I = being, Ai = harmony, Do = way
“The way of harmonizing oneself in action”
Iaido is practiced in a traditional way, by doing kata (a predetermined set of movements in defense against one or more opponents). In order to properly perform each kata, you must learn posture and movement, grip, and proper cutting. Even though you practice against imaginary opponents, to maintain Iaido as a budo it is critical to understand how the movements apply to real opponents. In Iaido, the blade is drawn and cuts in the same motion. Each Iaido kata consists of the draw, one or more cuts, cleaning the blade, and returning it to the scabbard.
As a fighting art of the modern world it is all too easy to see the sword arts superficially and criticize them as inappropriate, simply because we do not walk along the street carrying a sword. The way of the martial artist should be to avoid conflict. This was explained thousands of years ago by Sun Tsu in The Art of War and later by masters of strategy. The martial artist who trains fully and correctly, directed by a sensei, will develop an ability to recognize difficult situations and avoid them before they become a problem, or will engage the conflict before it has grown to become a significant matter, or will maintain a state of mind and body that will not offer opportunities for an aggressor. The fact that you have your sword in your scabbard is due to the fact that Iaido is a defensive art. Iaido is ultimately practiced without ever drawing the sword from your scabbard.
Despite its origins, the goal of Iaido is not to teach the taking of life, but instead to teach how to give life. Iaido instills natural, accurate, and agile body movements that are logical and effective. Students must strive to achieve power, precision, and perfection in their form. However, the refinement of physical movements is only one of the many dimensions of training in Iaido. Iaido was converted from its origin of Iai-jitsu making it a more spiritual or philosophical art called a do (pronounced doh) or way of life. Like all do, such as Aikido, Jodo, and Kyudo, Iaido is practiced to develop ones self into a more harmonious person through control of both the body and the mind. This is accomplished through long and serious practice and by developing your self-discipline and concentration as well as improving your coordination, balance, grace, strength, and posture. Iaido is an individual discipline and you develop under your own conditions; you receive the training corresponding to your goals and needs.