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Thread: Origin of Iai arts

  1. #61
    Ben Bartlett Guest

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    Oh Lord, I had hoped this thread would stay dead. I'm not going to even get in to the combat effectiveness issue, because frankly I'm tired of wasting my time trying to convince people who have already made up their minds on the issue. I just want to say to Tim that from my understanding of MJER, the techniques in shoden waza are meant primarily for use against unarmored opponents. Obviously some of them work on armored opponents as well, but techniques specifically meant for armored opponents are found elsewhere (or at least that's my current understanding). Oh, and as for bunkai, if you don't have them, then you are just doing a pretty dance with a sword, and that would be kind of silly, no? They're meant more as a didactic tool than anything else, however. At any rate, sorry for the interruption. I'll let you get back to discussing how ineffective iai is now.

    P.S. Dan, do you really think we don't even do things like test cutting? Sometimes you really crack me up, man. That's just damn funny.
    Last edited by Ben Bartlett; 11th February 2002 at 14:29.

  2. #62
    Dan Harden Guest

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    Ben

    SO glad I could offer you some entertainment value. I feel the same about much I read here.

    Test cutting was just one small point in an overall training regimen which I covered. I think your own people have addressed the point both here and elsewhere that you (meaning the big overall orginazation) are sort of all over the place in regards to what it is you do-that isn't a critisism just an observation of your own people's comments. I do know Eishin ryu people that test cut. While it appears to be an art that you cannot paint with a broad brush. It is fair to say that by your own people’s acknowledgement it is in need of more of the missing or seldom practiced forms-even those being rather limited in number.It is fair to say that an exponent of anything meant to be combative needs input from confrontation. It’s one of the reasons that Iai and kendo practiced together make a healthier combination.
    You will find that many of the people who have posted have crossed bokuto with Kendoka and Iaidoka. I have yet to hear any “strong” or significant criticism about Kendo from these people. Inversely, several here have privately and publicly shared their experiences after crossing bokuto with several, experienced Iaidoka. They have found it hard to entertain combative "theories" from your viewpoint after that.
    Of all the sword arts-yours is the only one routinely criticized for its exponents lacking any substantive combative abilities. You commented on your "wasting your time trying to convince us who have already made up our minds." Your words haven’t accomplished much of anything because too many of us have felt your techniques. I wasn't convinced until after I crossed swords with 5 Eishin ryu guys from sho-dan to go-dan- after three of you woundup with your swords on the floor I stopped listening....Imagine my surprise to find several others with the same or similar experience.YOU have gone along way in making up our previously open minds for us. You’re not going to hear anyone say that about good kendo players or any of the other admittedly few Koryu that we have seen. Just yours.
    If you don’t like hearing the criticism-stop talking about combatives and stay with what you do.
    There are some Eishin ryu guys who are VERY interested in making their art sound and combatively rational-they have spoken about it and critiqued your own art. They seem to have a very healthy and balanced outlook on what the art is and what they do. Them I listen to.

    Dan

  3. #63
    Ben Bartlett Guest

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    SO glad I could offer you some entertainment value. I feel the same about much I read here.
    When you're happy, I'm happy.

    Test cutting was just one small point in an overall training regimen which I covered.
    I know, but that was the only part I thought was funny.

    I think your own people have addressed the point both here and elsewhere that you (meaning the big overall orginazation) are sort of all over the place in regards to what it is you do-that isn't a critisism just an observation of your own people's comments.
    Actually, I think I'm the one usually making that comment.

    YOU have gone along way in making up our previously open minds for us. You’re not going to hear anyone say that about good kendo players or any of the other admittedly few Koryu that we have seen. Just yours.
    If you don’t like hearing the criticism-stop talking about combatives and stay with what you do.
    Actually, I haven't done anything, except for talk on here, and it's not that I mind criticism, it's just that talking on here doesn't change anyone's mind. I can say that you haven't necessarily seen what MJER potentially offers, but you have absolutely no reason to believe me. I never said it's perfect, but I do think people tend to downplay its usefulness too much; the theory is sound, even if the application is sometimes lacking (and I'm sure there are some people whose application is not lacking). But you're certainly entitled to your own opinion on the matter. All I was saying is that since your mind is already made up (which you admit it is), it's a waste of my time to argue with you. I'm not going to change your opinion by talking at you, now am I?
    Last edited by Ben Bartlett; 11th February 2002 at 17:23.

  4. #64
    Ben Bartlett Guest

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    Actually, Dan, I just realized that the main problem may be that we mean two different things when we are talking about the "effectiveness" of MJER. When I say it's effective, I mean that the theories behind it could effectively be used in combat. When you state that solo kata will not prepare you for a real combat situation as well as two-person kata and drills along with sparring will, you are, of course, correct. There's no way any reasonable person could argue with that. But that's not an issue of the effectiveness of MJER itself, that's an issue of the effectiveness of the way it is generally practiced. MJER is not just solo kata, it's just that for some reason that's the only aspect of MJER which a lot of people seem to learn.

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    Looks like I got several 'bites' on this one!!
    Ben, you follow what I was saying anyway, the waza must be effective. If it wasn't the instructor wouldnt be alive to pass it on after trying it for the first time would he..
    I also agree about the kendo versus iaido thing though. As I have done both for over 20odd years now I have seen this argument several times in the past. I tended to agree about 15 years ago with the 'my kendo is better than your iaido' argument but this has been changed by experience. Doing both leads you to realise that each has its advantages. Oe Masamichi was also a kendo teacher although famed for his iaido. My own instructor only has 8dan kendo and 8dan iaido... retired last year from kendo aged 88. Personally I don't see how you can do one without the other, they are so closely related.
    Dan, Perhaps the problem with the kendo/iaido 'matches' is as you say the lack of combative experience for iaidoka. Several of my friends who only do iaido (6dan and above), have serious timing issues (mainly slow)while trying to fence me. Interestingly one of them who does well also has jiujitsu experience i.e. close combative work.
    There is certainly nothing wrong with the iaido techniques, I use several of them while doing kendo anyway, and no doubt everyone else does as well, although in some cases they may not realise this.
    I will slag off kendo over one thing though... some of the so called cuts wouldnt get through butter (if it was melted). As you have done tameshigiri you will appreciate good technique does the bulk of the cutting, as the natural weight of the sword would only cut, say, the skin and maybe an inch of flesh. Some of the points I see awarded are more of a glancing blow which more than likely would just ruin a good suit with a bit of blood
    Anyway I'm off back to dancing with a sword tonight down the dojo...

  6. #66
    Dan Harden Guest

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    Whether you realize it or not you are both agreeing with me. I am not questioning MJER or SMR either in theory or intent but rather what remains of it as exhibited in the hands of the people that some of us have met. Understand? Not the art, but what appears to be a growing trend of the "Iai only" people with ten years of seiza no bu under their belt who post here of cutting down armored opponents with ippon mae. I just got three more e-mails from people with real life experiences sparring with MJER exponents and they were all derogitory. I have high hopes that the current exponents will see that changed by increasingly challenging themselves and their art.
    Again, as both of YOU have stated if an exponent doesn't do more Cutting,Kata, Shiai, with their Iai they are probably not going to be much use as an example of their art- just a lot of theory. And hopefully they don't try to validate their ideas in a one to one freestyle match. Their art deserves better than to just look pretty.
    Nowadays its considered gouche to question, argue and challenge theories and tactics. Hundreds of years ago this was more or less a required part of their training.
    I say its all good and we should be doing it all.
    Come to think of it that is already happening here in the Northeast. There is a group that is doing Yagyu in conjuntion with Iai And I know of two fellows who have explored TSKSR as an adjunct to their Iai. Revitalizing an art with lost portions of curriculum has a precedent in several other Koryu. Nothing knew there

    Dan
    Last edited by Dan Harden; 11th February 2002 at 23:09.

  7. #67
    Ben Bartlett Guest

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    Yes, I do realize that I'm agreeing with you; I had been misunderstanding what you were saying before (and I think people were misunderstanding what Tim meant by "effective"). Don't get me wrong, the solo kata are important. You need to practice drawing and doing noto with a real sword, or you'd end up cutting off your own fingers in a real fight (well, not that you'd be getting into one of those these days, but from a historical perspective, it was important). But if all you've done is solo kata, you shouldn't go about challenging people to sparring matches (unless it's just to learn), because your timing and distancing will be all off and you'll most likely end up looking foolish (no offense meant to anyone who only does solo kata, but it *is* rather difficult to practice those things without an actual opponent). Not to mention there are just a lot of aspects of swordsmanship you don't see unless you are working against someone else. Minute details suddenly become very, very important. I think this is less of an issue if you are studying iai as a supplement to kendo, because then you are getting a feel for some of these issues in your kendo practice, but if you are studying iai in and of itself, then I think it becomes very important. Actually, that's not entirely fair. I personally want to study all of the aspects of MJER (I have a long ways to go yet, but I do want to get there), but if someone feels like they are getting what they want out of the solo kata, that's fine. Heck, if they feel like they get what they want out of the Omori Ryu, that's fine. It's just important to realize that only doing solo kata is not going to prepare you to duel with other people. I mean, I'm not trying to come off as a jerk here, and I'm no expert at swordsmanship or anything like that, but I think it's pretty easy to see how that's the case. I mean, that's really the case for any martial art with solo kata. If you studied karate, but all you did was solo kata, you probably wouldn't do so well in a fight, because while you would've learned how to block, punch, etc., you wouldn't have learned when to block, punch, etc. I think the same applies to swordsmanship. Anyway, that's my totally non-expert opinion on the subject. If anyone has had experience to the contrary, they can feel free to tell me I'm an idiot who doesn't know what he's talking about.

  8. #68
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    Default The rarity of paired exercises within MJER in the west

    As I understand it, traditionally within the Setiokai a student does not begin learning the paired forms until around 6th dan or so.

    I'm not sure what the actual reasons for this are, but I suspect that the primary reasons include the potential dangers of two man kata, and the need for the student to have a very firm instinctual grasp of kihon.

    Why not use two man kata to teach Kihon? When working on paired practice there is is a tendancy to abandon kihon in favor of "what works". "What works" may be effective, it may not be, but whatever it is, it is not the koryu if it violates kihon and therfore becomes detrimental to the study of the koryu. A student who is still learning kihon is not really qualified to judge whether a 'discovered' technique is superior to kihon. I suspect this is part of the reason that the paired kata are not taught until the student reaches a certain level of skill.

    This minimum requirement is at least part of the reason why there are so few instructors within the west who feel comfortable teaching the paired exercises. Most have either not been taught the paired exercises, or do not feel it wise to pass it on to their students just yet.

    I assure you that within the Seitokai the paired exercises are indeed taught and practiced, but generally only at the upper levels, although I'm sure there are Sensei who go their own way with this tradition.

    So are the paired kata lost to those of us in the west? Will we ever see these, or will we have to move to Japan for a several years to learn them? I think the paired exercises will come to the west, as long as strong ties are maintained with the senior sensei in Japan. Being a fan of the traditional side of the ryu, I hope they don't come until we are ready for them. That's easy for me to say, I intend to be doing MJER for another 50 years or so. I can wait.
    Last edited by Charles Mahan; 12th February 2002 at 14:49.
    Charles Mahan

    Iaido - Breaking down bad habits,
    and building new ones.

  9. #69
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    Default Paired kata

    I've stayed out of this mostly because I am too junior to know a lot but Koryu other than MJER do include paired kata much earlier than 6 dan and many that I have seen teach Kihon in this manner. Waiting until a person has perfected drawing a sword before teaching him to use it is akin to teaching a person to draw a gun for 20 years before you give him bullets to shoot it. It just isn't all that smart. Now how does this apply to iai???? Depends on what you want out of it. I like MJER it has a fluidity and grace that many martial art don't have without loosing any semblance of being "Martial"
    Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow...
    ...that's what makes my thumper go

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    I've stayed out of this mostly because I am too junior to know a lot but Koryu other than MJER do include paired kata much earlier than 6 dan and many that I have seen teach Kihon in this manner. Waiting until a person has perfected drawing a sword before teaching him to use it is akin to teaching a person to draw a gun for 20 years before you give him bullets to shoot it.
    I have to disagree with your comparison of using a sword and using a gun. Becoming combat effective with a gun takes far less time than becoming combat effective with a sword. Guns are just plain easier to use. That is why they are called the great equalizer.

    I also take issue with the implication that 6th dan is a 20 year commitment. That may well be the case, but I don't think that is standard by any means. As I understand it, and this could easily be very wrong, within the Seitokai 6th dan, depending on the student's skill, hardwork, and luck on exams, could come in as few as 10 years, or less.

    Is this the way that MJER was taught a 100 years ago? Probably not. At that time, MJER was a professional skill. Profeciency in the ryu was deemed a survival skill and thus needed to be learned as quickly as possible. Students of the time probably dedicated many more training hours per week than we can maintain in the modern day. As a result, they undoubtedly learned faster. Training methods have adapted over the course of the last 450 years or so. This practice of delaying two man katas until the student reaches a certain level of competency in the basics is a reality in modern times.

    I am aware that other Koryu, and even different branches of MJER teach two man kata at a much earlier stage of development. I made not claims about other ryu. I was very specifically refering to the main line of MJER as practiced under the auspices of the Seitokai, although I believe I did suggest that perhaps that is the same reason that two man katas are rarely taught in the states.

    I'd also like to suggest that there is a great deal about learning how to use a sword that is accomplished during regular kata workouts. I've met and been fortunate enough to train with a handful of 7th and 8th dans who trained under this tradition, and believe me they definitely know there stuff. MJER kihon and kata are about a great deal more than simply drawing the sword
    Charles Mahan

    Iaido - Breaking down bad habits,
    and building new ones.

  11. #71
    Ben Bartlett Guest

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    Nowadays its considered gouche to question, argue and challenge theories and tactics. Hundreds of years ago this was more or less a required part of their training.
    That statement has been running through my head since yesterday. I have a problem with that statement. The problem is this: while there may be some people who should question, argue, and challenge theories and tactics in MJER, I am not one of those people. It's not that I think it's "gauche", it's just that whenever I criticize something in MJER, I then discover that due to my own inexperience, I misunderstood what it was I was criticizing. Frankly, I try to speak for MJER way more than I ought to, because I do not have decades of practice under my belt (not even close). I just always feel like someone ought to reply to all the non-practitioners who are discussing the art, and unfortunately, I'm just stupid enough to do so. I enjoy discussing, arguing, and challenging things; it's part of my nature. But, in even attempting to question MJER, given my current level of experience, I presume too much. Criticism is all well and good, but criticism needs to be founded in knowledge, and knowledge is something I still lack quite a bit of. Maybe if, like Charles, I study for another 50 years, then I'll be in a position to criticize the art. As for questioning theories and tactics, well, that's all well and good, but questions like those are what a sensei is for. So, while there may be some truth to the above statement, I definitely think some people who train in an art (like yours truly) have not reached a point in their training where they can effectively critique that art.
    Last edited by Ben Bartlett; 13th February 2002 at 16:53.

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    For my visit in May I hve already been given 'homework' to do in preparation, and that is to prepare lots of questions. On his last seminar in Japan he received 89 questions and took 3 days answering them all by post etc... I think this proves how seriously this is taken. If you dont ask you dont find out!
    I presume for MJER practise Ben, you try out the techniques using bokken/shinai and a partner? if not try them... go easy mind, dont want injuries! A bokken to the forehead may even penetrate my thick skull
    I would especially recommend them for tate hiza no bu, if you dont do the technique correctly your opponent will not move at all, although you will give him a nasty gash... Also try uke nagashi from seiza no bu, the timing is extremely difficult with a reasonably skilled opponent, and if he's good-
    I noted 6th dan in 10 years.. interesting. My group does 2years for 1st dan, then add the number of the grade, ie for 4th dan it would be 2+2+3+4 or 11 years.
    Our group are trying to get away from the dan grade system and go back to the old way of doing things, ie junior student, senior, master(menkyo), grand master. ( not that any of us will ever hit grand master/ menkyo kaiden!) I think it takes out this stupid obsession some people have with gradings. If you know its going to take, say, ten years to get to senior student, you have already accepted a long term committment to your chosen route. It also might stop the 'Ive got a black belt and am leaving to set up my own dojo as a master' garbage as well. Might run this as a new thread,might give me a laugh


    Tim

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    I noted 6th dan in 10 years.. interesting. My group does 2years for 1st dan, then add the number of the grade, ie for 4th dan it would be 2+2+3+4 or 11 years.
    This is another example of the idea that dan ranks are simply not comparable from one ryu to another, and sometimes not comparable within different organizations of the same ryu.

    As I understand it, their is a time element involved in the dan ranks within the Seitokai, but I don't believe it is as rigid as saying that after such and such years of practice you test for such and such a dan rank. I must admit this is an area of the Ryu that I don't know that much about, so I will keep my guesses to myself. I believe that 10 years of dedicated study is the short end of the range to 6th dan.
    Charles Mahan

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    and building new ones.

  14. #74
    Ben Bartlett Guest

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    In the Jikishinkai association (trying to make that distinction after having read the other thread), it takes about 17 years at minimum to reach 6th dan (which means it'll take me at least 50 ).

    Yes, we do try out the techniques with bokken, or at least some of them. You mention some interesting ones to practice, I might have to try them in my own free time. The timing on some of that stuff is quite difficult, particularly deflection! But it is good to learn.

    As for grading, I think it's kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it is nice to have a yard stick, so you can tell you've made some progress. On the other hand, ranks shouldn't be a goal in and of themselves; the goal is to become a better swordsman, the rank is just an indicator of how much you've improved since you started. Even if you reach the highest rank, you can still improve your swordsmanship. Personally, I can take them or leave them. All I really care about is getting better.

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    The 10 years to 6 dan MJER I believe refers to one case, an American who lived in Japan for 10 years, studying constantly under an 8th dan, with periodic workouts under a 10th dan and a Soke, training four days a week, walking home swinging suburito and scaring the locals. I do not believe this is typical even for Japanese nowadays.

    Jack Bieler

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