So, I finally have a sword…
It is not only a real mean cutting device—according to the Sword Buyers Guide review—it is also the closest thing to Dae’s Rim Blade* as I imagined it, in physical existence. I now know perfectly well what it feels like to hold it, swing it, and cut things with it.
Having said that, I must admit that while holding it, swinging it, and dismembering cardboard boxes with it is a whole lot of fun, I have not the slightest clue on how to perform all of the above correctly.
And when I do not know how to do something—for example, write fantasy novels—I resort to a method, which worked for me for many years: I teach myself (preferable) or ask somebody else (hate that).
Since the proper Iaido technique is clearly not something that one can learn watching YouTube videos, I, after some deliberation, decided to join a dojo.
The decision was made not only because I want to know which end of a sharpened length of metal I should hold on to. It is also part of my devious plan to trick my unfriendly pet into thinking that I am no longer in possession of this body, which Mr. Al Ien invaded over a year ago and he should leave it be and go looking for that poor lad, leaving me alone.
The plan consists of three parts: a) change my appearance (I shaved my beard and was ready to do the same with my head, but had to settle for a really close buzzcut—fine), b) change my attitude and behavior (working on it, starting with a firm denial of the gravity of the situation and defiantly resuming smoking, which I quit eleven and a half years ago) and c) change my everyday routine.
The c)-part is now in progress. I have allocated (at the expense of some night sleep) an extra fifteen minutes to have a Camel or two with my morning Nespresso while waiting for the first batch of pills to kick in—not really a change, otherwise I would just be sitting there, sipping the very same Nespresso sans nikotinotherapy, but—I have also joined New York Budokai and now I have lessons twice a week.
I was worried that my medical condition might prevent me from signing up. Not that they would tell me, “no”, but my left leg has a very limited range of motion due to a metastatic spread. That, combined with both my legs being swollen to a ridiculous degree, made me seriously doubt my ability to fully commit to the exercises. After attending the introductory class and a regular one after it however, I feel much more optimistic—and I know how to hold a sword now! Or I think I know!—and believe in myself a little more.
I have already learned a few stances (kamae) and sword grips, now my main focus moved on to how to properly tie a dogi, obi, and hakama. If tying the gi is rather simple, the other two are quite an origami puzzle.
Sadly, the cheap Chinese-made iaito I picked up on Amazon.com for the purpose of training in The Art of Drawing a Sword, was firmly rejected by the sensei, the main reason being the length of the tsuka (handle)—too long. It is also too heavy and, despite full tang, secured by two meguki pins (not just one, like a regular katana)—too dangerous to be swinging in the presence of other people, for the blade might fly out and kill someone.
A visit to the Tozando web store, which was recommended to me as a source for buying authentic Japanese gear, put me in a prolonged state of deep meditation because the cheapest iaito I could find there is about $300 at the moment.
As well-made those things are (light and pretty, they also produce absolutely beautiful tachi kaze sound when swung through the air with even a medium speed), I do not think I am buying one just yet. From the point of view of a method writer rather than a Japanese culture enthusiast, I already have everything I need to keep going: a modern-made, but nevertheless, real, even sharp, sword which is almost exactly what I envisioned as Dae’s favorite weapon, and a Medieval-style baldrick/swordbelt to hold it when I walk it around my apartment (once again, something Dae would wear, when dressed as a citizen of the Western Domain—see below)…
… and since a regular bokken is quite an adequate tool for learning iaido, and the dojo provides them for free, I should stop where I am with my sword collection.
I am thinking about sharpening my rejected Chinese weapon—after all, it is made of 1045 carbon steel and should hold an edge quite well—but then I will have to buy my own bokken to practice with at home, and I have a serious suspicion that sensei will not accept anything not made in Japan, making that unwanted addition to my pile of gear also an unexplainably expensive one, and I am kind of reluctant to do so. My bucket list doesn’t include an overpriced piece of oakwood in an extremely overpriced plastic scabbard, so for now my iaito stays blunt for practice, doubling as a Halloween accessory when the season comes and a beer opener in times of need.
All this seems to take my mind off my medical situation rather efficiently—I am pleasantly surprised with my ability to repeat simple steps of the very first kata the flock of beginners are learning at the dojo—and I actually do feel better.
My doctor, of course, attributes that—not progress, but lack of it, and that is a good thing in my situation—to the chemo cocktail he is giving me. When he heard about me joining the dojo, he just giggled, but I know…
Book update: I was almost certain that the past week—with all Iaido/iaito/dojo activities—would kick me out of my established over the years writing process (one scene a week, no matter the length), but, surprisingly enough, I still managed to round up another one: Marque muses over his less than fortunate Dragon experience to date, while getting ready for the battle.
Next on the list: a step back to the Castle, preparations from Venny’s and Northhill’s points of view, maybe something from Verra and Moona, too.
So much work to be done, so few hours in a day. And I still have to learn how to tie an obi…
A. T. T. I have an idea to add something to the worldbuilding of the Mountain Rim: the Nyakkae word for a “sword” should be tae. Thus the name the Rimmers at the Sanctuary called Dae—Tae—would have an added pun/respectful meaning.
The names of the stances, like Okko-peh, Karab-peh and such, would include the word tae if they are performed with a weapon: Tae-peh (basic stand), Okko-Tae-peh, Karab-Tae-peh, and so on, plus the endless tally of names for the variety of ways to hold the sword in each position, say, if gon means “grip”, something like Nae-gon, Chu-gon, etc. The instructor’s command would sound something like Okko-Tae-peh-Chu-gon.
I hope I will not have to add a dictionary to the addendum, but it might be fun to write (although I never read those — if one needs a dictionary to read a fantasy novel, there is probably something wrong with it).
Also published on Medium.