Nowadays there is no blood spilled, at least as long as the iaidoka makes no mistakes in handling his weapon! Control and utmost perfection are the key. Netherlands only has a few dozen iaidoka. These are often people who were already teachers in other Budo disciplines before they started iaido. Even in Japan, there are only a few thousand practitioners. Muso Shinden Ryu is one of the most important styles, that also is practiced at Kendo Kai Den Haag.

In many cases, the drawing of the sword goes straight into a parapet or a quick lunge at the face of the opponent. A decisive verticle swing will pierce the opponent from crown to navel. What remains is Chiburi, shedding the blood of the sword, and Noto, the sword being calm, but staying alert while pushing back into its sheath.

The kata's that are trained at Kendo Kai Den Haag - and worldwide - are not yet fifty years old. They are the Seiteigata (official name: Zen Ken Ren Iaido): a series of twelve still evolving standard kata's that are designed by a committee of the Japanese kendo federation (Zen Nippon Kendo Renmei) which also Iaido and Jodo (stick techniques ) has under its wing. In that committee were respected masters of the major Iaido styles; the goal was to use the age-old techniques. Thus so those kendoka can become familiar with the capabilities of the real sword, without having to use them every day in and out. Nowadays the Seiteigata usually serve as a basic form for iaidoka's: first you learn Seitei, then you will get to know one or more koryu ("old styles").

Training at the dojo of Ishido Sensei. FOTO: BINH TRAN

The history of the ancient styles is extremely complex: the incalculable pattern of adjustment, change of name, division and acquisition can best be compared with the trends in business. The Muso Shinden Ryû, which was recorded by Nakayama Hakudo, around the middle of this century, you will find the traces of that history back in the form of several series kata's, which do differ considerably. Learning that series is a journey that continually performs in the past.

If you are reasonably mastered the Seiteigata, you start at the Shoden ("early education"). These twelve kata's were originally iaijutsu of Omori Ryû and were in the first half of the eighteenth century with Omori Rokurozaemon Masamitsu. In this series you will also find Junto a kata in which you perform the techniques needed to assist in seppuku. That means, you chop off the head of the person who commits ritual suicide. The main feature of the Shoden is that all but one kata begin in seiza ("sit properly").

The next step is called Chuden ("middle education") or Hasegawa Eishin Ryû, named after Omori's teacher Chikaranosuke Hasegawa Eishin. On the last after all these ten kata's, it's starts from tate-hiza ("standing knee"). This way of sitting was a legacy from the time when Japan is constantly in a state of civil war. Unlike seiza, tate-hiza make it possible to move backward to dodge quickly and therefore was this position preferred at the time. In the Chuden you will see different kata's which will eliminate the opponent up close; therefore it's often that the left hand supports the Cling of the sword.

After Chuden the Okuden ("hidden teachings"), consisting of twelve standing kata's and a series of eight that starts from tate-hiza. The Okuden goes back to Jinsuke Shigenobu, who lived around 1600. The iaijutsu of this man had so much influence, that there are two hundred other styles besides the Muso Shinden Ryû who see him as the founder. The kata's are often focused on very specific situations, such as an ambush on a dark path or a fight under a low gate. The Muso Shinden Ryû does'nt stop at the Okuden, but that will prove, over time...