5 : THE DEVELOPMENT OF NIHON-TO AND THE BIRTH OF IAI March 1936
The results of tracing the origins and development of the Japanese sword reveals bronze as the raw element. They were of straight construction with a triangular tip and double edge. Nowadays is called a Ken or Tsurugi. Some were directly imported from China, some made in Japan.
Historical records state that in the Taiho period of Emperor Bunbu (42nd), curved swords if iron were made. In the year 702 a new rule was constituted, stating that swordsmiths must engrave their name on the Tang of the sword. It is not known how long the making of the Chokuto Straight (sword) was continued.
After this some men became famous as the original swordsmiths of Japan;
The Tsurugi shown here can be seen at Yoshinogari, about 20 minutes drive from my home. It is the site of a village dating back to the Yayoi/Jomon era and was discovered an unearthed 14 years ago (Photograph ©Hyakutake 1986)
In the Wado period (708-714), the swordsmith Amakuni who lived in Yamato (Nara Prefecture) followed by Shinsoku from Buzen (Oita Pref). In the Daido period Yasutsuna from Hoki (Tottori Pref). From then on the technique, style degree of curve etc. of the sword began to change drastically.
I came to the conclusion that later on as fighting tactics changed from time to time, Ken were used by foot soldiers and the curved swords by horse-soldiers.
According to historical records curved swords were used in the Tenkei-no -Ran (war of the Tenkei period 936). In this war all of the horse soldiers used curved blades (Koshizari) because they were much easier to handle riding a horse.
After that period for quite some time longer, lighter deeply curved blades were used. This period was called the Koto Jidai (old sword period). It then changed to the Shinto Jidai (New sword period around 1500~1800). Small shallow curved blades were used. Next followed the Shin-Shin-to period (1804~1867 end Of the Tokugawa Shogunate). The blade became even straighter to control distance between the opponent, and became shorter (around 23 inches).
This establishes that the practical usage of the sword counterparts its history. Iaido enthusiasts should study and know about : Koto, Shinto, Shin- Shin-to, Gendai-to succession.
6 : THE EIGHT BENEFITS OF IAIDO - May 1937
a, It gives one a feeling of familiarity with the sword
b, Promotes a spirituality in preserving ones countries pride.
c, It teaches one the correct etiquette in handling a sword.
d, Corrects physical and mental attitudes and revitalises the energetic fighting spirit.
e, Either gender, young or old, affluent or unprosperous can practice unconditionally. All enthusiasts can take part and benefit.
f, A partner or opponent is unnecessary.
g, Results can be established in a short period.
h, For practising a large area is unnecessary.
7 : IAIDO ATTIRE - May 1937
There are two types of apparel to perform Iaido in;
1, For normal practice Kendo clothing is more than adequate.
2, For an Official Performance (Embu, Competition, Grading.) A traditional Japanese Kimono is recommended.
Addition : A Kendo-Gi is no problem however a formal Gi could create a problem because the long and wide sleeves (see editors note) could interfere with Noto movement. The only way to avoid this problem is to get used to wearing a Kimono.
Note: Unlike western clothes length refers to the measurement of the sleeve width (depth).
8 : BREATHING - August 1935
Breathing control during Iaido practice is also important. Since the old days the words Three Breaths have existed. It means that;
Overextended time between two techniques or, too shorter period between techniques are both ineffectual.
The correct way of respiring is to take two breaths before commencing action. To start drawing the sword on the third breath would be just about the right time. In the case of natural individuality one should start when one is ready for action.
Addition : Preparation for breathing control is not easy for beginners. The basic rule of Three Breaths must be adhered to during practice until it becomes comfortable and natural.
In Iaido the following junctures are a time to concentrate power and hold ones breath is:
1, When Nukitsuke has finished.
2, When Kirioroshi has finished.
3, When Chiburui has finished.
4, In Noto action, the moment the moment the Kissaki meets with the Koikuchi. As above when energetic concentration is required, breathing automatically stops for a moment. Once your practice ceases to be repetitive, breathing control will become spontaneous. Repeated practice is essential to master breathing control.
9 : NUKITSUKE - May 1937
Nukitsuke is the most crucial move in Iaido because it decides the outcome to win or lose “Live or Die”. Forms of Nukitsuke would differ depending upon the place and occasion. However completion culminates an original form. There are three elements that should be kept in mind during practice; Speed (fast action), correct and effective movement and conformity. Technically, the Saya is held outward at 45 degrees until about 3 inches of the Kissaki remain. Subsequently increase the speed of Nukitsuke action and twist the Saya out further 45 degrees to make it horizontal. At this moment the back of the right hand must also have retained a forceful grip.
Addition : Amongst Iaido techniques Nukitsuke is the most difficult. Within Iaido proverbs, it is said that Iaido begins and ends with Nukitsuke. It is almost impossible to attain a satisfactory level without taking the following elements into consideration;
1, How to bring the right hand to the Tsuka.
2, Angle of the right hand wrist.
3, Position of the right hand on the Tsuka.
4, Direction of sword dispatch.
5, Height of the sword arm.
6, How to use the abdomen and the waist.
7, Round about where should the edge of the blade become horizontal.
8, Conformity of the Kissaki and the right fist.
9, In what position should the blade become horizontal.
10, The direction of the blade when Nukitsuke is complete. There are additional points to be studied to achieve individual proficiency. Turn the Saya 45 degrees is a suitable pointer. However my teacher Yamamoto Takuji Sensei disapproved of the use of this phrase. I once heard him reproach Kono Sensei saying, This 45 degree business is an overindulgence. He intimated that this movement should be done spontaneously after sufficient repetition.