Iaijutsu is methods of drawing the katana from saya (scabbard). Katana is the Japanese sword also called the samurai sword, a razor sharp sword. These methods of sword drawing was known over the years by a variety of different names but finally took on the collective name, iaijutsu.
Until 900 A.D. the swords were made chiefly by smiths from China or Korea or by the early Japanese smiths. Although these swords were made in Japan, they were imitations of Chinese blades. High ranking Japanese officers usually carried expensive swords made in China. This imitation of Chinese swords gradually developed into the typical Japanese sword.
The katana, which was worn through the 'belt' and thus at hand for surprise attack, naturally replaced, as a fighting weapon, tachi, the sword which was either slung at the side or carried by an attendant who followed the warrior. At first the katana had no tsuba (hand guard) and was used only by the lower classes. When adopted by the samurai for the fighting sword in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), it was equipped with a tsuba.
Since the Nara period (710-794), methods of drawing the sword were known under other terms than 'iaijutsu'. It is probable that this early technique was the seed from which iaijutsu was to develop when the single-edged curved blade of distinctively Japanese design became generally accepted.
In the Tokugawa period (1603-1868) there existed hundreds of iaijutsu ryu (school/tradition) or ryuha (branch of the former). During this period some of these ryu or ryuha disappeared as new ones emerged.
The characteristic of iaijutsu was largely defensive. It required the simultaneous act of drawing the blade and instantly striking the attacker with the action of the completed draw, even as the attacker is launching the attack. It means turning what appears to be certain death into an instant and even quicker lethal counterattack. Iaijutsu is a counterattack-oriented swordsmanship used in the warrior's daily life and not on the battlefield. The training method was based on kata (prearranged combative practice) where the kata does not require training partner.
With the lack of battle outlets, a sword testing process called tameshigiri was developed. Historically this was a system of testing swords by cutting targets made of bamboo and rice straw or on the corpses of decapitated criminals. Corpses were used singly or sometimes piled up and cut through in various ways. Today tameshigiri is practised by cutting targets made of bamboo and rice straw.
Iaijutsu and Tameshigiri under Danish Kendo Society
Danish Kendo Society organizes iaijutsu prior to the modern period of Japan (1868) and considers iaijutsu and tameshigiri as bujutsu . Generally speaking iaijutsu and tameshigiri under Danish Kendo Society are not a matter of killing (satsujinken ) but using the sword to preserve life (katsujinken )
Danish Kendo Society covers tameshigiri as an integrated part of iaijutsu because the student can evaluate the physical technique in terms of effect, such as proper use of kamae (combative postures) and maai (combative distance) and skill in focusing the cutting power of the sword through hand actions.