What is Iaido ?
Iaido (居合道) is a Japanese martial art associated with the smooth, controlled movements of drawing the sword from its scabbard, cutting an opponent in one single action and then replacing the sword in the scabbard. It’s bases were founded about four hundred years ago by Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu …
Iaido was initiated as a martial art to win at the very moment the sword leaves the saya. Having a good posture to respond promptly against enemy’s attack. Generally kata are practiced alone with a real katana, Iaito (unsharpened sword) but also practiced with Bokken (Wooden sword) and a real partner.
The term “Iai” is taken from the Japanese phrase: “Tsune ni itte, kyu ni awasu”. The kanji (character) “I” can also be read as “itte” and “ai” as “awasu”. The meaning of this is “whatever we may be doing or wherever we may be, we must always be prepared for any eventuality”.
Its training or practice is complex; the final purpose being to ultimately master the secret of winning over your enemy without drawing the sword or in other words to spiritually conquer the opponent with the sword left in the saya; meaning that, you may settle problems without resorting to arms. This objective is presented by the Japanese sentence “Saya no uchi de katsu” “Victory in the scabbard of the sword”. The real intention being “One must obtain victory while the sword is un-drawn”.
Iai can also breaks down into two “I” and “ai”. “I” (pronounced “ee”) refers to all the influences affecting someone, to the immediate features and facts of any given situation, both internal and external, to existence itself, and ai is a meeting or coming together. So iai is really a very esoteric phrase, and implies the unifying of mind, body, spirit, technique, awareness, etc. In a sword drawing context this bringing together of technique, awareness, external factors such as the enemy and environment, the swordsman’s mind and spirit is applied to each waza. It may be easily seen how such practice can have a positive spiritual benefit for practitioners, and indeed Hayashizaki himself is reputed to have considered his swordsmanship as a vehicle to more than just physical prowess.
Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei (All Japan Kendo Federation, Zen Ken Ren or Z.N.K.R. as its abbreviation, lately developed ( 1969 – 1981 – 2000 ) and is still developing a new program for practice called Zen Ken Ren Iaido (Z.N.K.R.’s enacted Iai instructions), it reflects various traditional schools (Koryu) of Iaido in their basic forms, techniques, manners, etc … These katas must be seen as educational katas.
Zen Ken Ren Iai / Seitei Iai is mostly applied to Iaido Dan examinations and Iaido Competitions that are operated by the Z.N.K.R.
Owning a sword, wearing it is not everything. You have to know when it is appropriate to use it and when you can resolve the conflict without drawing it off your saya. Use your sword only for righteous purposes.
Through the use of the katana we seek to improve our spirit and become better people, to promote peace and good feeling beyond the walls of the dojo and into our daily lives.