Iaido is the ancient Japanese art of sword drawing. The three characters that make up the word "iaido" are i, ai, and do. They mean "to be" or "to reside", "harmony", and "way", respectively. Thus, Iaido is a way for existing in harmony, regardless of the situation.
Iaido has its roots in feudal Japan and its samurai class. Out of long period of warfare, the sword arts began to take on a new emphasis - that of perfecting one's body, mind, and spirit through the discipline of the sword. A samurai living in the early 17th century, Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu, is most credited for founding the art of Iaido. Other great masters such as Hasegawa Eishin and Oe Masamichi also played key roles in developing and solidifying the art that has come down to the present day in the form of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, which is the koryu (old style) taught at the Kenshokan Iaido dojo.
The ZNKR (Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei or All Japan Kendo Federation) was formed as a governing body in 1952. In 1968, a set of kata was developed to represent three member Iaido schools (Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, Muso Shinden Ryu, and Hoki Ryu). This set of kata was eventually expanded to twelve forms and is now variously known as setei-gata, seitei iai, and Zen Ken Ren Iai. These forms are common to the three schools and serve as the standard for grading and shiai. The Seitei Iai kata are the first forms taught at the Kenshokan Iaido dojo. The number of techniques in the Kenshokan curriculum total more than 60.
In Iaido, a mixture of elegance, power, precision, and dignity is displayed. The sword begins in the scabbard with the practitioner in a state of stillness. After the techniques are completed, the sword is smoothly returned to rest in the scabbard once more. A very disciplined art, Iaido develops commitment, focus, and perseverance. Another benefit of training is the achievement of a calm mind and spirit through silent practice of techniques.
Iaido is a way to enrich body, mind, and spirit. It provides physical exercise, relaxation, patience, confidence, community, and a mental and spiritual discipline that tunes one's thoughts, feelings, and actions to be in harmony. These benefits are the true rewards in studying and teaching Iaido.