Iaido (ee-eye’-doh) is a martial art that teaches certain aspects of Japanese swordsmanship. Iaido emphasizes drawing a katana (the Japanese long sword), making a series of attacks or cuts intended to kill one or more enemies, and then returning the katana to its saya (scabbard).
Iaido is an art, or perhaps training method, using a real (or almost real) sword in solo practice. Wazas (practice exercises) start and end with sheathed sword, and hence involve the drawing and sheathing of the sword. Iaido is most often translated as the way of harmonious living, the art of adapting to circumstance, or the way of being here and now. The name consists of the Japanese characters for iru (being), ai (harmony), and do (path or way). In iaido, the practitioner battles non-material opponents with techniques that today are completely obsolete and devoid of practical application, and do not even offer the satisfaction of affirming superiority over other practitioners through competition. As a true Budo (martial way), iaido is a battle with the self, a cutting away of all redundancies. Through precise movements of kata, the practitioner seeks to mobilize his or her entire being, to unite the intention, action, and sword, every detail being a matter of life and death. Through this unification of sense, will, and action, the sword becomes a tool for spiritual and personal development.