A brief history
Iaijutsu, the art of drawing and cutting with the blade, was seen as an art in its own right and was practised in parallel with Kenjutsu. Iaijutsu (precursor to today’s Iaido) was developed for encounters in daily life where the sword would be drawn and used against one or more adversaries, the aim being to dispatch the opponent with the first (or at most second) strike.
Iaijutsu can be seen to be specific to techniques performed by having to draw a sword from its saya (scabbard or sheath). Training in Iaijutsu gave warriors the ability to act quickly, or, some would say instinctively to a situation without hesitation, drawing their swords, cutting and re-sheathing in one smooth motion.
Iaijutsu was not without its critics, however and people sometimes referred to the art as treacherous. Despite these criticisms the art grew as an effective way to quickly deal with opponents with mal-intent.
Practice in Iaijutsu required warriors to learn specific techniques and practice them repeatedly and as such kata were easily formed, some of which are still practiced today. There were many schools of Iaijutsu and as such there were a variety of techniques, methods of striking, parrying and even re-sheathing the blade (some schools even made students take an oath to never pass on what they had learned so as to keep the techniques secret and therefore more effective in a fight).
Today’s Iaido is seen by some as a more spiritual pursuit, where stillness of mind and body are juxtaposed with explosive techniques and movements, teaching the practitioner balance, focus and grace in movement. The fighting spirit of Iaido cannot be ignored and students should train with an understanding that they are being taught an art developed for dangerous encounters.