In the Dojo (1)

(I’ve been practicing iaido for over a year now. I would not consider myself good at it. Almost every practice something happens, or something is said that makes me think of how it would work as a little snippet of a story, or perhaps in an old movie. I’m going to share some of these. I don’t know how many or how often. Here is one of the incidents.)

“No. That is not how it is done.” The teacher did not yell. She didn’t need to. When she talked everyone listened with a mixture of hope and fear that she was going to address them.

The teacher stopped her own practice and waked over, sheathing her sword as she went. The pupil paused. He was off balance and worried he was going to fall. He wanted to correct his stance but knew the teacher was about to explain what was wrong with his form. It would not be correct to alter how he was standing.

“Look at your feet. They’re off balance. Your right foot is pointed in the wrong direction. Where should it be?”

He knew the answer, but he also knew what was coming. “Here, “ he said as he pointed his toes further to the right and placed his entire fight a half pace further in front of him.


The only answer he could provide, because this was where you told me to put my foot, was the not the acceptable one. He also knew that it wasn’t the full answer. There had been a reason. He knew the reason, but he couldn’t pluck it from memory. Instead he remained silent.

“You put your foot there so that it gives you more option. Remember, this is for when you are being attacked on three sides: right, left, and straight ahead. Now, with your foot where you placed it, you fully commit to the right. You leave your left completely open. You will get cut down. Put you’re foot back.”

He did. She moved to his left side.

“Turn and face me.”

He did as he was instructed. It was awkward. His legs tangled underneath him, as they both knew they would. The teacher did not bother to fake an attack. The point was made and the point was obvious.

“Now, put your feet where they are supposed to be.” He did. “Try again.”

He swiveled to face her. The new positioning made it a smooth process. He kept balance.

“Good. You can attack left and then go back to the center.” As she spoke he followed her instructions, cutting left and then in front of him.

“Good. Do this right and you will do the cutting. Do it wrong and you will get cut. Understand.”

“Yes, teacher. Thank you.”

She walked away looking at the other students, judging what corrections they would need. He continued his practice and tried not to think about the likelihood of getting attacked and losing balance.

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