What is Iaido
Iaido is a non-combative physical and mental discipline based on a prescribed use of the traditional Japanese sword. The Japanese word Iaido is generally translated as “the way of mental and immediate reaction”. Because of its emphasis on precise, controlled, fluid motion which requires a meditative mindset, Iaido is sometimes referred to as “moving zen”.
Iaido is practiced individually and in the form of katas (sequence of codified moves). The katas practiced include the elements of quickly drawing the sword from its scabbard and cutting (nukitsuke), removing the blood (chiburi) and returning the sword to its scabbard (noto). Many of the forms start from , and return to, a Japanese-style sitting position (seiza or tatehiza). Students of Iaido train with a dull-bladed Japanese training sword known as an Iaito. Advanced practitioners often train with a live or sharp-bladed sword known as a shinken. The main style of Iaido taught at Skylands Aikikai is Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido which was formulated in the early 1900’s by Nakayama Hakudo Sensei (1869-1958) and taught worldwide by one of his foremost students, Mitsuzuka Takeshi Sensei (1926-2008). Mitsuzuka Sensei founded the San Shin Kai (literally, “the sun, the moon and the stars”).
What to expect in an Iaido Class
One of the first things a student will learn is the proper way to get dressed for class in order to “wear the sword”. This includes learning how to tie an obi and hakama so that the scabbard stays secure. In addition, the sword (iaito) needs to be properly cleaned and oiled before starting practice. Students also learn correct etiquette in the handling of the sword before, during and after class. Students practice repetitive, individual, cutting exercises with the sword called “suburi”. Learning the Iaido forms presents many challenges, including drawing the sword and returning it to its scabbard, the proper grip, proper posture and how to strike and cut with the sword. A student needs to develop a serious, but relaxed attitude in order to train in Iaido as it requires patience and time.
Why Practice Iaido
People are attracted to the practice of Iaido for a variety of reasons. Some people have a fascination with the Japanese sword and culture and want to experience the art of swordsmanship. It is often said that one is to treat a sword as precious as one’s soul and that a sword is a tool to “polish or forge oneself “. As with Aikido, Iaido has its physical and mental benefits including improving one’s balance, coordination and mental focus. For some Aikido students, Iaido is an integral part of their training, although you do not need to do Aikido in order to do Iaido, or vice versa.