Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Iaido Shodan Test

I can't believe it actually finally happened! If you had told me a year ago that I would be achieving this, I would have told you that you were crazy. Almost exactly a year ago I was in the throes of the first monstrous flare of RA, almost immobilized and certainly downhearted. Last night I did my first degree black-belt test in Iaido, and I'm thrilled to tell you that I think I did fairly well (results will be available soon). Last year I had to stop going to Iaido class just as I was training for my black-belt, among many other things that I had to stop doing. I have been pushing my physical envelope a bit lately preparing for this test, but I think my new meds are beginning to help as I'm not completely bedridden after training so hard. My Sensei is a wonderful man, and has allowed me to do all of the kata standing as kneeling is out of the question. I also use a smaller wakizashi rather than a katana for training due to range-of-motion issues in both shoulders and wrists. I did use a full-size shinken (sharp blade) for the tameshigiri (cutting) part of the test, though. However, the number of cuts I could do were limited to what my joints could tolerate. All of my cuts were clean, though.
The test has a lot of components: a written essay on one of the philosophical adages, a written test on the parts of the Japanese sword and gear, proficiency in thirty solo forms (with an unsharpened sword or iaito), 3 knife forms and 2 paired kumi-iai forms (two people with wooden swords, no contact; my husband Mike was my partner; he's a black-belt) and actual cutting with a sharp sword (rolled up straw mats or wara soaked for a few hours are the target). Of the thirty forms there are 12 basic seitei kata used at every testing level, two long ones specific to this test and then Sensei picks five from the rest so you have to know your stuff. 
I felt good, in the moment, in the zone. Everything seemed focused. Results will be forthcoming, so keep checking back. Regardless whether I passed or not, I feel like I've graduated to near-normalcy. That's a huge accomplishment!!!!!

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