Iaido is thought to have began in the mid 16th century. Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu is credited as being the person who first organised a system. Eventually it proliferated into many different schools, many of which are no longer in existence. There are many websites that give a full account of the history and lineage of the art.
When the many wars between rival clans died down the samurai were not able to gain any actual battle experience. Iaido was used as a way of developing their skills. It is now used as a means of developing self awareness and spiritual harmony.
We practise Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu iaido, which translates as 'peerless, directly transmitted school of Eishin'. We also practise Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei (ZNKR) Seitei iaido, which is a standard set used by most organisations. It also features largely in the grading syllabus.
This system includes forms from the kneeling positioning and from standing. Those who have knee problems can practise the forms whilst standing up. It is non-contact and does not involve throwing.
When you first start training, tracksuit bottoms and T-shirt will be adequate. We can lend some basic equipment to start off with but, after you decide that you are going to continue your training, you will be required to purchase some equipment. That can be done a bit at a time to spread the cost. Below is a list of what will eventually be required.
Obi - Belt
Bokken - Wooden training sword (white oak)
Hakama - Trousers (black)
Gi - Top (black)
Iaito - Training sword which will be required after approximately 5-6 months practice
What is Iaido?
Iaido is the Japanese martial art of drawing the sword and dispatching the enemy with one or more cut.
All iaido, regardless of style, consists of 4 parts:-
1 Draw the sword
2 Cutting the enemy one or more times (nukitsuke followed by kiritsuke)
3 Shake the blood off the sword (chiburi)
4 Replacing the sword back in the scabbard (noto)
Nothing to it really, at least on the face of it.
Using this process we learn to become aware of ourselves, gradually eliminating any unnecessary movements until our practise becomes smooth, fluid and accurate.
Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Syllabus
1 - Seitei
(Three Direction Cut)
(Hit to the Face)
(Joined Hand Thrust)
(Four Direction Cutting)
2 - Omori Ryu
Seiza no bu (Shoden)
(8-Fold Fences, Fences within Fences)
(Block and Flow)
(Moon Shadow, Moon Beams)
3 - Eishi Ryu
Tatehiza no Bu (Chuden)
(Wind Down from the Mountain)
(Wave Hitting Rocks)
4 - Okuden
5 - Okuden
(Blocked at the Door)
(Beneath the Doorway)
(Attacking the Four Sides)
(Beneath the Shelf)
(Blocked on Both sides)
3 So Makuri
4 So Dome
7 Sodezuri Gaeshi
(Entering Through the Gate)
(By the Wall)
(Block and flow)
Itomagoi 1, 2 & 3
1 Itomagoi Sono Ichi
2 Itomagoi Sono Ni
3 Itomagoi Sono San
6 - Tachi Uchi no Kurai
8 Doku myoken
10 Uchi Komi
Next is a brief description of the sections within the Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu syllabus.
1 - Seitei
This is a standardised set of 12 forms, devised by the Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei (All Japan Kendo Federation) and is often refered to as Zenkenren Iaido.
The first seven were introduced in 1969, and were drawn from Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, Muso Sinden Ryu and Hoki Ryu. These were followed by another three in 1981 and the final two in 2000.
Practitioners from different styles can come together and practise the basics of iaido.
2 - Omori Ryu (Shoden)
Founded by Ōmori Rokurōzaemon Masamitsu, probably in the later half of the seventeenth century. Almost all of the eleven forms we practise are done form a kneeling position (seiza). It builds on the skills learned in the seitei set and the student learns to move in a controlled manor from what is not an easy position, as well as more complicated movements. This set and the following are are known as Koryu or old style.
3 - Eishi Ryu (Tatehiza no Bu or Chuden)
This is a set of ten kata, practised in a special seated position, known as tatehiza. It is very complex and is quite often used in demonstrations (embu) as some of the forms are quite flamboyant. Again,it builds on the previous forms and adds even more complex turns and techniques.
4 - Okuden (Tatehiza)
There are two okuden or secret sets of iaido. They are the most difficult and must flow very smoothly, though they do contain many technical difficulties. This set builds on previous knowledge but also contains some assassination techniques too. There are eight forms in this set.
5 - Okuden (Tachiwaza)
This is the second okuden set and also our final iaido set. It has all the virtues and qualities of the previous set but, as it is practised standing, you get to take your knees home in one piece. There are ten Forms in this set.
This is added on to the end of Okuiai Tachiwaza. It is a set of three variations of a form and that is to do with two people bowing to each other. It teaches awareness of different timing.
This is a final set of four techniques that are not Koryu.
6 - Tachi Uchi no Kurai
Often refered to as TUNK, this set of ten techniques is used as partner practice to help to get a better understanding of both timing and partner's position. As it uses contact and also the close proximity to one another, we practise this set with bokken.