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

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 enough to look closely at.

I suspect students should consider these points to be the very barest minimum of things they ought to "get right" if they want to pass their next grade. Now when you look at the points for 1 and 2 you'll find that a lot of the points in 1 are not repeated in 2. I suggest to students that this does not mean the points in 1 can be ignored in 2, I suggest that the intent is for the points to be cumulative. A point which appears earlier in the instructions applies to a later kata if applicable. In other words, don't be a jailhouse lawyer about this, if a movement is looked at earlier, it will be looked at in the same way later.

Because I have heard for years that "seitei gata changes every year", I have included for your amusement a set of instructions on these same points from a publication called "The Guidance of Referee" created in English by the Buko Dosokai in 1994. A look at the 2009 and the 1994 instructions, perhaps by two different translators, will give you some idea of how much these most important and fundamental points have changed over the 15 years between the publications. Incidentally, 1-10 were dated as from 1988 and 11-12 from 2000 so the 1994 notes would not include the last two kata.

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. And they'd better not show up in your own practice... if you see them fix them.


2009 instruction,
ZNKR book, english translation

1994 instruction,
Buko Dosokai english booklet



Ensure performers are executing the correct manners as stated in the criteria.
Is the correct etiquette shown?
(Read the book.)

1. Mae

a. Does the performer do enough Sayabiki when they cut the opponent's face with Nukitsuke?
Is sufficient sayabiki shown during nukitsuke?

b. Is the sword taken into Furikaburi with a feeling of thrusting to behind the left ear?
Is the furikaburi made with a backwards thrusting movement past the left ear?

c. Is the tip of the sword above the horizontal position when in Furikaburi?
Does the kissaki drop below the horizontal when the sword is above the head?

d. Is the sword brought down without hesitation during Kirioroshi?
Is the cut executed without pause?
(Do not stop at the above position)

e. Is the tip of the sword slightly below horizontal at the end of Kirioroshi?
Does the cut finish a little lower than horizontal?

f. Is the shape and form of Chiburi correct?
Is the posture correct during chiburi?

g. Is Noto performed correctly?
Is the noto executed correctly?
(According to your koryu style.)

Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu and

Muso Shinden Ryu (below)

2. Ushiro

a. When the turn is made, is the left foot moved sufficiently to the left?
Is the player drawing the sword as he is turning and is the left foot being placed a little to the left on the nukitsuke?

b. Is the horizontal cut made to the opponent's temple?
Is the player cutting correctly to the temple of the opponent?

3. Ukenagashi

a. When the parry is made, does it protect the upper body?
Is the upper half of the body covered by the sword in the ukenagashi position?

b. Is the left foot brought back behind the right foot and the cut made along the Kesa line?
Is the left foot drawn back behind the right and is the cut diagonal?

c. After the cut has been made, is the left hand in front of the navel and the sword tip a little below horizontal?
Is the left fist in front of the navel and is the kissaki slightly down on completion of the cut?

4. Tsuka-Ate

a. Is the Tsukakashira surely pointed at the opponent's solar plexus?
Is the player aiming the tsuka correctly at the solar plexus of the opponent?

b. When the rear opponent is thrust, is this done with the right elbow extended fully and does the left hand bring the Koiguchi to the navel?
On the thrust to the rear, is the left hand holding the saya turned inwards in front of the navel and is the right elbow extended on making the thrust?

c. When the cut is made, is it on the vertical centerline and from the correct position above the head?
As the body is again turned to the front, is there a pulling movement as the sword is raised above the head, and is the cut itself vertical?

5. Kesagiri

a. When the initial upper cut is made, is the right hand above the right shoulder when the sword is rotated?
Is the right hand above the shoulder as the sword is turned on the initial cut?

b. When Chiburi is performed, is it at the correct angle while the person steps back with the left foot at the same time when their left hand takes hold of the Koiguchi?
Is the left hand gripping the saya as the left foot is moved back on the chiburui action?

6. Morotezuki

a. Is the initial cut correctly made from the opponent's temple down to their chin when making Nuki Uchi?
On the initial diagonal cut, does the cut stop at chin height?

b. Does the performer bring their left foot up behind their right? Is Chudan No Kamae correctly made and the sword thrust into the correct target of the body? Is the thrust made with certainty?
Is the rear foot tsugiasi as the chudan kamae is adopted and is the thrust made accurately to the opponent solar plexus?

c. Does the performer bring their sword above their head in a parrying action when pulling it out from the first opponent?
As the sword is drawn out, is there a feeling of ukenagashi as the sword is raised above the head?

7. Sanpogiri

a. Is the initial cut to the first opponent made through the correct diagonal angle from the top right side of the head down to the base of the chin?
When making the first cut to the right, does the cut stop at chin height?

b. Is the cut to the opponent on the left performed without hesitation?
After turning to the opponent on the left, is the vertical cut made without pausing?

c. Is the sword brought up to Furikaburi with a parrying action?
Is the sword raised above the head with the feeling of ukenagashi before the final cut?

d. Does the last cut finish at the horizontal?

8. Ganmen-Ate

a. Is the initial strike with the Tsukagashira made between the eyes?
Is the tsuka-gashira aimed correctly at the point between the eyes?

b. When turning to face the opposite direction, is the right hand placed on the hip?
Is the right fist placed correctly on the top of the ilium when facing the opponent at the rear?

c. When facing the rear opponent, is the body turned completely to the rear with the rear heel slightly raised and in a straight line?
In this position, does the body turn round perfectly, and is the rear heel held a little off the floor?

d. Is the thrust performed without too much bend in the knees?
Is the thrust made with the feet pointing forwards?

9. Soete Zuki

a. When the initial diagonal cut is made from the opponent's right shoulder down through to the waist, is the right hand at the height of the navel and the sword tip slightly above the horizontal level?
When making the initial diagonal cut is the right fist at navel height and is the kissaki slightly higher than the fist?

b. Is the sword held securely between the left thumb and forefinger with the right hand near the hip?
Is the blade gripped between the thumb and index finger of left hand at around its centre point, and is the right fist on the right hip?

c. Does the right hand finish in front of the navel after making the thrust and does the thrusting action adequately reach the opponent's body?
When making the thrust, does the right fist stop in front of the navel?

d. When showing Zanshin, is the right elbow naturally straight and the right hand no higher or lower than the chest level?
When showing zanshin is the right arm straight and is the right fist no higher than the nipple?

10. Shihogiri

a. Is the strike to the first opponent's hand done firmly and effectively with the flat side of the Tsuka?
Is the tsuka ate made strongly and with the side of the tsuka?

b. In making Sayabiki, is the Mune near the Monouchi of the sword on the chest and is the thrust made surely into the solar plexus of the opponent?
When doing the sayabiki, is the ridge of the sword near the monouchi touching the left chest and is the right hand held away from the body?

c. When the thrust is made, is the left hand brought to the center of the navel and both arms aid the technique with the correct tension?
When making the thrust, is the saya pulled in front of the navel, and are the left and right hands move towards each other?

Square view

d. Is the final cut made by going through Waki Gamae without hesitation or pause?
Is the sword raised above the head for the final cut as part of the wakigamae action and not after wakigamae?

11. Sougiri

a. When the sword is drawn up, is it in a correct position to parry an attack?

b. When moving forwards, does the performer use Okuri Ashi footwork?

illustration from
Image from

c. When making the horizontal cut, is it performed horizontally with the correct angle of the blade?

12: Nuki Uchi

a. When the sword is drawn up and out, have both feet moved back adequately to evade the downward cut of the opponent?

b. When the right hand is taken upwards, is it in the center line of the body?

c. Is the step forwards with the right foot sufficient to enable the sword to reach the target?

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