Practice of Iaido

By Keith Rose

Iaido is a Kata based Martial Way, where cuts and thrusts of the sword are aimed at an imaginary opponent. Most practice, therefore, takes the form of repitition of a given kata [prescribed set of movements] in an effort to make constant refinement to the movements used. All Iaido practices begin and end with formal ettiquette [Saho] and all Kata are made up of four essential elements;

Nukitsuke - The draw [leading to the initial cut or thrust]

Kiritsuke - The decisive cut

Chiburi - Symbolic removal of blood from the sword

Noto - The resheathing of the sword

At Do Shin Ken Yu Kai we practice two forms of Iaido, the Z.N.K.R. Sei Tei Gata and Muso Shinden Ryu, the latter being a Koryu or Old Tradition of Iai. Most newcomers to Iai will begin their practice with Seitei Iaido and in time will gradually learn the Koryu kata.

Sei Tei Iaido

There are currently Twelve kata contained in the Seitei system [ see History], the first four performed from a seated position and the remaining eight from a standing position.
These kata are named;

Ipponme - Mae
Nihonme - Ushiro
Sanbonme - Uke Nagashi
Yonhonme - Tsuka Ate
Gohonme - Kesa Giri
Ropponme - Morote Tsuki
Nanahonme - Sanpo Giri
Happonme - Gan Men Ate
Kyuhonme - Soete Tsuki
Jupponme - Shiho Giri
Jyuipponme - Sou Giri
Jyunihonme - Nuki Uchi

Most of these kata are representative of the central Jinsuke -Eishin line [ see History] with the exception of 'Kesa Giri' and 'Soete Tsuki', both Kata showing elements of practice from the Hoki ryu.

Examinations to determine rank are held in this country by the British kendo Association who are in turn affiliated to the International kendo Federation and the examinations are based upon ability in and knowledge of the Seitei kata, with the exception that in examinations for higher ranks some knowledge of and ability in Koryu kata will be required. The benefit of this system is that it gives common ground to the various traditional schools [Ryuha], allowing individuals to be judged on kata that are common to all schools rather than those of their own Ryuha which obviously differ from those of other Ryuha. Examinations for rank are in no way compulsory or essential to the practice of Iaido, but they do form a means of judging improvement and can form the basis for further improvement.

Muso Shinden Ryu

The Koryu form of Iaido practiced at Do Shin KenYu Kai is Muso Shinden Ryu. The Muso Shinden Ryu was founded by Nakayama Hakudo Hiromichi [see History] in the early 1900's and is the most commonly practiced Koryu both in Japan and worldwide. It has it's own ettiquette which is distinct from that used in Seitei Iai and the syllabus of the schools is as follows;

Shoden - Consists of twelve kata taken from the teachings of the 'Omori Ryu'

Chuden - Consists of ten kata taken from the teachings of the 'Eishin ryu'

Okuden - Consists of twenty one kata taken from the central line teachings of the 'Shimmei Muso Ryu'

All the above kata are practiced and performed on a solo basis, but in addition to these there are two other elements to the syllabus, 'Tachi Uchi no Kurai' and 'Tsumi Iai no Kurai', both consisting of ten kata which are practiced with a partner.