Iaido - the way of the quick draw of the sword


"Iaido" is made up of three characters:

  • i: 居る (iru) meaning "to exist, to be"

  • ai: 合わす (awasu) meaning "to blend, to adapt"

  • do: 道 (michi) meaning "path, way"

The compound meaning comes from the saying:


"Tsune ni ite, kyu ni awasu"

This means "Exist normally and naturally, be ready to quickly adapt to the situation".

Iaido is one of the names for the art of the quick-draw of the sword. Other popular names includes battojutsu, kenpo and iai-nuki. For the westerner the image of the quick-drawing gunslinger of the wild west is a close analogy to the Japanese art of the quick drawing of the sword. At the heart of this martial art is the notion that all drawing of the sword is in the response to an existing threat, whether that threat is physically present (as in an attacker literally attacking you) or if the attack is otherwise forthcoming (where one senses an attack and forestalls it through subduing the enemy).

In general, the training of iaido consists of learning and training solo forms (kata). At advanced stages one learns paired kata. At our dojo, the katas fall into two main groups:

  • All Japan Kendo Federation Seitei Iai: consists of twelve basic forms used primarily in examinations and competitions.

  • Muso Shinden Ryu Iai: consists of four main teaching sets of classical koryu forms initially with paired forms for the advanced student. In the solo curriculum there are the following number of kata:

初伝 Shoden (first level) - 12 forms

中伝 Chuden (middle level) - 10 forms

奥伝座技 Okuden suwariwaza (inner seated level) - 8 forms

奥伝立技 Okuden tachiwaza (inner standing level) - 10 forms