- Do I need special equipment to start training?
- Iaido requires clothing that is unusual when compared to most martial art schools. One can start in regular sports clothes, meaning observing or swinging a sword for one or two lessons, but, without special clothing, it is impossible to continue properly.
- If you want to continue after watching a class, you should obtain the following clothing items :
- Keikogi (long jacket; black)
- Kakuobi (traditional wide belt; any color)
- Hakama (pleated horse-riding pants; black)
- The keikogi is the jacket worn as the top cover in training. It is very similar to the jackets used for karate or judo but it is usually longer to cover the upper legs. We wear black keikogi as per tradition. Indigo (from kendo) or dark brown are also allowed. Black and indigo are the most easily found.
- The kakuobi is the wide, stiff belt used to keep the sword in position against your side. Modern martial arts belts, like in judo or karate, are too narrow. You have to have a kakuobi for proper use of the sword. The color of the kakuobi can be any you like and rank is not indicated by belt color.
- The hakama covers the lower part of the jacket from the waist down, and is worn over the waist, lower back, and legs. This is a traditional men's garment similar to long pleated culottes. It is not a skirt; it is divided into separate sections for the legs in order to allow horseback riding.
NB: We have no relationship to this company. We think they offer good quality items at a reasonable price. One observation we make is that their comprehensive iaido clothing selection includes a karate-type belt that is not proper for our form of iaido. So, if you purchase the "complete iaido set", ask if you can replace the normal belt with a kakuobi.
- Knee pads are also suggested, but not required, because much of iaido is done from a kneeling position. Regarding knee pads, the thinner, the better. There are many options these days in sports equipment shops. Beginners are often first taught from the standing position and special accommodations can be made for students with knee problems.
- Do I need a sword to start training? A sword is required for general practice but beginners can buy a wooden sword with a plastic sheath: this is an economical way to train until you are ready to make the investment in a metal weapon.
- If you want to go ahead and get a sword, we are currently recommending buying one of the entry-level iaito from Tozando, a company based in Japan (we have no relationship to them). At the time of this writing (June 2023), they offer a reasonably priced iaito that several of our students have been using with satisfaction. The following is a link to their model that most beginners find appropriate:
- Other options exist, of course, so it is best to ask Hanshi if you are looking for something different before making a commitment.
- Are dan ranks (black belts) awarded? We offer kyu and dan ranks but testing is not required to progress in our school. Time spent training and learning is far more important in determining "rank" than any grading system. Testing is offered 1-2 times annually, depending on the number of students and their progress.
- Is there sparring in iaido? Iaido is primarily the practice of sword waza. These are pre-established patterns representing specific situations and are performed alone. There is no sparring with live swords in our school. We do paired exercises with bokuto (wooden swords) and occasionally practice the waza with a partner to demonstrate what an opponent would be doing in that specific situation.
- How frequent is training? Classes are offered twice a week. Please see the homepage for current times and contact information. Upper level students occasionally train on their own after hours or on extra days during the week. Arrangements can be made to join them if more training time is desired.
- What does training cost? Monthly class fees are $85 for training once a week and are $125 for twice a week. Individual classes with Miki-sensei can also be arranged for current students.