big cuttin'

Huge cutting seminar today! BigTony and Mucho de Lucho didn't have to go to Machida until the evening, so we piled all the gear into a cab and headed to Honbu. 17 people showed up for cutting, so it was a bit tight and most folks only got a couple of targets, but it was worth it.
Tony cut a big 5-roll to start, and then he ran the advanced folks through 6dan-giri as I worked with the newbies on basic cuts. As always, the women cut better because they don't try to muscle through the target.
I put Yasutoshi through his paces, and he came out shining. Cuts smooth and mean, and probably wont bend unless I do something really, really stupid.

vato tacos

IMG_0785.JPG, originally uploaded by renfield.

It was a Mexican Invasion. BigTony and Mucho de Lucho Arroyo took over the kitchen threw down barrio-style. The chipotles was hot and the salsa was cool; never a finer meal was had this side of the border.

bust a move, you must

Yoda gettin' jiggy wid it.

big class, taiyaki

Showed up late for class and was greeted by a fresh, warm stack of taiyaki. So I ate two. Ah, the sweet red bean goodness of warm pastries.
Ten in class tonight, so it was pretty tight. And cool, so no fear of overheating, which is why practicing in the fall is so enjoyable.
Ran through the basics, worked on some fine points, and then did a couple of kata, smacking each other with bokken to work on distance and timing. It's hard to do some kata without an opponent to focus on. The whole point of solo work in iai is to struggle against the opponent of self inside, but realistically it's hard to nail the mechanics without understanding the interaction of your and your enemy's movements. The thing I like about Mugairyu is all the kata are doable. Kata are NOT an attempt to codify "realistic" fighting scenarios, as so many armchair ninja believe. And neither are punching patterns on a heavy bag, but boxers still find them useful for developing skills. Instead the kata spell out a small exchange, given many assumptions and many other variables. By working through the kata at different levels, like the layers of an onion, you can ultimately come to an understanding of what Mugairyu is; the essence that makes it not Shintoryu, nor Sekiguchiryu, nor Kashimaryu.
The kata are an abstraction; they happen in a world where your imaginary opponent is your exact twin. (I always say to imagine that he is exactly like you, only he's one day better.) You also know what he is going to do, as the kata itself is your reaction to him. He comes in high, you wait and counter low. He parries, you dodge, he retreats, you follow and finish. On a physical level the kata teach basic "muscle memory"; your body learns how to do certain necessary moves without conscious thought. More subtly, the kata teach the defining strategy of the ryu. Understanding starts simplistically, like "in most cases, Mugairyu will counter a high attack with a rising diagonal cut." Advanced practice changes some variables and assumptions, the most obvious being that the enemy is no longer a beginner. Slow moves are done more quickly, fast moves are executed more slowly and carefully. Distance is changed, timing becomes less rhythmic. Ultimately you come to internalize the theory and strategy of the ryu; the way you see the world and how you react to it. Gosoke demonstrates this by saying that there is only one Mugairyu kata. And then he starts one kata, transitions into another, finishes with a third. A retreat becomes an attack, a sidestep becomes a counter, a parry becomes a preemptive attack. And yet it is all, truly and distinctly, Mugairyu.
After class we had a little target rolling party; cutting on Saturday!

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ted earns room and board

ted earns room and board, originally uploaded by renfield.

ted eating oden

ted eating oden, originally uploaded by renfield.