Iaido [yay-do] (居合道) is the art of drawing a Japanese sword from its scabbard to obtain advantage over an opponent. The sword is drawn to defend, control or to kill an enemy in the most efficient way. Iaido as we know it today probably began with Iizasa Choisai, the founder of the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu. Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu (1542-1621) like Iizasa Choisai is reputed to have received a divine inspiration which led to the development of his art.
Nowadays Iaido represents the intrinsic form of Japanese Budo and is used as a form of mental and physical discipline, emphasising correct technique and form, meditation and character development. The study of Iaido encourages strength, balance, co-ordination and suppleness.
Since Iaido is practiced with a weapon, its training is based on katas (forms). Each form represents different combat scenario. By practicing in a repetitive manner the practitioner learns and develops his/her technique. Techniques are highly refined, simple and direct. A beginner’s performance reveals lack of control and rigidity while a master’s appear effortless and natural.
Similar to other Japanese arts Iaido has been influenced by several philosophical and religious directions such as Confucianism, Zen or Taoism. Iaido is a reflection of the virtues of the classical warrior. A spiritually harmonious person who possessed high intellect, sensitivity, and resolute will.
The very word Iaido (居合道) can be rendered into English as “the way of mental presence and harmonious action” or “the way of harmonious being”.
Trough controlled flow of movements, the practitioner seeks to unite his spirit, the action, and the sword, Through this unification the sword becomes a tool for spiritual development (Seishin Tanren). An adept of Iai seeks not only to cut through his enemies but rather cut through his own delusions first. Only then he is able to free himself from the egotistic mind and act harmoniously and wholeheartedly. A lifetime dedication and sincere heart is required to be able to realise immutable awareness (mushin) in one’s being and its cultivation in daily activities.