From left: Boyd Coombs

Practising the martial art of Iaido

Trail Parks and Recreation offers a more unique and intriguing activity with Japanese swordsmanship, Iaido.

Trail Parks and Recreation offer a number of great programs to the community, but one of the more unique and intriguing activities is Japanese swordsmanship, or the art of Iaido (pronounced e-i-do).

Brian Mauchline of Rossland is a third-degree black belt in the 400-year-old martial art of Iaido, and as he leads his students through the forms or katas in the fitness centre at the Trail Memorial Centre, his movements are smooth and precise, executed with intense focus, yet, with an ease and fluidity that belies its martial origins and deadly intent.

Mauchline practices the Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu style, a popular form of Iaido that uses a wooden or steel sword in a variety of movements that focuses on drawing and cutting with a sword and returning it to its sheath in one fluid motion. But it is as much a mental discipline as a physical one, invested with Zen qualities, the ethics of Confucianism, philosophy of Taoism, and aspects of bushido.

“It’s like Chinese Taoism, the same kind of concept. What it (Iaido) means is ‘the way of being prepared for whatever happens to you in life,’” said Mauchline.

Iaido evolved following the Warring-States period (400-300 B.C.) that introduced 200 years of relative peace for the dominant Samurai class.

“They had to keep their martial skills up, because that was their function in society, but there weren’t any major wars going on, so what happened was the forms of martial arts developed into the Budo . . . where the idea became less the idea of self-protection and more the idea of self-perfection,” added Mauchline.

It’s modern form developed with the collapse of the Japanese feudal system in 1868 and the abolishment of the Samurai, and has since undergone many transformations, and variations.

“Obviously, with Iaido you’re not going to run into somebody carrying a sword, and you’re not going to be carrying a sword, so the self-defence aspect of it is totally gone now, it’s much more focused on personal development.”

The retired Teck worker began studying the art of Iaido almost a dozen years ago under fifth-degree black belt David Williams, a fellow Teck employee who moved to the area from Vancouver.

Mauchline also has a black belt in Aikido and his interest was sufficiently piqued when he learned of Williams’ arrival and his desire to start a club.

“It took me a while. It wasn’t until a friend of mine was practising with him and he said, ‘You know this guy is too good to be missed,’ and I said, ‘You’re right he is.’”

Since then Mauchline has practised Iaido diligently, offering his expertise to newcomers for the past several years.

The practice also has its competitive element, with the focus on perfecting the many and varied katas derived from the different styles. Although Mauchline and his students do not compete, their reason for practicing Iaido is a personal one.

“Why do people play golf? You’re competing against yourself, you’re never going to have a perfect game, but you can always improve. And it’s very similar with Iaido, we are trying for perfection doing a series of physical movements, and, really, we’re never going to get there –  but there’s always room for improvement.”

Iaido classes are currently underway at the Trail Memorial Centre with a new session starting in January, on Monday’s from 3-4:30 p.m.

Call the Trail Parks and Rec at 364-0008 or visit www.trail.ca for more information.

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