Here we are with the second secret:
highlighting our strength points
I’m not sure why, but calling these secrets makes me smile. Honestly I don’t believe any secret exists at all but it’s actually just a matter of will and perseverance while trying to analyze what’s going wrong, what’s missing, what needs to be improved.
The second secret concerns the technical side. We need to understand whether we have something excellent in our technique, something standing out from the others, something that can prove our technique to be great. As Hopson s. and Mansfield s. usually said, two kinds of referees exist: the ones mainly focused on counting errors and the ones who, despite counting errors as well, also notice the good things, those that impress who is looking.
Even in this case, I have to be grateful to someone who is not among us anymore, Chris Buxton sensei: I was very lucky to have the chance to attend several seminars with him and other sensei’s from the UK during the first editions of the Italian Championship and at the very beginning of competitions in Italy, but I immediately had a very special bond with him.
I will always remember when during a seminar right before a competition, while I was getting ready for it, Chris approached me and said “Claudio, that’s all okay, but…there isn’t salt”. It took me a while to realize how to take and apply such observation. Clearly, during an embu or shiai you need to be able to make people watching, and especially referees, feel something, somehow. Since that moment I started reflecting on my technique trying to figure out if I had that something that I could turn into a strength point for me, and finally in 2003/2004 I realized that speed could be it. So, for example, I kept training to obtain a rhythm change between the second and third cut in Sanpogiri until I was able to perform it at a speed higher than the usual one.
So please deep dive in your technique to find something that you do really well and then train harder to make it excellent in order to attract referees’ attention. If you can obtain this, the memory of that beautiful technique, or kata, will stick in their mind and this will help you to obtain the flag of your color.
A fun story
I remember that the EIC in Bologna was the first time that finally I applied this change of rhythm in Sanpogiri. After that, my friend Magotti asked me “Do you and Danielle even plan beforehand to perform this kind of technique?”. Maybe I wasn’t fully conscious of what I was trying to achieve, but I definitely focused on this aspect a lot, and worked on it as much.
The psychological aspect
In this secret we see another important feature to try to obtain the best possible performance: make advantage of your Strength Points. These are both the physical and mental techniques that a competitor is conscious he can leverage in order to obtain an excellent performance. Everyone of us has some of those and, as Claudio said, it’s very important for us to recognize them and make other people notice them during a competition.
It’s obvious that we must not focus our iaido only on this, but isn’t learning to know yourself better, with all your own abilities and limitations, the ultimate goal to pursue in a martial art?
In this specific context we are focusing only on competitions though, where leveraging your strength and being in control of your weaknesses trying to reduce errors can prove to be very useful.