For years we Budokan students have been taught to improve our kata through the use of hara.
'In the Japanese medical tradition and in Japanese martial arts traditions, the word Hara is used as a technical term for a specific area (physical/anatomical) or energy field (physiological/energetic) of the body. In the medical tradition in Japan, hara refers to the soft belly, i.e. the area defined vertically by the lower edge of the sternum and the upper edge of the pubis and laterally by the lower border of the ribcage and the anterior iliac crest respectively. It corresponds with that area of the peritoneum, which is not obscured by the ribcage, and thus more or less coincides with the viscera covered by the greater omentum.' (source Wikipedia) I have also seen it refered to as an 'ocean of energy'.
For several months I have believed I was using my hara albeit sporadically in my limited 2nd and then 3rd Dan capability.
I was wrong!
I was doing it aaaallllllll wrong! and making life so much harder than it needed to be.
I understood the theoretical concept of how hara should work ... and I understood theoretically which muscles I should be using (but wasn't!) ... until I came across it by accident, sigh!
I am aware that I still have a lot of learning to do just on the use of hara let alone everything else Iaido has to teach me, but I love those moments when something I've spent months trying to do suddenly becomes easy and 'natural' as our Japanese sensei say.
I now have a renewed respect for all our teachers, those who teach us week in week out as well as those who travel hundreds of miles to share their knowledge. Teaching the technicalities of Iaido, which foot to put where, which angle to hold the sword, is comparatively easy. This alone can be information overload and can take many years to even attempt to do correctly but then add in the impossible task of teaching the unexplainable. Trying to explain how to use muscles you have never consciously used before in a movement not replicated anwhere else in life with no basis of comparison. Trying to explain concepts of the movement of energy or intent that you can't see or touch or adjust in the same way that you can adjust an elbow or the line of the hips.
The level of frustration and patience our teachers must have to deal with while trying to convey everything they want to share with us must be immense! Equally the level of happiness when they see a student have a light bulb moment must make up for all the hours of repetition! At least I hope they do, lol.
Here's to many more years of learning and light bulb moments on our collective Iaido journey!