What is Iaido?
It is basically the martial art of ‘Drawing the sword’. It is done in a formalised set of practices known as Kata (pre-determined ‘routines’ that are practiced over and over again so that they become second-nature to those who wish to learn them).
What style of swordsmanship do you study?
Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu – this translates as ‘peerless, direct-transmission, true-faith style’.
Is Iaido very demanding physically and mentally?
This is hard to answer completely. It is very much a ‘how long is a piece of string’ thing. It can be very demanding and after just a two hour training session you will feel the ‘benefits’ but it is not perceived as physically tiring as say, Squash or even Badminton. It really depends on how much you wish to put into it.
Do I need to be very fit?
No, but you will find that after a few months training your level of fitness will improve.
You said that you study the style ‘Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu’; is this the only style of Japanese swordsmanship?
No, there are many different sword schools in existence today each with their own unique style. The main two practiced in Japan and the rest of the world (by number of practitioners not because one style is better than another) are Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu and Muso Shinden Ryu.
Would you say that Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu is the best style to learn?
Absolutely! But then again I have no doubts that students of Shinkage Ryu, Tamiya Ryu or Hoki Ryu would respond in exactly the same way to the same question. In all honesty I think the sword style is pretty much academic – the sheer fact that you can apply yourself in totality to whatever style is what really counts.
Are these martial arts that are suitable for women to practice?
Without a doubt. There are a great many female students, indeed the highest graded Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu practitioner in Great Britain is female - Sensei Fay Goodman (7th Dan Renshi).
And what about children?
Basically the answer is yes but there are some ‘buts’. It is not really suited to the younger children’s needs; Tae Kwondo, Judo or Karate (sometimes Kendo) are often the martial arts that are first taught. Over the age of 16 is no problem – but then we are now talking about young adults. Under this age it really depends on the maturity of the individual.
What is Jodo?
Jodo is the way of the stick and is a very effective against the sword (see the page on Jodo for more information). The dojo practices Jodo on Thursday and Monday nights along with Iaido.
What kit do I need to start training in Iaido or Jodo?
Day one – something like a tracksuit will do (even better if you have a pair of your own kneepads – in Iaido we kneel down quite a lot). If you have a Judo-gi or Karate-gi; great- please wear it. And if you have a hakama – so much the better. We will provide you with knee pads if you don’t have them and a wooden sword (bokuto or bokken) to start your training with.
Do I need to have learned another martial art before I apply?
No, but I guess it can only help – a lot of the Japanese words would be familiar to you. We have had two people who both reached Dan grades in Iaido who started at approximately the same time - one now 5th dan and the other 4th dan.
Can I come and watch first to see if it is something I could do?
No problem. But please remember you will be watching training sessions for those that are practitioners so please do not expect some kind of demonstration just for you. You can stay and watch for the full session if you want to but we do recommend that even on your first night that you do ‘give it a go’. It really is the best way to find out if something is for you. It is likely that one of the higher grades will talk to you during your first visit to answer any questions that you may have or to explain what you might be seeing.
How does one progress?
Simple – when you are ready, you can be eligible to test yourself in front of a grading panel who will determine if you have progressed sufficiently. The grading system is like most other traditional Japanese martial arts – through Kyu (coloured belts) grades into Dan (black belts) grades. The club tends to adopt the most traditional approach towards gradings and that is to dispense with most Kyu grades and train students towards Ikkyu (brown Belt) and onwards thereon. With intense application this could be achieved within one years study. After that it will be a minimum of 3 months before you would be eligible for your 1st Dan, another year before your 2nd Dan, two years for your 3rd Dan etc.
Could I get injured?
Always possible, but to be honest, unlikely. We will teach you basic Dojo safety on how to practice with due care and attention. This ain’t rocket science; ‘look before you cut’ is a standard mantra for all practitioners of Iai.
For Jodo you can expect some occasional bruises.
How long will it take before I feel I can do it?
Yep, another ‘piece of string’ answer coming up. It really will depend on you- how often you train (at home as well as in the dojo), how hard you apply yourself, how much you listen, natural ability etc. But I promise you, if you persevere, the first time you ‘get it’; you will be hooked – there is nothing that quite compares to the feeling it gives.
What days do you practice?
Currently we practice Iaido, Jodo & Tachi Uchi no Kurai on Monday evenings (Durham), Thursday evenings (Darlington) and Friday evenings (Sunderland).
Is there a social element to this?
Yes, if you want it. Nothing too prescribed; a drink after practice, a club meal here and there. It is up to you how much you want to put into it or get out of it.
I have been to other martial arts clubs and rather than train me all they did was use me as a ‘punch-bag’.
Been there, bought the t-shirt. Sad isn’t it that some peoples' understanding of martial arts is that it gives them the ability to ‘beat someone up’ – this is NOT the Japanese way. We will teach you how to become the best that YOU can become, to PUSH yourself beyond what you thought possible without being humiliated and degraded in the process.
What are the costs?
For basic practice you need to pay for each individual lesson – this is paid to the highest grade on the night prior to each lesson; there may also be an annual Insurance premium to pay. Because prices fluctuate, please speak to the Dojo Leader about these costs. If you become serious about Iaido or Jodo and wish to grade and/or participate in competitions then you will need to register with the British Kendo Association which has an annual membership fee although you can opt for Temporary membership when you first start.
How do I join?
Simple – contact the Dojo Leader with any further questions and advice on directions to the Dojo.