Brian Kagen pick:”Minimum Criteria” by Jeff Broderick from ejmas.com

“Watching the Nihon Kobudo Embu Taikai the other weekend, and seeing a couple rather lackluster demonstrations (only a couple, mind you, out of 40) got me thinking about efficacy in martial arts – again! It’s a strange cycle to fall into. On one hand, after thinking about things for a long time, I finally conclude that “combat effectiveness” doesn’t matter one iota to what we’re doing. And then, I see a demonstration of something that strikes me as obviously bad, and I start to criticize it as ineffective.

I was running these ideas past my friend Keith, and he asked me a very simple question that cut right to the heart of what I was struggling with. “So, what are your minimum criteria for iaido? Even if you know nothing about the particulars of the style, what do you need to see to think something at least has the possibility of being good?”

I thought about it, and I think it’s pretty simple. Here’s what needs to be present for iaido to be good, in my opinion.”

Please click here to read entire article.


  1. bruce baker says:

    Funny question, what is the minimum criteria for iaido?

    Don’t cut yourself or anything you weren’t intending to cut, and pay attention!

    Just kidding, but then maybe not. I was never focused enough to do the exercise, but I have some thoughts on it none-the less, so forgive me if I say something you don’t like.

    The hardest thing to do, for me anyway, is the ability to see everything, not narrow my focus or vision so I block out everything else in the room. There has to be a kind of … picture in a picture vision … where one picture is focused on where the cut will be and yet the other picture still maintains awareness of everything around one. I guess it is like everything else, once the confidence of the cut is attained, after doing it thousands of times, you already know the cut is done before it begins and are ready to take on whatever else is around you.

    Another thing I agree with … is none of this demonstration, fancy showboat stuff. Maybe we need to invent suits that mimic pain enough so that students feel something when they are cut in practice, but are not injured? I think we have that technology, but I wonder if it is small enough and practical enough to be incorporated into a jumpsuit/ coveralls yet? There is nothing like pain to teach one the seriousness of what one is learning. Maybe some real serious pain will lesson this showboat stuff, I don’t know.

    The sword is to take life, or to give life … it is not a circus trick or a toy.

    I don’t know what everyone thinks when they practice, but I think … I am learning to seriously hurt someone, or protect myself from someone seriously hurting me. It doesn’t matter if it is empty hand, or with sticks, or with a sword, it is all the same mindset, or at least … an attempt to reach that place where it all becomes the same … a place where the best is sought, where good will triumph and win, or I will survive to try and do good another day.

    If you don’t feel a twinge of regret when you hurt someone, be it accidentally or on purpose, you need to rethink who and what you are doing. Yeah, most times it has to be stuffed to the back of your mind, but it should always be there as your conscious should be your guide.

    We have this old rule we learned as kids, if you kill it … you eat it, or you bury it, but you take responsibility for your actions … there is no escaping responsibility.

    Same thing for the short answer for any weapon, and sure enough … a sword was meant to be a weapon, even though it is a long knife by definition, when you draw that sword … you damn well better know what you want to do with it, and you damn well better do the right thing with it .. or the consequences of your actions, even for practice, will be dire.

    And that … is a small part of the long answer for “what is the minimum” because everything is tied together despite what some people think is separate.

    Put down your sword, and show me what you do empty-handed … it should be able to be translated into …. Aikido. Isn’t that amazing? I am sorry that more people who practice Aikido can’t do that for iaido … such is life.

  2. I find that weapons add torque to the mind. Have been training with aikido sword and gun taking this week. It’s amazing how even a realistic toy gun can lay the foundation for serious technical errors.

    I only really trained in iaido for one class. The mental strain of working with a sharp sword for an afternoon was intense. Yes, I was working on the simple stuff mentioned above. It still wasn’t easy.

    Maybe in any martial art the idea of minimal criteria can be taken literally. Maybe ideal techniques are the minimum necessary to do what needs to be done. No energy-losing hard angles. No extra flourishes. No unnecessary or ineffective use of muscle. No setup or windup. Maybe getting rid of mental tension is important to all of that. Maybe using weapons to “up the ante” helps.

    One of my students, at the end of Thursday class, drew a sharp sword on me. I took it. I was surprised, but not alarmed, to find it was sharp. Counseled both students not to bring sharp swords to aikido practice again. Somebody could easily get hurt. Honestly, my concern was more for him than me. Am still a little uncertain “what technique” I used, but ended up with a reverse grip on the hilt with my right and my left under the ridge of the blade, point toward uchi.

Speak Your Mind