Iaido is the art of drawing the sword. Practice consists of Kata, choreographed forms performed against invisible opponents. All Kata begin and end with the sword sheathed. For some schools, Iaido practice also includes, Tameshigiri, the cutting of materials, such as bamboo, to test a swordsman’s ability to cut.
IAIDO STYLES AT THE HOUSTON KENSHIKAN
Iaido encompasses many styles of swordsmanship. The Houston Kenshikan teaches multiple styles including Seitei Iaido, Muso Shinden Ryu, and Mugai Ryu Iai Hyodo.
Seitei is a form of modern, standardized Iaido created by the All Japan Kendo Federation to promote Iaido within Kendo Dojos. It is also designed to give students a strong foundation for Koyru, old, classical styles of Iai. While there are only 12 Kata, the Kata may be studied for over a lifetime alone. Under the All US Kendo Federation, members may test for rank, compete, and participate in seminars year wide. In addition, demonstration of Koryu is required in order for students to receive promotion in the higher Dan, black belt, ranks.
Muso Shinden Ryu was established by Nakayama Hakudo in 1932 and has become one of the largest Koryu. Muso Shinden means "transmission of divine vision." Muso Shinden Ryu has a substantial number of Kata compared to Seitei Iaido. It contains 3 levels of Kata: Shoden, Chuden, and Okuden. Though these Kata, one may fully study the various techniques as well as the essence of Iaido as a martial art.
Mugai Ryu Iai Hyodo is a Koryu originating from the late 1600s. Mugai means "Outer nothingness." Tsuji Gettan Sukemochi, influenced by Zen Buddhism, created Mugai Ryu to cultivate educated swordsmen. Thus, while all techniques are real, effective killing techniques, Mugai Ryu epitomizes self-cultivation through the study of a martial art. Like Seitei Iaido, there are only a few Kata. However, each Kata contains many variations.
Joe Sheldon, 5th Dan
Sheldon Sensei has over 2 decades of experience in Iaido, in addition to Kendo, and is the most senior instructor in Seitei Iaido for the Southern US Kendo and Iaido Federation. While based at the River City Iaido and Kendo Kyokai in San Antonio, Sheldon Sensei frequently travels to Houston to teach at the Houston Kenshikan.
Sheldon Sensei is active in the US Iaido community and attends seminars on Seitei every year to improve his own Iaido and teaching ability. Sheldon Sensei received 2nd place at the 2016 All US Kendo Federation National Iaido Championships, 4th Dan and above division.
Mark Kerstein, 3rd Dan, Mugai Ryu Instructor
Kerstein Sensei has over 30 years of experience in Iaido, as well as in Kendo. Kerstein Sensei regularly attends events on Seitei Iaido. In addition, he is an instructor of Mugai Ryu.
IAIDO STUDY AT THE HOUSTON KENSHIKAN
Iaido is a companion martial art to Kendo. We believe students who are serious about studying swordsmanship should study both Iaido and Kendo. Since a student can always “win” in Iaido against invisible opponents, students who wish to study Iaido at The Houston Kenshikan must first have some Kendo experience.
Once a student is in uniform in Kendo, the student may begin to study Seitei Iaido. After learning the basics of Seitei Kata, students may begin Muso Shinden Ryu.
EQUIPMENT IN IAIDO
Other than a uniform, an Obi (the belt to hold the sword), knee pads, a and sword is needed to practice Iaido. Basic Obi start from $20.
Students may start with a Bokuto, wooden sword, and a Saya, scabbard. This is perhaps the cheapest and safest way to start Iai, but is only recommended for beginners with less than a year of experience. The Dojo has a limited number of Bokuto and Saya to lend. For those who wish to purchase a Bokuto and Saya, they run around $30 each.
Iaido is usually practiced with an Iaito, a metal sword with a dull edge and sharp tip. A good, basic Iaito costs around $500.
Iaido at a high Dan level may be practiced with a Shinken, a real sword with a sharp edge.