By Harlyn Lane, Chuno RPA
When I was preparing to come to Japan, I decided I was going to try kendo. One reason was because I was interested in Japanese swords and swordsmanship. The second was I wanted to learn a martial art, or rather bushido (way of the warrior), in Japanese. Kendo is well known throughout the world, so I figured it would be a great bushido to try. However, a friend of mine then suggested another martial art; one that very few Japanese people and even fewer foreigners have heard of: iaido.
Iaido is the art of drawing and sheathing the sword. Unlike kendo, there is no partner to fight with. Instead it’s an internal martial art, focusing on quickly drawing the sword, cutting the opponent down, and then sheathing it. The idea is to use as little energy as possible and to take down your envisioned opponent with one strike. And since there’s no partner, students gets to use an iaito (unsharpened sword). However, experienced students and masters all use shinken (sharpened sword), and practice their kata (form) on bamboo and rolled up tatami.
I needed to try this out!
Just like with any martial art, the basic kata are essential. In iaido, there’re six fundamental forms. By learning these, students can understand the advanced kata more in how they’re supposed to be used. It’s hard practicing without a partner, or at least a dummy to hit. However with a bokuto (wooden sword), students are able to practice the forms with one another and learn exactly where to strike.
Iaido events happen about once a month across Japan. In Seki during Hamono Matsuri (the cutlery festival in October), usually the iaido association does a demonstration. Definitely check it out and see the masters and students at work as they slice thick pieces of bamboo as if it were nothing. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to participate. After all, not many foreigners are aware of this awesome martial art, and it’s worth seeing.
Here's a school in Gifu, where they train in Gifu City, Ono-cho, and Seki: http://iaitym.jp/ The next event will be held in Seki on July 9th. Time is yet to be determined.