I have been working my forms in the morning.
One of the things that I realized from the change in my schedule is that my Iaido time was become compressed: I was either too tired to do it, or I always found other things I had to do. My solution became to split my time: some in the morning, some in the evening. And so now, somewhere between 0640 and 0715, you'll find me in the backyard practicing Iaido,
Practicing Iaido outside, in the morning, is an entirely different exercise than practicing in the dojo or even inside. The temperature is the first thing that grabs my attention as I head out - outside is not quite as climate controlled as the circumstances I usually practice in. The next thing I notice is the sounds: at class, the only sounds are the sensei's instructions, the quiet shuffling of feet, the "clack" of bokken as they meet in practice. Outside is a different story: the birds sing in the trees (the chirping of small songbirds, the more mournful cry of doves), perhaps a late lingering bat flutters by seeking one last meal, the local dog population raises the alarm, a squirrel chatters away in a tree nearby.
As I move through the forms, I am confronted by reality: the ground is not level and so I sometimes lurch to one side or the other and I cannot execute turns as smoothly as I would like; a low branch can catch an kesa giri cut as I try to bring it down; an upturned stone can turn an advance into a stumble.
But in all of this difference, I find the reminder that once again, Iaido mirrors life.
Too often we practice and live in a controlled bubble, a series of events and encounters that we attempt to manipulate such that we are always at an advantage. The reality is that we life in a world over which we can control very little. We cannot control the weather, other people, the actions of things and peoples thousands of miles away.
But what we can do is control ourselves. Iaido mirrors this in the kata: by constantly practicing, we internalize our actions and reactions, thus preparing ourselves for the event that we will have to use them in the series of events we call life. To the extent that our practice mirrors more and more of the real world, so we will be more able to control our actions as we confronted by the events we cannot control.
And so I practice, moving in the morning dawn to the sound of birds, practicing and gaining confidence in that which I can control: myself.