Iaido classes are conducted in a traditional Japanese manner. The terminology used in class is usually in Japanese, although instruction is in English or by demonstration. Beginners are instructed separately until they have learned enough of the basics to train with the more advanced students.
Initially, beginners don't need to worry about buying a hakama, gi, or any equipment needed for iaido. You should wear some comfortable clothing that you don't mind sweating into (training pants/shirt or karate-dogi) - we will provide the rest. Beginners can expect to spend most of their early classes practicing basic footwork, posture, and strokes as well as an introduction to the first Seitei iaido kata. After a few months (two or three is about average) the student is ready to start practicing with an iaito or practice blade.
After a couple of months, you are encouraged to purchase a uniform (hakama and gi) for about $100-120. To insure quality and uniformity, the sensei will help you with your equipment ordering needs.
After a few months, at the sensei's recommendation, you should buy your own iaito to practice with. The most basic iaito start around $450. You can spend several hundred dollars for a custom made iaito. Please DO NOT buy your own iaito without first consulting with the Sensei. There are safety and quality issues to consider, and we do not allow Chinese-made iaito in the dojo.
Iaido is based on Japanese Bushido (the way of the warrior), where reishiki (etiquette, respect, and manner) is just as important as fighting skill. Iaido is a modern-day descendant of earlier techniques of drawing the sword to inflict deadly injury on someone else. With that in mind, we need to change our mind set when we are practicing iaido. Not only to practice safely, but also to consider the theory of iaido.
The dojo is a place apart from our home and our work, and should be considered so. There is an excellent article about Reikisihi written by Deborah Klens-Bigman on the Fighting Arts web site. The following is a portion of her article that I think relates directly to the type of attitude one should have when practicing iaido.
"Reishiki not only teaches respect and self-control, it sets off time in the dojo from time in ordinary life. As many anthropologists studying ritual have pointed out, an opening/closing ritual “sets off” the time in between as “special time.” In terms of iaido practice reishiki sets off the dojo as a place to recognize practices and hierarchies not normally considered in everyday life. For example, a construction worker may become a dojo chief instructor, a successful attorney may be gently cuffed around as an unranked beginner."
Iaido practice involves the use of swords in a confined space, a potentially dangerous activity. Reishiki signals an atmosphere of mutual trust in the dojo where these activities may safely take place.
It cannot be stressed enough how important respect for your fellow practitioner is in iaido, and also the need for awareness of your immediate surroundings and safety in the dojo.
After you've joined our dojo, there are a number of additional resources available in our member's area. Sensei will give you the username and password for access. Some resources include: