With a martial art that has no practical application to daily life it seems to some a rather pointless undertaking to start in Iai, I wanted to share something that i had touched on with some of you last week, Which is why do Iai?
For me the answer is a complex one.
I obviously do not walk along the street with a shinken strapped to my hip, and learning Iai sometimes will seem like the most violent martial art be a part of. Iai will change your life for the better if you seriously start in Iai, unlike most other Martial arts Iai has no ten point plan to black belt, it is a way to live your life, that being said you must decide to learn Iai, not simply desire a superficial mindset of knowing some fancy tricks with a sword.
The very first thing to decide upon about Iai is to have something to live for.
I would encourage all of you to look at all of the positive things going on in your life that gives you piece of mind (what we call Heijoshin) this is something to live for, we all have ups and downs in our lives, some of us are luckier than others, that is the very nature of life (karma) we cannot change it, but we can find the good things that make us good people. Only when we accept that our lives are precious, do we then have something to live for.
We have a rich history in Iaijutsu, stretching back directly and traceableto Hayashizake Shigenobu in the sixteenth century. Carrying on this traditional martial art makes us a part of the future history of our martial art, the study of Iai is truly lifelong, you will always find another facet around a metaphorical corner in our training till the end of your life.
We are lucky in our Dojo thsat we have established an amazing fraternity between one another, that is supported further further away from the RIBA and YNBK as a whole who are always eager to help us as a single group as awhole.
There are many facets of Iai and one in particular is the way we use our mind, this to me is the element of Iai that i feel helps the most outside of the Dojo, the many elements, Heijoshin, the 'How to die well' point of view, there are so many points that we can train other than the warring arm, for instance we always have to keep in mind that 'Wherever the mind wanders, the mouth is never far behind..' It is within all of us to become better individuals. principles such as mushin and how to die well are all about escaping the material world and living our best life as without a best life we have nothing to die for.
I do not wish to talk too much on the mental side of Iai as i feel it should be taught within class.
Finally what we do can be a great hobby, this is true, but to class true japanese swordsmanship to the level of a hobby is to give it a superficial place in your life. That is not to say that you should dedicate every part of your life to it, rather to take all of the elements of your Iai seriously and apply them to your everyday life, like a sword cuts cleanly and immediately, we must when we decide to do something, we must act immediately and with a clear and clean resolve. Iai likewise shows our personality within the way we do each technique, a great hobby for sure, but so much more, as i was recently told, 'you must make up your mind!'
To me Iai is too precious, too rich and too cultural just to be a hobby. To me it is a baromemter of how to live my life, a metaphor to live my life by, and something very precious that i can always polish and revere when i have things on my mind that i need time away from.
I hope you enjoy this small piece on having something to live for, and please remember if you have anything you wish to talk about in confidence, my door is always open..