Equipment

Firstly, this is not Kendo. Kendo is a style of battlefield fencing, and its practictioners dress up in armour and clatter hell out of each other with bamboo weapons called shinai. Iaido differs in several aspects - it was designed for use in a much wider range of social situations and uses sharp steel blades. Consequently, Iaido is made up of kata forms, most of which are practiced solo (we try very hard not to hit people, for obvious reasons).

We are often asked what equipment beginners need to practice Iai - the answer is very little. Loose clothing is OK to start with, although as you progress you will acquire traditional iaigi and hakama, costing about £100. We recommend
Nine Circles as our clothing supplier.

You will initially start with a wooden sword (or bokken) which we can provide, and quickly graduate to an unsharpened training blade (an iaito) which costs £250-£400. After several years of practice, you may feel confident enough to move to a hand-made Japanese shinken, although these are only for advanced practitioners: they are extremely sharp and typically cost several thousand pounds.

We do not recommend, and do not allow students to use, mass-produced WW2 blades or cheap European or Chinese shinken. They are either too heavy or not manufactured well enough to stand the strains of regular practice and are a danger to yourself and others.