Friday, September 04, 2015

In Pursuit of The Perfect Noto

Of all the moves in Iai, none is more undernoticed than the noto.

Noto, or the sheathing of the katana into the saya (sheath), is an action that occurs at the end of almost every kata.  For every nukitsuke (draw), there is a noto.  Some are dramatic, some are subdued, some seem common in comparison.  But ultimately there is always a noto.

In martial arts, every aspect of every thing is important - in that sense it is the ultimate pursuit of a perfection which will never be fully attained.  The noto is as valued and trained on as any other aspect of iai.  There is a correct way and a way which is less correct.  The body, the angle of the saya, the crossing like a "t" that is made across the body as the saya and katana are moved together - all of this matters.  To perform a poor noto is as undesirable as a bad cut.  Everything matters.

In the six years I have been practitioner of Iaijutsu, I have probably performed thousands of notos in class or in practice.  Arguably only in the last month have my notos become consistent enough that I can perhaps believe that I have  begun to understand how to actual perform them. Perhaps.

This is stunning if I sit to think about it.  6 years to learn to perform a single action.  And a single action which is in some ways the least difficult of all the actions that I do.  In a world that values convenience and instant gratification this seems beyond a throwback, especially in that this is something which the world will never see and (most likely) never understand the value of.

But there is value in the pursuit.  Every time I practice a noto, every time I seek to move my shoulders less or keep my back straighter or my blade straighter, I force myself a little deeper into the discipline of the pursuit of excellence.  I make a little deeper commitment into doing things correctly not for the public recognition of the fact but rather for the sake of the art itself.

And thus I find that in pursuing the perfect noto I am in fact pursuing the very nature of excellence itself, a thing which I may never fully attain - but is fully worth chasing after.

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