Iaidō (居合道) is a modern Japanese martial art associated with the smooth, controlled movements of drawing the sword from its scabbard, striking or cutting one or more enemies, removing blood from the blade, and then replacing the sword in the scabbard.
Iaidō requires careful concentration, calm, attention to detail and patience; its continued practice therefore promotes the development of these qualities. Unlike other martial arts where one's skill level might be obvious to an external observer, iaidō concerns itself with greater and greater subtleties of movement, making it difficult for an unskilled observer to gauge the level of practice.
There are two predominant schools of iaidō currently practised; these are Musō Shinden-ryū and Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryū. Both of these styles use the same seiteigata, but have differences in their koryū kata.
Iaidō is usually practised indoors on a wooden floor. Before and after practise, the iaidōka performs a bow to his or her sword and to the head of the dōjō (shomen). During practice, usually kata are performed solo (alongside other iaidōka in the dōjō) with assistance or feedback given by the instructor.
Iaidō schools generally use the standardised Zen Nippon Kendō Renmei Iaidō set of kata (known as the seiteigata) to teach the fundamental aspects of iaidō, followed by the koryū, school-specific kata once an iaidōka has become more advanced.
Iaidō is practised through the performance of kata (set movements), usually by oneself. Usually the iaidōka (iaidō practitioner) will practise using an iaitō (unsharpened katana) to avoid injury, but occasionally a shinken (live katana) will be used, especially if practising tamashigiri (cutting bamboo).
Nukitsuke is the drawing of the sword.
Kiritsuke is the cutting made with the sword.
Chiburi is the practice of removing blood from the blade.
Nōtō is the practice of placing the sword back into the saya.
- Further information: Ashisabaki#Ashisabaki in iaidō
As in the rest of iaidō, the ashisabaki (footwork) is developed to be fluid and direct. Its purpose is to evade incoming attacks and allow the body to quickly take advantage of openings given by the opponent (as prescribed by the bunkai), without sacrificing balance or stability - timing and precision are therefore essential.
During training, a gi is usually worn.