Iaido Default Actions – By Kim Taylor Iaido, class of 1983

Added with permission from Kim Taylor Nanadan (CKF) Iaido, Rokudan (CKF) Jodo and Niten Ichi Ryu Shidoin, January 2023

I spent some time today looking up this old chestnut for the Tuesday evening iaido boys. Here it is, it’s also on the CIJF members site.

-last edition: Oct 15, 2011

When I started iaido there were limited chances to practice with my sensei. As a result I had to develop a rough and ready set of rules for iaido. These have been somewhat refined over the years but still remain about the same as when I started using them to fill in the gaps of my iaido instruction. They were originally general movement or theory points for iaido but in this document I have tried to restrict them to the Zen Ken Ren iai set (seitei gata).

You may use these as you see fit, I hope they are of some benefit.

Please consider these points to be the “default setting” of ZNKR iai, if you can’t remember what to do at a particular point in a kata, use the default and you will likely be correct. You will likely remember being told about the “exceptions to the rule”.

1. The ZNKR manual trumps everything and everyone, what is written there is the default setting. If the book does not specify what is done, do what your sensei says or what is written here. If a senior hanshi disagrees with the book, look for a new edition soon.

2. Get rid of all extra movements that you can, if you can do it with 2 movements, stop using 3.

3. The elbows stay down as much as possible, and the hands stay generally in front of the body.

4. Gripping the tsuka does not require a large “L-shape” of your right hand for most techniques, you may put your hand on comfortably.

5. The saya turns the hilt of the sword into the proper position/angle to cut

6. Push the sword out of the saya, pull it into the saya.

7. We do NOT aim the tsuka gashira at the target when we draw.

8. All initial cuts (or deflections) in iai are done from the scabbard (from saya banari) (by definition, this is more or less the essence of iaido).

9. Use more left hand to move the saya, whenever there is a problem, check the movement of the left hand on the saya first

10. The left hand stays on the centerline (in front of the body) during all movements.

11. The angle of the saya agrees with the angle of the cut

12. The grip of the right hand does not change once you have completed nuki tsuke until you start noto.

13. There is saya banari with every one-handed cut or thrust

14. The saya biki agrees with the direction or angle of the cut or thrust

15. Each two-handed cut is done so that when the monouchi touches the opponent’s head, the tsuka gashira is aimed at the belly button. The tsuka gashira remains aimed at the belly button through the entire cut.

16. There is okuri ashi (the back foot moves up a little toward the front) on the completion of every cut or thrust in standing kata (exceptions in sanpogiri).

17. The cuts and thrusts are done with the right foot forward (except in Ushiro, sanpogiri, soetezuki, shihogiri)

18. There is no pause at furi kaburi, the cut starts at the end of the previous movement, not when the sword arrives overhead ready to cut down.

19. Furi kaburi (over the head) is left fist above the forehead.

20. Look at the opponent before you turn toward him to cut. (This may or may not be done on ushiro depending on the sensei and the level of the student.)

21. The sword is moved in an uke nagashi (parrying) motion (tsuka leads the motion) on all turns.

22. The kissaki stays above the tsuka on all turns and movements of the sword except after a thrust into an opponent when a hiki nuki motion is present (tip may remain down until furi kaburi when it is above the tsuka, specifically: tsuka ate, morote zuki, ganmen ate).

23. The hips are or become square to the opponent at furi kaburi

24. The hips must be square to the opponent before moving the body toward him

25. The hips are square to the opponent on all cuts or thrusts (except where it cannot be square, specifically: tsuka ate, sanpogiri, soete zuki, shiho giri)

26. The tip of the blade finishes down for the first five kata, and parallel to the ground (tip and munemachi the same height) for the rest.

27. Kata 1 and 2 are nuki tsuke (supression), the rest are nuki uchi (draw and strike directly).

28. Kata 3, 4, 5 are done with subayaku (speed, haste) with no space between looking, taking the hilt and rising up… not rushing but with no hesitation.

29. All turns are done on the balls of the feet.

30. The hand moves to the obi over the saya when you start chiburi (except in uke nagashi, kesa giri and soete zuki)

31. The right hand finishes at obi height on chiburi, but ahead of the hips.

32. O-Chiburi is 45 degrees (blade, arm, angle etc etc etc), Yoko chiburi is parallel to the ground (as if the blade is sitting on the floor), soetezuki has its own angle

33. The right hand comes off the tsuka directly to the side before moving back to the start position and the eyes come up.

34. The return to the starting line is back at the end of the kata, except nuki uchi (12).

35. It’s your grip. Fix it.

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