Iaido is a non-combative martial art that involves no direct physical contact or combat with other individuals in the Dojo. Practitioners perform patterns, called “Kata,” that represent confrontational situations where he or she is attacked by one or more opponents. Almost all patterns are solo; that is, there is no physical enemy. There are some two-person Kata, but these are choreographed, with one person defending against a pre-defined series of attacks. Solo Kata involve drawing the sword, making one or more cuts, cleaning the blade, and returning the sword to the scabbard with concentration and focus.

Iaido is, perhaps, the most philosophically oriented of all Japanese martial arts, but it is also one of the least understood. One reason for this may be that the practical aspects of the art overshadow its true essence: perfection of character through commitment to martial practice. Iaido is much more than learning how to use a sword. It is, primarily, about non-combative physical and mental discipline. The true essence of Iaido is in its emphasis on fostering peace within an individual by learning to use the sword as a tool for self-realization.

What this says is that Iaido is not about learning to use a sword on physical enemies but, instead, to use it to develop a strong understanding of who you are and how your actions affect yourself and your environment. With this understanding comes a more developed ability to identify what elements of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours you can change to improve your interactions with your environment and your understanding of yourself.

Though commonly known as the “The Sword Drawing Art”, translated literally the word “Iaido” means “The Art of Fitting into All Life’s Situations.” When we practice Iaido, we focus our minds on the moment and attempt to exclude all interfering thoughts. This intense focus on the perfection of all one’s motions, without mental or emotional distraction, in order to achieve calm, unimpeded awareness is the aspect of the art that is easily lost on someone who concentrates only on the physical technique as means to a practical, physical outcome. Iaido is an art of building one’s own character through constant practice and discipline, rather than of overcoming others through exercise of physical skill. The struggles we have with ourselves in our daily practice often mirror those we face in our daily lives. Take in this context, Iaido can be thought of as a metaphor for our lives. Those who understand this will find the practice of Iaido a way to change themselves and, ultimately, their lives.

Furi Kaburi – Kim Taylor, Feb 16, 2015

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

Furi Kaburi is the sword above your head, sometimes we speak of the movement overhead but for me, I tend to say it’s the point at which one starts to strike.

There are lots of ideas about how to get the sword over your head, and where it ought to be once it’s overhead.

Sometimes you will see folks swinging a bokuto or shinai back all the way to touch their butt, should we be swinging that way? Beginners have a death grip and the tip wobbles all over the place, touching the centre of the butt and especially opening the hands forces them to relax the hands at the top and lets them know whether or not the tip is centered so swinging this way is a good exercise, but isn’t used for cuts very much.

As for big or small cuts, fast or slow, or the shape of the movement. For ZenKenRen seitei and my MJER the kiri oroshi starts at the end of nuki tsuke, not at furi kaburi, there should be no pause at the top. For other interpretations the furi kaburi may be an uke nagashi, there may be a pause at furi kaburi to check the opponent’s movements, or if you unite the furi kaburi movement of the first kata Mae with the movement of the knee, it will (appear to) stop at the top… in fact it’s damned hard not to have it stop at the top. To make the move continuous you disconnect those movements. (We’re talking the ZNKR iai Mae here, where you are on your left knee and you pull that knee up to the right foot as you lift the sword overhead and then cut down as you put the right foot forward).

On the tip down of MJER at the top of furi kaburi, if the tip has gone past the ear (as I was taught for Omori Ryu) one does not drop the tip from there, one raises the hands over the head while relaxing the wrist, thus leaving the tip at the height of the ear and the hands come above, resulting in a much shorter time scale for a big cut. In ZKR iai the tip does not drop below the hilt at this point, this is an instruction from the kendo side of things and from the shinden side as well.

For oku iai the tip may be driven straight up the opponent’s face during furi kaburi which should drive him back on his heels and allow you the time to cut him down. When you do this you probably don’t want to drop the tip behind your head, you can get the left hand on earlier and start storing energy in your left forearm muscles as you lift the blade. This will allow you to accelerate the tip much more quickly. As Musashi says, “try this out”.

The position of the tip when you are overhead can depend on where the target is. One needs the tip at a certain speed upon hitting the target which means a certain arc distance in which to accelarate. If going for the head of a taller opponent you may need to drop the tip. If going for the head of a shorter opponent, a level tip may be fine, if going for kote or do the tip may only need to come from 45 degrees. This teaching is from Iwata sensei in a seminar in Vancouver many years ago. You will also find it in Noma Hisashi’s book “The Kendo Reader” which describes a kote strike from a fist in front of the forehead and a men strike from a fist above the head.

One does not leave one’s last position (the end of nuki tsuke, chudan, whatever) which is largely defensive and move into an exposed, armpits open position if one is inside the opponent’s killing distance/timing. Speed cannot save you in this position, nor can small cuts, only being outside kiri ma and moving in, or rocking teki onto his heels will do it.

Or perhaps using an uke nagashi movement on furi kaburi to deflect his downward cut. Or…

Regardless, being in furi kaburi (the position from which you can strike) before you move your body in to strike is probably a good rule of thumb to follow. This we do in MJER Mae, but not in ZKR iai Mae.


ZNKR Iai Manual Dec 2009-1

Articles on Iaido

Tachi Uchi no Kurai

Omori Ryu By Kim Taylor

Riai and Technique 2009

The Three Attacking Points on the Sword

What Kata Are Not by Peter Boylan

ZNKR Iaido Points for Grading and Refereeing

By Kim Taylor, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

ZNKR Iaido Points for Grading and Refereeing 2012

1. Ippon Mae Mae 2012

2. Nihon Mae Ushiro 2012

3, Sanbon Mae Uke Nagashi 2012

4. Yohon Mae Tsuka Ate 2012

5. Gohon Mae Kesa Geri 2012

6. Rappon Morote Tsuki 2012

7. Nahahon Mae Sanpo Geri 2012

8. Happon Mae Gamen Ate 2012

9. Kuppon Mae Soete Zuki 2012

10.Juppon Mae Shiho Giri 2012

11.Ju Ippon Mae Sou Giri 2012

12.Ju Nihon Mae Nuki Uchi 2012

Zen Ken Ren Iai Video

(Seitei Gata Iai)

1 Ippon Me Mae

2. Nihon Me Ushiro

3. Sanbon Me Uke Nagashi

4. Yohon Me Tsuke Ate

5. Gohon Me Kesa Geri

6. Rappon Me Morote Tsuki

7 Nanahon Me Sanpo Giri

8. Happon Me Gamen Ate

9. Kuppon Me Soete Tsuke

10 Juppon Me Shiho Giri

11. Ju Ippon Me So Giri

12 Ju Nihon Me Nuki Uchi

Koryu Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu

Omori Ryu

Kim Taylor – Omori Ryu kata all 1 to 11 – 2007/07/25

Kihon Sotai: Paired Sets

Tachi Uchi no Kurai

Tsumeai no Kurai

Tsumeai no Kurai | Japanese Martial Arts Center Iaido Ann Arbor

Haru Geiko April 2023 –


Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan Iaido and Roukudan Jodo

Pamel Morgan Gondan CKF Iaido and Gondan CKF Jodo

Location Mark Street United Church


15th April – Jodo

16th April – Niten Ichi Ryu

The 2023 CKF International Spring Jodo and Iaido Seminar and Grading
33rd Annual – May 19-22, 2023

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