The most spectacular form of sword fighting. It is also the most direct and the most efficient at the same time.

The sword mastery and technique in Japan is sub-divided into two styles:Iai-Jutsu and Ken-Jutsu.

Ken-Jutsu is the art of maneuvering the sword after it has been unsheathed. It was considered by the samurai to be the most important technique. During the centuries, it has known various political and philosophical conceptions, and it was known under many names:Heiho, Kenpo, Toho, Gekken, Hyodo. Today the general acknowledged general term is Ken-Jutsu.

Iai-Jutsu is the art of unsheathing the sword and cut your opponent with a single stroke. It requires an extreme precision and velocity. The most representative master of this particular style was Master Hayashizaki Jinsue Shigenobu, at the end of the 16nth century. He synthethized and taught this technique in a new school of martial arts. The technique was known throughout the centuries under many names: Batto-Jutsu, Batto-Ho. Nowadays the style is known as Iai-do. Once this term has became generally knwon, its essence changes too: from the primary requirement and importance of the fighting efficiency we pass now to a different level and the emphasis is now on the moral and spiritual side of the Iai-Do style. The same passing from fight(Jutsu) tot the Way(DO) is now being observed in Aiki-do, Ju-do, Ken-do.

Master Otake Risuke believes that there is no contracdiction between Jutsu and Do. He is upset that many Iai-do practitioners forgot the warrior origins of the school and its purpose:killing the opponent. Nowadays they are just content to imitate the techniques, with no emotional and spiritual meanings and implications.

A Iai-do practitionar must not control his opponent, but himself. Translating the term Iai-do would be: “the way of harmonizing with yourself in action”.

The greatest Iai-do schools are:

– Hoki-Ryu,founded by Katayama Hisayashu(1575-1650)
– Muso Shinden-Ryu, founded by Nakayama Hakudo(1869-1958)
– Yagiyu Shinkage-Ryu, founded by Sekishusai Yagiyu (at the beginning of the Edo period).

The very strict etiquette of the Iai-do is common for all schools: never be late for practice, shorten your nails, no jewels are permitted in the dojo, take your shoes off before entering the dojo, hold your sword only in your right hand when entering the dojo and getting into the seiza position, do not touch someone else’s sword without prior permission, do not speak without being asked, do not leave without permission from the sensei, show respect for your sensei and the other colleagues. These rules are valid in any martial arts style, but in Iai-do they are respected with much rigor.

The Iai-do techniques are simple and efficient, and the solitary work is a primary requirement. Over 1000 sword unsheathing and sheathing are required daily in order to become a master of this technique.