Pardon the pun, but the point of iaido is important to keep.
When we practice iaido or iaijutsu alone it is easy to fall into bad habits or become complacent. There are many schools of iaijutsu or battōjutsu. Among the techniques, there is a moment where the opponent has been cut down. After the coupe de grâs, the iaijutsu practitioner usually performs a ceremonial sword cleansing technique commonly referred to as chiburi, before putting his sword away.
The moment between the final blow and the cleaning of the blade is crucial. Today I was teaching about this moment as it has gotten lost by some students. That moment is when we must know exactly where the enemy is and keep our sword and body in the right posture. We must use tame 溜. Tame is what we call the retention of awareness where we maintain our mind-body on whatever the subject of focus is. In this case, it is to keep ourselves and the sword positioned against the enemy. The fight is not over and there is no time to relax the sword, mind, or body.
Fill it up.
If the mind is empty (of energy) and the sword is also pointing where it shouldn't be then our form is garbage. Even if we jumped 18 feet and did the biggest kirioroshi of our lives; if the gas runs out of our engine after that and we just stand there limp in all manners of incorrect attitude physically and spiritually then we have failed. You can spin and jump and shout. You can even have drums banging away in your dojo. Speed and bombast don't matter if your tank is empty of tame.
Keep the mode of observation from the start to the finish. The finish being the sword is returned and you have walked back to where the start is. From the moment we begin the form we must have this filling of awareness. Like the air in a balloon. Our mind and body must expand.
Be vigilant in your iaido practice to keep your tame balloon filled with energy. Thank you for spending time reading my thoughts.
Saneteru Radzikowski is the head sword instructor of Shinkan-ryū Kenpō. He lives and teaches Iaijutsu and Kenjutsu from Nara, Japan.