What Is Iaido?

Iaido is the martial art of drawing and cutting with a katana - either an unsharpened practice blade or the real thing. In iaido, a practitioner executes set forms, or kata, against an imaginary opponent. Each kata describes how a swordsman should respond to a specific situation, such as when you encounter a surprise attack from an opponent seated in front of you or an attack from multiple opponents as you are walking.

Each kata generally has four components.

  • Nukitsuke: The initial draw and disabling cut. These are considered inseparable movements and are performed in one fluid motion.
  • Kirioroshi: Making a large, finishing cut.
  • Chiburi: Clearing the blood from the blade.
  • Noto: Returning the blade to the scabbard.

The roots of iaido date back to the mid-1500s, when proficiency with a sword meant the difference between life and death for the Samurai. Today, iaido is primarily a method of self-refinement and is sometimes described as Zen meditation in motion.

There are hundreds of styles, or ryuha, of iaido, depending on the particular lineage of teachers. Each ryuha typically comprises dozens of kata that can take a lifetime to master.

At Shidogakuin, we teach the Musoshinden-ryu classical style as well as the standardized seitei iaido curriculum of the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei (All Japan Kendo Federation).

Kendo and iaido can be practiced separately, but are often practiced in parallel. They are like two wheels of a cart that complement one another.

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