Welcome to Kalamazoo Aikikai–Mitsubachi Dojo!
What is iaido?
Iaidō (ee-aye-doh), a form of Japanese swordsmanship, is known as “the Way of sword drawing.” In practice, it involves drawing, cutting, and re-sheathing a katana, the curved single-edged Japanese sword. In Japanese martial arts, the term dō (Way) refers to a path of self-development or cultivation. The Way of learning to draw the Japanese sword becomes a practice in refining the self.
Practicing iaido engages the mind and body fully. It is a study that requires mental discipline, sustained focus, attention to detail, and awareness of how the body and mind engage to perform action. Through training, practitioners learn to formulate clear intention, gather the self, organize mind and body to work together toward unified action, and then move fluidly, powerfully, and definitively.
At Mitsubachi Dojo, iaido training is structured around the twelve kata of the Seitei Iai as specified by the Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei (ZNKR). Higher-level students (shodan and above) may begin studying koryu, or traditional kata, as well. For our dojo, the koryu curriculum comprises the forms of the Muso Shinden Ryu and Shindo Munen Ryu.
The benefits of regular iaido practice include the development of greater resilience, self-awareness, fortitude, perseverance, calm, easier breathing, reduced stress, improved focus, better balance, proprioception, patience, self-compassion, self-efficacy.
The initial stages of iaido training focus on the following elements:
- Learning basic etiquette related to the sword, including standing and seated bows
- Holding and wielding the sword (a wooden bokken may be used for the first month)
- Executing sword motions relative to the center line of the body
- Moving the feet, legs and hips so that the lower body supports the motions of the spine, shoulders, and arms
- Becoming attentive to eye motion to align vision with intention
- Coordinating breathing and movement
- Drawing the sword and resheathing it correctly
- Executing Mae, the first technique in the Seitei Iai kata
Over time, iaido practitioners learn to:
- Make good use of the ground so that gravity becomes a friendly force and powerful movement flows effortlessly
- Enable the bones to transmit power cleanly so that the muscles can work efficiently
- Educate the left and right halves of the body to coordinate around a central axis
- Allow the ribs to expand and contract in sync with the rise and fall of the sword and breath
- Allow the eyes to settle and align with one’s intention
- Develop functional footwork unleashing the power and elegance of the sword forms
- Improve balance and realize dynamic stability