In July of 2015, I was out having coffee with a friend who'd lived in Japan for 14 years. I was telling him how I'd always wanted to learn how to handle a sword. I knew actual combat would be right out, given my dismally poor vision and lack of depth perception, but I figured there were still moves I could learn. I always figured some medieval re-enactor would teach me how to use a broadsword. He says, "That sounds like Iaido." Which is a word I'd never heard before in my life. I went home and looked it up. Three days later I was in my first class. And now, here we are.

It is a very methodical art, deeply detailed, meditative - some have even referred to it as moving Zen. Although initially I would not have described it as being suitable for someone who's not a patient soul, I have found that not to be the case at all. I'm not a patient person, but I am now in a place where I can't imagine my life without iai. I think it's probably the first time in my life I've truly dedicated myself to something. It is suitable for anyone of any age, and almost any physical ability or size. The only real limitation is your height and the length of your arms. You need to be tall enough - and your arms long enough - to handle a sword. There's no age restriction involved, though this is generally not something you'll find teenagers doing.

I sometimes write about my experiences with iai.

My sword

An iaito is an unsharpened blade (sharpened katana are called 'shinken'), generally sandcast of aluminum-zinc alloy (as opposed to a forged carbon steel shinken). They are used primarily for the practice of Iaido. The length of the blade depends on the user's arm length and the style of Iaido they practice. The method of noto (re-sheathing of the blade) is a primary factor in ryu-related sword length. My style (Muso Shinden Ryu) uses the - to my knowledge - longest blades because of sayabiki - how far back we are pulling the saya during nukitsuke and the start of noto.

I acquired this sword from Taylor Sensei in Guelph in July of 2016. In so many ways it is not aesthetically what would I would have chosen had I the opportunity to get a custom sword made, but the first time I held it in the dojo, I knew this sword was mine. It felt right. For the detail-oriented - it's 2.45 shaku (about two and a half feet), with dragonfly menuki, vines around the fuchi, and Musashi tsuba.

I read somewhere that samurai used to name their swords. I haven’t yet come up with a name for this iaito yet, but I figure that someday I’ll just know what’s right. I need to take some better photos of it. One of these days.


We hold various seminars, practices, demos, and other events throughout the year; and because I am the sort of person who likes to keep track of things and make lists...

iai @ blog