Health, Fitness and Well-Being
There are many paths up the mountain.
- Japanese Proverb
The Dojo offers training in three types of sword arts that use metal swords: Iaido; Tameshigiri and Saber Fencing.
The weapons training in Aikido emphasizes movement and timing with Bokkens (wooden Swords). In fact, the founder of Aikido prohibited Aikidoists from practicing Aikido techniques with real swords. However, many students of Aikido are interested in using real swords. Therefore the Dojo offers 3 programs that utilize real swords.
Iaido - the art of drawing the katana
In old Japan, sword fights sometimes started very quickly. Originally, Iaido was the art of quickly drawing the sword quickly for self defense. Obviously, if the sword could not be drawn quickly enough to block the attack, there was nothing else. However, today no one carries swords, so defending against sudden attacks is no longer relevant. This has caused Iaido to evolve into a meditative martial art. It is ideal for students who are interested in meditation and tension reduction, but who want something with more motion than Yoga. This transition of Iaido from a fighting art to a meditative art actually was not much of a transition.
Drawing the Japanese Katana is surprisingly difficult. The traditional sword is razor sharp and the sheath is soft wood. An incorrect draw can easily cut thru the sheath and injure the hand holding the sheath. Sword masters would spend hours practicing drawing the sword and performing various sword cuts. Much attention was given to coordinating breathing and body motion. It was an easy transition to make the art meditative.
A new student begins Iaido practice with an unsharpened sword with a metal sheath. They practice drawing the sword in front of a mirror until the sword can be drawn and re-sheathed with scrapping the sheath.
Next basic Iaido kata (prearranged forms) are learned. These forms teach how to draw the sword into a block or counterattack from a variety of angles. There are several different katas that are learned. However, preference is given to katas done from standing posture, since the Iaido is taught as an adjunct to the Aikido program. The Japanese Kendo Federation has developed a series of forms done from a kneeling posture (seisa). These are taught but de-emphasized, since the Katana was rarely is used from this posture.
Tameshigiri - the art of Cutting with the Katana
Tameshigiri is simply cutting with the sword. In old Japan, this cutting was done by expert swordsman as a way of rating the quality of the sword. Today, it is done for fun,.
A new students begins by practicing cutting the sword in air; i.e. no target.
When the foam roller can be cleanly cut, the students graduates to cutting straw mats. The straw mats are soaked in water and rolled into cylinders that are held vertically on a post. These rolled straw mats are said to approximate the resistance of a human neck.
European Saber Fencing is practiced as a fun art and as an adjunct to the Aikido program to get students to move very quickly and simply react. Many of the internal, meditative arts tend to cause students to "Go Inside" and ignore the outside world. This obviously creates problems in self defense situations. Saber fencing is so fast and the correction for inattention is so swift that it tends to encourage students to react entirely from their unconscious mind. This type of reaction is required in self defense situations
Older style non-electric sabers are used so that ordinary padded clothing can be used. The Dojo provided sabers and masks. Students are requested to supply their own gloves and protective clothing.
Saber fencing can be a highly aerobic activity and can be used effectively as part of a weight control program.