Iaido – Yasukuni Shrine
One of the most elegant but least well known of the Japanese martial arts family of Budo, is the art of drawing the sword, or iaido (居合道). Unlike most martial arts in Japan iaido is practiced without an opponent and focuses on the ritualized drawing, cutting, and replacing the Japanese sword, the katana, in a fluid and well practiced motion. Classical iaido takes place sitting down, but these days a lot of kata (movements) are performed standing up. I have never practiced iaido, but it looks and feel similar to kyudo, which the art of zen archery, in that the outcome of the kata is not important, only how you execute it. In this, both iaido and kyudo is very philosophical and have strong elements of zen buddhism. I seem to remember having heard about the background of this very elegant sport, many of the noble classes of ancient Japan lived with the risk of being assassinated or attacked by enemies who would pose as emissaries and it became necessary to practice the quick draw from a sitting position as you would never know when the attack would come. Yesterday I went to Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo’s Kudanshita district to see several well know iaido practitioners perform in a spring ritual. Unfortunately I missed out on the younger martial artists and the females. To become good at iaido you will need to spend years and years perfecting you breathing, your movement and your balance. I think it is impossible to become good at this without almost adopting wholly the Japanese way of acting, working, thinking and living. One day I would like to try!