Iaido – roughly translated as “the way of mental presence and immediate reaction” – emphasizes the art of quickly drawing, cutting and returning the sword to the scabbard. For many aikido students, Iaido is an integral part of training, in part due to its dynamic balance between plyometric, explosive energy training and an emphasis on meditative, flowing movement.
Iaido is perhaps the epitome of Japanese martial arts in its refinement, power and precision. Its elegant and precise movements are based on the principles of one breath, one cut, one victory.
The Japanese sword or katana is a sacred object in Japanese culture. Because of its spiritual value and the exquisite level of workmanship, it was more than a battlefield weapon; samurai viewed the way of the sword as a method of “spiritual forging” in which the student purges oneself of personal doubts and ambivalence in a search for moral and spiritual clarity.
In Iaido, the student practices with a metal blade (iaito); many advanced practitioners use a shinken (live or sharp blade). Practice is almost always done alone. In contrast, aikido is always done with a wooden sword, or bokken, allowing for paired practice.
The most important element in Iaido is nukitsuke, the initial draw in which one’s timing, speed and precision determined victory or defeat. The concentration, relaxed power and focus necessary for a decisive cut teaches the student how to act with a calm focus and awareness in everyday life.
Iaido also teaches a deep, abiding calmness and sense of repose through its emphasis on awareness, posture and breath.
Iaido is a method to cultivate the self. The outward simplicity of the movements belie the incredible subtlety of the techniques, which take many years to refine, and then many more years to make the sword and body one, a state in which technique becomes an art that reflects the uniqueness and humanity of the individual practitioner.
Iaido is often called the most Zen of all martial arts. Like Zazen(Zen meditation), the Iaido student lets go of distracting thoughts and feelings, allowing herself to achieve a profound quietness in which there is no sense of self separate from movement, no sense of subject separate from the world.
Requirements for Iaido:
We prefer Iaido students simultaneously practice Aikido; one art complements and informs the other in an organic way. If the student does not wish to practice Aikido, we prefer if the student is at least 18 years of age, has at least the equivalent of an Aikido shodan (first level black belt – or about 7 years of practice in another martial art). A private interview with the chief instructor is also necessary. Exceptions to these requirements may be made at the discretion of the Chief Instructor if there is sufficient maturity and commitment.