Beginning, Testing, Kenshu, Instructing
This section is especially for new students who may be confused about some of the principles and practices of Iai-Tate-Do training. The intricacies of rank and the shouted instructions in Japanese may add to that confusion. The new student may be mystified about things like when to bow and countless other questions. The best advice we can offer to the new student is: do not worry, relax and let your Iaido training unfold gradually.
As a new student, take heart. You have begun and well-designed and carefully thought-out progression of training that, with whole-hearted commitment, you will have you smoothly through the ranks, from beginner to advanced student and hopefully to instructor.
The beginning period of Iaido training is the most difficult time for most people. You may feel awkward and uncoordinated and that the draws and cuts performed by your instructor and other senior students are not as easy to duplicate as they appear. This feeling of awkwardness is entirely normal. If you see smiles in response to early attempts to master Iaido, please bear in mind that those smiles are not smiles of derision, but represent the very fresh memory of the difficulty of personal starting efforts. Persevere un-self-consciously.
You will be shown the basic movements and techniques by the more experience students, who welcome the opportunity as part of their own training. After some time has passed, you may feel competent to test for rank. Testing for rank is voluntary and an excellent opportunity to focus attention on the specified required techniques. Testing is the time that you begin the experience and understanding of the techniques and their underlying principles.
Your initial instruction will probably be with the use of the bokken (wooden sword) followed by the use of a metal sword with a blunted edge (Iaito). Later ranks will include the use of the Japanese knife, or tanto, and the use of sharpened swords (Shinken) in cutting practice (Tameshigiri). After a period of time and based on your instructor’s permission, instructor level is the next step in training. Either assisting in an already established class or teaching one of your own, your training takes on a new and heightened dimension. You learn much more about both the art and yourself and of course help to spread the incredible art that is Iaido.