Monday, September 20, 2004

No, no, no, no, no!

My gloriest days are over. The medals I get is getting duller and duller.

Of course the goal of training is not about how many or which medal you get. But if you have been getting them, and the other day you ended up with nothing, then that is going to indicate something to you...

Yes, I am saying I did not practice hard enough for the last couple of months.

There is nothing else I can blame. Recently I was never really focused in the dojo. Maybe it's just the pressure of the academics, or that I have some emotional problems. That makes me reconsider how much energy (both physical and psychological) I should devote into my training.

Last Saturday I went to the long-waited Iaido Taikai. This is one of the only 2 Iaido competition in the UK that I can attend.

Though not many people keep that in mind. It seems like I am the only one who bothers... When I arrived there wasn't a lot of people. Actually, there wasn't a lot of people throughout the whole day.

If the night before I wasn't in Brighton sorting out my graduation exhibition, doing some end-of-term drinking and getting home well pass midnight, waking up late and rushing into the venue 5 mins before starting... I would have felt better now.

There was only 1 kendo senpai from other dojo, and another Iaido senpai from a different dojo. I don't know the rest of the people -- I am not even sure whether I have seen half of them at the Nationals back in June. In total, there were around 20-25 competitors. So I'd say it's a small-scale taikai.

In the Yon-Godan division, there were only 3 people fighting. This is the first time I see a Japanese "import" (i.e. not a Japanese started in the UK, but in Japan) doing Iaido at THAT level. Oonishi is truly amazing with his sharp, precise cuts and upright posture. Later I found out he was the All-Japan University Student Champion in 2002, and in 2003 he came 2nd.
You can impress other people if your Iaido is great AND you are young. Just like Sahla, who is below 40 and trying on 7Dan next year. Normally people at that age in this country are around 4 Dan. But with Oonishi one can only say, "Whoa." He must be around my age.

My Mudan division fighting chart: (Out of 6-8 people... I don't even know how many there were!!!)

1-2 (lost to the guy who came 1st)
2-1 (win against a 14-yr-old boy)

1-2 (lost to the guy who came 2nd)

3rd place fight-off
3-0 (win aginst a 12-yr-old girl)

You see, there is nothing to be proud of for this kind of result. I wasn't even physically or mentally prepared for the first match - my whole body was unbalanced doing all those kata. When I mess up with one probably my face shows. Sometimes I even pause in the middle of the kata and wonder which foot I should be moving with (!!!). This is such unacceptable mentality...

Then I was at the side again, taking random snaps from my camera. My brain was only thinking about... if only I warmed up properly, if only I didn't drink last night, if only I have gone through the kata in my head when I was on the train... etc. etc. etc.

But it was too late.


It was only 2.30pm when the award ceremony finishes, leaving plently of time and space for free practice with a few of the seniors correcting mistakes of the remaining people. I was hoping the referees would spare sometime coming over to tell me what exactly have I done wrong - so wrong that I lost twice in a day...

The mistakes turn out to be:-

- I raise before I draw.
[I did not get this point at all when Buxton points that out to be. He just said, do Ipponme. I did, but he kept saying No, no, no, no, no -- do it again... And I was really bothered with that. ]
- I lean forward for my downward cut.

- The opponent is standing, so the metsuke should be looking UP not horizontal.
- The foot position of the diagonal cut at the end should be in one line, i.e. back foot directly behind body, not out.

- The first cut is diagonal, so the blade should be at an angle and not straight

The above 3 kata were the ones that was used in the taikai. But I also get corrected on the forms:-

- On the backward stab, the sword has to be balanced by the thumb and small finger of the right hand. The stabbing action is performed with the whole arm, so the elbow should not be collapsing.
- After yoko-chiburi the right foot should come back to the centre first. Also it should returns to next to the left foot, not in front...

- Look before moving, especially on the last cut to the front enemy -- look before moving the sword from the side.

- Hips should be square on at the first strike.
- Metsuke should ALWAYS focus on where the enemy is. Don't look around (Doh!)
- At the final cut, the left hand grips the sword by moving in front of the face, and not from the side.

Usually I enjoy practicing alone with a senpai/ sensei passing by, pointing out a mistake, and I'll spend the rest of the day correcting that point. But this is a bit too much. Especially Buxton was flooding me with attention - and at more than one point he grabs Oonishi to perform and demonstrate his points - how embarassing...

I haven't been seeing the Iaido of other senior people for a long time. For the pass 3 months or so I was stuck at a dojo with a lot of beginners and only one sensei. Maybe this is the wake-up call telling me that I still have a long way to go... Especially I got home with a bronze, i.e. 3rd out of 6 people. That was only average. I used to be better... way better...

[Photos now at ]

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