Way of Mental Presence and Immediate Reaction

About Iaido

Iaido (ee-eye-doe) is a sword-based Japanese martial art that focuses on how to cut an attacker while drawing the long sword (katana) out of the scabbard (saya). This is done with a sharp steel sword (shinken) or an unsharpened metal practice sword (Iaito) designed for this practice. We short fighting routines called katas. The motions associated with drawing a sword from its scabbard and cutting as we draw, striking or cutting an opponent one or more times, removing blood from the blade with a special movement, and then replacing the sword in the scabbard. This is all performed with smooth, controlled movements. These katas are also performed as two person drills with solid wooden swords (bokken).


Iaido originated in the katana (long sword) techniques of the samurai of Japan, which were codified beginning around 1390. When the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867) unified the country after a long period of civil conflict, edicts were issued to transform the samurai from warriors to refined individuals, able to serve in the government. Skills included martial arts, reading, writing, administration, and finer arts, like calligraphy and painting (Warner and Draeger 1982: 14, 38).

Peace changed the reasons for martial study. Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu (1546?-1621) is considered the legendary founder of iaido for not only codifying a system of batto jutsu (sword-drawing techniques), which he called Shimmei Muso Ryu, but also for promulgating the idea that practicing sword forms with meditative intent could make one a better person, and benefit society thereby. (The well-known connection between Zen and the martial arts had previously been established as far back as the 14th century.) (Warner and Draeger 1982: 79-81).

Following the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Meiji Restoration (1868-1911) saw "sportification" of combative sword forms (kenjutsu) into kendo, still widely practiced today by both men and women in Japan and throughout the world (Draeger and Smith 1980: 101-102). Meanwhile the batto jutsu forms evolved from Hayashizaki through successive headmasters, who introduced more philosophical refinements. The term "iaido," meaning, essentially, "way of presence in the moment," was first used to describe the sword-drawing art in 1932 (Draeger and Warner 1982: 79, 96).

Musō Shinden Ryū

Teaching of Divine Vision

Muso Shinden Ryu is the school (ryu) of swordsmanship that we study. It’s founder Nakayama Hakudō (1869-1958)is one of the pre-eminent martial artists in history.He won the coveted Triple Crown. That means he was the top competitor in Iaido (sword drawing), Kendo (sparring with armor), and Jodo (short staff).

Nakayama Hakudo studied many traditional sword styles that were dying out in Japan and combined them into a new style of practice. He believed that the practice of swordsmanship was a Way (do, Japanese or dao/tao, Chinese) to become a better human being. In Japan the sword was viewed as a holy or divine instrument and a symbol of nobility. Using his fame as a champion martial artist and teacher people flocked to study with him. The waning sword arts were revived by his efforts. Though many styles or schools of Iaido exist, half of all Iaido practitioners study this style today.