Iaidō is the Japanese martial art of drawing the sword from its sheath, striking, and re-sheathing. Practitioners train to respond immediately to an unexpected attack; however, the focus is on individual forms and rarely involves an opponent or partner.
Iaidō classes are taught as part of an ancient heritage from a particular school, the Heiho Niten Ichi Ryu, which was created by the Samurai Miyamoto Musashi (1584 – 1645). He asserted that he defeated his first opponent at the age of 13 and remained undefeated in 60 duels. The Heiho Niten Ichi Ryu is unique in that only a handful of schools teach it outside Japan.
Shihan Medhat Darwish instructs beginners with a wooden practice sword called a bokken. Once a beginner is meaningfully invested, they can purchase a blunted sword, an iaitō, made of aluminum-alloy and stainless-steel.
Masters may use a katana which is a formidable slightly curved blade with a groove along its steel length. The swift cutting force it exerts is heard when wielded correctly during a strike. Katana are fashioned by master craftsmen with precision and great care over the course of weeks and even months.
Iaidō classes practice precision
During Iaidō classes, the practitioner is enjoined to continually practice precision in rituals, cutting, the power of the cut, correct technique, timing, and presence. Every movement has a purpose. From the correct way to present your weapon to the stance you assume, every gesture is perfected to be immaculate.
Throughout the time that samurai ruled, iaidō masters taught it as much for practical defense in times of war along with the concept of self-development. After the last samurai battle on September 24, 1877, and the need for combat with an opponent diminished, martial arts began to shift. Modern iaidō classes appear to have evolved with a focus on spirituality. Iaidoka (the practitioner of iaidō) may not begin classes with the intent to evolve spiritually but it is inherent in the practice.
What is essential to iaidō as in every martial art is the spirituality of creating a space within himself or herself. When they begin practicing, they initially strive to be the teacher or master or a figure they have observed. They attempt to align themselves to an exterior and physical ideal. As the iaidoka immerses herself or himself in focused iaidō classes, they begin to let go of this concept. The concept shifts from the desire to be something to self-cultivation through movement, attention, and intention.
Effective iaidō classes are not play, but they do engage the systems which allow the warrior to be in the here and now, allowing creativity to take place. They grant you to respond to the present moment rather than imposing the past or future to the present. It cultivates a mindful presence which permits one to be spontaneous.
Learn more about modern Bōjutsu classes
Learn more about Daitō ryū Aikibudo classes