East Coast Iaido Seminar and Shinsa 2009

Originally written on February 2, 2009.

So this pas Sunday was the East Coast Iaido Seminar and Shinsa and for those of you who don’t know, I started practicing iaido last summer and this was my first time testing.  Iaido is a Japanese sword martial art that focuses on drawing the sword from the scabbard, cutting down a certain number of opponents, and returning the sword to the scabbard.  Currently, I am just practicing the Seitei Gata, a set of 12 forms that were made by the All Japan Kendo Federation to help propagate iaido and is a standard by which people can be tested for rank.  They were also created from several different traditional sword schools and as a result, each form is very subtly different in terms of their reasoning behind certain movements.  But I digress.

The day began at 5 AM and I was on the road at 6, getting to the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute around 8.  After getting changed and settled in the gym, the seminar began by dividing everyone based on their current rank.  For me, since I didn’t have any, I was all the way at the far end.  Due to space constraints and the large number of people, two groups took turns practicing the forms and this went up to lunch and continued after we ate until mid-afternoon.  By then we began to get set up for the shinsa and I got my number (based on age and current rank if held).

Thankfully I had a low number so I was able to go in the second round.  I finished my forms without any serious mistakes but was still very nervous.  I found out a little later that I was selected to go a second time to try for 1st kyu.  I was able to maintain my composure but while doing ganmenatte, I ended up sliding my saya down my hakama!  I didn’t panic but I’m sure my heart skipped a beat and my eyes had to have noticeably gotten wider.  In any event, I finished the cuts but when it came down to doing noto, I had to take a little extra time to pull the saya out far enough to pop it out of my hakama.  From there everything went without a hitch but when I finished and stepped out of the gym I was really frustrated with myself.  I took a small comfort in hearing someone else did the same thing but theirs got stuck.

The rest of the evening was a bit of a blur as I watched the remaining people take their test and after waiting anxiously after packing up, the results were posted on the wall.  I found my name and saw that I was given the rank of 2nd kyu.  I was relieved that I made it at least that far and that my mistake hadn’t cost me too dearly but I would still like to know if I hadn’t made that mistake would I have gotten 1st kyu?  I’ll try to figure that out later but I’m just happy I didn’t completely fail.  Time to get back to training the basics.

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