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What is Iaido?

May 17, 2017

What is Iaido?

In traditional Japanese martial arts, iadio is the practice of being fully aware of your surroundings while also being able to quickly draw your sword in response to an impending attack.

Origins of Iaido

Since the early days of feudal Japan, samurai warriors have placed an emphasis on maintaining a high state of awareness at all times. If a samurai warrior let his guard down, he would be more vulnerable to attack. By encouraging and practicing iaido, samurai warriors improved their state of awareness while improving their ability to defend and counter against attacks.

The term "iaido," however, didn't appear until the early 1930s. Historians continue to devate on its true origins, though one of the most plausible theories is that iaido originated from the phrase " Tsune ni ite, kyū ni awasu," which translates into "being constantly prepared, and able to meet the opposition immediately." The first part of the word (iai) focuses on the psychological state of awareness, while the second part (do) emphasizes the ability to draw the sword in response to a potential attack.

Purpose of Iaido

The purpose of iaido isn't about swordsmanship or active combat, but rather the ability to maintain a high state of awareness and quickly draw your sword in response to a threat. Japanese martial arts practitioners acknowledge that a sword is only useful for fending away threats if you can draw it in a timely manner. The longer it takes to draw your sword, the greater the risk of a critical attack dealt by the opposing enemy.

While there are exceptions, iaido is typically practiced solo, without a human opponent. The practitioner may engage one or more imaginary opponents, however, when practicing iaido. Because of this, iaido is classified as a non-fighting form of martial arts.

Iaido often involves the sword-drawing technique known as seiza, which involves drawing the sword from a seated position. In this technique, the practitioner kneels on the floor and folds one leg underneath the other leg's thigh. From here, the practitioner must grab and unsheathe his or her sword as quickly as possible.

Iaido Organizations

There are several organizations that teach iaido, some of which include the following:

  • Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (DNBK)
  • The International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF)
  • International Kendo Federation (FIK)
  • All Japan Iaido Federation (ZNIR)
  • The World Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu
  • Zen Nihon Toyama Ryu Iaido Renmei (ZNTIR)

Among these organizations, the FIK is the largest and most notable promoter of iaido.

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