The history of the Japanese sword is complex and too detailed to be covered here.
For iaido practice, a real Japanese sword is not needed. An iaito (iaido practice sword) is ideal. An iaito has the look and feel of a real Japanese sword, but is lighter and has no cutting edge.
Not all Japanese style swords are suitable for the practice of iaido, including swords intended for display purposes. Such swords, may not withstand the stress caused by regular dynamic training and could become unsafe, so they will not be approved to train with. Even some Japanese style swords sold as iaito are unfortunately not suited. It is always a good practice to discuss a potential iaito purchase, prior to the event with your instructor.
The purchase of an iaito can be a significant investment and should not be rushed into. All Seishin students commence their iaido training by using a bokutoh and move on to using an iaito in a few months. A good option is a bokutoh with a matching saya (scabbard) designed for iaido practice. There is a range of prices and as usual, good quality items may cost more, but are better to train with.
The correct clothing, comprises a gi (jacket) and hakama (pleated wide trouser like garment) and obi (a long wide belt).
There are two styles of costumes or uniform generally worn for iaido, the formal and the informal.
At Seishin, the informal costume of dark blue (indigo) is sometimes worn for training, the same as worn in kendo training. The gi is is usually cotton and the hakama is usually cotton or a poly/cotton blend. Female students may wear an undershirt inside their blue gi.
The formal costume is usually worn at grading exams, exhibitions and seminars. This costume comprises a black gi and hakama, with a white undershirt worn inside the gi by men and women.
The obi is a long wide belt worn over the gi and under the hakama. The obi should be about six to nine centimetres wide and long enough to wrap around the waist four times with a few centimetres left at each end. The purpose of the obi is to support the saya (scabbard).
All these items can be acquired over time and Seishin Iaido can assist in sourcing equipment and clothing for our members.