Last year the British Kendo Association was hijacked by a group of power hungry Iai players. In the true British spirit of protest I slightly raised an eyebrow at the time. Now I hear from my crack team of ninja informers that there are suggestions in place for every kendo member to learn some Iai. Well, in the words of my wife’s old dance teacher “I would rather do the splits over a blow lamp”.
To be honest I did try Iai in Japan, to please a teacher who taught both kendo and iai. A CV of my Iai career reads thus: 6.45 pm reported for practise – 7.00 with difficulty managed to stuff Iaito into hakama, pausing to adjust so the saya was on the outside – 7.05 attempted standing rei and iaito fell out of saya denting pristine dojo floor – 7.10 sensei suggested that I leave the dojo, eat a bowl of noodles and return for kendo practise – 7.30 enjoyed bowl of kitsune udon – 8.30 returned to dojo and practised kendo without further incident – 10.30 retired for drinks with sensei – 11.30 promised not to try iai again – 12.00 had another drink to seal deal. 12.30 – missed last train home – 1.00 a.m took taxi home at cost of JPY 30,000
Perhaps slightly scarred by this experience, I have watched Iai on a number of occasions since and not had even the slightest desire to try. I know a number of people suggest that, if you practise kendo you must do iai, or vice versa, but to my mind, you may as well add ikebana, sado or origami. Some of reasons I feel no connection with Iaido are as follows:
- Kendo requires a minimum of two people, as does lovemaking – Iai requires one, (read into that what you will)
- Iai requires you to dress up in silky clothes and strike poses
- Iai shiai (is that the correct term?) have the winners decided by vote, rather like ice skating
- Whereas even stopping for water is frowned on in kendo, Iai allows for the intake of tea and biscuits
- As a fan of “sweaty workouts”, I would miss having to wring out my keikogi
Do not get me wrong. I can see the value of Iai when it comes to drawing and putting away the mogito, as part of Kendo-no-kata, but the idea of turning up for seitei iai is not for me.