I had the unusual experience of being a lowly fifth level black belt in a group of experts today.
In addition to my sensei (an 8th dan) and the assistant teacher (a 6th dan) we were joined by an extra 8th dan and three extra sixth dans. They were all visiting our dojo/gym to practice for tournament that’s taking place in two weeks. Since it’s for sixth dans and higher I’m not invited which means I was at practice today to, well, pretty much take up space.
I mostly practiced basic moves and katas and then played practice dummy for one of the sixth dans. Basically I got to hold a sword vertically in front of him as if I were a killer taking time to explain that my victim should be honored to be split in two with an original Hattori Hanzo sword that is so sharp God will be cut. While I’m talking the defender does a couple simple moves with his arms that block me from cutting him. He pushes me back and then pretty much avoids my next three swings with different techniques. The entire sequence ends with me at his mercy.
I got to try the sequence a few times and did okay, although was making some small mistakes. The temptation is to push with your arms but the trick is to push from your stomach and legs. We are instructed to make life as difficult as possible for the defender. When he forgot to use his right hand to control my arms, I stepped left and showed him I could elbow his face and then remove his head or a good portion of his internal organs. When I tried using my arms to push, he stood fast and didn’t go anywhere.
Later, I got to watch the high level experts practice. They were doing one defender versus two swordsmen routines. The only rules are you have to do at least five moves and can’t repeat a defensive technique; you have to be aware of both attackers at the same time because they can slash you if they have a chance; and the attackers can’t help you by pretending you pulled them down. If one of the sensei’s thinks you’re just faking, they will replace you and see if the defender can still do the techniques.
it was interesting to watch. The problem is they make it look easy.