Iaidō approximately "the way of mental presence and immediate reaction", is a Japanese martial art associated with smooth, controlled movements of drawing the sword from its scabbard, striking or cutting an opponent, removing blood from the blade, and then replacing the sword in the scabbard. Modern day iaidō exponents typically use a blunted metal practice sword (iaitō) for practice, especially among beginners, while many advanced practitioners use a sharpened sword (shinken).

The Iaidoka (a practitioner of iaido) wields a sword: not to control the opponent, but to control himself. Iaido is mostly performed solo as a series of Waza. The Iaidoka executes various techniques against single or multiple imaginary opponents. Each Waza begins and ends with the sword sheathed. In addition to sword technique, practitioners require imagination and concentration in order to maintain the feeling of a real fight and to keep the Kata fresh. In order to properly perform the waza, Iaidoka also learn posture and movement, grip, and swing. Iaido is never practised in a free-sparring manner.

Iaidoka practice to prepare for a surprise attack, where an immediate, efficient solution to the problem of aggression is necessary. Therefore, the technique is highly refined. Every unnecessary movement is cut away. Technique is simple and direct. The training method is aimed towards development of the practitioner’s every mental and physical resources.
Iaido is the art of reacting to a surprise attack by counter attacking with a sword. An in-depth reading of the Japanese characters for iaido is: I = being, AI = harmony, DO = way . "The way of harmonising oneself in action”.

Iaido is an authentic martial art that proved its martial values in a time of constant battle and warfare, that was preserved and passed on directly from teacher to student over generations in an unbroken lineage for 450 years.

Iaidoka developed the mind towards an ultimately peaceful, harmonious, and active state ready to react and deal with any life situation.

Iaido is one of the Japanese traditional Budo concerned with drawing the blade and cutting in the same motion. (Budo means martial arts or military arts in Japan). A typical form consists of the draw and cut, a finishing cut, cleaning the blade and returning it to the scabbard, all without looking away from the imaginary opponent.

Most practice is solo, eventually with shin-ken (a real blade). In contrast with Kendo, Iaido is performed without protective coverings of any kind. Students must strive to achieve power, precision and perfection in their form. Along the way they learn balance, grace, and control both of the body and the mind.

Iaido dealt more with everyday situation rather than those on the battlefield. The term "Iai" is taken from the Japanese phrase: "Tsune ni ite, kyu ni awasu". The meaning of this is, whatever we may be doing or wherever we may be, we must always be prepared from any eventually. The techniques themselves dealt with many situations such as a sudden attack by several opponents, a surprise attack while bowing to someone, an enemy lying in wait behind a sliding door or an attack in a darkened room. The permutations (suppositions) were countless.

Even though the points of attack in modern Kendo are strictly limited, the strikes and attacks are performed with a freedom of will that inevitably leads to an element of competition. If this spirit of competition is given fuller reign, Kendo degenerates into a contest carried out solely for the sake of winning and loosing. When this happens, the purity of Kendo techniques is lost.

Iaidoka (and kendoka) wield a sword not to control their opponent, but to control themselves. Iaido is mostly performed solo as a series of kata, executing varied techniques against single or multiple imaginary opponents. Each kata begins and ends with the sword sheathed. In addition to sword technique, it requires imagination and concentration in order to maintain the feeling of a real fight and to keep the kata fresh. Iaidoka are often recommended to practice kendo to preserve that fighting feel; it is common for high ranking kendoka to hold high rank in iaido and vice versa.

In order to properly perform the kata, iaidoka also learn posture and movement, grip and swing. Sometimes iaidoka will practice partner kata similar to kendo or kenjutsu kata. Unlike kendo, iaido is never practised in a free-sparring manner.

In comparison with shinai Kendo, Iaido concentrate on training to develop correct movements. For this reason, in terms of technical purity it occupies a level much higher than that of shinai Kendo. In short, Iaido can serve to improve and maintain technical purity in shinai Kendo. Iaido helps ensure that body movements are logical and effective because they are natural, accurate, and agile.

Iaido training consists of solo kata (forms) and partner forms, called kumidachi. All forms emphasize etiquette in the respectful handling of the sword. The solo forms consist of properly drawing, cutting and returning the sword to the scabbard. Kumidachi forms are performed using bokuto (wooden swords).

Iaido is the contemporary Japanese art of drawing the long sword. Iaido contrasts with kenjutsu (combative swordsmanship), techniques done with swords already drawn, and kendo, the Japanese sport of fencing. Basic iaido kata combines drawing the sword with either a defensive block or cut, usually followed by another cut, then chiburi (moving the blade in such as way as to remove blood and tissue) and noto (returning the blade to the scabbard). While kenjutsu and sword-drawing techniques (batto-ho) were originally taught together, they are now usually, but not always, taught as separate art forms. Iaido, as the sword-drawing forms became known in the 1930’s, is now used not only to teach sword techniques, but as a form of mental and physical discipline, emphasizing correct technique and form, meditation and character development.

Filed under: Martial Arts Styles

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