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All weapons should be bagged or cased coming into, leaving the Dojo. The bag can be a silk wedding obi sewn into a bag (very classy) or a lawn and leaf bag. I don’t care.

Most nights, I’ll be available 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after the class for any questions that you have about the art or equipment. If you have questions about technique, I strongly urge you to ask them DURING class…more than likely someone else will benefit from your question. I generally try to stay later to practice, so if you want to stay for extra practice, you’re more than welcome. Come and go as you please.

Now for the fun part. The rest is a work in progress.

Lynda Shipley has very kindly put all of these terms on flashcards for study at:


(All Japan Kendo Federation Iaido)

1.Ipponme – Mae (Front)

2.Nihonme – Ushiro (Behind)

3.Sanbonme – Ukenagashi (Receive and deflect)

4.Yonhonme – Tsuka-ate (Hilt strike)

5.Gohonme – Kesagiri (Priest’s robe cut)

6.Ropponme – Morotezuki (Two handed thrust)

7.Nanahonme – Sanpogiri (Three directional cuts)

8.Hachihonme – Ganmen-ate (Face strike)

9.Kyuhonme – Soete Zuki (Joined hands thrust)

10.Jupponme – Shihogiri (Four directional cuts)

11.Juipponme – Sougiri (Complete cuts)

12.Junihonme – Nukiuchi (Sticking closely)

Counting in Japanese for exercises











11- Juu ichi

12- Juu ni



Mo ichi do – Do it again

Chakuza – Sit in seiza or tata hiza

Hajime – Begin

Yame – Stop


Saho – Etiquette

Reiho – Way of bowing

Ritsu-re – Standing bow

Za-re – Sitting bow (from seiza)

To-re – Bow to the sword

Sage-to – Standing position with the sheathed sword held in the left hand

Tei-to – Holding sword on the left hip

Tai-to – Insertion of sword into obi

Dat-to – Removal of sword from obi


Nukitsuke – Initial drawing cut

Yoko-giri – Horizontal cut

Makko – Vertical strike (head to abdomen)

Men – Cut to forehead

Furi-kaburi – Swinging sword overhead in preparation for a cut

Saya-biki – Pulling the saya behind you to stabilize a cut or to facilitate noto

Saya-banare – The snapping action of the sword leaving the saya during nukisuke

Te-no-uchi – Proper grip and control of the sword

Hikki-giri – Cut that slices as you step away from opponent

Chiburi – Snapping the blade to clean it

O-chiburi – Overhead swing of blade to clean it (literally, large or great chiburi)

Ko-chiburi – Sideways snap of blade to clean it

Noto – Resheathing


Ashi-sabaki – Footwork

Tachi waza – Standing techniques

Okuri-ashi – Front foot moves first if moving forward, rear foot moves first if backing up

Tsugi-ashi – The back foot steps up close to the front foot, then the front foot moves forward

Ayumi-ashi – Crossing step. Normal walking.

Hiraki-ashi – Diagonal or opening step to side


Maai – Distance from yourself to your opponent

Issoku itto no maai – Distance of “one step, one cut”

To no maai – Great distance

Chika no maai – Close distance

Metsuke – Directing your gaze or focus

Enzan no metsuke – All encompassing gaze (literally: Looking at a distant mountain)

Seme – Projecting your ki strongly at your opponent

Zanshin – Maintaining a state of alertness or awareness

Mushin – The unselfconscious mind

Saya no uchi – The ability to stop violence before it can happen (literally: Sword never leaves the saya)

Bunkai – The “story” of the kata. “Why” you’re doing what you’re doing. AKA: “ri ai”

KAMAE (Stances)

Chudan no kamae – (Water) sword at navel, tip toward opponents throat.

Gedan no kamae – (Earth) sword at navel, tip slightly down

Jodan no kamae – (Fire) hands above forehead, sword slightly back from vertical

Hasso no kamae – (Wood) hands to right of head, sword slightly back from vertical and slightly out to side

Waki gamae – (Metal) body turned slightly to right, sword down below obi facing back with edge down

Commands at Bow In

-Bow with sword on left hip before going onto floor.

-Sei retsu – Line up

-Joza nie – face front, move sword in front of body to right side. Edge down.

-Re – bow to the Joza. Return to facing each other.

-Kneel in seiza. Put sword on floor to right side. Tsuka forward, edge out.

-Sensei nie – face the Sensei

-Re – bow to the Sensei. “Onagei shimasu” or “please” with “let us practice” being understood.

-Move sword to left hip. Extend sword out and lay on floor in front of you. Tsuka to right, edge out with tip of saya closer to you than tsuka.

-Re – bow to sword

-Place sword in obi

Commands at Bow Out

-Kneel in seiza.

-Remove sageo. Grasp sword normally with left hand, extend outward in front of center of body.

-Grasp sword with right hand, index finger over tsuba

-Drop left hand to lap, extend right hand till saya clears obi. Stand sword on right side.

-Lay sword on floor, tsuka to left, edge toward you and straight across.

-Re – bow to sword.

-Recover sword with right hand, index finger on tsuba and stand on floor in center of body. Run left hand down saya to bottom, grab bottom and place sword on left hip. Grab with left hand.

-Place sword on right side, tsuka forward, and edge out.

-Sensei nie … Re – Bow to Sensei “Arigato gozeimashta” or “Thank you”

-Recover sword to left hip


-Joza nie…Re – same as bow in.

-Recover sword to left hip, take 3 steps backward and turn to right side…you’re done.

-Bow before leaving floor

Sword Nomenclature

Hi – (pronounced “he”) Most blades have a groove running along part of the shinogi-ji. The groove actually serves the purpose of strengthening the blade while making it lighter.

Hamone – The temper line along edge. Usually has a “misty” appearance.

Considerations When Buying a Sword

Probably the single most important consideration is length of blade and tsuka (if they offer different lengths on the tsuka). Please consult me to get properly measured. If the sword is too long, your yoko giri and noto will be severely impacted and your practice will suffer. If the sword is too short, there is a tendency to “collapse” around your noto. After you’re measured, you must consult the store that you’re interested in buying from about how they measure their swords. The measurement I take on you will be from the tsuba. Some use the more traditional mune machi (notch on top of the habaki) while others use the front of the habaki. If you tell them the measurement I took and where I took it from, they should be able to make the conversion. MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHERE THEY’RE MEASURING FROM. MAKE SURE THEY KNOW WHERE YOU MEASURED FROM.

The second issue is, of course, price. Start with deciding on how devoted you are to practice. If you’re still not sure if this is for you or you don’t know how long you plan to study, either don’t bother buying one or buy one of the cheaper models. The student models that most sites offer are just fine. No kidding. They don’t offer a lot of choices, but it’s a sword, not a priceless family heirloom. The biggest thing that’s different between the “Student” and “Master” versions are usually choices that you get to make on the sword furniture. Silver habaki, a specific hamone, a schmaltzy (Yiddish for “way fancy”) saya, an awesome tsuba. You get the idea.

One difference that you might consider is silk grips. Cotton works. Cotton is fine. Cotton will probably last as long as your iaito. Cotton is MUCH, MUCH cheaper than silk. Have I said that cotton is perfectly acceptable? Silk is silk. I think the feel is just slightly better than cotton, it doesn’t feel as soggy as cotton if you sweat a lot (if you watch me sweating during class, you’ll see why I prefer silk). Silk was traditional because the samurai might be called on to fight all day long in any weather. You’ll be working out for an hour or two inside a gym. At most for 8 hours at a seminar…also inside. If you work out in the rain or snow, it won’t be with me and I’ll probably recommend you see a shrink. You won’t be taking it in the pool either. COTTON IS FINE IF YOU NEED TO SAVE A PILE OF SCHECKELS (…clams, greenbacks, etc.).

Weight and balance are also considerations. You should be able to find out how much an iaito weighs from the store. Don’t buy any heavier than you require. Personally, I practice with as light a sword as I can find. Heavy blades are harder to handle and increase the tendency toward “tennis elbow”. No kidding. Iaidoka are very prone to the illness and it hurts like the Devil himself. My iaito is 900 grams. It’s also 2.7 shaku. If they tell you it’s heavier than that, talk to me, but I’d recommend you keep looking. Females and children should be looking at significantly lighter models. Say in the 7-800 gram range.

Balance is a harder issue to address if you can’t handle the sword. Ask if the balance is back toward the hands. This will make the sword point more “mobile” and give you a more flexible feel.

Do not under any circumstances buy STAINLESS STEEL, FORGED or CHINESE swords. There are known issues with these breaking in practice and you won’t be allowed to use them at Seminars or Tests. They’re also, usually very heavy with poor balance. This will hurt your practice and maybe your arms and shoulders.

Buying Bokken

If you want to buy a bokken, but aren’t the standard size, buy one of the quality you like and I’ll trim it down to size for you for free. If you want to see what a bokken with a hi (groove) looks like trimmed, Masami Hill has one of my jobs. It seems to work just fine. Sorry, but I can’t ADD to the length of a standard iaito. Some shops have longer versions if you like.


If you plan to study jodo or the Japanese short staff, your bokken should be white oak without a hi (groove). Your jo should also be white oak. Red oak and white oak don’t get along well when making contact and white oak is specified by the All Japan Kendo Federation.

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