iaito sword

iaitō: definition

An iaitō is a sword used in the practice of iaidō, a type of modern martial art that trains the practitioner to perform a series of actions, from taking the sword out of its scabbard, to killing a hypothetical enemy, to returning the sword to its scabbard. An iaitō sword is made like a katana, except that it is not sharpened. It is available in several types: new, used, semi-personal, custom-made, and can be purchased in stores specializing in martial arts equipment or on the Internet. 

Difference between an iaito and an imitation sword

In iaidō, although real Japanese swords are sometimes used by high ranking officials, a bladeless iaitō is usually used.

In this regard, iaitō and imitation swords can be said to be the same. However, the iaitō is a martial art used in iaidō and must be strong enough to be used in matches and training.

Therefore, blade strength is sought in the production of iaitō swords.

In addition, since iaidō is a modern martial art that embodies Bushido, it is also necessary that the iaitō sword have an appropriate appearance. The following is an in-depth look at the iaitō sword, which can be used in iaidō, and the "imitation sword," which is used exclusively for appreciation.

The blade of a sword iaitō

femme et sabre iato

Sand casting, in which the alloy is poured, is said to be the most appropriate method for producing iaitō swords. This is because sand casting is a method that uses gravity rather than high pressure to slowly flow over time, increasing the density of the sword blade. This produces iaitō swords of great strength.

In addition, the blade of an iaitō sword is usually an alloy containing a high percentage of aluminum. This makes iaito swords strong even though they are light, and their high density makes them waterproof, which allows for a wide range of crafting techniques on the blade. This means that it is possible to customize the blade to make it easier to handle, for example by hollowing out a gutter to lighten the weight.

Although iaitō swords are durable enough to withstand the rigors of iaido, such as training and matches, they are not suitable for actual use such as for chanbara, for example. The iaitō sword be used in iaidō.

How do you get an iatō sword?

Where to buy an iatō sword?

There are three ways to get an iaido sword.

  1. In a store that sells equipment for modern martial arts, such as Kendo.
  2. Purchase from a specialist in iaido equipment.
  3. Buy from an online retailer.

If you are a beginner in iaido, it is recommended to start with a ready-made iaitō sword for beginners. There are also different types of iaitō swords:

  • iaitō training swords for daily practice,
  • iaitō swords intended for use in matches
  • iaitō swords intended for use by advanced iaido practitioners in matches.

The most advanced iaido practitioners seek to achieve their own "unique" sword by adapting the hilt to their own grip and by paying attention to the preparation of the sword, such as the tsuba (sword guard). It is said that the weight of an iaito is close to that of a real Japanese sword.

How to choose an iaitō?

There is no uniform standard for the length and weight of an iaitō sword, as each iado school and dojo has its own rules. Here are some tips for beginners in choosing an iaitō sword.

Length

The standard for choosing the length of an iaitō is your height. In general, for a person measuring 59-61" 2 shaku 2 sun (about 26") is the best length for a blade. Thereafter, the ideal blade length should be increased by about 0.4" for every 3" increase in height.

Weight

For beginners, it is generally recommended to choose a lightweight iaitō at first, as the priority is to master it. Once you have mastered the techniques, you can find the weight that is right for you.

The weight of an iaitō sword varies depending on the blade arrangement, but a standard iaitō with a blade length of 2 shaku 2 sun (the optimal length for the aforementioned size of 59-61") weighs about 11.5oz, including the average weight of the tsuba and other parts.

In addition to the weight, the position of the center of gravity is also important. In general, a sword with the center of gravity at the tsubagemoto of the blade is said to be well balanced and easy to handle, but some people prefer a sword with the center of gravity at the spearhead (kisaki).

Therefore, it is important to try a variety of iaitō swords and choose the one you feel most comfortable with.

Possession of a sword iaitō

sabre porté par un homme

Bladeless iaitō do not require special permission or reporting to the local police station, as do real Japanese swords.

However, because many iaitō are so well made that they are indistinguishable from real Japanese swords at first glance, care should be taken when carrying them for training or matches to place them in proper cases. Sword bags and cases can be purchased from stores or vendors that sell iaitō swords.

Maintenance of iaitō swords

Since the surface of an iaitō sword is coated with an alloy blade, it is strictly forbidden to polish it, as one does with a real Japanese sword. This is because polishing causes the plating on the surface of the sword to peel off and the scratches cause rust to form.

If an iaitō sword used daily gets wet, simply wipe it with a soft, dry cloth. If it is very dirty, it can be cleaned by soaking a soft cloth or paper with sword oil (such as Dinga oil or camellia oil) and wiping it clean.

When storing an iaitō for a long period of time, wipe the sword blade, tsuba, and other metal parts with a soft cloth or paper soaked in sword oil to protect them, then place the sword in its scabbard. Care should be taken not to apply so much oil to the blade that it runs into the scabbard, as this could damage the scabbard.

Unlike real Japanese swords, iaitō are not designed to be taken apart. Therefore, if, for example, the handle is removed by pulling on the menuki, care must be taken to ensure that it does not rattle when it is replaced.

If you continue to use an iaitō with a loose handle, the handle itself may be damaged or the safety of the iaido may be compromised.

If you are interested in iaidō, here is a video demonstration of the practice:

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