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Iaido (ee-eye-do) is a kata-based Japanese martial art mainly using the katana. Wooden boken may be used to practice this art, also commonly used are dulled practice blades called iaito. Instructors and very experienced Iaidoka may use a sharp sword called a shinken. There are some two-pesron kata performed with boken. A hakama is worn for Iaido at all ranks.
What sets Iaido apart from other sword arts is that it focuses on drawing a sword directly into a cutting technique. Most kata are performed solo, against one or more imaginary opponents who are the physical match for the practitioner. All solo kata start and finish with the sword sheathed. Most kata have four parts: the draw and cut (nukitsuke), the final cut (kiri kudashi), a ritual cleansing of the blade (shiburi), and returning the sword to the scabbard (noto). Emphasis is placed on posture and body alignment, forming good habits that can carry over to other martial arts.
Iaido does not teach one how to fight with a sword, rather, the kata are a framework for learning how to efficiently, effectively and safely handle a sword and all involved with it, such as the manipulation of the sheath (saya) and the strings (sageo) that secure the saya to the practitioner’s belt, as well as focus and attention to detail at all times while handling the sword or performing etiquette. Each kata involves different strikes, different targets, different timing and different ranges (maai), and all of them involve controlling the situation with the spirit as much as the actions, in order that one may eventually achieve victory with the sword still inside the saya.