"" What does Iaido (居合道) mean literally?"
" Copyright © 2014 Kefu Zhu, all rights reserved.
" The Iaido Journal May 2014"
合, the "ai", originally, is the gathering of 气 (気,き, ki, qi, chi)2. 亼, the triangle arrow-like upper part, signifies the going in a direction. It will also signify intentionality analogically this time. The 口 at the bottom of 合is a hole. For a human being, it usually means the mouth or the nostrils where breath happens and気 flows through. To put together, 合 is the気going out from oneself and gathering at somewhere outside. Moreover, Fire, mentioned above, apart from referring consciousness as well as other mental activities, is in fact one of the symbols of气, For 气 has five appearances, wood, fire, soil, metal and water, and when concerning consciousness as well as other mental activities, it is fire in ancient classics3. It can infer that气 is also intentional. Even more than that, as a thread which connects body and mind and which makes a man feel himself alive, 气 is indeed consciousness itself when concerning not only mental aspect but also bodily aspect, accompanied by intentionality always (Sartre, 23). 合 then can be said to be the inner process and practice for both shi and samurai. Further, as Warner and Draeger have mentioned, 合 signifies the capability of one person to adapt quickly to "any and all circumstances that occur in life" (96). Fundamentally, it is the capability of consciousness to transcend to a being/thing-that is the capability of 気 to gather at that being. Hence, it is a responsive attitude that requires one's flexibility (Warner and Draeger, 96). At this juncture, it can be said such flexibility is one of things that the Iaido practitioner trains himself for.
Particularly, since consciousness, or 気, is a flow, such capability which Iaido practitioner trains himself for is that which lets the consciousness flow flow freely-that is without obstruction. Since consciousness as a flow is capable of retention, such obstruction means that when any new circumstance occurs, the consciousness of samurai is still attaching to the previous circumstances and hence the samurai cannot have responsive attitude toward the new circumstance. So the goal of Iaido training can be said to be the training of non-retention. When there is no retention of the past for consciousness, it can transcend itself to the happening circumstance freely. Then such non-retention is actually Nothingness/Emptiness, 虚/空 (xu/kong,こくう, Kokuu), since when consciousness transcends itself and gathers to those beings-in-the-world, there is nothing inside itself (Sartre, 16). Then we can know that the non-retention, or better to say, that Nothingness/Emptiness, is that which Iaido training is for. "