As with learning any kata, correct form or posture is the primary goal. Slow, deliberate practice helps reinforce the correct body posture and application of techniques. The emphasis on body posture is rooted in the fundamentals of body mechanics. Compromise of body mechanics reduces effectiveness of the kata and could potential cause injury.
A key component of slow deliberate practice is Jo-Ha-Kyu. In simple terms, Jo-Ha-Kyu can be thought of as slow initiation-gradual acceleration to full commitment-full commitment. Using Nukitsuke as an example, the walk through would be slowly pushing tsuba out from koiguchi – gradual acceleration in drawing blade and unsheathing of the saya – sayabiki, cut.
It can be easy to rush through a waza without Jo-Ha-Kyu, and any Iaidoka can easily fall into such pitfall. Hence, it is important to incorporate Jo-Ha-Kyu consistently as part of waza practice.
Value of Jo-Ha-Kyu
In training terms, it reinforces muscle memory via slow, deliberate practice. In terms of practicality, it serve to help achieve 2 points. Firstly, bringing out the effectiveness of a waza naturally with a relaxed body. A horizontal cut would be less efficient if done while rushing the nukitsuke and body tensed. Secondly, the study of “Go” and “Sen”. Some wazas are by nature pre-emptive, some as a counter. Jo-Ha-Kyu gives the window of opportunity to practice these concepts and explore flexibility in waza options.
Value beyond the Dojo
Taking a step back, Jo-Ha-Kyu teaches that somethings require constant and consistent work to refine and achieve greater mastery over. In the case of Jo-Ha-Kyu, focus on the journey in reaching the desired outcome. Sometimes, there is greater learning value from the obstacles we face along the way than we do from facing the end mark.