Iaido is a unique Japanese martial art, with its roots straight to the era of samurai warriors. And as such it still keepw the spirit of Budo, the maintenance of which is the aim of our practice.
In Iaido, the trainee practices at how to pull the sword at lightning speed and fights back immediately when it is threatened by one or more opponents also armed with a sword.
Iaido, along with Kendo, are, related and at the same time distinct forms of expression of the Path of the Sword, and as such the practice is not limited only to simple learning of battle techniques or the physical exercise. Through persistent practice, the spirit is shaped, our self and our emotions are discovered, and we become better people in society.
According to tradition, it attracts its origin from Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu, (1542-1621) who developed its art, after divine inspiration and called it Muso Shiden Jushin Ryu Batto jutsu. In the lapse of time, the art appears with different names such as batto jutsu, iai-nuki etc, while their current name, Iaido, is established during the 1930’s by the distinguished teacher Nakayama Hakudo, (1873-1958). During the centuries a number of ryuha – expression schools of the art – have been developed – with the most important out of them being Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, Muso Shinden Ryu, Tamiya Ryu, Mugai ryu, Hoki ryu, Jushin ryu etc which are currently characterized by the generic name koryu – the word is used as a label for any “old school” of classical Japanese arts.
Practicing in Iaido
The structure of the practice
The practive in Iaido consists in carrying out kata, standardized exercises with pre-specified structure and development.
The basic structure of a kata consist of four parts:
- Nukitsuke: pulling out the sword and cutting holding the sword by one hand,
- Kiritsuke: decisive cut holding the sword with both hands,
- Chiburui: throwing off and cleaning the blood from the blade, and
- Noto: restoring the sword in the sheath.
Within this basic framework different variations are shown such as parrying an attack and then cutting the opponent, beating of the opponent with the hilt before pulling out the sword, dealing with two, three or four opponents etc.
Initially, the trainee learns the etiquette of the art and dojo, the location of the practice. Only then will he be able to be seriously engaged with the Path of the Sword and to use the sword in the right way, iaito or boken. Following that, the exercise and assimilation of Kihon-basic exercises-is the key to creating proper technical basis in the use of the Japanese sword. Afterwards, the trainee is taught and is practicing on kata of Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei Iaido (former name Seittei Iai), which constitutes the base of the practice. And later, when he has acquired the necessary bases, he steps towards more thorough training in the study of traditional school Koryu, which is followed in the dojo in which it is practiced. At an advanced training level and within the frames of Koryu, kumitachi are performed, kata with rival and tameshigiri, cutting of appropriate targets using shinken, the true blade.
It constitutes the basis to practice in dojo of Zen Center. It consists of 12 kata, through the exercise of which the trainee receives the necessary foundations and is prepared for a more thorough training in a Koryu, traditional school.
Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu:
It is one of the most prevalent ryuha –traditional schools – of the Japanese sword. It comes directly from the teaching of the founder of the art, Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu and its name means “Authentic & unbroken teaching, from the teacher to the student, of the Eishin line”, from the name of the 7th soke (patriarch) of the school, Hasegawa Eishin. Teaching includes three level of practicing, Shoden, with 11 kata, Chuden, with 10 kata and Okuden, with 21 kata. Furthermore, at a more advanced level two series of specialized kata are included, Bangai no Bu and Hayanuki as well as two, at least, series of kata having as opponent, Tachi Uchi no Κurai and Tsumiai no Κurai.
*** For a detailed presentation of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu click here.
Attire and equipment
During practice, the trainee is wearing a hakama (very wide trousers) and keikogi (white coat). There is no rule concerning the color of the attire, but hakama is usually blue, black or white and keikogi has a color that can be combined with the color of hakama. An appropriate belt iai obi is worn below the laces, himo, of hakama and serves in keeping the sword in its place. An additional element of the attire is zeken, a textile “tag”, which is place on the left side of the chest and has the name of the trainee on it, the town or the region and eventually the dojo to which it belongs.
At the first stages of practicing, a wooden imitation of sword is used, the so-called bokken/bokuto and following that, iaito is used, a metallic imitation made of alloys, while for the most experienced trainees, shinken is used, which is a true blade.
THE TEACHER – Sensei
Sensei –Teacher- of Iaido in Zen Center is Spyros C. Drosoulakis, Iaido 4 dan, Kendo 3 dan, Karate Shotokan 4 dan, student of Oda Katsuo sensei, Iaido hanshi 8 dan, Kendo kyoshi 7 dan, from Shizuoka, Japan.
He started off his course in Budo in 1981, by practicing in Shotokan Karate. He is practicing in Iaido since 2000 and in Kendo since 2006. For a small period he also practiced in Aikido. He is the founder and head sensei of Furyu Dojo Athens (2002), where he also teaches Iaido & Kendo. Finally, through the practice of Martial Arts he has developed a special interest in Japanese culture and arts in general.