The Iaido Journal  Dec 2012
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ZNKR Iaido Points for Grading and Refereeing II

copyright © 2012 Kim Taylor, all rights reserved.

The ZNKR iaido manual, otherwise known as "the book" is the final word on how the ZNKR iaido kata are performed. ZNKR iai is a set of standardized (seitei) kata to be used by all kendo federation iaido students and "the book" is the reference for that standard. Within that book is a section called the Points for Grading and Refereeing which is a guide to judges on what they should look for in each kata. As such, they represent an instruction (ok think of it as an order) to judges to look especially closely at these points which the ZNKR iaido committee consider to be important.

In the first article I went through the points for the kata. In this one I address the point for etiquette which in the 2009 version reads: "Ensure performers are executing the correct manners as stated in the criteria."

So here are those criteria from the main part of the book. Please note that etiquette is often neglected in ordinary practice because instructors tend to think it's something for students to learn on their own. While there are places for variation, including sageo control, what is represented here in the photographs is a good basic model following the written instructions.

Of special interest to beginners is the attitude of the judges to etiquette which is usually the same as your instructors. This stuff is well described and subject to easy memorization by grading challengers, so we more or less expect good reiho from the very first test. It's really not hard to do this stuff so learn it fast.

For the photos below I'd like to thank my student Pam Morgan for her willingness to model the points, any inaccuracies you spot are my fault not hers since "I'm not only her instructor, I'm also the photographer".


2009 instruction,
ZNKR book, english translation


Approaching the dojo

Approach the area in which you will participate, the Shutsujo, with the sword in the Keito Shisei (sword carrying) posture and bow to the altar (Shinza E No Rei). Taking up a diagonal direction to the altar (Enbu No Hoko), sit down in Seiza, place the sword in front of you and bow to it (Hajime No Torei). Take up the sword again, insert it into your belt (Taito) and perform the exhibition. When you have finished, sit down once again, take out the sword and place it in front of you and bow to it (Owari No Torei). Then pick up the sword, stand up and bow to the altar, Shinza E No Rei, and then leave the area (Taijo).

1. KEITO SHISEI (How to hold the sword)

Put your left thumb on the sword guard (Tsuba) whilst gripping the mouth of the sheath (Koiguchi) together with the cord (Sageo) in the other four fingers. The left arm should be slightly bent at the elbow. Hold the sword edge up, placing the pommel (Tsukagashira) towards the centerline of your abdomen. Point the tip of the scabbard (Kojiri) to a 45º angle and place the base of the left thumb on the hip-bone. The right hand should be placed along the side of the body in a straight vertical line.

2. SHUTSUJO (Entering the area)

Proceed to the area commencing with your right foot carrying your sword in Keito Shisei. Before proceeding, make sure the retaining peg (Mekugi) is firmly in place, your attire is correct and your Obi is suitably adjusted.

3. SHINZA E NO REI (Bow to the altar)

In Keito Shisei, stand upright facing the altar. Bring the left hand across the front of the body to the right side, around the level of the hip, changing the sword into your right hand. Grip the cord holder (Kurigata) and the Sageo, with your right hand. Place the blade edge down with the Tsukagashira at the rear. Release your left hand from the sword and return it naturally to your left side. Put the sword along your right side. Bend and incline your upper body forwards about 30º and bow respectfully. After bowing, bring your right hand back across the front of your body at navel height, change hands and hold the sword guard with your left thumb and return to Keito Shisei

4. ENBU NO HOKO (Direction to face when performing)

Rotating your body in the direction of your right foot, locate yourself diagonally to the right of the altar holding your sword in Keito Shisei. You should be in a position such that the Shinza is to your left diagonal. This direction will become the front (Shomen) for the Enbu.

5. HAJIME NO TOREI (Bow to the sword before the performance)

From Keito Shisei, sit down (a), place the sword to the right (b), from Seiza (c) bow to the sword (d).

a. CHAKUZA (Sitting down)

From Keito Shisei, without withdrawing either foot, slightly open and bend both knees and while tucking the hem of the Hakama with the palm of the right hand, place the left knee, followed by the right on the floor. Leave about 10 cm of space between both knees. Extend the tips of your toes and put them side by side. Sit down comfortably. Put your right hand on the right thigh with the fingers lightly extended. Hold the sword in your left hand on the left thigh.

b. KATANA NO OKIKATA (How to place the sword)

With your left hand push the sword forward until the Tsuba is in line with the center of the body. As your right hand takes the sword, put your right thumb on the sword guard. Hold the Saya with the other four fingers close to the Koiguchi. Making sure the edge of the blade faces the front, extend both arms forwards at the same time, ensuring you keep the Sageo and Saya together. Hold near to the end of the Saya with your left hand from above. Bend your upper body forward and lay the sword in front of you. Be careful not to let the end of the Saya point towards the altar. Return your upper body to its original position and put your right hand followed by the left back on your thighs. Sit calmly in Seiza.

c. SEIZA NO SHISEI (Sitting posture)

Straighten your back and concentrate your whole strength in the abdomen. Relax your shoulders and naturally push out your chest. Straighten the back of your neck and head. Put both hands on your thighs. Look 4-5 meters in front of you. Half open your eyes and do Enzan No Metsuke (looking at distant mountains). Be aware of all around you.

d. ZAREI (Bow)

Bend your upper body forward whilst in the sitting position. Place your left hand then the right on the floor before the sword and make a small triangle with thumbs and forefingers touching. Continue to bow until your elbows naturally touch the floor. Your feeling should be one of deep respect. When you have done this, gently raise yourself up and return your right hand then left back to your thighs.

6. TAITO (Wearing the sword)

After the Hajime No Torei, you will be spiritually united with the sword. Incline your upper body forwards and take the sword (with Sageo) in both hands. With the right palm up take hold of the Saya near the Koiguchi. Put the right thumb on the sword guard and at the same time place your left hand about 10cm from the end of the Saya and hold it lightly. As you raise yourself up bring the tip of the Saya to the center of your abdomen and insert the sword into the Obi. Arrange the sword so that its guard is in front of your navel. Secure the Sageo by tying it to the Hakama and put both hands on your thighs.

Above, Muso Shinden Ryu version 1 (sageo in right hand, tied on right side with hands over the saya)

Next, Muso Shinden Ryu version 2 (sageo in left hand. moved to right side with right hand and tied with hands over the saya)

Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu (sageo in left hand, over the saya, tied on the left with hands under the saya).

Three versions are presented as examples.

7. OWARI NO TOREI (Bow to the sword after the performance)

After completion of the Enbu, sit in Seiza and remove the sword (a), place the sword with the handle (Tsuka) to the left onto the floor and bow (b). Place the sword on your thigh (c) and stand up (d).

a. DATTO (Removing the Sword)

While sitting in Seiza with the sword in the Obi, pull and release the Sageo knot with the hand only. Place the left hand on the Saya near the Koiguchi ensuring your left thumb is on the sword guard. Slightly push the sword forward to the right front, a little off center. Put the right forefinger on the sword guard and place the remaining fingers around the Koiguchi. Place your left hand on the left side of your hip on the Obi and by extending the right elbow, pull out the sword. Make sure that the edge of the blade is facing you.

NOTE: tied left, then tied right versions of sageo untying.

b. KATANA NO OKIKATA TO ZAREI (How to place the sword and bow)

Keeping the left hand on the left hip, with your right hand place the sword upright on the floor at your right front to your right knee and softly lay it down to lie in front of you so that it appears to be horizontal. Ensure the Sageo is tidy and that the blade edge is facing you. Put both hands on your thighs (right then left) and take Seiza No Shisei. Perform Zarei (see 5d) and return to Seiza.

c. KATANA NO TORIKATA (How to take up the sword)

Leave your left hand on the left thigh, stretch out your right hand and put the forefinger on the Tsuba whilst placing the other four fingers around the Saya close to the Koiguchi. Keeping the edge of the blade towards yourself, gently move the sword to stand lightly at your center. Move the left hand to the center of the Saya and squeeze it gently moving downwards to the tip. With both hands place the sword on your left thigh.

Release your right hand from the sheath, put the left thumb on the sword guard and grip the mouth of the Saya with the remaining fingers. Hold the sword with your left hand and place the right hand back on your right thigh.

d. TACHI AGARI KATA (How to stand up)

Raise your waist up bringing your toes underneath. Place your right foot in line with your left knee and stand up without bending forwards. When you stand up bring your left foot in line with the right to assume Keito Shisei.

8. TAIJO (Leaving the area)

Stand in Keito Shisei and face the altar. Pass the sword from the left hand to the right across the front of your body and do Shinza E No Rei. Return the sword to the left hand back into Keito Shisei. Take two or three steps back starting with the left foot and make a 180 degree right turn and leave the area.

Supplement (Additional Explanations)

1. How to step and turn when you arrive at and leave the Shinden area.

When you perform in the Shinden (shrine, sacred place, Dojo), you enter the area from Shimo No Ashi (1), and leave there from Kami No Ashi (2). When you change your direction you turn to Kami No Ashi. See diagram on page 24. (It's actually page 41, 2009 edition)

(1) Shimo No Ashi - the foot further from the Shinza (shrine) or Shomen (top seat). If you are on the middle line (Seichusen) it is your left foot

(2) Kami No Ashi - the foot nearer to the Shinza or Shomen. If you are on the middle line (Aichusen) it is your right foot.

Note: The etiquette described above states that you move onto the floor starting with the right foot and back off starting with the left. There is, however, a supplemental section containing instructions and a diagram of "How to step and turn in entering and leaving the Shinden area". While there seems to be no impetus at the moment to use this chart in gradings or practice, students might wish to examine it for possible future need.

There are additional etiquette rules in this section that students should read but I have not included them here.

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