Getting Started

Getting Started in Iaido


  • Ken Maneker
  • Calvin Dang
  • Our dojo is open to anyone interested in Iaido, the traditional Way of the Japanese Sword, and we invite you to visit the dojo during a regular practice to watch a class. We recommend that you contact us by e-mail before you view a class just to be sure that practice is scheduled on the day you choose to visit. At that time, we can answer any question you may have. 



To begin practice all you need is a wooden sword (bokuto/bokken), good-quality sports knee pads, a belt that can wrap around your body three times and comfortable clothes such as sweat pants and a t-shirt.  Also suggested is a plastic saya, a sheath that the sword can fit into.

When you feel ready, you may purchase the practice uniform (traditional split skirt called Hakama and top called Uagi/Keiko-gi). These can be acquired locally although better quality uniforms can be purchased from Japan (see Buying Equipment).

Once you choose to stay with Iaido you will want to purchase an Iaito (practice sword). These range in cost from $400 to several thousand dollars. We can assist you in purchasing the correct sword for you.  Do not purchase a sword on your own until speaking with your teacher.  Unfortunately, there are many poorly made Japanese style swords that are unsuitable for Iaido use.

(Please note: decorative swords such as those sold at cutlery and souvenir stores are usually not suitable for Iaido practice. They are poorly balanced and often do not have the craftsmanship to ensure safe practice.)

After years of practice you will want to buy a “live” blade. That is, a blade with a sharp edge. For safety reasons, we do not condone the use of live blades (shinken) until the student has attained enough skill. This is determined by the teacher and not by the student.  However, when the student is ready, there is much to be learned in practicing with a shinken. We will help you to purchase one when the time is right.


Shin Ken Kai Iaido- New Students

  1. Come and Observe a Class- observe a whole class and ask any questions you may have.  Iaido may be something you would enjoy doing.
  2. Make a Decision- if you make the decision to begin classes, give yourself a minimum of 3 months of attendance before investing in expensive equipment. As in any Budo, Martial Art, it takes a long time to start feeling comfortable doing it.

  3.   ***There are many places where you can buy or order Iaido equipment.  Please consult dojo members before buying or placing an order with anyone.  Through trial and error, we have discovered suppliers who are the most reliable.

  4. What You Need

The Basics 1 –  to begin practice, all you need for the first few weeks are:

    1. Bokuto–  a wooden practice sword you can buy in various places in the Vancouver area.
    2. Obi –  this is a thick cloth belt which you should be able to wrap around your waist 3 times.
    3. Knee Pads –  get a pair of high density foam knee pads.  Nike makes some very good ones.

The Basics 2 –

    1. Dogu –  This is a practice uniform consisting of:
      1. Uagi – Jacket.  This should be designed for Iaido and not for Kendo.  Usual colours are black, white, or dark blue
      2. Hakama – the traditional split skirt.  Usual colours are black, white, or dark blue.

The Basics 3 –

    1. Mogitou/Iaito – this is a practice sword which is designed for Iaido practice.  It has the basic shape of the traditional katana, a blade that is shaped properly but unsharpened, and is usually lighter than a shinken [a sharpened sword].  Only buy a mogitou that is designed specifically for Iaido…most display swords are just that, meant for display and not for use!  Buy the best sword you can afford because you will be using it for many years.  Once again, consult dojo members about the most reliable places to order your sword.