Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tanno Sensei

Tanno Sensei, who won the 8th-dan tournament recently (actually, I'm not sure about that; either he won it last time, or he's come in 3rd two times, or perhaps both) came to practice last night. He's pretty damn good, as you would expect. The best thing about his iai is his cut. It manages to be extremely fast, sharp, powerful, and effortless all at the same time. His body movement is also pretty remarkable; when he moves, you say to yourself, "What just happened? I want to see that again!"

Somebody told him that I had wanted to meet him for a long time; we were both pretty embarrassed by that, I think. It sounds so fan-nish. Anyway, hearing that, he told me to do Koryu "Mae" for him a few times. He spent the rest of the practice watching and fixing small things (and some not-so-small things) in my technique. The most important thing in iaido, he said, was to cut from saya-banare - the point where the kissaki is still within the saya. I have heard this before, but somewhere along the way, I stopped doing it and started drawing my sword out completely, then cutting, which is wrong. I remember Ohmi Sensei telling us that cutting from saya-banare is the very essence of iai. Because I don't have enough confidence in my ability, I think I was drawing the sword out completely and then cutting, out of fear of slicing my hand. He showed me how to hold the koiguchi and assured me that I wouldn't cut myself if I held the koiguchi properly. I hope so.

Anyway, last night I wasn't in a very energetic mood, so even while I was getting some one-one-one attention from an 8th-dan, I was having to mentally kick myself in the ass. Practice harder, you lazy piece of crap! This doesn't happen everyday! By the end of practice, I had done Mae ... quite a lot. My knees were killing me, and as tired as I was, I thought to myself, You could have done a lot better. So I have tried to promise myself that I will practice harder in the future ... a promise that is suitably vague and easy to slip out of ...

After practice, I talked to him for just a few minutes. He goes to France once or twice a year, apparently. He seems like quite a nice guy; he has none of the arrogance that some teachers get. I asked Mr. Kimura what Tanno Sensei does for a living: he is some kind of construction worker/manager for a railroad company. Tanaka Sensei used to run a sake shop before he retired; Namitome Sensei was a farmer and post-office worker. They are all very friendly, down-to-earth people with no airs. I think that should be a criteria in choosing a teacher - the intersection of high technical skill plus a blue-collar background would seem to be ideal...


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