We're diving deep into the art and discipline of Iaido, a journey that goes far beyond mastering sword techniques. This is a journey of self-discovery, discipline, and lifelong learning. Whether you're a beginner just stepping into the dojo for the first time or a seasoned practitioner looking to elevate your practice, this talk is designed to inspire, guide, and motivate you.
We'll explore strategies that touch upon your mindset, time management, accountability, practical tips, and even mindfulness techniques. Each of these elements plays a crucial role in shaping not just your Iaido journey but your journey through life itself. So, grab your bokutō or iaitō, and let's embark on this transformative path together.
Embrace the Journey
Understand that mastery is a long-term commitment. You're not just learning how to wield a sword; you're learning how to wield your willpower, focus, and discipline.
Iaido is not just a set of physical movements; it's a discipline that encompasses mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. The techniques you learn are not just for handling a sword but are metaphors for life skills like focus, discipline, and respect. The art form has layers of complexity and subtlety that you'll only come to appreciate over time.
Mastery in Iaido—or any discipline—doesn't happen overnight. It's easy to get frustrated when progress seems slow or when you hit a plateau. However, it's essential to understand that these are natural phases in any learning journey. Patience is your ally.
Every practice session, every kata, and even every mistake is a step forward. Each moment is an opportunity to learn and grow. When you embrace the journey, you find value in the process itself, not just the end goal. This makes the entire experience enriching and enjoyable, which in turn fuels your motivation.
As you progress, you'll likely encounter techniques or concepts that challenge your existing skills and understanding. Embracing the journey means acknowledging that there's always more to learn. Humility keeps your mind open to new experiences and knowledge, making you a perpetual student of the art.
When you embrace the journey, you're making a long-term commitment to your personal growth. This perspective helps you move beyond the need for immediate gratification and enables you to invest effort and time more wisely. It aligns your daily actions and decisions with your long-term goals, making it easier to stay disciplined and focused.
While it's essential to have goals and milestones, embracing the journey means that reaching a particular rank or mastering a specific technique is not the end. Each achievement is a stepping stone to the next level of your development. Celebrate your accomplishments, but let them propel you forward rather than make you complacent.
By embracing the journey, you're not just learning Iaido; you're adopting a lifelong learning and growth philosophy. This mindset will not only help you master the art but also enrich every aspect of your life.
Spend a few minutes each day visualizing yourself executing the perfect waza or entering a new level of waza. This can help align your subconscious mind with your goals.
It might be helpful to start your day or your practice session with affirmations like, "I am focused, disciplined, and committed to mastering Iaido."
Set a Schedule & Break Things Down & Priortize
Consistency is key. Try to attend practice at least once a week. If you are training in an online school, dedicate specific days and times for practice and stick to them.
If a full practice session feels overwhelming, break it down into smaller, manageable chunks. Even 15 minutes of focused practice can make a difference. Ten minutes of concentrated training is worth more than two hours of frustrated training with a scattered mind. It is also safer. Training while having a certain unstable mindset can be dangerous to you and your partner or others who might be present in your training space.
Make sure that your Iaido practice is kept from getting pushed aside for less critical activities. If it matters, it should find a place in your calendar.
In our daily lives, we often get caught up in tasks that seem urgent but are not necessarily important in the grand scheme of things. Emails, social media notifications, and last-minute requests can easily consume our time. Prioritizing Iaido means recognizing its importance and not allowing it to be overshadowed by the "urgent" but less important tasks.
One of the most effective ways to prioritize is to block out time on your calendar specifically for Iaido practice. Treat this time as you would any other necessary appointment. When something else comes up that conflicts with your practice time, your default answer should be, "I have a prior commitment."
The 'Big Rocks' Theory
Imagine your time as a jar that you fill with rocks, pebbles, and sand. The 'big rocks' are your most important commitments, like family, career, and, in this case, Iaido. If you put the sand and pebbles in first (less critical tasks), you won't have room for the big rocks. Prioritize by putting the big rocks in first, ensuring they have a designated space in your life.
Every choice you make comes with an opportunity cost—the value of the next best alternative that you're giving up. When you choose to watch TV or scroll through social media instead of practicing, you're losing that time and the opportunity to improve and grow in your Iaido practice.
Review and Adjust
Life is dynamic, and your priorities may change over time. Regularly review your commitments and activities to ensure that Iaido still holds its rightful place. If you find that it's getting sidelined, take immediate steps to correct course.
Say No to Say Yes
Sometimes, prioritizing Iaido will mean saying no to other activities or commitments. It's essential to understand that saying no is not a negative act; it's a way of saying yes to something that you've deemed more important—your growth and mastery in Iaido.
By making Iaido a non-negotiable priority in your life, you're setting the stage for consistent practice, which is the cornerstone of mastery. Remember, what gets scheduled gets done, and what gets prioritized gets mastered.
Having someone to practice with can keep you accountable. Even if they are not into Iaido, having someone to check in with can be motivating. A "budo buddy" who encourages you when times are demanding is a treasure.
Keep a journal or a log where you note down what you've learned, what you struggled with, and what you aim to achieve next. A budõ notebook is essential. Not only can you keep notes of techniques, but you can record your feelings and observations during training.
Did you finally get that technique right? Celebrate it. Acknowledging your progress can be a huge motivator.
Make a mistake? Did you notice the mistake? Even if you cannot correct it quickly, seeing an error is a triumph.
A good warm-up not only prepares your body but also your mind. Use this time to transition into a focused state. A warm-up, in my view, is simply some gentle kihon. You can perform some stepping or movement patterns in a certain kamae, or some strikes and swings.
Quality Over Quantity
It's not about how long you practice but how effectively you do it. Make each training count.
Don't hesitate to ask for feedback from your sensei or more experienced practitioners in your school. This can provide you with valuable insights into what you need to improve.
Mindfulness and Focus
Use deep breathing to center yourself before and during practice. This can help improve focus and reduce stress. In iaidõ in particular, it is taught to breathe a deep cycle before beginning a form. Slow, deep breaths profoundly affect mental states.
Make sure your practice area is free from distractions. Put your phone on silent, inform people not to disturb you, and create an environment conducive to focus. The internet can also be a massive distraction in general. When you are in a school and have a teacher, I feel it is essential to use them as a resource. There are acute and known distractions that will cause hindrances to your advancement.
Iaido is as much about the mind as it is about the body. Practice mindfulness to be fully present during each session.
The Power of Now
In Iaido, every movement, every breath, and every thought counts. When you're fully present, you're able to harness the power of the moment to execute each technique with precision and grace. Being present means that you're not thinking about your next move or dwelling on a mistake you made earlier; you're fully engaged in the "now."
Being present lets you clear your mind of external worries, distractions, and stress. This mental clarity is essential for focusing on the intricate details of each kata or technique. A clear mind is like a tranquil lake, capable of reflecting reality without distortion, which is crucial for learning and mastery.
Iaido is not just about physical skill; it's about the harmony between your mind and body. You're more attuned to your body's movements, posture, and breathing when you're present. This heightened awareness enables you to make real-time adjustments that can improve your performance.
Athletes often talk about being "in the zone," in iaido, we often call this zanshin, a state of flow where everything seems to click. This state is achieved when you're fully present and engaged in what you're doing. In this state, you're not just practicing; you're embodying the art of Iaido.
To help you be more present, consider incorporating mindfulness techniques into your practice. Before starting your session, take a few minutes to meditate, focusing on your breath to center yourself. During practice, if you find your mind wandering, gently bring your focus back to your breath or the specific movement you're executing.
The ability to be present doesn't just improve your Iaido practice; it enriches your entire life. Whether you're at work, spending time with loved ones, or engaged in other activities, the ability to be fully present can enhance your performance, relationships, and overall well-being.
Being present is much easier when you're not being pulled away by distractions. Make sure your practice environment is conducive to focus. This might mean turning off your phone, letting others know not to disturb you, or even putting up a "Do Not Disturb" sign when you're practicing. When training in a dōjō, it's advisable to minimize social conversations until after the training is complete. It can be helpful to remain quiet for a while after training to jot down notes or review any points that stood out to you during the session.
By making a conscious effort to be present during your Iaido practice, you're not just going through the motions; you're living them. This level of engagement is what separates a casual practitioner from a dedicated student on the path to mastery. Remember, the quality of your practice is directly related to the quality of your attention.
Remember, the path to mastery is not a sprint but a marathon. It's about consistent, focused effort over time. It is helpful to remember your teacher and his teachers, and their teachers all had difficulty with learning and training. No one, not even the much-hyped Musashi, learned it all in a week and mastered everything in a month or even twenty years. It takes time, and stumbling is part of the process.
I hope you found this helpful and wish you the best in all your endeavors.