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Firstly I would like to say that all of the material contained within this blog is of my own opinion and any inaccuracies in technical content or other's personal quotations are completely my own.

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7th dans achieved. Come and visit Ryoshinkan Iaido and Jodo Dojo Website at www.ryoshinkan.org

Sunday 7 April 2013

Blogpost Special – Judging Points for Iaido and Jodo

Just between me finishing off the 3-part (or possibly more) article I am writing at the moment on the Suio Ryu Taikai I thought I would quickly bash off a short posting on judging points for iaido and jodo. Considering the emphasis that Ishido Sensei has given to these at recent event I think they can be considered to be useful points to concentrate on whether one is training for a taikai, towards a grading or simply deepening their training experience. The points are taken from a section in each art’s judging rules and comes as a list of items to consider in no particular order of emphasis. I have translated specialist words where necessary if they happen to be terms which the exponent might want to learn (I have omitted well-known words such as chiburi where if the reader doesn’t know them then they need to learn fast).
It is slightly interesting that both iaido and jodo essentially require the same criteria albeit there are one or two specific to the art.
I hope you find these useful…

Jodo Shiai – Refereeing Rules (Originally Published 1st July 1997)
  1. Fullness of spirit.
  2. Correct posture.
  3. Correct balance of strength and softness of strikes and thrusts.
  4. Ma (timing) and ma’ai (distance).
  5. Metsuke.
  6. Zanshin.
  7. Reiho.
  8. Ki-jo-tai no ittsu (Spirit-jo-body as one).
  9. Whether it is logical as budo.
  10. Accordance with the ZNKR Technical Manual – special points for consideration for examinations and taikai.

Iaido Shiai – Refereeing Rules (Originally Published 1st October 1996)
  1. Depth of practice.
  2. Reigi (correct behaviour and etiquette).
  3. Technique:
    1. Correct nukitsuke and kiritsuke (drawing and cutting).
    2. Correct sayabanare and hasuji (release of sword and blade angle).
    3. Correct chiburi with angle.
    4. Correct noto.
  4. Kokorogamae (preparedness, readiness):
    1. Calmness.
    2. Metsuke.
    3. Kihaku (spirit, vigour), zanshin, ma (timing) and ma’ai (distance).
  5. Ki-ken-tai no ittsu (Spirit-sword-body as one).
  6. Whether it is logical as budo.
  7. Accordance with the ZNKR Technical Manual – special points for consideration for examinations and taikai.


  1. Thanks for the translation and simple structure! I think it really helps demystify the "subjective nature" of judging these two arts and helps direct and measure overall progress for teaching.

    Actually, teaching and coaching has been mentioned recently by the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre of which our Iaido club is a part of. Unfortunately, the national coaching association does not include any of the kendo federation arts.

    I was wondering, Watson Sensei, if it would be possible to check out what the BKA coaching curriculum is all about and whether we might be able to implement some degree of certification within our organization?

  2. Hi Patrick

    I can certainly send you a precis document outlining our coaching programme if you could send me your PM address.

    Best regards


  3. Hi Watson Sensei,

    Thanks! I can be reached at sueniaidokyudo@gmail.com

    Best regards

    - Patrick

  4. Watson sensei,

    A while back in 2010 you wrote a piece for kenshi247 titled "SMR Koryu - a Lateral View"

    After yet another reorganization of kenshi247, that article disappeared off the face of the internet (It can still be dug up in archive.org, but...)

    Would you be OK, if Kim Taylor were to re-publish that article in EJMAS? http://www.ejmas.com/

    Thank you, and Happy New Year.

  5. Hi there.When the article goes up could you post a link to it here please.

    Happy New Year.

  6. Watson sensei,

    could you take a look at http://ejmas.com/tin/2014tin/tinart-watson1401.html and if you like what you see, we will add it to the main index page at http://ejmas.com/tin/tinframe.htm

    Thank you very much!

  7. Hi there

    It all looks good except in the Samidare section a character hasn't transferred correctly, see below:

    Mijin (zen) (fragments – front)
    Mijin (go) (fragments – behind)

    Other than that I'm happy that this is published.

    Best regards

  8. Watson sensei,

    Sorry about that, I will get that corrected shortly.

    I also would like to extend an invitation to you, that if you, at any point want to publish(or re-publish) anything else Iaido or Jodo related at EJMAS, please drop a line to Kim Taylor. I am sure that we will be happy to do so.

    Once again, thank you very very much.

  9. Watson sensei,

    If you have a few spare minutes (who am I kidding? If you have a spare hour or two), could you, perhaps, elaborate on the following question, based on your experience....

    In my neck of the woods I am one of the top Jodo guys. It's a scary concept, however all this means is that there are very few people practicing Jodo around here.

    My exposure to the Japanese sensei, is basically once a year at a large seminar, and maybe once or twice a year I get to see a local 5th dan, who is the top guy in the country.

    Both me, and my practice partner are 3rd dans, and we are looking forward to attempting the next grading in a year and a bit.

    But we are getting into a bit of a pattern - I know all of his idiosyncrasies, he knows all of mine. And at the same time, I am trying to figure out where to go to next in my practice, how to get out of the comfort zone, in order to improve.

    Now, I realize, that what I am asking you to do, is essentially to diagnose a patient over the phone. And I am sorry for that.

    However, maybe you can tell me, In your experience, what is a good 4th or 5th dan like? What has he got? How is he different from 3rd dan, and from hachi dan hanshi?

    You wrote about the teaching progression in the kata, but what about the actual progression in practice? What is important to learn at which level, at least in Jodo section of BKA?

    Thank you very much for any and all insights.

    And if you decide to turn this answer into a full fledged article, EJMAS will be glad to publish it :-)

  10. Ok, here goes, this is all just my opinion of course and the only objective, consistent advice I can give you is to review the ZNKR checklist for each grade (and read the seitei manual until your eyes bleed).

    I kind of imagine what a certain grade looks like by thinking about the typical age of a student when they are at that grade. At 3rd dan for example and imagining that this student was in their mid to late 20s I would expect to see a certain degree of athleticism and vigor in their performance as they start to develop a sense of confidence and control in their technique. There would be the occasional technical mistake during this kind of rigorous exercise but that wouldn't be unexpected.

    So at 4th dan, as this student might be entering into their 30's I would hope to start seeing elements of calmness, control and maturity in their performance. For example, even during a rapid evasion or strike their posture should not be compromised significantly. During long kata the sequence shouldn't run away with itself too much and the exponent should be able to slightly moderate the tempo by moments of slightly holding back ("tame"). Techniques, while not needing to be perfect, should be more or less correct. Aside from a few idiosyncrasies their kihon should be as per the seitei manual. Distance should also be logical i.e. cuts should be delivered to the correct targets, evasions should move one clearly out of danger and not rely on the Uchidachi to pull their cuts.

    So that's about the best I can describe how I would see a 4th dan. In comparison with a 3rd dan they would be more careful about their technique and be able to project zanshin and some degree of calmness during the kata.

    Hope that helps


  11. That helps a great deal. Thank you very much!