The Kanji or Chinese characters for Iai 居合 are likely taken from the saying
Ever present in readiness to swiftly respond
This saying expresses one state of mind, as opposed to two action. It is not "Ever present in readiness and swiftly responding" which implies an action and a reaction. Iai means that one must always be mentally prepared for any eventuality and in that state of preparedness be able to swiftly address any occurence with resolve. This is expressed in the practice of Iai through the development of a refined awareness of one's surroundings and the study of techniques for handling different combative scenarios.
Iai focuses on drawing a sword directly into a cutting technique. However, this is not the sole component of the art and most kata incorporate additional actions with the sword after it is drawn, covering a wide variety of scenarios. The mindset, though, is that one is practicing methods of using a sword from the outset of a hostile encounter with a potential enemy. To draw your sword ahead of time would be a display of aggression only serving to escalate the encounter.
Practitioners of Iai develop the use an imposing presence and mental pressure to dissuade an opponent until the use of the sword is the only option. All possible actions and reactions during a confrontation are calculated in one's mind's eye, and the outcome is decided before the sword is released from the scabbard. From the moment the sword is released from its scabbard the practitioner maintains mental acuity and uses deliberate motions to dispatch all opponents in an effortless, efficient manner.
Iai is practiced with a feeling of calm serenity punctuated by decisive acts. Through the practice of Iai one can learn to be calm in challenging situations, maintain mental focus, and promote peaceful relations with others. This attitude is expressed during the performance of kata and one's behavior in the dojo. In the absence of any outside enemy, the kenshi, Iai practitioner, must learn to overcome the obstacles presented by one's self.
During his monastic training, Yahya Sensei learned that the real enemy lies within one's self. The enemy to be confronted and defeated includes one's own pride, selfishness, impatience and agression. Thus, Iai encourages peaceful interactions with others, as one consistently focuses on self-improvement.
Kendo has been described as “The Way of the Sword.” The term “Kendo” implies spiritual discipline, as well as fencing technique. Wearing protective equipment and using bamboo training swords, students practice a variety of movements of attack and defence. Most fundamental are stance, footwork, cuts, thrust and parries. The Japanese art of fencing is based on the techniques of the two-handed sword of the samurai. There is also nitoryu, literally meaning "Two Sword Style", which is a method of fighting with two swords at once. This is most commonly done with a sword in each hand.
Both Iai and Kendo have their origins in Japanese fencing, or Kenjutsu, and compliment each other.
Yahya Sensei has trained in Mugai-ryu Iai for over 10 years in Japan and also began his training in Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu while in Japan. He currently practices Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, which originated in the late 16th century, and the modern forms developed by the All Japan Kendo Federation.
In addition to being a member of the Nippon Iaido Federation, Yahya Sensei is also member of the Zen Nippon Iaido Federation. As a member of the Mu Mon Kai which is a member of the Canadian Kendo Federation (CKF), he is also member of the International Kendo Federation (FIK). Yahya Sensei also began Kendo training in Japan which he now continues in Canada.
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