Iaido is a unique Japanese martial art, originated straight from the era of samurai warriors. As such, it still maintains the spirit of Budo, something that is the aim of our practice.
In Iaido, the trainee practices at drawing the sword at lightning speed and fighting back immediately when threatened by one or more opponents, also armed with sword(s).
Iaido is closely related to Kendo, but at the same time they are distinct forms of expression of the Path of the Sword. As such, the practice is not restricted to a simple knowledge of battle techniques or to physical exercise. Through persistent practice, we shape our spirits we discover ourselves and our emotions, and we gradually become better in our social behavior.
According to tradition, Iaido originates from Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu, (1542-1621) who developed the art under divine inspiration and called it Muso Shiden Jushin Ryu Batto jutsu. Over time, the art has appeared with different names, such as batto jutsu, iai-nuki etc, while its current name, Iaido, is established during the 1930’s by the distinguished teacher Nakayama Hakudo (1873-1958). During the centuries, a number of ryuha (distinct traditions within the art)– have developed, the most important being the Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, Muso Shinden Ryu, Tamiya Ryu, Mugai ryu, Hoki ryu, Jushin ryu etc. All of them are currently characterized by the generic name koryu – the word used as a label for any “old school” classical Japanese arts.
The practice of Iaido consists of several kata, which are standardized exercises with specified structure and development.
The basic structure of a kata consists of four parts:
- Nukitsuke: drawing the sword and cutting the opponent while carrying the sword with one hand,
- Kiritsuke: decisive cut while carrying the sword with both hands,
- Chiburui: throwing off and cleaning the blood on the blade, and
- Noto: placing the sword back in its sheath.
Within this basic framework, there are several different variations, such as parrying an attack and then cutting the opponent, hitting the opponent with the hilt before drawing the sword, facing two, three or four opponents, etc.
Initially, the trainee learns the etiquette of the art and of the dojo, of the location of the practice. Only then he will be able to seriously follow the Path of the Sword and to use the sword (iaito or boken) in a proper manner. After that, the practice and assimilation of the Kihon (basic exercises) is key in developing a proper technical basis for the use of the Japanese sword. Afterwards, the trainee learns and practices on the katas of Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei Iaido (former name Seittei Iai), which forms the base of the practice. Later on, when the practitioner has developed a necessary basic understanding, he can start his more thorough training by studying the practices of the particular traditional school Koryu which is followed in the dojo . At an advanced training level and within the frames of Koryu, the practitioner performs kumitachi, i.e. kata with an opponent, and tameshigiri, i.e. cutting of designated targets using a shinken, a real blade.
It is the basis of the practice in the dojo of Zen Center. It consists of 12 kata, through the practice of which the trainee receives the fundamental knowledge and is prepared for a more thorough training in a Koryu, a traditional school.
*** For a detailed reference of the creation and the development of ZNKR Iaido, click HERE. To download the official manual of ZNKR Iaido in Greek (unofficial translation), click HERE.click here.
Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu
It is one of the most prevalent ryuha (traditional schools) of the Japanese sword. It comes directly from the teachings of the founder of the art, Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu, and its name means “authentic & unbroken teaching of the Eishin line from teacher to student,”; this ryuha is named after the 7th soke (patriarch) of the school, Hasegawa Eishin. Teaching includes three levels of practicing: Shoden, with 11 kata, Chuden, with 10 kata, and Okuden, with 21 kata. Adding to this, a more advanced level includes two series of specialized kata, the Bangai no Bu and Hayanuki, as well as two, at least, series of kata with an opponent, the Tachi Uchi no Κurai and Tsumiai no Κurai.
*** For a detailed presentation of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, click HERE. click here.
Outfit and equipment
During practice, the trainee is wearing a hakama (very wide trousers) and a keikogi (a white cloak). There are no rules for the color of the outfit, but the hakama is usually blue, black or white and the keikogi should fit the color of hakama. An appropriate belt (the iai obi) is worn below the laces (himo) of the hakama which keeps the sword in place. An additional element of the outfit is the zeken, a textile “tag” which is placed on the left side of the chest, and bears the name of the trainee , his city or region of origin, and sometimes the dojo where he trains.
At the first stages of practicing, a wooden imitation of sword is used, the so-called bokken/bokuto. Later on, the trainee uses an iaito, a metallic imitation made out of aluminum alloys, while the more experienced trainees use a shinken, a real blade.
The Teacher- Sensei
The Sensei –Teacher– of Iaido in the Zen Center is Spyros G. Drosoulakis (Iaido 5 dan, Kendo 4 dan, Karate Shotokan 4 dan), a student of Oda Katsuo sensei (Iaido hanshi 8 dan, Kendo kyoshi 7 dan) from Shizuoka, Japan.
He started Budo in 1981 by practicing Shotokan Karate. He is practicing Iaido since 2000 and Kendo since 2006. For a small period of time, he also practiced 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 sincere interest in Japanese culture and arts in general.