Iaido is a sword-based Japanese martial art that trains the motions associated with drawing a katana. Modern day exponents typically use iaito(blunt training sword) instead of shinken (real sharp sword). Iaido can be described as a specialized version of kenjutsu which specializes in dominating the first few moments of combat, before the swords have even been drawn. Iaido is performed individually against one or more imaginary opponents in kata (pre-arranged situations).
Iaido is most often translated as the way of harmonious living, the art of adapting to circumstance, or the way of being here and now. The name consists of iru (being), ai (harmony), and do (path).
Most traditional sword schools primarily use partner practice with wooden swords as training method, and solo practice with the sword (which may or may not be referred to as iai) is usually a minor part of the curriculum.
Iaido as an art that focusses on iai as its major component is usually attributed to Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu (1542-1621). Little is known about him, but his students originated most of the Iaido styles practiced today.
Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei(ZNKR) Iaido
In the 20th century the Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei(The Japanese Kendo Federation) created a set of 12 iaido katas, known as the seitei gata (standard forms). The purpose was to encourage Kendo practitioners to experience the handling of a real sword. Not all kendoka practice Iaido, and many iaidoka don't practice Kendo. These 12 katas are used as a basic practice for all Iaido schools. Every person is learning them before do start with the Koryu katas.
The names of the 12 Sei tei Kata:
4. Tsuka Ate
5. Kesa Giri
8. Gan Men Ate
11. So Giri
12. Nuki Uchi
The ranks in iaido are based on the modern kyu-dan system, created in 1883, that conform to the policies and criteria established by the iaido organization concerned.
Iaido practice requires a significant investment of money, which is spent first and foremost on training equipment. Therefore it is advisable to select it carefully, as good equipment will serve longer. For the first couple of sessions any loose closing is allowed, but for continued practice correct clothing is required. It consists of an Iaigi (jacket), Shitagi (undershirt), hakama (wide pleated pants), a long and wide obi (belt) and protecting kneepads. Also required will be a practice sword. Even though it is possible to get the very basics of iaido using only a bokken (wooden sword), it is strongly recommended to obtain a iaito (special alloy sword) as soon as possible. Before buying any equipment do consult with the sensei about sizing and quality.