We try to keep costs for new students low. New iaido students do NOT need a uniform, you can practice for at least six months before purchasing one. We encourage new students to wear dark, loose clothes like a jogging outfit. Long pants are better than shorts, and you should wear knee braces, which are thin knee pads typically available in the weight lifting section of sports equipment stores.
Please consult with Joe before purchasing a uniform.
For more about swords and their maintenance, keep reading....
Uwagi (gi) or Haori: practice top
An obi is a belt worn over a practice top or kimono. There are many different types of obi, and before purchasing one, you should check with your instructor. The obi must be long enough to wrap around your body at least three times. There are different ways to tie an obi as illustrated at this Japanese language site: http://kimonoo.net/kituke.html (click on the blue kanji beneath the illustrated bow for detailed photographs). There a differences based on style of iaido, your body size and shape, and your obi's weight and fabric.
When practicing MJER iaido, the black hakama is common, as well as other others. When practicing ZNKR iaido, the black hakama and uwagi are acceptable, but most practitioners use the same navy hakama and uwagi they wear for kendo practice. (As a practical matter, most AUSKF schools teach kendo and iaido on the same night, so there's no time to change uniforms). An iaido hakama, unlike those used in other martial arts, has a "spoon" in the middle of the back to be inserted between the layers of the belt or obi. The fabric can be either cotton, polyester (typical for the black uniforms), or a cotton/polyester blend.
For information about tying and wearing your hakama, try these sites: Bujin Design or Mushinkan Kendo Dojo. There are different ways to tie the hakama as illustrated at this Japanese language site: http://kimonoo.net/kituke.html (click on the blue kanji beneath the illustrated bow for detailed photographs). Be sure to follow the methods preferred by your instructor for your particular style of iaido.
For information about folding and cleaning your hakama, try these sites: Mushinkan Kendo Dojo or Yama-tani Kendo Club. Please note that there are different ways to fold a hakama for storage, and you should follow your instructor's preference.
A metal practice sword or iaito is not needed to start iaido; in fact, we encourage students to start learning sword work with a bokken or wooden practice sword. When the time is right to invest in a metal sword, your instructor will mention it to you and talk about options. Above all, you did not want to buy a cheap metal sword. It may look cool, but odds are that it was never intended for use and will be a danger to you and others. Only reputable swords from known dealers are allowed in our practice space.
A bokken or bokuto is a wooden practice sword with a plastic tsuba (hand guard) and plastic dome (stopper to hold the tsuba in place). Bokken are available in a wide range of qualities, weights, and colors. We typically have well-balanced and colored bokken available for new students. Some types of iaido (like MJER or Myugai-ryu) also use a plastic saya (scabbard).
For the names of various sword parts, visit our Terminology page.
We recommend that bokken, shinai, and iaito be carried in public in some sort of protective bag. You may be able to acquire an inexpensive sword bag from us, as from time to time, we purchase sword bags and other items in bulk and pass the savings along to our club members.
The sword bags we've purchased lately have a curious design on them that looks something like a cross on a hill. This pattern is called "shobu" or iris/sweet flag.
The iris is a traditional symbol in Japanese culture, perhaps because there are so many native varieties. The flower was considered important for warding away evil spirits, was an important herbal medicine, and was a revered masculine fertility symbol. The iris is also associated with Boys’ Day, or Tango-no-Sekku, a festival that celebrates the hopes and ambitions that Japanese families have for their male children. The holiday is filled with imagery and symbols that are masculine in nature and are intended to magically insure that the boys in the family grow up to be strong, wise, and full of fighting spirit. The symbolism behind the festival is underscored by the Japanese language itself. The word in Japanese for iris (shobu) is the same as that for success, though the written characters are different.
The Japanese iris also has a special connection to kendo. During a kendo match, if the second point ends the match (the score is 2-0), the kendoka will return to their starting lines, the head shimpan announces "Shobu ari!" ("There is victory and defeat!") and raises one flag to indicate the winner. The two kendoka return to sonkyo, put away their shinai, and back out of the shiaijo.
An iaito or mogito should be cleaned after every use by first wiping with a soft cloth to remove dirt and then wiping with a second soft cloth containing a minimal amount of mineral oil (or the traditional clove oil). To avoid oil building up in the saya, lightly coat the blade and wipe off any excess.
|arrow||swift good news, destruction of evil|
|carp (koi)||strength, courage, spirit|
|cherry blossom (ume)||wealth, prosperity|
|chrysanthemum (kiko)||imperial crest of Japan|
|crane||longevity, happy marriage, loyalty|
|dragon||king of Japanese animals, water symbol|
|ginkgo||loyalty, protector of mothers|
|iris||flower of the warrior|
|lion||shrine guardian, symbol of fire|
|lotus||Buddhism, purity of mind|
|mouse||abundance, symbol of Daikoku, god of wealth|
|paulownia flower||justice, benevolence|
|peony||prosperity, happiness, virility, marital bliss|
|pine||stability, strong old age|
|plum flower||new beginnings, hope|
|rooster||herald of good, wards off evil|
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