Iaido Muso Shinden Ryu:
The sword drawing art of Iaido has often been likened to "moving Zen." Although this may be an apt description, depending upon the goals and sustained efforts of the exponent, Iai offers us a very demanding regimen where the devil is in the details. While learning nuance, Iai compels us to project outwards. Improper training can easily reduce the movements (kata) into dance.
The student usually begins training with bokken (wooden sword) and iaito (zinc-aluminum training blade) eventually developing skill sets necessary for using a live (sharp) edged sword. Without mastery of technique, the dangers are self-evident as one mistake, one error in judgment can bring tragic consequences.
Different schools of Iai have different "heiho" (strategies). Practitioners learn the curriculum of their specific school(ryuha).
Note: Jodo and Iaido can both be found in sets of kata (seitegata) selected so that various schools can train together with common elements under the auspices of the All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF). This organization establishes technical guidelines for standarized testing and are not always promoting the same techniques as studied under a teacher of koryu.
We practice Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido as developed by the kenshi (sword saint) considered the modern founder of iai Nakayama Hakudo.
The Rembukan Dojo requires that all of the students study both Jodo and Iaido without exception. These arts compliment each other but more to the point where Jodo involves paired training Iaido constantly trains against the self. Combative arts really means that we're training against someone else. In Jodo it is apparent where your enemy is at all times. To the novice practitioner it means rushing a movement or misreading combative distance. Unable to slow down, an imperfect skill set develops. You practice against yourself. As the timing of your opponent is always identical to your own movements the best you can hope for is a draw.
Like Jodo, Iai is composed of a series of forms or Kata of increasing complexity. I like to say to my dojo mates that Iai is the art of drawing, cutting, and returning the sword to the scabbard, but it is really about absolute control, economy of motion and concentration in unconcentrated form. Whoa, did I really just write that? Yes and I meant it too. The constant practice helps make body movements more efficient, a skill that is desirable in combat. However it is very unlikely that we will confront someone with a sword today outside of training. Still the by-products of training can assist us with the demands of everyday life in how we concentrate on the details without getting tunnel vision. By slowing down and refining movements Iai helps us understand Jo and make our movements more efficient. By the same token Jodo helps us appreciate the "feeling" of having someone actually trying to close in for an attack.
The Rembukan Dojo is fortunate in that we've had some great instruction for both koryu and seitei. Indeed the husband / wife team of the Koyamas, accomplished Iaidoka and AJKF judges have been wonderful assets in the continuation of our sword study.
Mrs. Koyama is a nanadan as of this writing. She trains daily and also holds makimono in Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo. Mr. and Mrs. Koyama have been declared as the last monjin of their teacher. They travel all over Japan to study with various teachers of various styles with permission.