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Unique to Japanese martial arts is the systemisation of sword drawing techniques into a single, distinct discipline. These techniques are known by a number of names but battojutsu and iaijutsu or iaido are the most common.

Battojutsu simply means sword drawing techniques but iai is a more obscure term. Originally referring to techniques performed from sitting or kneeling posture as opposed to standing facing your opponent, at some time in history this term came to be associated with sword drawing. This is possibly due to the importance placed on sitting postures in many classical sword drawing schools.

All trough Japan's feudal period, the samurai warrior aristocracy wore paired swords in public and had legal dispensation to cut down those of lower social rank or even other samurai who attacked them dishonourably. In this environment the most practical form of self protection is clearly to rapidly draw your blade and parry or cut down the assailant before they can strike.

As a somewhat specialised extension of kenjutsu, iai is often taught alongside it or other weapons and in older martial disciplines it would have been rare to find iai thaugh exclusively. The main focus of iaido is drawing and cutting but some classical schools iai curriculums also include jujutsu like techniques for when one's sword arm is grabbed or when suddenly attacked at close range where a sword cannot be brought to bear properly. In these we can clearly see the relationship between iai and the other feudal Japanese martial disciplines.

Many of the classical iai styles have survived and are still practiced today, some of the most well known being the Muso Jikiden Eishin ryu, Mugai ryu, Suio ryu and Mizoguchi ryu. These are also more moderen schools that take from the older teaching such Toyama ryu and the completely moderen standardised »Seitei iaido« that is practiced more as a character building discipline.

Iaido training involves in depth study and numerous repetitions of the four main stages of each technique ;

  • nukitsuke (drawing the sword and making an initial offensive or defensive motion )  
  • kiriotoshi (cutting down the opponent )
  • chiburi ( the stylised shaking of blood from the blade ) and
  • noto ( re-sheating ). In addition to maintenance of the sword and other related subjects.


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