What is Iaido
Iaido, the art of drawing the sword from its scabbard (saya) and cutting, has a long history in Japan, with a large number (hundreds) of historical schools, some of which focused on iai alone, others which developed iai curriculum as part of more comprehensive weapons training.
It can be practiced with a live blade (a sharp steel sword), an iaito (a Japanese practice sword specifically designed for iaido, having no edge and being made of a non ferrous alloy that will neither hold an edge or survive being used for sparring), or, at a beginners level, with a bokken (wooden sword).
Iaido related sites on the web reflect this, with organisations based on the various old koryu such as the Tamiya Ryu and Muso Shinden Ryu being represented, other sites representing newer forms of Japanese swordsmanship such as Shinkendo, still others such as The Iaido Journal cover a wide spread of styles and there are sites that are based on the ZNKR seitei gata curriculum.
The University of Wollongong Kendo Club encourages the study of iaido
by members as the art gives an additional perspective on the way of
the sword, and gives training in how to handle a katana, rather than
just a bamboo practice sword. Training is held on Sunday's prior to Kendo training.
We practice in the main Seitei Iaido, a form of iaido established in 1968 by the Japan Kendo Renmei (ZNKR), based on contributions from the largest historical iaido schools, as this common curriculum of twelve kata or forms is known to a wide range of instructors, so we have been able to train in an ad hoc manner as opportunity permits.
From 2003 students are also being introduced to the Tamiya Ryu curriculum through Ray Lawrence Sensei in Perth who conducted our first Tamiya Ryu class here in Wollongong in April 2003, he has subsequently visited Wollongong for refresher trainng every year or two.
Instruction is given by Robert Brown, Godan (5th Dan) Seitei Iaido, the 2006 and 2009 National Iaido Championships individual runner up, assisted by Aden Steinke, Sandan (3rd Dan) Seitei Iaido.
Only a minority of kendoka associated with the club carry out this
practice, the majority of the Iaido class study only iaido or iaido and jodo.
History of Iaido at the University of Wollongong
Formal iaido training was first introduced at the University of Wollongong Kendo Club in 1994, initially iaido training was lead by Chi Wai Lee (nidan kendo) who came to the university as a kyu grade in iaido. In 1994 Chi Wai went to Japan for the kendo foreign instructors summer camp, and returned Shodan in Seitei Iaido, and we began sporadic training, using live blades. However in August 1995 he was obliged to return to Hong Kong and we were left without an iaido instructor. In order to continue study in the art we then arranged occasional visits by Iaidoka from the Sydney Iaido Club, for which the Wollongong Kendo Club is grateful. Practice was irregular, occuring prior to Kendo on Sunday afternoons at the University campus when sufficient (three or so :) ) students were present to help each other.
In 1996 an Iaido seminar was held in Perth in association with the Kendo national championships and kendo seminar, giving the opportunity for a week of daily instruction for Wollongong participants.
For the brief period May/June 1997 Sensei Katsumi Kuramochi (2002 Australian Iaido Champion) provided instruction to us in Setei Gata Iaido on Sundays in conjunction with Kendo training. With his departure Iaido practice again became very sporadic. With the exception of this period, the club did not had an iaido sensei, though (Kendo) Sensei Rixon was involved in the first Seitei Iai club in Australia in the mid 1970's, and as he took a kyu grade in iaido at that time he has been able to offer assistance.
As Kadono Sensei says, 'It is very difficult to learn by oneself. It is necessary to learn the Kata, Waza and JUTSU from a Sensei, so that all aspects and facets of IAIDO may be realised', something that was all to clear to Wollongong practitioners.
From the start of 2000 however, with the support of Sensei Ramon Lawrence of Western Australia we began regular weekly training, and have been taking part in the annual national iaido seminar, grading and competition each year since then.
As of 2013 Robert Brown, Wollongong Kendo Club`s iaido instructor, has achieved the grade of Godan in seitei iaido, and was the National Secretary of the Australian Iaido board from 2003 to 2009. Since 2000 Wollongong is the only NSW dojo to have been represented at all Australian Iaido Championships, and had at least one student grade at each national seminar. 2003 saw several visits from Dean Hawthorn and Ruth Franklin (Suio Ryu practitioners from Sydney), and one from Hans Fricke (Nakamura Ryu) to help with our Seitei practice. 2004 saw visits from Hans Fricke and Ruth Franklin, with a tameshigiri (test cutting targets with live blades) session taught by Fricke Sensei. Since 2004 we have had been fortunate to have regular visits from Ramon Lawrence Sensei and regular interchange with all of the other NSWKA Iaido dojos.
The resurgence of Seitei Iaido in NSW saw the first NSWKA Iaido Gradings in 2003, they happen now every three to six months. The April 2007 grading held here in Wollongong saw one nidan and one shodan from the UOWKC, our first home grown Nidan. Since then the club has produced its first Sandan student.
A major online source of iaido information is the Iaido-L listserver, run by Sensei Kim Taylor at the University of Guelph in Canada. This resource helps Wollongong remain in touch with events in the Iaido world - I sent my first message to it in September 1994 :).
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