The newest students in the dojo are responsible for set-up and clean-up of the training space. Upon entering the dojo, Iaido practitioners bow towards the shrine (shinzen or kamiza). While in the dojo, iaidoka traverse barefoot and in straight lines. They walk along the periphery of the dojo as a safety precaution.
The instructor is addressed as “sensei” (teacher) while the more senior students are called “senpai” (seniors). Junior members are called “kohai.” When responding to one another, practitioners respond affirmatively in Japanese. When greeting or thanking one another, iaidoka bow to each other as a sign of respect.
Iaido kata are patterns that represent everyday situations a samurai might have faced, such as drinking with someone who suddenly draws his sword. Iaidoka perform these kata while facing an imaginary opponent (teki). From a state of relaxed awareness and with the eyes focused on the horizon (metsuke), the Iaido practitioner reacts to an envisioned threat.
There are five parts to every kata:
- Nukitsuke: drawing the sword and making the initial cut,
- Furikaburi: raising the sword overhead,
- Kiri-oroshi: killing cut,
- Chiburi: shaking the blood from the blade and
- Noto: re-sheathing the sword.
Iaido practitioners can participate in tournaments and grading. The All-Japan Federation adopted a -kyu ranking for lower levels and a -dan ranking system for grading black belt levels in Iaido. Many federations, such as the Canadian Kendo Federation, the British Kendo Federation and the All United States Kendo Federation, follow this system.
History of Iaido
Iaido can trace its roots to a Japanese swordsman named Hayashizaki Jinsuke Minamoto no Shigenobu, who lived from 1546 - 1601. His sword techniques were called Batto-Jutsu, Shin Muso Hayashizaki Ryu, Junpaku Den, Shigenobu Ryu and Iai-jutsu.
Upon Hayashizaki's death, his style was carried on by the first Soke (headmaster), Tamiya Taira-no-Hyoe Narimasa, who instructed Tokugawa Ieyasu. By the eleventh Soke, two distinct sword styles emerged: Shimomura-ha and Tanimura-ha. These later evolved into Muso Shinden Ryu and Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, two popular styles of Iaido today. The term "Iaido" was first used by grand master Nakayama Hakudo in 1932. He was involved with codifying the techniques for both schools.
Once a means for samurai to maintain their swordsmanship skills during times of peace, Iaido is now a non-combative martial art. Although it is a sword-based art, Iaido is a form of meditation in motion, in which the practitioner strives to reach "mushin" (no-mindedness).
Chris Gilham sensei (4th dan), Colin Pitman (2nd dan) and Alex Cook (2nd dan) of Ka Muso Kai.
Aukland Kendo Club: History of Iaido (accessed June 30, 2010).
Fighting Arts: Iaido (accessed June 30, 2010).
Fighting Arts: From the Beginning: The Importance of Reishiki in Iaido (accessed June 30, 2010).
The Iaido Journal: An Introduction to Iaido: Its Purpose and Benefits (accessed June 30, 2010). Copyright Rhona-Mae Arca, 2010. All rights reserved.