Iai is an old form (Koryu Budo) of Japanese martial arts that involves engaging an opponent by rapidly drawing the sword from its sheath. Rather than squaring off with swords already drawn (as in Kendo) opponents presume to begin the duel with their swords still sheathed. This type of training requires the practitioner to develop impeccable focus and flawless timing. The kata in Iai are a series of movements beginning with the recognition of the opponent, followed by the placing the hands on the hilt of the sword and loosening it from the sheath in preparation for the draw. After assessing the number of opponents and their positions, they are cut down, and finally the sword is re-sheathed. Because of this unique quality of Iai, real swords are used for kata training. Iai-To (unsharpened practice swords) that have the same structure and weight of real swords may also be used.
In addition, in order to learn how to properly measure the distance to an opponent, as well as how to read their breathing, students pair up and do “kumitachi” (paired swords) training.
More importantly however, it is said that even though many people know that iai involves drawing the sword, ordinary iai is simply about relating to people. If one stands opposed to someone, their iai with their opponent will crumble and they will become enemies. Iai is inherent in the courteous individual who is mild-mannered and non-confrontational. The iai practitioner greatly values working towards constant self improvement through defeat of the adversary within themselves and the development of a calm, unwavering mind.
In iai training, because there is no actual opponent (kata training is done on one’s own), it becomes easy to merely draw, cut, and resheath the sword in an aesthetically pleasing way. This is where iai practitioners must be careful most of all. Actually cutting down an opponent demands true determination, or spirit (kisei or kihaku in Japanese), along with a refined presence (ki-in). This cannot be achieved overnight. It is necessary to train in the kata, make the techniques apart of oneself, and spend many long years training until the sword of the mind can be drawn. Expressing a true determined spirit and refined presence through one’s appearance is the result of properly training the mind and body. Endowed with this spirit and presence, victory or defeat can be decided even without drawing the sword.
MEISHI HA MUGAI-RYU IAIHYODO
SOKE (FOUNDER) Niina Gyokudo, 9th Dan, Hanshi, Mugai Shinden Mugai Ryu Iaihyodo Meishi-Ha.
US SHIBUCHO (US Director) Tony Alvarez, 7th Dan, Shihan, Kyoshi, Menkyo (Santa Ana, CA)
EAST COAST DOJOCHO (Dojo Director, Study Groups Leader)Robert Rivers, 6th Dan, Shihan, (Brentwood, CA.)
Rivers Sensei directs all instruction for Meishi-ha Mugai-Ryu Iaihyodo study groups throughout the Southeastern United States including:
Shin Dojo: Wes Brown. Stafford, VA.
Leonardo Rivera. Norfolk, VA.
Ron Davis. Lexington, SC.
Chris Jones. Griffin, GA.
John Felton. Newport News, VA.
Scott Sprouse. Virginia Beach, VA.
Garry Parker. Columbus, GA.
Kevin Bonner. Biloxi, MS.
For more detailed information on the History, lineage, and founder of Mugai-Ryu, please click on the Official Mugai-Ryu Japanese HQ website at http://www.mugai.or.jp/english/index.html