My Iaido (Japanese Swordsmanship)
What is Iaido : Iaido is the art of drawing the Katana (Japanese sword ) chopping down the opponent  and then re-sheathing the katana in one fluid movement. It was devised in feudal Japanese times for use    when the sword was still sheathed. Its both beautiful to practise and to watch as rapid movements and  mixed with slow, Zen like meditations.
Why did I choose Iaido : I have been doing some form of unarmed combat (martial art) for about 15 years. However on one of my trips to Japan my host family gave me a decorative Katana as a present.
I always treasured the present but wondered how the Samurai would actually use it in combat.

On my 8th trip and long stay in Japan I finally allowed myself the opportunity to train in this ancient art. I found it particularly attractive because it was so different from Karate and required swift rapid     movement mixed with slow Zen mediational type movements. Furthermore I realized that it is an art that I could train with until I died (unlike the more injury prone full contact karate that I was familiar    with.
How difficult did I find Iaido training as a beginner: Initially I had much consternation as to whether my knees would allow me to train in Iaido. For those who have witnessed Iaido being performed the first 10 basic kata (movements) are performed while seated in Seiza. I remember my first night training on a hard wooden floor: Despite my stoic efforts my knees started bleeding and I had to excuse myself as a pool of blood began forming around my legs....

However after the initial shock to the knees and thigh muscles (much weight is placed on the thigh muscles so it is an excellent workout for these muscles) the going definitely became easier. Of course I have to say the regarding coordination my karate training helped me a lot there. So for the first several training sessions expect to have sore knees and thigh muscles. (Some people use knee protectors) those who are unused to sitting on their knees.))
What does an average day in training involve: The average session (3 Hours) begins with warm ups (especially for the legs) and then the kata (sword forms) are practised. In my school (Mugen Shinto Ryu) there are 3 types of kata practised: Zangi (Seated kata), Handachi (Those from the half stance) and the full stance kata. Up until Shodan (1st Dan) just the 10 seated kata are practised. To reinforce the meaning of techniques sometimes wooden bokutoo (swords) are used with an opponent. Most sessions will involve practitioners training in a circle with the katana so one can see all the other members of the group. The head senior generally calls out the names of the kata to be trained in, and the teacher moves around the 4 corners of the room to check the students kata. The teacher is gneerally very strict as with all Budo.
The names of the 1st ten kata are as follows:

   JAPANESE                                                          ENGLISH

   YOKOGUMO                                                                 THE SIDE CLOUD
   USUZUMI                                                                      ???
   YATSUNAMI                                                                 THE EIGHT WAVES
   KARYUU                                                                        RIVER OF FIRE
   KASUMI                                                                        FROG ???
   KAISHAKU                                                                    TO GIVE HELP
   UKENAGASHI                                                                FLOWING BLOCK
   TSUKIKAGE                                                                  CUTTING THE MOON
   ZANGETSU                                                                   MOUNTAIN & MOON
   TAMAGURUMA                                                             BALL CART
   NUKIUCHI                                                                     UNSHEATHING CUT
   ITOMAGOI                                                                    PRAYER
THE JAPANESE SWORD: The most important aspect of training is of course one's tool - the Japanese katana. This is a steel bladed sword. There are many different types of katana those for training in Iaido, and those designed for cutting hard things as well as those designed for cutting soft things. There are both men's katana and women's katana - the difference being the weight and amount of steel used in production of the sword. Sword lengths also differ depending on the individual's height. Many of the best Iaido swords are hand made in Gifu prefecture. The bright colour of the new iaido blade reflects the type of iron ore that was used in its manufacture.

The sword is both a beautiful work of art and a deadly tool - hence its great respect in Japan and the West. All swords should have their own unique tang mark (water mark) along the side of the blade. This differs depending on the craftsman and crafts school. However the cutting edge will be made of hard steel, where as the rest of the sword will be made of soft steel to give the sword its famed durability and flexibility.

It is good to get hold of your own sword as soon as possible so that you can get used to its size and weight and grow with the sword.

The Blade Society

The Blade Society - where friendly people like to stick sharp pointy pieces of metal into one another and brag about it over food and drink!