Like many, my first step into the world of iai and traditional Japanese sword arts was through the Zen Ken seitei-gata and for several years my experiences there strongly colored how I viewed iai, koryu arts and budo in general. Now anyone who has spent any amount of time on online forums or interacting with senior practitioners in various iai and sword related arts, both in Japan and abroad, will know that the seitei-gata “system” (for lack of a better word) can be and is controversial in some circles. The usual arguments typically being along the lines of the kata, being assembled from bits and pieces of various traditional ryuha lack something in technical coherency and depth, or that the technical fundamentals taught by the seitei have a strong tendency to “pollute” whatever koryu the practitioner happens to also practice. In either case, the seitei “system” is seen as being not “traditional” and having some sort of negative influence on more traditional iai arts and people’s views of budo.
Whilst nowhere near as popular or widespread as kendo, dedicated iaido clubs can be found at many Japanese universities. University students often have a strong showing in shiai, and student taikai are highly competitive with some great iai on show. University club members often have extremely strong form, visually impressive iai, and ability far beyond the average for their grade.* However, student iaido or ‘gakusei iai’ is also marked by several quirks that many sensei say must be overcome if a student wants to progress into the higher grades. Taking my former club as an example, I’ll give a brief description of why the student approach to iai does so well in shiai, and what its weaknesses are.
Tameshigiri has been quite the hot discussion on forums lately. It will always pop back up after a few weeks of dormancy and then someone will bring it back up again. In these discussions you always have the advocates of tameshigiri, the side that frowns upon it, and couple of guys who are just curious and would like to give it a try.
It is my opinion that tameshigiri practiced within the context of their own art can always help supplement their original training depending on what art you practice. So let’s break down the advantages first.