Iai as Figure Skating

Gyakuto

Purple Belt
Joined
Nov 21, 2020
Messages
335
Reaction score
256
Location
UK
One of my Iai friends belongs to a dojo with a truly excellent, high-graded, internationally-reknowned teacher. She says this teacher often compares Iai to figure skating! By this he appears to suggest that Iai is about the artistry of the movements, practising to infused sheer beauty into the techniques宇hat its an aesthetic art similar to figure skating. The kata must be correct and hit all the points in their performance, but by virtue of holding a razor sharp sword in ones hands whilst performing them, the Iai is naturally deadly and have rial.

Since the utility of the sword is all but redundant in the modern world, I have an infinity for this analogy, but I know many people dont like it (indeed many analogies dont bear close scrutiny!). I feel they are misinterpreting the concept and seeing it as a slight on the art, rather like some find calling Karate a combat sport or a mingei is being disparaging, which it isnt.

What do you think about it?
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
14,495
Reaction score
4,033
Location
San Francisco
It is difficult for me to comment as I have no experience with Japanese sword.

I do have experience with the Chinese arts and we of course have Modern Wushu (which I have never trained) that is deliberately aimed at performance and competition and beauty in movement at the expense of practical combat usefulness. Perhaps there is a parallel in that.

As a separate method, I think methods like Modern Wushu hold value in their own right. This would include modern XMA which is also meant to be a performance art. What i personally find disturbing is when people take the traditional methods that are still meant to hold combat value, and turn them into performance art. This undermines what I feel is meant to be their purpose. Forms were not meant to be performance art although in the modern age they are often used to that purpose. But really, they were originally meant to be a tool for training and developing ones skill. They were not meant to be done for an audience. The only people who were meant to see you do them are your teacher who taught them to you, your classmates with whom you train, and your students to whom you will teach them. Otherwise, they are simply meant to be done as practice and in the pursuit of honing your skills not in performing the form, but in the ability to engage in combat.

Forms are often not beautiful. I think Wing Chun is a good example. The forms are odd and not pretty to look at. But they serve their purpose well in helping the adept develop combative skills.
 
OP
Gyakuto

Gyakuto

Purple Belt
Joined
Nov 21, 2020
Messages
335
Reaction score
256
Location
UK
I suppose the argument is whether there can be beauty in utility alone or does there need to be something on top of that? I see Japanese 8th Dan perform a simple, straight downward cut圯ffortlessly, with a huge arc and a raw of sound rather than a wispy whistle and it looks amazing to me. Thats mere utility. But then I see an intricate kata with delicate shifting on the body whilst on the ground and a simple straight cut and marvel again. Thats utility and beauty superimposed upon one another.

But what is the training attitude in an aesthetic ar? Is it this that causes some people to protest?
 

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
19,968
Reaction score
6,607
Location
Pueblo West, CO
People have been comparing forms to dance for as long as I can remember. Like most, it's an imperfect analogy, but there is certainly some truth to the idea.
 
OP
Gyakuto

Gyakuto

Purple Belt
Joined
Nov 21, 2020
Messages
335
Reaction score
256
Location
UK
What is imperfect in the analogy. Identification of the discrepancy will be the answer to this quandary!
 

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
19,968
Reaction score
6,607
Location
Pueblo West, CO
What is imperfect in the analogy. Identification of the discrepancy will be the answer to this quandary!
Dance can be used to communicate emotions. Kata, not so much. Kata is more about training the muscles/muscle memory to perform certain techniques in a specific way.
Obviously there is significant overlap; some kata is very dance-like and some dance is very kata-like. But they're clearly not synonymous.
 

Flying Crane

Sr. Grandmaster
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
Messages
14,495
Reaction score
4,033
Location
San Francisco
I suppose the argument is whether there can be beauty in utility alone or does there need to be something on top of that? I see Japanese 8th Dan perform a simple, straight downward cut圯ffortlessly, with a huge arc and a raw of sound rather than a wispy whistle and it looks amazing to me. Thats mere utility. But then I see an intricate kata with delicate shifting on the body whilst on the ground and a simple straight cut and marvel again. Thats utility and beauty superimposed upon one another.

But what is the training attitude in an aesthetic ar? Is it this that causes some people to protest?
You can find beauty in the movement. But that wasnt the original point of the movement. If you find beauty in the movement that is an extra, in my opinion.

I often see people comment that they are working to perfect a certain kata/form. What does it mean to perfect a kata? What is perfection? Is it for an audience? For me, I dont consider perfection in a kata. Perfect is meaningless because it is never perfect; perfection in the kata isnt the point. The point is to develop and sharpen and maintain skill, and practice of the kata is a tool for that end. So what matters is that you keep practicing it, not that it is somehow perfected.
 

isshinryuronin

Master Black Belt
Joined
Feb 28, 2019
Messages
1,217
Reaction score
1,190
Location
Las Vegas
Of course, the purpose of kata was to practice and pass on combat techniques, period! Karate kata moves are still useful in real life (except when mutated into performance - form over function.) True, iai is perhaps not so relevant (except when you have a firm stick in your hand) as sharp, long bladed weapons are not allowed on the street. But at a good iai dojo, it is still taught as if it was. If iai or karate is taught and executed with beauty as a goal, it is no longer a "martial" art. Combat utility is a must in a martial art.

Utility may, or may not, be beautiful. Figure skating has no utility, but I think all would agree it is "elegant." But the jumps and spins in themselves are not elegant - it is the way they are executed that is - smoothness and effortlessness - these are some qualities that lend elegance to the techniques. Iai and other MA can certainly be elegantly artistic, but without the core combat utility and martial intent, this elegance is meaningless.
 
OP
Gyakuto

Gyakuto

Purple Belt
Joined
Nov 21, 2020
Messages
335
Reaction score
256
Location
UK
Dance can be used to communicate emotions. Kata, not so much. Kata is more about training the muscles/muscle memory to perform certain techniques in a specific way.
Obviously there is significant overlap; some kata is very dance-like and some dance is very kata-like. But they're clearly not synonymous.
I hear this dance-as-emotion idea quite regularly, but other that very broad emotions - happy/sad - I think its a weak argument! I have never seen a dance express complex emotions.

Can you post any examples of dance-like kata videos and kata-like dance? Again, Ive heard this before, but never actually seen it. Im genuinely interested.
 
OP
Gyakuto

Gyakuto

Purple Belt
Joined
Nov 21, 2020
Messages
335
Reaction score
256
Location
UK
Of course, the purpose of kata was to practice and pass on combat techniques, period! Karate kata moves are still useful in real life (except when mutated into performance - form over function.) True, iai is perhaps not so relevant (except when you have a firm stick in your hand) as sharp, long bladed weapons are not allowed on the street. But at a good iai dojo, it is still taught as if it was. If iai or karate is taught and executed with beauty as a goal, it is no longer a "martial" art. Combat utility is a must in a martial art.

Utility may, or may not, be beautiful. Figure skating has no utility, but I think all would agree it is "elegant." But the jumps and spins in themselves are not elegant - it is the way they are executed that is - smoothness and effortlessness - these are some qualities that lend elegance to the techniques. Iai and other MA can certainly be elegantly artistic, but without the core combat utility and martial intent, this elegance is meaningless.
But the point this 7th Dan makes is that anyone can wave a sword and kill with it since it is a metre-long razor blade - its not difficult. But Iai in the 21st Century, where the sword will never be wielded in anger, perhaps the beauty of movements should be emphasised地lmost as a repository of movements地 museum of martial shapes.
 

Hyoho

Black Belt
Joined
Oct 6, 2013
Messages
653
Reaction score
286
One of my Iai friends belongs to a dojo with a truly excellent, high-graded, internationally-reknowned teacher. She says this teacher often compares Iai to figure skating! By this he appears to suggest that Iai is about the artistry of the movements, practising to infused sheer beauty into the techniques宇hat its an aesthetic art similar to figure skating. The kata must be correct and hit all the points in their performance, but by virtue of holding a razor sharp sword in ones hands whilst performing them, the Iai is naturally deadly and have rial.

Since the utility of the sword is all but redundant in the modern world, I have an infinity for this analogy, but I know many people dont like it (indeed many analogies dont bear close scrutiny!). I feel they are misinterpreting the concept and seeing it as a slight on the art, rather like some find calling Karate a combat sport or a mingei is being disparaging, which it isnt.

What do you think about it?
To be precise there are two types of Iaido. That taken and continued in a Ryu A series of tried and tested waza that can be split into kata (shape/form) to examine waza in detail. That done by an association that is purely made up kata.

But in both it's not a case of redundancy but to try and stick to the real meaning and philosophy of what we do. Not to draw a sword and murder people but to study weaponry so that if our family or country are in danger or attacked we can get our our weapons and use them. This is why things have survived and were reinstituted after WWll.
 

Hyoho

Black Belt
Joined
Oct 6, 2013
Messages
653
Reaction score
286
I hear this dance-as-emotion idea quite regularly, but other that very broad emotions - happy/sad - I think its a weak argument! I have never seen a dance express complex emotions.

Can you post any examples of dance-like kata videos and kata-like dance? Again, Ive heard this before, but never actually seen it. Im genuinely interested.
One of my close friends now passed on was a Kenbu no Sensei. She had joined and practiced Kenjutsu with the headmasters group to improve her skills. After seeing her perform I was elated. She actually had skills that far surpassed some Iai people I have come across over the years. She was actually tasked with teaching the person who is now headmaster of the Ryu.
 

Hyoho

Black Belt
Joined
Oct 6, 2013
Messages
653
Reaction score
286
I hear this dance-as-emotion idea quite regularly, but other that very broad emotions - happy/sad - I think its a weak argument! I have never seen a dance express complex emotions.

Can you post any examples of dance-like kata videos and kata-like dance? Again, Ive heard this before, but never actually seen it. Im genuinely interested.
One of my close friends now passed on was a Kenbu no Sensei. She had joined and practiced Kenjutsu with the headmasters group to improve her skills. After seeing her perform I was elated. She actually had skills that far surpassed some Iai people I have come across over the years. She was actually tasked with teaching the person who is now headmaster of the Ryu.
 

Steve

Mostly Harmless
Joined
Jul 9, 2008
Messages
20,225
Reaction score
5,724
Location
Covington, WA
I hear this dance-as-emotion idea quite regularly, but other that very broad emotions - happy/sad - I think its a weak argument! I have never seen a dance express complex emotions.

Can you post any examples of dance-like kata videos and kata-like dance? Again, Ive heard this before, but never actually seen it. Im genuinely interested.

I'd say there are more similarities than differences between dance and kata. But, I guess it depends on what you consider salient characteristics of kata and of dance.

So, when you think of kata and dance, what do you have in mind?
 

lklawson

Senior Master
Joined
Feb 3, 2005
Messages
4,861
Reaction score
1,523
Location
Huber Heights, OH
But the point this 7th Dan makes is that anyone can wave a sword and kill with it since it is a metre-long razor blade - its not difficult.
Unless there's someone else waving a "metre-long razor blade" back at you. Then it becomes quite
difficult.

But Iai in the 21st Century, where the sword will never be wielded in anger,
It actually still happens quite regularly. Yootoob is full of them. Machette, fantasy sword, wall-hangers, even what you would consider "real" swords. Videos from Great Britain, Dominican, South American nations, Barcelona .etc.

perhaps the beauty of movements should be emphasised地lmost as a repository of movements地 museum of martial shapes.
Practice your martial art however you want. If you want to emphasize "art" at the expense of utility or anything else, that's fine for you. But "sword fights" actually do still sometimes happen.

This subject comes up with enough regularity here that the last thread embedding a dozen videos of "sword-like object fights" should be easily found but here are two to start with.

Note the metre-long blade at the end of this video.


Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
19,968
Reaction score
6,607
Location
Pueblo West, CO
I hear this dance-as-emotion idea quite regularly, but other that very broad emotions - happy/sad - I think its a weak argument! I have never seen a dance express complex emotions.
You forgot to finish your sentence with "in a way I understand." I have friends who are into dance. They see all kinds of complex emotions in dance. I do not, but that doesn't invalidate their view.
Can you post any examples of dance-like kata videos and kata-like dance? Again, Ive heard this before, but never actually seen it. Im genuinely interested.
I probably could, but I'm not going to bother. I see a whole lot more in forms than my non-MA friends. And they see a lot more in dance than I do. Or you, apparently.
 

lklawson

Senior Master
Joined
Feb 3, 2005
Messages
4,861
Reaction score
1,523
Location
Huber Heights, OH
Can you post any examples of dance-like kata videos and kata-like dance?
Easily. It is super common to merge dance and martial technique.

Again, Ive heard this before, but never actually seen it. Im genuinely interested.
That you've never heard of Capoeira, Tahthib, Jogo do Pau, shashka, or any of the other many, many examples is mind boggling.








Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 
OP
Gyakuto

Gyakuto

Purple Belt
Joined
Nov 21, 2020
Messages
335
Reaction score
256
Location
UK
To be precise there are two types of Iaido. That taken and continued in a Ryu A series of tried and tested waza that can be split into kata (shape/form) to examine waza in detail. That done by an association that is purely made up kata.

But in both it's not a case of redundancy but to try and stick to the real meaning and philosophy of what we do. Not to draw a sword and murder people but to study weaponry so that if our family or country are in danger or attacked we can get our our weapons and use them. This is why things have survived and were reinstituted after WWll.
All kata are originally made up arent they? And since -

Classical martial arts kata are not practice fighting. They are not what fighting is or was. Martial arts kata do not simulate combat conditions. They do not recreate actual combat scenarios. (Budo Bum blog)

匈m not sure what you mean by tried and tested.
 
OP
Gyakuto

Gyakuto

Purple Belt
Joined
Nov 21, 2020
Messages
335
Reaction score
256
Location
UK
You forgot to finish your sentence with "in a way I understand." I have friends who are into dance. They see all kinds of complex emotions in dance. I do not, but that doesn't invalidate their view.
I bet theres little consistency of interpretation across different dancing experts, though存urely its very subjective.

But I know little of dancing and never feel the need to dance so I wont comment further.
 

lklawson

Senior Master
Joined
Feb 3, 2005
Messages
4,861
Reaction score
1,523
Location
Huber Heights, OH
All kata are originally made up arent they? And since -

Classical martial arts kata are not practice fighting. They are not what fighting is or was. Martial arts kata do not simulate combat conditions. They do not recreate actual combat scenarios. (Budo Bum blog)
According to them.

Ask 4 different martial artists what the purpose of kata is and you'll get 7 different answers.
 

Latest Discussions

Top