The Iaido or the art of the Japanese sword.
The Iaido "The Way of Life in Harmony", or "Existing in Union with the Way", is a form of martial art that originated from Bushido which included 18 fighting arts. It is usually done with a blunt katana called Iaito. At high level, it can be practiced with a sharp katana. It brings together a set of katana fencing techniques which consist of drawing and cutting in the same movement. In ancient times, the Iaido was also called "Saya no uchi" (Litt: Scabbarded saber) which meant that the fight could be won without pulling out his saber.
Its origins date back to the period of wars (Sengoku-jidai between the 14th and 17th centuries). Security was precarious and the warrior (Samurai or Bushi) permanently wore the Katana passed through his belt with the edge facing upwards. The Bushi had noticed that during unforeseen attacks (at the bend of a crossroads, inside a building), it is the speed with which we unsheathed and we chained a counter-attack that made it possible to acquire a fundamental advantage in combat.
Many surprise attack situations and circumstances were systematically studied in order to determine the most effective and appropriate techniques to counter the many forms of surprise attacks and enemy raids.
Tradition has it that the first formalization of the Iaido is due to a certain Hayashizaki Shinsuke Shigenobu born around 1542 in Shinzaki en Dewa.
The practice of Iaido
Iaido is now widely practiced in Japan and around the world. This astonishing success for a martial art that may appear very esoteric all in all is due to one main reason, the awareness by the old masters of the Meiji period that the Iaido would disappear if the schools which until then were very closed did not open. to the public.
The main part of the practice of Iaido consists in learning and performing Kata, sequences of precise movements, performed most of the time alone and corresponding to a scenario (Bunkaï). Some schools offer sets of Kata for two (Kumi Iai for Chumokuroku Koryu). These forms constitute as many teaching aids and allow the transmission of all the techniques of a school.
The Kata are basically composed of the same four steps:
- Unsheathed and first cut (Nukitsuke or Nukiuchi)
- Main cut (Kiri oroshi) - blade cleaning (Chiburi)
- Storage of the blade in the scabbard (Noto) Many variations, cuts, thrusting strikes, strikes with the handle of the sword, are added in some kata.
Kata are started either standing (Tachi iai), kneeling on the ground (Seiza), or in a position with one knee on the ground (Tate hiza). Its learning is very difficult and not immediate. Like Budo, Iaido is a story of passion, will and serenity, it is the experience of a lifetime. Many practitioners give up their quest along the way, because the road is long and painful, and there are many illusions. Be tough on yourself and tolerant of others.
The Seitei Iai or Iaido ZNKR
For the sake of unification and in order to allow all practitioners to have a common basis, experts from the Japanese Kendo Federation (Zen-Nippon-Kendo-Renmei, ZNKR) have developed a new school, the Seitei-Iai which Today includes 12 Kata inspired by Kata from various Koryu Koryu (Ancient Schools). 3 Kata on the ground in Seiza, 1 Kata on the ground in Tate-hiza and 8 Kata standing in Tachi-iai. The Seitei Iaï was created to allow Kendo practitioners not to lose the techniques of saber and the notions of cuts. The Seitei Iaï allows you to run for and obtain federal degrees, the only ones recognized nationally and internationally, from 1st to 8th Dan.
The Koryu (Old schools): CHUMOKUROKU RYU, ENSHIN RYU, MUSO SHINDEN RYU, KATORI SHINTO RYU, TAMIYA RYU
Even though the official history of Iaido revolves around Muso-shinden-ryu, there are still a very large number of Koryu today. Most of them only bring together a few dozen practitioners while the best-known ones alone bring together almost all of the practitioners and have a certain degree of organization (teacher internships, manuals, etc.).
Most Koryu have dozens of Kata generally grouped into three families of increasing difficulty: The Shoden: beginners The Chuden: experienced practitioners The Okuden: experts However, one should not be mistaken about the notion of difficulty. Indeed the Kata in themselves are generally not much more complicated, but it is their realization which is more demanding (quality of sequences, realism, etc.). In the past, the most advanced form of Okuden was only taught to the best students.
The tradition which has continued to this day in the Koryu give us a similar idea, a representation of what this Way could mean. Knowing how to develop the virtues of courage and self-control, the objective of which is to strive for the whole man.
The search for the way (Michi) in the practice of Iaido
The practice of this martial art requires a solemn spirit, extreme concentration and skill. Each movement, such as the movements of your arms, legs and body, must correspond to the offensive movements of your opponent and it is very important that the practitioner completely and carefully follows and applies the rules of the discipline.
The secret of Iaido, "'A calm mind". With a calm heart, you put your hand on the Tsuka of your saber and in a fraction of a second your hand takes out the saber to make a cut, then you find your calm mind.
The serene mind should be cultivated at all times. It is said that the sword is like the spirit. If the sword is upright, the mind is vertical, but if the mind is not honest, the sword can never be used properly.
Even if you devote yourself to its practice with all your heart and soul, it will be very difficult for you to fully master Iaido. However, it will be possible for you, through practice, to evolve from step to step towards the ultimate goal. The Iaido, whose ultimate goal is never aggression, is a real school of moral and physical training, which seeks human perfection through practice. In Iaido, the training of the mind is even more important than the technical training. The purpose of Iaido is therefore not to control or cut an enemy, but rather to master one's own EGO.
For those who persevere in this path, Iaido is a discipline that makes people real. Japanese Budo is life, it's natural. After many years of practice, we are still discovering and we are still advancing in our research. We open doors all the time, we realize the true value of things. The truth is immediately found in the Iaido. You can't cheat. As soon as we start to take out the sword, we discover ourselves. It is the story of a lifetime.
Iaido still remains a traditional martial art in its own right.
However, many modern Budo have turned into a sport, where we only seek visible results, throwing, hitting or throwing our opponent, the result is a mediocre technique, we can not even speak of technical. This limited practice does not correspond to the formation of a being with a noble character and integrity which is one of the objectives of Budo.
Despite the will of the founders of modern Kendo (around 1952), Kendo has changed its nature in sport. Particularly because of the modification of traditional Kata and the rejection of certain fundamental positions.
It is therefore necessary to re-study the Kata that the elders left us.
But beware, Iaido competitions are starting to gain too much importance. In traditional martial arts, there should be no competition. There should only be meetings, in which we demystify the problem of competition. The competition pushes back the human being and diverts him from the spirit of Budo.
The label should not be there to respect an old and formal habit, but to establish in the present, an attitude of respect and humility. The interest of the label, when it is understood and fully lived, is to establish right human relations, a process of integration and a means of realizing that the dojo is a sacred place. More than in all other martial arts, etiquette (Reigi) plays a very important role in Iaido where it is particularly elaborate, finicky and punctuated by a large number of marks of respect (At the saber, at the Dojo, etc. ).
Sources: Denis Blanc (the Stone and the Saber in Bourges)
CNK (National Kendo Committee): http://www.cnkendo-dr.com
CHUMOKUROKU RYU: (School of Robert Rodriguez 7th Dan Renshi of iaido and 6th dan of Jodo)