The essence of Iaido is a non-combative discipline engaged in for the individual's spiritual cultivation. Through the blade we seek to improve our spirit and become better people, to promote peace and good feeling beyond the walls of the Do-Jo and into out daily lives.
One must bear in mind the higher goals to achieve and take each steps and overcome each obstacle, but at the same time, one must relish and enjoy his challenges, though the path may be a difficult one to follow. If one studies the classical Budo for fun or through a whim, no true understanding is possible. The goal of self-perfection requires time and effort, and direction is always more important than haste. The classical Budo disclose their meaning only to those who are dedicated and who exert their minds and bodies in rigorous training.
There are many styles of Iaido, many ways to cut, to move, and as one learns one improves technically. However, we train not only to learn techniques, but also to cultivate the heart and spirit. With this respect all "styles" will lead to the same goal.
There were many (probably several thousand) of Koryu (traditional schools), though only a small proportion remain today. Almost all of them also study older school established during 16-17th century, like Muso-Shinden-ryu, Hoki-ryu, Muso-Jikiden-Eishin-ryu, Shinto-Munen-ryu, Tamiya-ryu, Yagyu-Shinkage-ryu, Mugai-ryu, Sekiguchi-ryu, and so on.
In Iaido, as a general rule, you begin to move on the third breath’s inhalation. It is desirable to complete each technique as you finish a breath. Breathe silently, without raising your shoulders, so as not to alert your opponent. Don’t wait too long between techniques, but don’t go too fast either. For beginners, this is difficult. Continued practice using the 3 breath timing will lead to improvement.
No matter what style was practiced, the procedure always comprised four separate parts:
- Nukitsuke or Nukiuchi - Blade drawing to meet a sudden encounter (nukitsuke). The first strike, though single handed, should be effective. Ideally it should make other following cuts unnecessary. One cut - opponent down - immediate win. The angle, timing, control will all be watched. Make sure the cut lands with the front foot and that the body weight is giving power to cut.
- Cut or cuts used to despatch the enemy (basic cuts)
- Chiburi or Shiburi - shaking of the blood from the blade. The purpose of shiburi is to clean the end of the blade of anything left on it from cutting. Shiburi also has a spiritual meaning of cleaning one’s soul.
- Noto - re-sheathing of the sword (noto). The trainee must, in the final stage of wielding the sword, return its razor-sharp blade to the scabbard he wears at his left hip. The action used in accomplishing this brings the operator's left hand within a fraction of an inch of the keen edge, in itself an unnerving maneuver for the untrained, but one made infinitely more delicate by the fact that the action must be performed without once looking at the scabbard.