Despite the panic of trying to complete my December work load before Christmas, I am in a good mood. Mainly because I have just had my hachidan keiko fix, which should keep me going into the new year.
We were very fortunate to have Iwatate Saburo sensei supported by Hayashi Tatsuo sensei in London for a weekend seminar, they also brought two nanadan sensei with them, Nishioka and Suzuki sensei, the latter being one of the few female seventh dans to have visited the UK. What made the seminar special for many of the attendees is that Hayashi sensei is American educated and acts as an official interpreter to the IKF, so translation was accurate and fluent.
As always on these occasions the local 6th and 7th dans are asked to check that partipants are doing things correctly and getting the most from the drills, so I diligently listened to both Iwatate sensei’s words and Hayashi sensei’s translation. What struck me from the outset is that different teachers have very different approaches to the same end outcome. Our last UK seminar was with Chiba sensei who advocates small cuts and a parallel style of striking dou for beginners up. Iwatate sensei is an evangelist for a big cutting motion, practised with the shinai touching your bottom on the backswing, even for dou.
The logic is irrefutable. By cutting in this way, you learn to use your shoulder joints in a relaxed manner. As the seminar progressed, sensei explained and demonstrated, that as you progressed up the grading ladder your attacks could then become smaller whilst retaining the suppleness gained from big movements. Another impressive element, was the way that throughout the drills, sensei managed to incorporate and build upon the elements of kikai and seme.
So an excellent seminar, which I am sure did a lot to improve the kendo of most of the people there. For me however, I was most impressed by Iwatate sensei’s closing words. Where almost as if he read my mind, he explained that in a lifetime’s kendo, we all get varied information and instruction from a variety of teachers. In his words, the trick is to judge in your own mind, which of these approaches and techniques is right for you and to build on them accordingly. So, to sum up in my words; there are some great teachers out there, but only you can make your kendo work for you.