Esaka Sensei’s book: “An introduction to MJER Iaido”
English version #02:
As readers will know already, various writings on iaido have been published by many researchers and practitioners.
Since Headmaster Kono discusses Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu in his works such as Dai Nippon Iaido Zufu (Illustrated Guide to Greater Japan’s Iaido) and Iaido Shintei (The Essence of Iaido), a brief outline is provided here.
Overview of Iaido
(1) The Meaning of Iaido
Iai refers to drawing a sword to launch an attack in a sword fighting. That is, it is a technique for being ready before drawing the sword and mastering your opponent in the instant you draw it. It originated among samurai based on the need to respond immediately to unexpected attacks from opponents and overcome them rapidly with a single draw of the sword, whether striking first or second.
It is a sword technique that is suitable when seated or when walking, at anytime or in any place, and a way of mastering one’s body and controlling one’s mind.
(2) The Spirit and Purpose of Iaido
Iai began as a sword technique for learning the art of attacking and defending. It is a martial arts discipline, but it advocates absorbing its teachings in your heart through practicing its forms, nurturing your spirit with its waza, and realizing oneness of mind and sword and consistency of thought in motion and at rest by striving for proper sword technique and physical mastery.
The secret of iaido resides in always being in harmony with the universe by holding victory in your scabbard without drawing your blade.
Today, the purpose of this discipline is still to pursue vigorous physical training and refine your spirit by means of prescribed martial arts techniques. The root of this is cultivating a spirit of simplicity and fortitude with an abundance of civility and benevolence, which requires a way of life that refines the pure, unclouded essence of your inherent nature.
The Origin and Tradition of Iaido
(1) The Ancestor Who Restored Iai
In Year 2 of the Koji era at the end of the warring states period (1556), Asano Tamijimaru undertook 100 days of spiritual austerities at Hayashizaki Myojin Shrine (Kumano Myojin Shrine) in Tateoka, Dewa Province, and after this period of working diligently and enduring hardships, he received inspiration from the gods with regard to the art of drawing the sword. He named this style Hayashizaki Muso-ryu, and upon coming of age, changed his name to Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu.
Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu, who laid the foundations of iaido, is revered as the ancestor who restored iai, and since he received the sacred teachings that founded the original school, various schools of iaido have flourished, with other branches being born and new schools and styles arising.
He is enshrined in Nihon-Issha Hayashizaki Shrine in Hayashizaki District, Murayama City, Yamagata Prefecture (Kumano Shrine and Iai Shrine).
■Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu was born in Tenbun 11 (1542).
Opinion is divided regarding the year of his death.
He was born in Hayashizaki Village, Tateoka-zai, Ushu-murayama District (present-day Oaza-Hayashizaki Village, Murayama City, Yamagata Prefecture).
His childhood name was Asano Tamijimaru. He underwent spiritual austerities at Hayashizaki Myojin Shrine in order to defeat an enemy of his father and learned the secret of iai, then set out on a journey to seek revenge on the enemy in Eiroku 2 (1559).
After successfully exacting vengeance, it is told that he educated followers such as Tamiya Heibei and Nagano Muraku Nyudo.
(Excerpt from Hayashizaki Myojin and Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu, published by the Iai Shinbukai Foundation)