Finding right art/Iaido
Hey guys, I'm looking for something new but i find myself lost, i also have a question about iaido.
(1) I am in the somewhat enviable position of having many schools to choose from and i'm having trouble narrowing it down. I am interested in arts where weapons are employed; also anything with an element of spirit/philosophy (i know this is hard on the mat) or deep personal development.
Particularly, i was wondering about the difference between Do/Koryu/Gendai Buddo. I was wondering if one can be viewed as better or more preferable to take (even just on a personal preference level). I understand that Gendai Buddo is a modern synthesis and tends to have a singular focus (Iaidio is apparently descended from a specialisation of a specialisation). Koryu is more of an evolution/preservation rather than a modern creation and involves many skills. I guess i get more bang for my buck this way and its more authentic but i'm sure there are downsides to this approach as well. I've noticed that even though these schools do teach many things, sometimes they seem to revert to a primary focus (say Katana) and teach the rest infrequently.
(2) Iaido. I'd love to hear from anyone who has done it. IF anyone has done it and quit, that too. You need to be a special kind of person to stay in an art, the reasons people leave probably more reflect the average experience. I know martial arts, in particular older style Koryu aren't meant to be fun but i wonder this of Iaido, is it at all dynamic or fun? On a cursory glance it looks like it could be quite boring, even after just a few months, i'm interested in what you think you get out of it.
Finding right art/Iaido
My organization has Iaido. I'll do it from time to time, but mostly just at seminars or if someone from an out of town dojo is visiting for a few classes. I can get through the setei gata (basic kata set many places teach, regardless of style), and maybe a handful of our style's kumi iai.
It really depends what you consider "fun.". The kata are often short and simple. Learning the physical movements is the most basic part, after that the "art" part comes in to play in how you are moving - your timing, energy, pace....basically how much of yourself you put into your kata (karate kata are the same way). It's a pursuit of perfection of minutiae of detail, so it takes a certain personality to get enjoyment out of that.
I will say when I end up participating in Iaido I have fun, but it's never something I really get excited about doing beforehand. It appeals to me, but I'd rather focus on my judo, aikido, And jujitsu...there's only so much time in a week, and martial arts isn't my profession.
I actually prefer working with Jo and tanto to sword, and my aikido group has around 200 weapons sets (including paired and solo), so I have plenty of stuff to play without getting into Iaido.
I like and respect Iaido - it appeals to my personality - but I only have so much time and I like other arts better.
There is a definite emphasis on learning to focus and concentrate, then once that is solid emphasis on feeling and expressing your way through the techniques.
Iaido bores me to tears, frankly. A lot of people like it though. I can only suggest you give it a go. That's my advice in general - if you have a lot of choice in your area, call them up, arrange to visit the dojo, try a class if they will let you or watch one if that's what they require.
As far as the philosophy aspect - that's for talking about over beers after practice. Spiritual growth in budo happens through sweat.
oh yeah, Iaido people can be pretty derptastic
I'd say your evaluation of koryu vs. modern budo is fairly accurate. You will probably find a deeper understanding of those ideas by continuing to study the history of martial arts. Why (to use well known examples) did Kano, Ueshiba, and Funakoshi act as they did? Personal research helped me, and my Sensei (a former Olympian) encourages that type of exploration.
However, as Neil said, growth comes through work. Koryu, as I have been told, takes a long to time to develop, due to the wide array of skills covered. As a history/culture student, I'd say those arts are worth studying and transmitting. However, I wouldn't choose them for civilians, especially in America. You'll reach "self defense" aptitude more quickly in gendai budo, IMO.
Historically, koryu have been monetised and some of the fine arts koryu might still be a viable career option in Japan, but even the Owari Yagyu kenjutsu headmaster broke tradition a few decades ago and got a job other than teaching martial arts. Moreover, even if you're talking about a benefit in skill, koryu range from infighting with knives to ridiculous hidden weapons; whatever there is of substance, it's almost guaranteed to be out of context and is probably available elsewhere.
Originally Posted by Anicca
Speaking of context, between modern developments in budo, various wars, and other chronological progress there was an enormous pressure on these groups to change. Nevertheless, there are some things about koryu that are unchangeable; the pedagogy (two man kata are absolutely indispensable, teaching in small groups), the values (a jambalaya of Shinto/Buddhist/Confucian/Daoist worldviews and practices), and the language (most koryu documents are written in kanbun, an antiquated writing system with its own grammar). The groups still holding onto that are in a word, conservative.
All things considered, training koryu for "practical" reasons is probably not a good choice; the people that do it and become licensed do so because they just love koryu. That said, if you do decide you're willing to put in a monumental amount of time and energy into becoming the living embodiment of a Japanese person that died as recently as the 19th century, then you'll want to take great pains to choose a group that meets your interests and be very sensitive in how you approach them; it's not as straightforward as signing up for Judo, think of it as a job interview.