The word Iaido is made by combining three kanji, the first being “I” (Iru) meaning stillness or sense of being, the next is “Ai” meaning combine or harmonize and “Do” meaning way or path. Thus it can be translated as “the path to harmonious being”, meaning that one moves from stillness to action without hesitation, with focus, purpose, precision and a sense of being in the moment.
We train Iaido as a self-development art not as a self defense art, our opponent is our self. We usually do not walk about with a sword attached to our sides, therefore the techniques of Iaido are of little use in a street defense environment. The practice of moving with focus, purposefulness and precision will however, help us in our everyday lives, no matter what our endevor may be. Through the dedicated practice of Iaido we train ourselves to always be mindful. When we learn focus, purpose and precision in one aspect of life, these virtues always find their way into the rest of our lives. Iaido is thus a great way to train mind, body and spirit.
Practice is made up almost entirely of kata, or pre-arranged sets of motion designed to respond to a particular attack by another swordsman. The unique drawing motion in most Iaido Kata is designed to draw the sword, to parry an oncoming cut, and to cut the opponent, all in one motion. Practice is calm and quiet, since the most important feature of Iaido is the development of Zanshin (a calm, reflective mind). The major difficulty to overcome is the extraordinary attention to detail required. Iaido is very popular with both martial artists who want to learn another art which calms the inner spirit and untrained people who do not want to participate in a high energy contact martial art.
Iaido training builds arm and leg strength and provides a gentle cardiovascular workout. It helps in the development of a calm, stable demeanour and, through attention to detail and continual refinement of the motions, orderly, precise thought patterns. It is not an art for those who are impatient or who desire great activity.
The Japanese Sword, known as the Katana, was considered the ultimate weapon of the Samurai, to be used not only as a fighting tool, but also as a means of achieving enlightenment. Through practice in the ways of Iaido, a warrior was thought to be able to shed his illusions and more clearly perceive truth.
The person most responsible for the creation of modern Iaido was a man named Hayashizaki Jinsuke (1542–1621). He brought together many older styles of swordsmanship to create a system that was ideal for castle guards and sentries to use in defending against surprise attacks. Iaido, perhaps more than any other martial art except Kyudo (archery), develops a calm, clear mind in its practitioners. Some of the major schools of Iaido are: Muso Shinden Ryu, Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, and Shinkage Ryu.
The styles of Iaido taught is Muso Shinden Ryu and ZNKR Iaido. Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei Iaido is the iaido style of the Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei. This style of standardised iaido is also known as Seitei Iaido which has become the most widely recognised form of Iaido in Japan and the rest of the world.