Ian Perry and David Borys hold a classic Iaido pose during a session at Ladysmith Primary School.

Ian Perry and David Borys hold a classic Iaido pose during a session at Ladysmith Primary School.

The way of the sword

Iaido enthusiasts practise the art of drawing and cutting with a Japanese sword every week in Ladysmith.

If tango is the passion of dance, then Iaido is surely the zen of swordplay.

Iaido (pronounced ee-eye-doe) is the art of drawing and cutting with a Japanese sword, and Ladysmith is currently home to a sixth degree black belt (rokudan) instructor. Every week, enthusiasts gather in the gym at Ladysmith Primary School to learn and practise this ancient art form.

“Iaido is training of the body, spirit and mind all in one, where the body combined with the mind works on the targeting and the efficiency of all that you do based on sword work of hundreds of years ago,” says sensei Peter Gunstone of Todo Kai, the local dojo.

The purpose of Iaido, he said, is to develop awareness, centered-ness, sincerity, a calm mind, and mental and physical harmony through the practice of the sword techniques, also referred to as waza.

“The school that we practise is called Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu,” Gunstone said. “We have a teacher/student relationship that hasn’t been broken; it’s been passed on and it’s an oral tradition.”

Iaido is an old martial art developed by the samurai warriors as an exercise to keep their skills sharp. Beginner students learn with a bokken, a Japanese wooden sword, until they are skilled enough to start working with the real thing.

“They teach muscle memory rather than thinking about using your sword,” Gunstone said. “Although it’s not aerobic, there’s a lot of kneeling and upper body exercises that are in it.”

He added that Iaido is all about striking with precision, leading to many hours of perfecting each movement. Actual use of the sword is a last-resort measure.

“If you were going to have to hurt someone back in the days of yore, you wanted it to be quick, accurate and merciful,” he said. “The victory is in the scabbard, so if the sword stays in the scabbard, that’s the best place for it.”

Ian Perry, who has studied Iaido for nine years, said he enjoys the energy he gets after each session.

“It’s about focus and self-discipline and it’s an interesting group. We’re very unique individuals,” he said.

As a senior student, Perry will often help out with the less experienced students. He said Iaido is more about competing with yourself than an actual opponent.

“You are developing your skill, and you get out what you put into it,” he said.

Stephen Mercer, 19, said being involved in Iaido helped him a great deal when his father passed earlier this year.

“It helps me focus and it helps me control my emotions,” he said. “I pack [them] at the door when I’m here and I leave my problems.”

When he’s not taking his bi-weekly classes in Nanaimo and Ladysmith, Mercer practises Iaido at home.

David Borys has studied Iaido for the past three and a half years.

“It’s passing on a way of life [and] a tradition that I admire greatly,” he said. “It’s unique and it’s beautiful.”

Gunstone has studied Iaido for over 30 years and has also practised Kendo, a more physical version of Iaido.

“My grandfather spent a lot of time in [the]Orient so I was always fascinated with Japan,” he said.

He said an added spin-off to Iaido is the cultural aspect.

Iaido is taught in Ladysmith Monday nights at 7:30 p.m. at Ladysmith Primary School. Classes resume Jan. 9, 2012. For more information, or to sit in on a session, contact Gunstone at 250-924-8114 or e-mail gunshot@shaw.ca. Todo Kai’s website is www.todokai.ca.

Just Posted

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley was passed up for a cabinet position by Premier John Horgan. (Photo submitted)
Op-Ed: Modernizing forestry and prioritizing reconciliation

Doug Routley writes on Fairy Creek and Central Walbran Valley old growth deferrals

The log retaining wall that supports the access road to the Ladysmith Community Marina is failing and needs to be replaced. (Cole Schisler photo)
Remediation work for community marina access road expected to be costly

A log retaining wall between the access road and the parking area is failing and must be replaced

Marine biologist Rick Harbo pulls a lid from the Ladysmith harbour, which he uses to monitor the presence of native and non-native species in the Ladysmith harbour. (Cole Schisler photo)
Unidentified sponge may be the latest marine species invading Ladysmith Harbour

Marine biologist finding dozens of alien species in warm-water harbour, none of them threatening

More and more graffiti has appeared in Ladysmith’s downtown core during the pandemic. (Cole Schisler photo)
Council creates rebate program to encourage graffiti clean up

Property owners can receive up to $50 to help fund graffiti removal

Rick Ruppenthal of Saltair will host a 12-hour talk-a-thon Friday, June 18 over Facebook live. (Photo submitted)
Talk-a-thon to focus on men’s mental health issues

Saltair man spearheading a campaign to generate more conversation during fundraiser

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada: UVic professor

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

Most Read