Victoria Day Weekend: The 2016 Sei Do Kai Seminar

Image created using Bit Strips.

Image created using Bit Strips.

I’m thoroughly exhausted on physical, emotional, and mental levels, but seminar was fantastic. My body is happy to be able to rest; my spirit wants more; my brain is fried.

The trip down was made quicker with good music and lots of Worms, which brought much laughter as our attempts to blow up the opponents often accidentally resulted in our own demise.

We arrived on Friday and had our dinner out with whoever was available. The food could have been better for me, but my belly was full. After dinner, I visited with the Peterborough clan for a bit.

I had a suite to myself, which was mostly good because it was very quiet. It was a little lonely, though.

Day One

We worked on Zen Ken Ren Iaido with my sensei in the morning. In the afternoon, we worked with one of the female sensei. I learned a lot from both and am glad I took notes because brain mush no remember stuffs.

The evening had us hike to the auction where I won a whole set of keiko gi, hakama, and obi for $50! It’s white and the hakama is thicker than my other one. It’s very durable. It sticks to the floor, though. This means I need to put forth extra effort to slide, but that isn’t a bad thing. The whole set would retail for at least 3 times that, so I got a fantastic deal on it. Most didn’t bid because it was a very small size. Sometimes it really pays to be tiny 🙂

Day Two

The morning of Day Two had us doing Koryu kata, specifically Omori-ryū in my group. I never realized exactly how many differences there are in the Omori version of Mae vs the Zen Ken Ren version. I need to learn those differences well before December grading.

They talked to us about the key thing that usually fails those who challenge Sandan level being a lack of technical proficiency. Ikkyu was about showing etiquette and a general grasp of the kata outline. Shodan was about making sure the tip of the sword is in the right place. Nidan is somewhere between Shodan and Sandan and I’ve been feeling like I’m in a gray area in my training. It’s unsettling, but now that I know that’s how it is supposed to be, I feel better about it. I had already been planning to work on the technical bits like ensuring my sword tip is where it should be after unsheathing and before performing the horizontal cut.

The afternoon had us doing Eishin-ryū, otherwise known as the knee killing set. We slide about the ground often in this set. My knees had too much skin on them anyway. As usual, day two also came with sore feet.

That evening I went to dinner with pals from the Peterborough/Oshawa dojo and had a tasty meal at The Shakespeare Arms. It was the best meal of the trip. After that, it was off to the party where vodka, great banter, and Bushido Blade were the focus. I wasn’t sure about Bushido Blade at first. The graphics aren’t stellar. As we played, however, it really grew on me. It was basically our martial art as a video game. It was so fun that I played until I beat it! It’s been a long time since I last beat a game.

Day Three

I ate and packed a few items into the car in preparation for the journey home then checked out and went to the last training session. We, thankfully, did all standing kata that morning. I grabbed a quick shower then it was into the car and more Worms. I didn’t suck so bad on the way home.

I had all these ideas of what I would do with the rest of my evening, but I had a bath and barely ate super before I had to go to bed. I collapsed in exhaustion.

I’m happy to be back in the realm of 2 and 3-ply toilet paper. I may have some paper cuts in uncomfortable places. Perhaps it would be good to pack some next year.

I’m very glad I took today off to rest and get caught up on Game of Thrones. I think writing and video games are in order now that my salivary glad ultrasound is complete. Why did I shower beforehand? Goo in my hair, ugh.

On the way home from my appointment I renewed my library card and picked up a French Neil Gaiman graphic novel to work on my language skills.

image

Well, time for lunch and the most recent Game of Thrones episode. Number 4 ended on this “Fuck Yeah!” note. Can’t wait to see how the next one is though I’ve been warned it brings tears. I doubt it’ll make me cry given lower than normal tear production levels. I might dry weep, though.

This evening is folding, writing, and guitar methinks. I missed Scarlet while I was gone.

Ciao,
R~

Birthday Weekend

On the Saturday I went to an Iaido seminar in Saint Catharine’s Ontario. It began with a buddhist ceremony to honour a man that helped grow the martial art in Canada. We did some neat warm-ups including doing Ippon-Me Mae across the gym floor. We ran through Zen Ken Ren Iai a couple of times. We broke into level specific training groups. My level only did Mae. We did Omori-Ryu in the afternoon. I think Omori-Ryu is the next iaido set I will focus my home training on. I need to remember how to do them all and their names and numbers. I learned a key tip that helps me better understand how to apply what Hatakenaka Sensei told me about my grip. She said I was too tense, which I knew, but not how to fix it. Jorgenson Sensei demonstrated the difference in how far back one can move their arms if they’re tense in the shoulders vs if they aren’t tense. It might take time to rid myself fully of the tension, but at least I know what having relaxed shoulders should feel like now.

Sunday was my birthday. My friend took me to a pho place to grab dinner. I got a tasty curry dish. We went for a walk in the woods at the Trent Nature Sanctuary, which was nice despite the bugs and my lack of hiking footwear. Hiking in sandals gave me with a lovely blister. That night, I made good friends with Tito’s corn vodka from Texas as I played Magic the Gathering with a friend and his son. I’m pretty awful at the game, but he gave me some good ideas on how to get better.

Monday was spent hungover and driving from Peterborough to Ottawa. I got back home at 6:10 p.m. and took a breather before heading to a meeting with my writers group. It was a pretty relaxed meeting. We don’t normally meet in the summer, but we’re planning our future and all that.

I recently picked up an adult colouring book. It’s addictive. I should have a finished piece soon. Perhaps I should have waited until after I finished my editing to get one. I got the Japanese one from DeSerres. I find it forces me to disconnect from technology, which is something I find difficult to do on my own.

I’m now editing chapter 17. I’m aiming to finish editing by the end of July. I need to work harder on this to make that happen.

I might hit up G-Anime this weekend with a friend. This weekend is also the annual Japanese festival where people can watch all sorts of neat Japanese things from martial arts to musical acts and eat hot dogs with seaweed on them. If you’re in Ottawa, you should check it out. I’ll be there swinging my sword around noon.

Well, off to edit.

Ciao,
R~

Is the weekend gone already?

For some reason I had trouble remembering what I did on Saturday beyond completing the edit on chapter 6 of The Page & The Magician. I think I had a nap? I know I made soup. It was a homemade onion soup base with mushrooms and sweet potatoes. Odd, but tasty and quite filling. Oh and I had my second last guitar class, which makes me sad. I hope another session will run soon. Technically there are two more sessions, but I’m having an extended session next week due to being a Prose in the Park volunteer and having to miss the final class.

I’m wondering if there is a guitar with a neck that has a smaller diameter than mine. Mine starts at 5 inches on fret one and is six inches on fret 10. I have tiny hands and they’re making it incredibly difficult to learn scales. I wonder if my teacher knows of any or if I need something even smaller than a 3/4 size. Perhaps a custom one.

I’m working on chapter 7 today. It needs the most work of any so far. It doesn’t currently do enough for the story. It needs more direction and connection to the main plot. At least I know it has problems, I suppose.

I’m thinking about combining my martial arts blog with my main blog. I haven’t wanted to before now because I felt like the audiences are probably different and I didn’t want to alienate any readers, but more and more the two halves of my life are intermingling and it makes sense to have a single blog rather than two. This will make more sense in the coming months.

I watched some of the Tamarack Ottawa Race this morning. I was hoping to see a couple of friends run in the half marathon. I managed to miss them entirely as I was unknowingly watching the full marathon runners and couldn’t even see that there were other runners beyond the tall people around me. It was interesting. I noticed quite a few runners didn’t carry water with them and instead had loved ones supply it along the route. I saw people who ran by barely lifting their feet off the ground and others who brought their feet up as high as the backs of their knees. Some wore costumes (Batman ran a marathon today). Some held their hands behind their backs, others let them flail, others kept them in an asynchronous pace with their legs, and a few kept them from moving at all. And some of the men stripped as the ran. It was a good morning. I know virtually nothing about running beyond that it is bad for anyone with herniated discs. It’s about time I get my neck rechecked as it’s been nearly a year. It still hurts sometimes, but chiro doesn’t seem to help it anymore.

For the next couple of days, I have some training on project scheduling. I’m taking the bus to avoid parking in the middle of downtown. I’ve been trying to get this training for nearly a year. The course didn’t have enough people to run previously as it’s quite specific. Hopefully there are no hiccups tomorrow or Tuesday.

In my martial arts class today, we did some Niten Ichi Ryu. This is the two sword art of Miyamoto Musashi, the famed author of The Book of Five Rings. It’s a little freer than the other forms we do as most of the footwork isn’t strict. You have to be in the right place for whatever technique, but the steps taken to get there aren’t specified. I found myself often defaulting to what I’ve learned previously. I don’t know if that is a good thing or not, but we’ve learned things like not crossing our feet as we walk. Sensei hit my hand a couple of times with his sword, or maybe it was my sword. It happened as he threw my swords out of his way just before he killed me. Other than the pain of that, I enjoyed Niten. I think it’s going to be fun learning it.

Well, in order to make the bus in time tomorrow, I think I need to eat breakfast on the bus, so I have muffins I need to bake. I should take some knitting with me too.

Ciao,
R~

Sei Do Kai Seminar Weekend 2015

This past weekend was the annual Sei Do Kai Iaido & Jodo Seminar in Guelph, Ontario. Amongst those in attendance were practitioners from Calgary, Fredericton, Cleveland, New York, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Peterborough, and Chile.

Friday was a day mainly composed of travel and socializing. For those of us from Ottawa it was a 6-7 hour drive. Good conversation, a short nap, and some knitting helped pass the time more quickly for me. Once settled in my room, there was downtime while waiting for people to arrive. The night ended unusually early. I didn’t sleep well as I neglected to pack a blanket and woke up shivering a few times.

Saturday morning began with a review of etiquette. We did some Setei kata, but this year there was a strong focus on things like proper grip of the sword handle and everything was delivered in a highly relatable way with humour. Much of what Maehara-sensei and Hatakenaka-sensei demonstrated was done in such a visual way that the English translation was less crucial than in previous years. This is a great thing as the fans in the gym where the seminar is held are quite loud.

Hatakenaka-sensei (Atsumi Hatakenaka, 8th Dan Iaido) ran a special class later on for all of the ladies. She said it pleased her to be running a class for the ladies and that there were so many interested in Iaido today. We worked on one kata, which was Ippon-me Mae. Hatakenaka-sensei stressed that if Mae isn’t good, there is no point to learning further kata. There was a focus on saya biki as we extract the sword from the saya. I debated on whether or not I should share some of the lady specific content (what happens in ladies class stays in ladies class?), but I think in sharing it, male sensei can better understand the unique challenges a female swords-person faces.

  1. Obi and Hakama: When I began Iai, it was explained to me that the obi should be tight. It shouldn’t cause breathing difficulty, but close. This is incorrect for women. Women need the obi to be loose enough that we can stick one hand inside. The reason for this is that we are structured differently. Women often have hips and thin waists, where the waist is often narrower than the hip. With an overly tight obi and hakama, women experience a couple of issues. One of them is the saya being pressed into the hip so hard it creates a constant feeling of being bruised. The other is a tendency for the hakama to ride up, so we need to be mindful to move it back to the correct position.
  2. Power and Noise: Hatakenaka-sensei stressed that for women, it is not important to make noise with our sword. Noise will come and go and it’s not necessarily a sign of a good cut. Noise can be a sign of power, yes, but our strength is not power, but beauty. She said we cannot compete against a man using muscle strength, as we will lose that fight. She said the sword can be dropped and it will cut, so power is not something we should focus on. In talking of beauty she stressed that our beauty isn’t about makeup or jewelry (she was happy none of us were wearing jewelry). I think she was trying to express that our softness is part of our strength. A cut doesn’t have to produce noise to be a proper cut. This makes sense to me as someone who owns a sword with a much smaller groove and blade than most. I practice with a 2.0 shaku blade. The blade is thinner and so is the groove. It is hard to make it make noise. She mentioned that no one should be focused on making the noise. The blade can make a noise, but the cut may not be the right cut for the kata.
  3. Breasts: A concern was raised on kata such as Tsuka-Ate and Shiho-Giri about the potential to stab one’s own breast with the kissaki. We discussed where the blade should be. There was confusion on whether it should under the breast, over the breast, or at another height. It seemed to be best around nipple height. As for not stabbing the breast, when bringing the blade up to height, ensure the kissaki is beyond a point where it is possible to dig into the breast in any way.
  4. Bouncing Blade: My question to Hatakenaka-sensei was how to stop my blade from bouncing. She had trouble understanding what I was asking so I pulled out my sword and showed her. She walked over and twisted my left hand into a different position on my tsuka. Then she explained that not only was my grip incorrect, but I was way too tense. I need to find a way to fully engage my muscles without becoming tense.

There were other questions. These were the main ones, mostly about things that differ between the sexes. Sometimes women are more comfortable asking a woman questions about general Iaido techniques though they aren’t female-specific.

We took a picture of all of the ladies with the darling Toronto dojo baby (Atsuki). Hatakenaka-sensei said we needed to take the picture quickly before the baby noticed she was being held by a stranger.

Saturday evening was the auction. My first chapter of The Page & The Magician went for $15 and I had my first “book signing”. I’m hoping to have the whole book for next year’s auction, but with several drafts and beta reading to go, that may not be doable.

On Sunday morning we focused on Setei. My group was with Cruise-sensei (Stephen Cruise, 7th Dan Iaido). We got a lot of technical details from Cruise-sensei. He didn’t correct a lot of my kata, only my tip position on Mae after the horizontal cut. There was a focus on Ki Ken Tai no Ichi and Metsuke. Cruise-sensei does Muso Shinden Ryu Iai, so he does a couple of things differently than my teacher. I was worried for a dojo mate that was grading this weekend, but it is hard to pick up corrections that quickly and integrate them into one’s Iai, so while it was a little confusing for him he passed his Ikkyu grading anyway.

In the afternoon we did some Koryu kata, specifically Omori-ryu. I left early with a friend as she injured herself and my leg muscles couldn’t continue. I had a shower, a nap, a snack, and played Yahtzee.

The evening involved a pub trip, and a visit to Marble Slab Creamery where I had dairy free chocolate ice cream. My legs were quite sore and didn’t enjoy the stairs that led down to the pub’s bathroom. I enjoyed the ice cream. It’s a rare treat for me, especially at an actual ice cream place.

On Monday morning I packed my things into the car and checked out before going over to the open floor practice. A little while into the morning, Hatakenaka-sensei worked with my group on Setei. The floor was so sticky from the humidity that it made it difficult to slide across the floor for Mae. I could feel the difference in my cuts from her grip correction on Saturday.  She was perturbed by the group as it takes us longer at this level to incorporate corrections into our technique. She said if one doesn’t apply corrections, there is little point to practicing. If you aren’t open to changes, why do the art at all. As a result, we repeated kata many times.

I should have asked how to toughen the tops of my feet. Sitting in seiza is very painful for me. Some of it is normal as it takes time for the bones to get used to being in that position. Some of it is that I need to work on my leg strength. None of that will change the fact that my veins have almost no coverage in the way of muscle, fat, or skin. Maybe there’s Botox for feet? I could wear some sort of padding over them, but I feel like it would be better to toughen them somehow. They need to grow calluses. The pain drove me to leave the floor earlier than I wanted.

The drive back had me napping for a couple of hours. Today I napped for a few more hours. Prior to the seminar was Comiccon and training at work, so I had a lot of early days and accumulated much sleep debt. Hopefully it is now repaid as I have training to do.

– Roy Iaidoka

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