What should I ask before beginning Iaijutsu/kenjutsu

Clinton Shaffer

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Could anyone tell me what types of questions I should ask and what types of things I should look for (or be on the lookout for) when checking out a school for Iaijustsu, kenjutsu, etc? Much Thanks!
 

BrendanF

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It's an interesting question. I would say you should already have an understanding of what iaijutsu and kenjutsu mean, and what the various schools' techniques and names look like; this is important to ensure that you know that you are actually interested in studying them.
Then I would suggest researching and checking that any group you might join is in fact a legitimate school, with current authorisation from Japan. Asking about them on forums like this is a good start.
Then go, speak to the teacher, ask to attend and watch a training session (sit through the entire thing) and join. You will know shortly whether it's for you.
 

isshinryuronin

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A few important points you should be aware of -

True experts in iaido / kenjutsu are very far and few between. (When I studied, maybe three dozen in the whole USA.) May be hard for you to know good from bad. If you are concerned about authenticity and quality, research will be required as BrendanF suggests above.

Many dojos use a dull aluminum blade (iaito) and a few will train with a sharp (dangerous!) blade (shinken). If the latter, be sure you have the physical and mental control and awareness to handle this.

A decent aluminum blade will run $150 - $400. For sharpened steel, $250 - $600, though can run as high as $800 - $2000, depending on your wallet and tastes for better quality. Superior quality blades run much more, but you're a long way from even thinking about those.

Like karate, some dojos will teach gentle forms and technique, others will be more physical and aggressive with more of a Samurai spirit. But the chances are you will have little choice since the number of schools or true sensei are small.

The mindset for iaido, IMO, is much different than other MA. Very internal. It is not a lighthearted hobby to play around with. A serious demeanor is required.
 
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Clinton Shaffer

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A few important points you should be aware of -

True experts in iaido / kenjutsu are very far and few between. (When I studied, maybe three dozen in the whole USA.) May be hard for you to know good from bad. If you are concerned about authenticity and quality, research will be required as BrendanF suggests above.

Many dojos use a dull aluminum blade (iaito) and a few will train with a sharp (dangerous!) blade (shinken). If the latter, be sure you have the physical and mental control and awareness to handle this.

A decent aluminum blade will run $150 - $400. For sharpened steel, $250 - $600, though can run as high as $800 - $2000, depending on your wallet and tastes for better quality. Superior quality blades run much more, but you're a long way from even thinking about those.

Like karate, some dojos will teach gentle forms and technique, others will be more physical and aggressive with more of a Samurai spirit. But the chances are you will have little choice since the number of schools or true sensei are small.

The mindset for iaido, IMO, is much different than other MA. Very internal. It is not a lighthearted hobby to play around with. A serious demeanor is required.
The mindset for iaido, IMO, is much different than other MA. Very internal. It is not a lighthearted hobby to play around with. A serious demeanor is required.

Would you elaborate on this point a little please? I don’t consider any martial art to be a lighthearted hobby to be played around with but what you say is a little vague. What separates Iaido like this and why?
 

isshinryuronin

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Would you elaborate on this point a little please? I don’t consider any martial art to be a lighthearted hobby to be played around with but what you say is a little vague. What separates Iaido like this and why?

I understand it may be vague - feelings often are as they are as individual as people themselves. My view is that the sword is an offensive weapon, and once upon a time, drawing one often resulted in someone's death (Why draw it otherwise.) Most cuts are to be done with full commitment - decisive. Yet, they are to be done cleanly, precisely, and with good technique - elegant. Zanshin is a word that applies. Look it up if you are unfamiliar with it.

On the more pragmatic side, using a shinken is dangerous. A split second lapse of concentration, control or awareness can cause serious injury to yourself or someone else. Every move with it must be done deliberately. While all this is true of most MA, it is much more so when slinging a giant, very sharp, knife with large, sweeping, strong strokes.

Not everyone may see it this way, but IMO, taking all this in account will yield the greatest benefit from its practice.

 

BrendanF

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In my experience there can be a finite distinction between iaijutsu/kenjutsu taught as a component of the study of a particular koryu and 'iaido'.. which almost always is used outside Japan to mean ZNKR seitei iaido. Iaido is certainly taught and practiced with a 'different' approach and mindset to the koryu I study.
Koryu study can span such a broad and diverse spectrum of technique and mentality, while the entire raison d'etre for modern iaido is uniformity through distillation.
 
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Clinton Shaffer

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I understand it may be vague - feelings often are as they are as individual as people themselves. My view is that the sword is an offensive weapon, and once upon a time, drawing one often resulted in someone's death (Why draw it otherwise.) Most cuts are to be done with full commitment - decisive. Yet, they are to be done cleanly, precisely, and with good technique - elegant. Zanshin is a word that applies. Look it up if you are unfamiliar with it.

On the more pragmatic side, using a shinken is dangerous. A split second lapse of concentration, control or awareness can cause serious injury to yourself or someone else. Every move with it must be done deliberately. While all this is true of most MA, it is much more so when slinging a giant, very sharp, knife with large, sweeping, strong strokes.

Not everyone may see it this way, but IMO, taking all this in account will yield the greatest benefit from its practice.

Ronin,

That which you wrote in your reply only makes me want to study Iaido more. Serious business! There is simply something Zen-like about the concept of the sword in such a context. Further, I can easily see the attributes of sword study (Zanshin) becoming a part of your everyday life. You've inspired me further, sir.
 

isshinryuronin

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In my experience there can be a finite distinction between iaijutsu/kenjutsu taught as a component of the study of a particular koryu and 'iaido'.. which almost always is used outside Japan to mean ZNKR seitei iaido. Iaido is certainly taught and practiced with a 'different' approach and mindset to the koryu I study.
Koryu study can span such a broad and diverse spectrum of technique and mentality, while the entire raison d'etre for modern iaido is uniformity through distillation.

Can't disagree here. Sort of like comparing original style Okinawan toude with a more stylized form such as Shotokan. But there can be some crossover and infusion if the sensei has a sense of the value of its koryu origins. There is a difference between the idea of jutsu vs do, but I don't think they have to be strictly, mutually exclusive. My sensei (very well known at the time in MA circles) stressed the combat quality of iaido, rather than just pure artistic form over function. This is what I was getting at when I contrasted the two types of dojos in my first response to Clinton.
 
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