FAQ

this page is intended to give you an overview of what to expect and an idea of the kinds of things people are not sure about when starting Kendo or Iaido. If you have other questions you'd like to see added to the list, please send me an e-mail and I'll put them in.

 

What practical use does Iaido or Kendo have in the real world?

If you are thinking about self-defence, then the answer is not much and if you are looking for self-defence you would be better off going to a Karate or Aikido dojo instead.
However the goal of doing Iaido or Kendo is to make yourself into a better person, so in the sense of personal gain this is quite a good thing I think. Iaido also teaches you to be more aware of your surroundings and the relationship between you and them, which is a very important thing to be aware of as you go through the world. See the teachings page for more insights into what doing Budo means.

How much does it cost?

Training fees are $10 per week which entitles you to attend every training, Kendo, Iaido, Tameshigiri and special trainings. Kendo only is free for anyone.

To buy your own gear, the cost can be as expensive as you like, but a full set of gear for Iaido, including, Hakama, Iaigi, Kaku obi and Iaito starts at about $400.

For Kendo the main cost is in Bogu [armour] but we have enough armour to lend anyone a set when they get to that level. Bogu starts at about $620 for a 5mm set. [Prices depend on the exchange rate and quality of course] Hakama and Gi costs about $120 for a set and shinai start from about $60 but can be done cheaper if ordering a lot of things at once.
We have Kendo gear for anyone to borrow however so there is no need to buy gear if you feel it is too expensive.
 
People doing Iaido should think about getting their own Obi as soon as possible and their own Iaito [sword] after you are sure that you want to continue.

Why is etiquette so important?

The important difference is that Budo and ‘martial arts’ have a very different nuance. Martial arts are the group of fighting techniques you learn to protect yourself, or win a fight. They are not focussed on honour or spiritual fulfilment. Budo is the group of arts which lead to enlightenment. Budo includes not only the Zen / Mikyo influenced fighting arts, but also Cha-no-yu [tea ceremony] Shodo [Japanese calligraphy], Ikebana [Japanese flower arranging], etc.

There are 3 complimentary aspects to Budo; Reigi, Technique and Zen. Depending on your reasons for starting a particular Budo, in our case Kenjustu [sword arts] people tend to focus on either Zen or technique.

It is important to realise that the 3 aspects are interrelated, but Reigi is the covering concept. And its very true that whatever aspect inspires you from the start, you will eventually come to regard all 3 as the same thing. Technique allows us to cultivate our Zen spirit by providing a focus and means of ‘polishing our souls’. Zen allows us to refine our technique and become good sword practitioners by the various virtues of Zen. And all at the same time, by training hard enough to improve your technique and following Zen, you will naturally both need and get a refined sense of Reigi.

Eventually you will realize that without a well-developed sense of Reigi you won’t be able to train effectively because you won't have the necessary discipline to follow the way, and your Sensei and peers will resent having to suffer your bad manners and dislike training with you if you don’t know your place in the dojo hierarchy or the hierarchy of society. In other words, Reigi allows harmony to exist.

In the dojo you need to show your understanding of Reigi by following the various rules and practices that have over hundreds of years become the norm of dojo behaviour. Being a Japanese art, Iaido and Kendo naturally must follow the Japanese ideas of etiquette. As such it becomes very important to actually show that you know your place in the hierarchy. Western people judge each others feelings of respect, etc by less concrete means. So if you have a sincere attitude, everyone can understand that you do know about etiquette. But the Japanese are very good at putting on various faces to suit the occasion, hiding their real feelings behind a well seeming mask. This is why it is important in budo circles to physically show your respect of others, So we bow to each other, we respond with “hai!” when Sensei or sempai [senior member] tell you to do something, etc, etc.

This is something that we all can understand when it is explained to us, but to really know it [in our hearts] we must experience it for ourselves. Once we really know it, this is a small satori [enlightenment], but in the meantime, take it for granted and train diligently and you will feel the results in time. This is the nature of Zen, to truly understand and reach Satori, you must experience truth for yourself.
 

How long does it take to become proficient?

The quick answer is, your whole life. Iaido doesn't really have a top level that you reach and retire. People who understand iaido realise that you need to keep trying to improve yourself the whole time. However, a reasonably serious person should expect to be able to perform the entire Seitei kata set without too many major problems within a year perhaps.

Iaido starts off as it continues, so there is no real graduating to next levels and so on. With kendo you need to become proficient in the basics (kihon) before you can put on bogu and start sparring. If there is any change or level up in iaido it is when you prove yourself worthy to start learning the koryu kata. This is a timing point of understanding rather than just ability however.