fuji, originally uploaded by renfield.

Woke up early but couldn't motivate out of the futon for a pre-brekkie bath, so I just slobbed around until breakfast. Huge "viking" all-you-can-eat buffet at which much stuffing-of-self was done, and then a lovely bathing. Headed back to the gym and finished with a couple of hours teaching the advanced group. We did all kinds of questionably useful exercises trying to understand how all the muscles and parts work to move as efficiently and powerfully as possible, and tried to to it into the basics and a few kata. Don't know how useful it all is, but the general idea is to think about how you move; what parts do what.

At noon I headed back to the station, jumped on a local, upgraded to a reserved seat on the shinkansen, and made it back to Tokyo by 3:30. Hiroko came back from shopping at Shinjuku wearing the kimono she bought yesterday and with some cool pottery by a potter whose stuff we've bought before.

seminar day 1

sashimi, originally uploaded by renfield.

Got on the shinkansen at 9:06 am and rode down to Shizuoka with Gosoke and a few others. Switched to the local at Mishima and rode another 30 minutes to Shuzenji, then grabbed some lunch and hopped on the bus up the winding mountain roads to LaForet. This place is HUGE. Golf course, multiple buildings, pool, hot springs, tennis courts...it spreads out across the mountains with commanding views of wilderness, fresh water, and clean air.

We got settled in our rooms and headed down to the gym to train for a few hours. I got the beginners, so we drilled on the basics, with lots of time for thought. I think I worked everyone pretty hard, but afterwards they said they had a good time, so I think it was ok.

Before dinner we hit the bath and then feasted! Huge boats of sashimi and giant boiling pots of meat and veggies and all kinds of other fixings. After dinner we retired to the room next door for the typical late-night-seems-important-at-the-time babble (after another quick bath of course) and being totally fried, time to retire early.

taikai photos

PICT0128.JPG, originally uploaded by renfield.

Here are a bunch of photos from the West Coast taikai.

ireru, mawaru

Ireru means "to enter", whereas mawaru means "to turn/spin around".
We say koshi-o ireru: "to put your hips in" or "cut from the hips." What most people tend to do is just turn their hips instead of put them "in". I usually describe it as snapping the whip: cock your arms above your head, step out with the rigth foot, then spring the upper body forward and finally, like the crack of a whip, swing your arms and the sword. The blade itself is probably moving nice and fast, but the timing is all off. Once you've stepped your foot forward you are in the kill-zone: you can reach your enemy, and so he can reach you. If you stand there with your arms above your head as you crack that whip, by the time you bring your sword anywhere near him, you've already got his sword buried in your throat.
When you step into the kill zone, the sword must move in as well so that just as you step in your sword is just about into his head. To do this, the hips drive the shoulders, the upper and lower body moves as one. No whip-cracking, no twisting and unwinding; everything has to move as one, centered from the hips. It might initially feel as powerful as a nice big spin and unwind, what with all the centrifugal force, but your sword will go where it needs to go and get there in time. And more importantly, once the hips stop moving, so does the sword, so that you can finish the cut with the sword pointing at the enemy, not off someplace else. Very important in the obvious case that your first cut doesn't finish things.
I've mentioned before that in Japanese hayai means both fast as in speed, and fast as in time. Most people focus on the speed of their own movement in a vacuum, but speed is useless without proper distance and timing to the other guy who is also trying to kill you with his sword.
The fastest, strongest cut in the world is no good if it's a tenth of second after you've taken 20 centimeters of sharp steel into your skull.