What Is Iaido?


Iaido (EE-EYE-DOE) is generally known as the art of drawing and cutting in one movement with the Japanese sword, in response to or anticipation of an attack, then cleaning and re-sheathing.  Practitioners train in various situations mainly via solo waza that start with the sword in the sheath.  The situations presented in the waza may include multiple opponents, obstacles, and different starting positions (sitting or standing).  Training involves more than just swinging the sword.  It also involves the body and the mind working together to make the sword effective.  The literal meaning of I-AI can be roughly rendered as I – ‘being/exist”, and AI – ‘be together/meet/fit’,– a subtle reference to the deeper meaning of relations before as well as during conflict.  This is training for being mentally and physically prepared at all times.


Iaido is one of Japan’s oldest koryu (old style) martial arts, with many different ryu (styles) surviving to this day.  The lineage of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu goes back about 450 years to the founder Hayashizaki Jinsuke Minamoto no Shigenobu .  Today as then the emphasis is on control and precision of the sword, and to develop and strengthen the character and ‘heart’ (kokoro) of the practitioner.  Practitioners spend years in intense training with the imaginary opponent to achieve direct and highly efficient action.  Practice develops the practitioner physically and mentally by developing physical strength, especially in the legs and hips, as well as enhancing awareness, posture, poise, focus, calmness, and centeredness.  The forms are deceptively easy looking,– much of this art is subtle or hidden.  To the casual observer the waza seem simple and unadorned.


The literal translation of the name of the style is No (Mu) Parallel (Sō) Direct (Jiki) Transmission (Den) Eishin Style (Ryū).  Eishin is the name of the 7th headmaster who profoundly influenced the system. Below is the relationship between the kanji (Japanese characters) and the romaji (English rendition of Japanese) of MJER.



MJER old kanji


Mu            Sō         Jiki       Den         Ei           Shin      Ryū         I            Ai            Dō