Introduction to Laido

Most people are not familiar with the word iaido. Like judo, karate and aikido, iaido is a Japanese budo art. It differs from the other three essentially, for iaido is an art where a weapon is used for practice. One trains alone, without a partner, with a samurai sword, katana. Iaido is actually an art in which one learns how to draw one’s sword from its scabbard.

What is Iaido?

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.

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.

Iaido Styles

There are many styles of Iaido, many ways to cut, to move, and as one learns one improves technically. However, we train not only to learn techniques, but also to cultivate the heart and spirit. With this respect all “styles” will lead to the same goal.

Currently, the most practiced styles of iaido are the Muso Shinden Ryu and the Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, presumed to be branches of the original style of batto jutsu founded by Hayashizaki (Taylor and Ohmi 1997: 83). Currently in Japan, however, there are over 400 schools (Ryu) of iaijutsu and iaido, though the majority of these are quite small. (Alexanian, 2000, n.p.)

History and School Founder

Iaido began in the mid-1500’s. Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu (1542 – 1621) is widely accepted as the founder of Iaido.

There were many (probably several thousand of) Koryu ( traditional schools), though only a small proportion remain today. Almost all of them also study older school established during 16-17th century, like Muso-Shinden-ryu, Hoki-ryu, Muso-Jikiden-Eishin-ryu, Shinto-Munen-ryu, Tamiya-ryu, Yagyu-Shinkage-ryu, Mugai-ryu, Sekiguchi-ryu, and so on.

The role of Iaido in modern Kendo

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.

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 Facilities

Generally speaking, iaido is practiced indoors. Special requirements for iaido are similar to those for kendo: a wooden floor, ideally a sprung floor to protect the practitioners’ joints, a high ceiling, and enough space to permit practitioners to train freely with swords without interfering with one another. Space may be borrowed, rented or owned, depending on availability and the finances of the dojo.

eKnow Inc. Staff, Joined eKnow Inc. in 2008 as a part time content editor。
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