What is Iaido?
Iaidō (居合道), abbreviated with iai (居合), is a Japanese martial art that emphasizes being
aware and capable of quickly drawing the sword and responding to a sudden attack. Iaido
is associated with the smooth, controlled movements of drawing the sword from its scabbard
(or saya), striking or cutting an opponent, removing blood from the blade, and then
replacing the sword in the scabbard. While beginning practitioners of iaido may start
learning with a wooden sword (bokken) depending on the teaching style of a particular
instructor, most of the practitioners use the blunt edged sword, called iaitō. Few, more
experienced, iaido practitioners use a sharp edged sword (shinken)
Iaido is most often translated as the way of harmonious living, the art of adapting to
circumstance, or the way of being here and now. The name consists of iru (being), ai
(harmony), and do (path).
As a true Budo, iaido is a battle with the self, a cutting away of all redundancies. Trough the
precise and immutable movements of the kata, the practitioner seeks to mobilise his entire
being, to unite the intention, the action, and the sword, every detail being vital, a matter of
life and death. Through this unification of sense, will, and action, the sword becomes a tool
for spiritual development (seishin tanren). For this reason, more and more budoka turn to the
austere practice of iaido.
Iaido started in the mid-1500s. Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu (1542 – 1621) is generally
acknowledged as the organizer of Iaido. There were a lot of Koryu (customary schools),
however just a little extent remain today. Just about every one of them additionally
concentrate on more seasoned school created amid 16-seventeenth century, in the same
way as Muso-Shinden-ryu, Hoki-ryu, Muso-Jikiden-Eishin-ryu, Shinto-Munen-ryu, Tamiya-ryu,
Yagyu-Shinkage-ryu, Mugai-ryu, Sekiguchi-ryu, et cetera.
After the collapse of the Japanese feudal system in 1868 the founders of the modern
disciplines borrowed from the theory and the practice of classical disciplines as they had
studied or practiced. The founding in 1895 of the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (lit. “Greater Japan
Martial Virtue Society”) in Kyoto, Japan was also an important contribution to the
development of modern Japanese swordsmanship. In 1932 DNBK officially approved and
recognized the Japanese discipline, iaido; this year was the first time the term iaido
appeared in Japan. After this initiative the modern forms of swordsmanship is organised in
several iaido organisations. During the post-war occupation of Japan, the Dai Nippon Butoku
Kai and its affiliates were disbanded by the Allies of World War II in the period 1945–1950.
However, in 1950, the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai was reestablished and the practice of the
Japanese martial disciplines began again.
In 1952, the Kokusai Budoin, International Martial Arts Federation was founded in Tokyo,
Japan. IMAF is a Japanese organization promoting international Budō, and has seven
divisions representing the various Japanese martial arts, including iaido.
In 1952, the All Japan Kendo Federation (ZNKR) was founded, and the All Japan Iaido
Federation (ZNIR) was founded in 1948.
Purpose of Iaido
Iaido encompasses hundreds of styles of swordsmanship, all of which subscribe to
non-combative aims and purposes. Iaido is an intrinsic form of Japanese modern budo.
Iaido is a reflection of the morals of the classical warrior and to build a spiritually harmonious
person possessed of high intellect, sensitivity, and resolute will. Iaido is for the most part
performed solo as an issue of kata, executing changed strategies against single or various
fanciful rivals. Every kata starts and finishes with the sword sheathed. Notwithstanding sword
method, it obliges creative ability and fixation to keep up the inclination of a genuine battle
and to keep the kata new. Iaidoka are regularly prescribed to practice kendo to safeguard
that battling feel; it is normal for high positioning kendoka to hold high rank in iaido and the
other way around.
It is the intention of the instructors of the Iaido class to teach “traditional” Iaido, including
etiquette, which is an important part of this practice. Students should bow upon entering and
leaving the dojo, perform a standing bow to shomen and a sitting bow to the sword. Careful
handling of the sword should be practiced to ensure safety – check your equipment before
class to ensure its soundness. Etiquette includes proper attitude and demeanour, respect for
the sword and for your fellow students.
Initially, any type of loose clothing is acceptable, although an obi (wide belt) and kneepads
are recommended. As soon as possible, the student should acquire a proper Iaido or Kendo
uwagi (top) and hakama (Pant/skirt)
Sword – Iaito
Initially, the student may use a bokken or bokuto (wooden sword). Eventually, the student
should acquire a proper Iaito (non-sharpened Japanese training sword). Ornamental and
western swords are not acceptable. At lower grades, shinken (sharp blades) are not
permitted. A sageo (cord) must be used at all dan levels and ikkyu. At kyu grade levels
below ikkyu it is preferred but not strictly required.
Ranking in iaido depends on the school and/or the member federations to which a
particular school belongs. Iaido as it is practiced by the International Kendo Federation (FIK)
and All Japan Iaido Federation (ZNIR) uses the kyu-dan system, created in 1883.
Modern kendo is almost entirely governed by the FIK, including the ranking system.[ Iaido is
commonly associated with either the FIK or the ZNIR, although there are many extant koryū
which may potentially use the menkyo system of grading, or a different system entirely. Iaido
as governed by the FIK establishes 10th dan as the maximum attainable rank, though there
are no living 10th practitioners in Kendo, there still remains many in Iaido. While there are
some living 9th dan practitioners of kendo, the All Japan Kendo Federation only currently
awards up to 8th dan. Most other member federations of the FIK.