Annual Gi Yu Dojo Seminar Reflections
Ichi Kyu—The Gi Yu Dayton Dojo
While I hate to admit it, this was
the first seminar where I was able to attend every session. At the same time, it seems that it went by
much faster than any of the previous ones.
Here are a few of my observations about the entire weekend, including
kyu rank testing as well.
On the topic of rank testing
preparation, I found that starting early and practicing on a consistent
schedule has a host of advantages. In my
case, I started roughly one week after my previous rank test. I worked on learning the basics of the
techniques, and I kept a consistent weekly schedule for most of the year. However, a few months prior to the test, I
had a few work and family issues that kept me from attending class on a regular
basis. I shouldn’t really expect
anything different as this is a function of having a job and a family, which
are both good things. This really didn’t
matter too much -- I was mostly refining techniques at that point, with a few
exceptions. However, if I hadn’t put in
the practice time earlier, I would not have been able to succeed by cramming. I also felt like I was keeping a higher
state of preparedness, rather than relying on hitting a peak in my training
right before the seminar. This seems like it would be more in line with being
a student of budo – one can’t expect to need your skills only when you’ve had
time to prepare. This was reinforced
when sensei admonished the group at tameshi giri to keep our swords (or other
weapons) oiled and ready for the day they are needed. This concept applies to more than just
weapons of wood or steel.
I have a very healthy respect for
the challenge posed in our rank test.
Never in my career, education, or any other martial arts experience,
have I ever been allowed to know both the date
and content of an examination
beforehand. And yet, despite these
advantages, rank testing at our dojo is still a very difficult milestone. Sensei
provided some great direction to all of those going through rank testing: be confident in your ability to pass, but
don’t be shattered by failure. More
great advice came from my black belt mentor, who said to not dwell on mistakes
made on the previous technique while taking the test. For some (perhaps misguided) reason, I
usually prefer to approach testing assuming that I have already failed – this way, each technique brings
me a little closer to success, rather than dodging another opportunity for
failure. I always feel that achieving
success is easier than maintaining success.
It’s the difference between running towards a good result and running
away from a bad result.
After experiencing several sessions
of Shinken Gata, I have a very solid appreciation for this devastating set of
techniques. From the receiving of a
punch / kick with a strike to hoshi to the finishing throws that are extremely
awkward for the uke, I was impressed by the way many of the techniques seem to
negate size/height advantages. In one
instance, I was paired up with a black belt where I felt I had a significant
size advantage, only to experience a koryu-style harai goshi that actually seemed
worse due to his low stance during the throw.
The more unsettling part of the experience was that he was purposefully
holding back on the technique to lessen the impact.
From the tameshi giri experience, I
also learned that there is simply no substitute for practical experience. I’ve always thought that my downward cuts
(kesa-giri, gyaku kesa giri) were better than my upward cuts (kiri age, gyaku
kiri age). With some actual cutting
practice, I learned that the opposite was true.
One of the black belts explained to me that this is due to the
additional momentum built up during the rising cuts, which seemed a great
explanation. I never would have learned
this through cutting the air, but now I can practice cuts in the air with this
Overall, the seminar was a great
experience and great training. I have a
customer who uses a quote from Aristotle in his email signature: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act…but a habit”. I have always liked the tagline – we are very
fortunate that our dojo provides an environment where we can train with
like-minded individuals in pursuit of excellence.