"The practice of [iaido] requires a solemn spirit, extreme concentration, and skill. Every motion, such as the movements of the arms or legs and body, must correspond to the offensive motions of the opponent, and it is of utmost importance that a person follow the rules of discipline that have been carefully and thoroughly applied."
-- The late Yamaguchi Katsuo, Meijin 10th Dan, Muso Jikiden Eishin-Ryu Iaido. The full text of this explanation of iaido can be read here.
Photo of Yamaguchi Sensei courtesy of Bob Ward.
It's amazing how much the old teachers know, and how much they can say with a few words. Yamaguchi-Sensei followed a strict list of absolutes in his iaido, and expected his uchi deshi to do the same. A horizontal draw (nukitsuke), for example, had be done by drawing the butt of the sword toward the opponent's throat, adjusting the blade to a horizontal position, closing the fist and cocking the wrist, and only then finishing the cut by moving the arm across the front of the body. However long one had been practicing, the requirements were the same.
What was even more interesting, however, was his discussion of the internal aspects of direct transmission martial arts. Only with a solemn spirit and extreme concentration would the internal aspects reveal themselves. He maintained that a student had to understand and be able to perform the checkpoints before the flow of energy through his body would become apparent.
The expansion of the student's awareness of time, the ability to feel an opponent's attacking intent, the ability to regulate heartbeat, and other, even more fantastic aspects of internal swordsmanship are only available through meticulous daily practice of the traditional checkpoints, handed down from generations of teachers to generations of students. This is true whether one's art of choice be iaido, kyudo, karate, or judo.
Nicklaus Suino teaches iaido and other martial arts at seminars throughout North America. Information about his seminars can be found at www.artofjapaneseswordsmanship.com. He teacher iaido, judo, and jujutsu at the Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan.