I haven't written in a long time. My apologies. I've been busy with work; I haven't actually been practicing all that much; I've been kind of depressed.
I've always had a couple of problems when it came to iaido (and to a lesser extent, jodo). The first problem is with my knees. I'm a big guy, and I don't have particularly strong legs, and that usually translates to bad knees. I have gone through bad periods before, but they always cleared up with a bit of rest. For the last couple of months, I have been in a cycle that looks like this:
-do a normal evening iai practice; feel more-or-less fine during, and immediately after
-start feeling pain in my knee as I'm getting home or going to bed
-wake up in the morning unable to bend my knee more than about 90 degrees with excruciating pain
-take half a week or so off iai (i.e., skip a practice or two)
-go back to practice and do only standing techniques; do this for maybe 2 practices
-by the 3rd practice back, my knee is feeling okay, so try doing techniques from seiza ...
(return to start)
Only recently, the "unable to bend my knee" period is getting longer and longer.
The other problem that I have is sweaty feet. I've gone on about this before, but I want to explain the extent of this problem. The other day I was at a seminar (I will perhaps write about this in another post) and I was demonstrating in front of a number of people. First of all, it was hot as blazes, so I was sweating to begin with. But the foot- and hand-perspiration is also closely linked to nervousness, so since I was demonstrating, as well as worried about my slippery, sweaty feet, the sweat was coming even faster. I was standing (still can't sit in seiza right now) and I was preparing to start Kata #6. This kata starts by stepping forward with the right foot. I couldn't even do that - as I shifted my weight forward, my left foot "squirted" backwards and I stayed in the same place. I couldn't even walk, let alone do iai! Suffice it to say that I managed to baby-step my way through the technique, although my turns were ... I don't know how to describe them. Imagine how you would do #6 if you were standing on a mixture of snow and ice. Some places have traction, other places are a bit slippery, and other places are completely devoid of useful friction. It was miserable.
As much as this picture disgusts you, it disgusts me more.
I have asked in the past if I can wear leather-soled tabi. Sometimes people are easygoing and say, "Sure, do whatever you want" and other times, people have a stick up their butt about it. "It's not part of the official uniform" they say. "Well, can you make an exception?" "Why should we make an exception for you?" "Well, I have really sweaty feet..." "Yeah, lots of people have sweaty feet. You just have to learn to deal with it, like they do." At one of the dojo I go to, I was told by the Sensei that I couldn't wear them because, if I wore them, it would just become a crutch for me, and I wouldn't be able to practice without them. Well, bad news: it's already a crutch for me.
This picture must be Photoshop or something.
There is an operation you can undergo to stop excessive sweating, where they snip a nerve where it branches off from your spinal cord. It's called a thorascopic sympathectomy, and possible side-effects include damage to the lungs, as well as the chance of a lazy eyelid and impaired vision. Oh yeah, not to mention the small risk of death that accompanies every surgery performed under general anaesthetic. And something vaguely referred to as "devastating side effects." Yippee! Sounds awesome.
That's right - I would look EXACTLY like this.
All of this could be avoided if I were just allowed, for the sake of my own safety and those around me, to wear tabi. Oh, did I mention that lots and lots of 8-dans wear tabi all the time? Why? Oh, you know, because they are a bit chilly. Dojo floors are really cold, haven't you noticed?