Saturday, January 06, 2007


I bought myself a great Christmas present. It's "Iaido", the photo collection by Kawamura Noriyuki. I've been looking for this book for literally 13 years. I remember it was up for sale at one of our Iaido Seminar auctions, and it went for $100 or so. I didn't have any money, so I couldn't bid on it. A few years later, I saw it on sale on e-Bay. It was up around $100 US and I think it finally closed around $150 or something, so it was also out of my price range. In the past few years, I've been looking for it on used book stores, and eventually I gave up. I dredged up the idea of finding it again, and sure enough ... found it within a couple minutes, and without delay I charged it on my credit card. Within 3 days it was in my mail box! I couldn't believe how easy it was. Anyway, I finally have my grubby little hands on it. Since I don't have a scanner, I took the "low tech" approach and took a (bad) photo of the cover.

Danzaki Sensei (1907-2003) on the cover

Flipping through this book, I am moved by a few things. One is the incredible beauty of the pictures themselves, which are technically excellent and which also capture the "spirit" of iaido (in my opinion). But also, it's a bit sad because 2 of the teachers who came to teach us in Canada, Haruna Matsuo Sensei, and Ide Katsuhiko Sensei, have since passed away. In fact, looking at the biographies of the majority of the Sensei in this book, you realize that most of the people depicted are probably deceased by now. And the ones who are still living aren't getting any younger. It seems like a trite, almost idiotic thing to say but ... man, life is short.

Haruna Matsuo Sensei (1926 - 2002)

- o O o -

I was thinking about last year, and wondering if I should make any New Year's resolutions, like "practice harder" or something. I quickly decided not to, since I'm sure to break them if I do. I didn't really practice very hard last year, although I did for a short period leading up to my 4th dan test. Of course, leaving work early to hop a train and practice Jodo for 2 hours takes its toll; I fell way behind in my work and had to spend the entire month after my grading trying to catch up! If I was an organized, dedicated person, I could probably manage to juggle both work and a hard practice schedule but ... well, let's leave it at that.

Anyway, in February I'm off to Tokyo again. I'm looking forward to it, even though it will mean a whole new batch of corrections. "Your (fill in the blank) is all wrong! It's like this!" I think Chris Gilham may have commented on what I'm about to say, having experienced it (and more) on his cross-Japan "shugyo". Basically, there are some teachers who, while very skilled, kind of have blinders on, and aren't aware of the wide variation in ways of doing things. What you hope for, when you visit a dojo, is that the teacher will say, "Oh, okay, I see what you're doing. You're doing the style of X-sensei. That's great, but let me show you the way I do it." Unfortunately, what you usually get is, "What the heck are you doing? That's totally wrong! Stupid kid." Occasionally, you'll get someone who's smart enough to know that you're "somebody else's student" and they just won't teach you at all. They just smile and nod and tell you, "Yes, you're very good!" Meanwhile, they're thinking "I'm not touching that with a 10-shaku bamboo stick."

Where I practice will depend in large part on where I end up living. Nobody wants to take a train all the way across Tokyo during rush hour, and then take a train back home during "second rush hour" (which happens around 10pm, when all the drunk salarymen get out of their obligatory drinking-business-parties). (I swear, being a salaryman in Japan is like being a professional drunk. The most successful ones are the guys with superhuman livers, who can drink all night and still get up the next morning and work.)

So while I'm in Tokyo, I'm hoping to make the most of it. And then I'm coming back to Oita, and I really want to try and do more Niten. God help me, I'm also going to find out about Sekiguchi Ryu. This might be playing with fire; for all I know there may be serious animosity between some of these people. But I want to learn a bit of Sekiguchi Ryu iai, if I can. We shall see... what I really need to do is to find some practices that AREN'T on weekends, for crying out loud.

I also have an idea for a book. I'm sure it wouldn't be a best-seller, but it would appeal to the same folks who bought Kawamura's "Iaido" book when it first came out. I think that it would be successful, at least. The problem is that I don't have the necessary skills to make it happen. I'd need a photographer, and an interpreter/translator; I suppose if I was left with any involvement at all, it would be "editor". Hmm. So all I need to do is find those people, and a publisher, and get an advance for working expenses, and then quit my job, and ... and ... (This from the guy who is barely organized enough to make a shopping list.)

Happy 2007, everybody.