All iai and related curriculum consists of kata (form). Iai kata may be performed by a solo practitioner or in pairs with a partner. There is no “free sparing”, and, though kata competition has become common, iai is not considered a competitive sport. For solo forms, iai practitioners may use a practice sword (iaito), made of either aluminum alloy or steel, that replicates the weight and balance of a real katana. Generally, iaito are not sharpened and are safe for beginners’ use. Real katana are also used, though they are much more expensive and more difficult to obtain. Sharpened Chinese-made blades are plentiful and inexpensive in the US, though their fitness for practice varies widely. It is always wise to consult with the instructor before choosing a practice sword.
Partner kata are performed with wooden swords (bokuto). White oak from Japan, and more recently, China, are used for the best bokuto. Even so, wooden weapons are considered dispensable, as they will wear out over time.
Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido
Muso Shinden Ryu iaido, as taught by Otani Sensei. Curriculum includes all three levels of kata (Omori ryu, Hasegawa Eishin Ryu and Okuiai) as well as the Tachi Uchi no Kurai (partner forms).
Shinto Hatakage Ryu Iai Heiho
A very old and small style, Shinto Hatakage Ryu Iai Heiho has many unusual features, including a reverse rising-cut nukitsuke (initial draw and cut), a spinning kaiten chiburi (removing blood from the sword) and reverse-hand noto (resheathing). Even the grip on the sword is different! The chief practitioner of this ancient style is Kiyama Hiroshi of Kusatsu, Japan. Our immediate instructor for this style is Peter Boylan.
Yoshiteru Otani's Techniques
We are proud to include in our curriculum some of the teachings of Yoshiteru Otani. Otani Sensei devised some basic exercises for mooring and cutting, referred to generically as happo-giri (to cut in eight directions). He also designed 20 partner kata that are practiced with wooden swords.