IAIDO: The Art of Drawing the Sword

It has been said that a battle of swords is a battle of character. When competing in Iaido, you are comparing spirit, strength and ability through depth of practice.

    Ohmi Goyo sensei, 2008

These notes are basic for those who sit on a grading panel, but they should also be read carefully by the students. You are the judge of your own practice.

A. First, Second and Third dan

Level of basic techniques demonstrated by the examinee. The candidate has learned and correctly acquired the basic iai skills.
  1. Chakuso and Reiho. The candidate's appearance and whether he/she is correctly wearing the iai gi and hakama, and is holding the sword correctly. Appropriate manners and deportment (reiho).
  1. Correct posture
  2. Correct Nukitsuke and kiritsuke
  3. Correct chiburi and angles
  4. Correct noto
  5. Strong spirit (kisei)
  6. Correct 5 kamae
  7. Big Strong Fast Smooth. Big cut, big motion. Strong cut. Fast is jo ha kyu style. Smooth is a natural and soft body.

B. Fourth and Fifth dan

Level at which the candidate demonstrates he/she is facing an opponent by virtue of his/her techniques.

Candidate has fully acquired and is able to utilize basic and advanced iai skill.
  1. Calmness of mind
  2. Metsuke
  3. Ki ken tai – ichi (spirit, sword and body in harmony) Which is based upon correct sword handling and techniques, correct posture and high spirit.
  4. Movement and timing of jo ha kyu. Jo is slow on beginning, ha is fast and kyu is full speed or sharp.
  5. Depth of training
  6. Level of mental and physical discipline
  7. Showing kan-kyu-kyo-jaku in techniques. Kan = loose. Kyu = rapid, sharp. Kyo = strong. Jaku = soft.
  8. Control and understanding of the distance between you and the opponent
  9. Full of spirit
  10. Sharp nukitsuke, strong two hand cuts and cutting with the monouchi.
  11. Kigurai.
  12. Techniques with ki sen o seisuru, to control the moment a technique begins.

C. Sixth and Seventh dan

Ability to demonstrate jiri (theory and technique). Beside the basic and advanced iai techniques the candidate has acquired sufficient knowledge and understanding of jiri, the techniques of iai accompanied with the theory or principles. Showing the act of facing the opponent by the body and the mind.
  1. Understanding of riai. The candidate must be able to execute waza and move in a way that is rational and purposeful.
  2. Fukaku and hini. Demontrating one's own style which is dignified (has presence) and elegant.
  3. Showing san i no kaku
a. Before the strike: tsuyu-no-kurai, the moment of a falling dewdrop
b. During the strike: setsuka-no-ki, the timing of a spark
c. After the strike: bon-sho-no-kurai, the echo of a bell.
You must start with a, cut with b, and show zanshin with c.
  1. Shin ki ryoku – ichi. In showing the moment of a dewdrop, shin (mind) has the stillness of water. Ki (spirit) is action, like the wind over the water. Ryoku (waza or power) is a force like a wave.
You should start your iai like a wave created by the wind (spirit) touching the stillness of the mind.