Questions and Answers about Iaido​

  •  What is Iaido and where is it from?
  • [ijajdo:] n. {Japanese, compound word}
  • : various conflicting situations*;
  • : spiritual
    way (in Japanese philosophy);
  • ~: method of using the
  • (Japanese sword) in various postures and situations;
  • ~:
    mutual development of the body and the spirit by practising
  • (form exercises)**.

*The Japanese word i-ai consists of two parts, i: sitting position, ai: meeting the enemy. Later on,
during the 16. century, Japanese swordsmen made this word more general, applying it to other similar situations, such
as: -standing, walking, sitting in armour.

**There are some Iaido schools where students practise not only single form exercises against imaginery
opponents, but also form exercises performed by two persons using wooden swords (kumitachi).

    •  How do we practise Iaido?

      Iaido practice starts and ends with reishikireiho (saluting ceremony). reishiki has several parts,
      there are different saluting forms to the room for practice (shyomen ni rei — shinza ni rei — kamiza ni rei), to the
      teacher (sensei ni rei), to the sword (to rei). In addition, the saluting ceremony might be combined with a short, silent
      meditation (mokuso) sitting on our knees (seiza), coming from Zen Buddhism (zazen). All kinds of reishiki have a very
      strictly prescribed sequence of moves.

      First, practising Iaido means repeating form exercises (kata) continuously. Form exercises are to be
      practised against imaginary opponents, in fictitious situations. There are different numbers of these form exercises,
      students might have to learn about 40 – 50 kata depending on the tradition of the Iaido school they attend. There are
      some Iaido schools that practise some exercises in pairs, using bokuto or bokken (wooden sword). This kind of practice
      is called kumitachi in Japanese.


    •  Is it dangerous to practise Iaido?

      There is nothing dangerous in practising Iaido for the beginners, because they practise with wooden
      swords. When a student reaches a certain level, and is allowed to use a practising sword (Iai-to) or a real sword (katana),
      the situation becomes different. Students using iai-to or katana without the necessary attention might cut or stab
      themselves, so practising Iaido at that level is not harmless anymore.


    •  At what age may I start practising Iaido?

      There is no strict age limit for practising Iaido. In medieval Japan, before the Edo-area, boys started
      to study the art of sword at the age of 8 – 9. Nowadays, it is different; Iaido is recommended mainly for people above 18,
      who already have some life experiences. This age shift was caused by the change of the purpose of Iaido; today, it is based
      on the deep and serious understanding of the form exercises, and is not an indispensable way to survive — at least not
      in the physical sense. Also, Iaido is about to use a weapon, which is not for children or teenagers.


    •  What shall I do, if I want to practise Iaido?

      Visit any club of the

    • that has an Iaido section as well. (See the list
      of Kendo and Iaido clubs at the home page of the
    • ). You need a tracksuit


    • and a T-shirt, you do not need any special shoes, and it is most likely that the club will lend you a bokuto until you


    • buy your own one.


  •  Are there several kinds of Iaido?

    No, there is only one Iaido, which is the collective name of various Iaido schools (ryuha). That is:
    no one can study authentic Iaido without knowing the name of the school he attends.


  •  What are the levels in Iaido?

    The All Japan Kendo Federation (Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei) has just reduced the number of levels
    from 10 dan to 8 dan. Each level has its own set of demands, and their settling time. Settling time is as many
    years as the former level of rank passed successfully. For example, if the formerly passed Iaido exam was the
    second dan, then the settling time for the next grade (the third dan) is two years. It means, that the settling
    time for the eighth dan is 28 years, if the candidate passes all exams successfully. It is very unlikely to occur,
    there are many persons who try 20 – 30 times their seventh or eighth dan exam until they succeed. Lowering the number
    of levels meant also to increase the severity of exams. Before you take a dan examination, you can try to pass
    some so-called student grades, kyu in Japanese.


  •  Why don’t you have colour belts in Iaido?

    The way of thinking in Iaido is very simple, like in Kendo; practising shows the level of anyone,
    so there is no need for external signs, which might be misleading sometimes.


  •  Are women allowed to practise Iaido?

    Yes, they are, and sometimes they prove to be highly talented, because it is not physical strength
    that really matters in Iaido.


  •  Why does Iaido belong to a Kendo organization?

    The answer is quite simple, and goes back to Japan. Originally, Kendo and Iaido were parts of the
    way kenjitsu (Japanese fencing) was practised. In the old times, samurai did both. In the beginning of the 20. century,
    the most important martial arts of Japan (Judo, Kyudo, Kendo) were supported by the Dai Nihon Butokukai organization,
    and Iaido was one of the ways to practise Kendo. After World War II, a new Kendo organization was formed in Japan,
    the All Japan Kendo Federation (Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei), and preserving tradition, Iaido still belongs to its scope
    of activity.


  •  May I practise Iaido even if I’m left-handed?

    Yes, you can, but holding and wearing the sword has settled rules, and swordsmanship was developed
    for right-handed people. Also, the way producing swords is designed for right-handed people. There were some practical
    reasons for it; for example: when two samurai were passing by each other, and hit their saya, it was considered as a
    great impoliteness, and usually ended in a duel.