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Finding the Flow - Part 2

Updated: Feb 29, 2020

Hello Everyone,

Here's the second part to the three-part series on "Flow".

We talked about what Flow is and what are the prerequisites to achieving flow. Today, we discuss its relevance in Iaido practice (kihon/ keiko).

Kihon (Basic practice) is the core of any Kata and Waza. It encompasses the techniques (how to do), kamae (body posture), maai (distance and orientation of self to opponent), metsuke (your way of observing opponent) and Jo-Ha-Kyu (the set of Rythmn, specific to Kata and Waza).

Overlooking any of these undermines effectiveness of Kihon practice. Neglect Kihon practice, and one's development in Iaido Kata and Waza will not progress as smooth as intended. Kihon is fundamental.

But one would argue that doing Kihon all day long would be boring.. eventually. Well, that's reasonably expected. How do we find pleasure in doing Kihon? Or more specifically, how can we achieve flow in doing Kihon as an 'optimal experience' approach to improvement in Iaido? Sounds like a way to improve nested within another way to improve (Do Kihon to improve, enjoy Kihon (in flow state) while doing so) - and that's really the point.

Recall that when we enter a state of flow, we are focused on the task at hand without distractions.

Before doing Kihon, first consider what one wants to focus on and achieve. For example, "I want to improve in doing Nukitsuke."

Overlapping the 7 requirements for Flow and Nukitsuke practice, we have:

1. Knowing what to do - Knowing the basics of Nukitsuke.

2. Knowing how to do it - Do slow and pay attention to the details while doing nukitsuke.

3. Knowing how well one is doing - It helps to use the mirror to check, or pausing intermittently to check (e.g. is Tenouchi correct?) or even better, get feedback from Sensei.

4. Knowing where to navigate/ direct oneself towards - With awareness on one's real-time performance, one can do corrections mid-actions as required.

5. Perceiving significant challenges - This requires critical, deliberate self-examination on identifying the causes holding one back. (It can be anything, even as minor as one has changed to a new wider obi, hence shifting the iaito upwards and affecting the nukitsuke subsequently).

6. Perceiving significant skills - This is observing the lessons from the Sensei and applying it in practice.

7. Being free from distractions - Applying of Zashin (observe distractions, accept them as-is and let them pass).

Slow and deliberate Kihon, with attention to details is the key to improvement. Understand that development of Kihon, and mastery of self takes time. It is not a matter that can be haphazardly rushed. What is the best part? The kihon/ skill developed by oneself is priceless (an intangible asset), forged and tempered by one's own determination and will, guided along by support from the dojo community.

Stay tune for the last part. Until then, cheers.


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