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Study Guide


Gakka: Basic study questions for iaido shinsa. This gakka covers basic terminology and concepts required for shinsa. Covers 7th kyu to Shodan-ho ranks. Click <here> to download.

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Te no Uchi
The grip of the bokken or iaito is called the “te no uchi”. When gripping the sword, grip as if you are extending the hand in a handshake. The grip is firm with the last two fingers, medium with the middle, and light with the index finger. The webbing of thumb and forefinger should be positioned on the “top” of the tsuka, as well as the top of the wrist.

This is the sword swing. Suburi is much easier and seems to “click in place” when the proper te no uchi is used. When practicing suburi, swing in a large arc, using the weight and momentum of the sword tip to generate a large circumference, which requires proper extension of the arms when cutting. When letting the weight of the sword to swing, it’s known as “running of the blade”.

This is the application of the waza. When practicing waza, it’s important to visualize the application of the technique. This will help with understanding the purpose of the technique.

The term to describe the “remaining spirit” is known as zanshin. It is the state of mind and body when it maintains alertness and awareness of surroundings. Holding zanshin at the end of waza is very important, as well as when performing the waza.

Metsuke is the term used to describe “gaze”. The direction of the gaze is always towards the opponent, and it can be a wide gaze or narrow gaze, but never a fixated gaze.

In iaido, we talk about Enzan no Metsuke, which means “far mountain viewing”. The term originates with the idea that you must view the opponent as a whole, the same way you would look at a faraway mountain to take in its entire beauty at once.

Another famous phrase about metsuke is the Kan Ken no Metsuke. “Kan no me” is the seeing of the nature of things, and “ken no me” is the seeing of the surface phenomenon. It is said that when viewing an opponent, it is important not only to recognize the posture and body appearance, but to recognize with a keen eye his mental state and thoughts through his posture and body language.

Having a “constant stable heart” is called heijoshin. It means that despite the person’s environment, the mental and emotional core of the person is unaffected. In iaido, this is important because it means that when practicing, the person is stable and calm, and can react to a situation with sureness.

San Satsu no Ho (San Sappo)
There are 3 methods to defeat an opponent. These are known as the San Satsu no Ho.

-- Kill the Sword: When you have overcome the opponent’s sword by moving it out of the way, or making the opponent move his sword out of the way, providing an opening for your attack.

-- Kill the Technique: When you overcome your opponents technique, and strike with your own, such as moving out of the way, then counterstriking, or negating the opponent’s technique, such as in ukenagashi.

-- Kill the Spirit: Projecting your own ki spirit onto the opponent, to put him off balance and disrupt his own determination.

Mittsu no Sen
Related to San Sappo is the Mittsu no Sen, or 3 ways of attacking an opponent.
Different people of history have described the 3 ways with different vocabulary, but they all describe the same thing.

-- Sen Sen no Sen: This describes moving to attack an opponent before he is able to mentally and physically commit to an attack.

-- Sen no Sen: This describes attacking your opponent at the same time he is attacking you. However, you are able to cut and defeat your opponent first before he is able to strike first.

-- Go no Sen: This describes your opponent moves to attack first, but you are able to react and counter his technique and deliver your own successful attack

Suki is the term for an “opening” to allow you to strike. It describes a momentary weakness in the opponent’s kamae, physical or mental, which gives an opportunity to strike or cut the opponent. When training, practice with good form, technique, timing, heijoshin, and zanshin to minimize opportunity of suki.

This is the giving of pressure to attack. Seme can be a mental pressure, or physical pressure of attack towards an opponent. When an opponent has been pressured such that his mental or physical state his been momentarily shifted, it can create an opening for attack.