Iaido is an ancient martial art dating back to about 1200ad. Its origins are in the battle training of the Samurai. When Tokugawa Ieasu united Japan and became Shogun in 1600ad he drastically reduced the power of the Daimyo (local warlord/landowner) and the samurai class rapidly fell on hard times. Many of them, notably Hayashizaki Jinsuke Shigenobu, realised that a living could be made teaching the sons of the aristocracy to be ‘gentlemen’, through a rather more refined version of the old battle training. This led to a confusing multitude of different styles being taught throughout Japan.
With the fall of the Shogunate and restoration of the Emperor Meiji in 1868, the establishment more of less threw out the ‘baby with the bathwater’ and banned the wearing and possession of swords. However this was poorly enforced.
In 1924 it was realised that a large part of Japanese culture was being lost. The Meiji government’s ministry of education then asked Oe Masamichi, who was widely regarded as one of the greatest living exponents of iaido, to restructure, rationalise and reduce the art to be more manageable.
When Oe Masamichi died in 1927, he failed to name one particular successor. He left at least 16 students of very high quality, most of whom created their own lineages.
The Kawagishi Dojo follows the lineage of Yamamoto Harusuke sensei through Haruna Matsuo sensei and latterly Oshita Masakazu sensei.
A further confusion arose after Japan’s defeat in the Pacific War and the U.S. imposition of a ‘democratic’ constitution banning all martial arts. Again the government realised that Japan was in danger of losing its heritage. Ironically the U.S. occupation forces helped to overturn this ban by their enthusiasm for these arts. It was decided in 1967 once again to rationalise iaido by creating a rigorously standardised set of kata, so that all students could be fairly judged, irrespective of their basic style. This is known as Seitei iaido. There are 12 kata, arranged to teach all the core techniques of iaido. It is administered by the Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei (ZNKR).
Kawagishi Dojo is affiliated to the British Kendo Association (BKA) which is itself affiliated to the European Kendo Federation the International Kendo Federation and the ZNKR in Japan, so all teaching and Dan grades gained are internationally recognised.