Breaking a kata into steps

After iaido training last night I mentioned my 30-day challenge to one of my instructors.  If I do focused practise for at least ten minutes a day for 30 consecutive days then I will reward myself.  My reward?  Purchase of an iaito.  An iaito is an unsharpened, but still rather pointy and capable of stabbing yourself with, metal practise sword.  It will be a step-up from my bokken (wooden practise sword).

My instructor gave me some good advice.  Rather than practice a whole kata in the time I have available, break the kata into components and practice a component each day.  The moment he said it I thought, “how obvious, why didn’t I think of that.”  I have come close, practising my sword cuts (which remain in dire need of improvement) but not the other parts of each kata.

Tonight I focused on the chiburi going from seiza (kneeling) to standing.  Chiburi is the act of removing blood from the sword by means of a downward flick.  As you do so you rise smoothly from the kneeling to standing position, feet hips width apart and knees slightly bent.

The first five attempts went OK.  By ten I could feel the move becoming smoother, my feet starting to reach the correct finishing position.  By 15 my thighs were complaining.  By 20 I had to pause for a couple minutes, switch sides and start again from the other side.  It occurred to me that high thigh strength is required do this move smoothly and repeatedly.  Time to increase my weight at the gym when I do squats!

Best of all that concentrated ten minutes allowed me to start focusing in on things that I hadn’t noticed I did before.  The most obvious was pushing off from my back foot rather than rising from centre.  These little details get lost when you focus on doing an entire kata.  So I am going to pass on my sensei’s advice and say, break down your throws, katas and locks to focus in on a certain step or body movement.

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