Initially to wear simple casual clothes is ok. Long sweatpants and a sweatshirt in a dark color are sufficient. The use of well-known suits from Japanese martial arts (karate, judo, aikido) fits perfectly. A wooden sword is held to the left during periods of rest. The next step is to think about buying a belt.
An Iaido belt (Obi) is much wider, longer (approx. 4 m) and thinner than a normal budget belt, which you can get in a shop. It can be wrapped around the waist in several flexible layers. So he always sits in the same place. Because of the width, a sword inserted into it finds a firm hold. The lower abdomen is easily fixed by the Obi. This also supports upright posture.
The question of buying a Hakama, the wide skirt, quickly follows. Again there are a few extras to consider. The Hakama are cut very wide to do well with all movements. We wear them in traditional black color. Actually all types of Hakama offered in the trade are suitable. Kendo hakamas are a little too bulky because they are made of thick cotton. Iaido-Hakama are made of polyester fabric. This material is best suited for durability. For special demonstrations (Enbu), expensive Hakamas with wool or even silk are worn.
A special Iai jacket, the Iaidogi, goes with the Hakama. It is specially cut. It is longer than eg karate jackets so that the side cutouts of the Hakama are covered. An Iaidogi, like the Hakama, is made of relatively thin material. The jacket is available in two types of fabric: polyester or cotton. If this is made of polyester, a light cotton gi (hadagi) is worn underneath for hygienic reasons. A jacket made of 100% cotton can be worn without under gi.
As a beginner you choose a wooden sword (Bokken) to practice with. It doesn’t cost much (around € 15). The kata exercise is made easier. The weight is quite light. So you can physically get used to the movements with a sword. Bokken is also helpful for partner exercises. That’s why you always need it, even if you already have an Iaito. Unfortunately, most of the bokken are made of mahogany wood.
Soon you would like to practice with an Iaito (sword replica). This is like a real, sharp samurai sword. The blade is made of an aluminum alloy with a chrome-plated surface. It is usually blunt, but can also be ordered semi-sharp. The weight, shape and design of the handle are comparable, the balance less. The wooden sword sheath (saya) is sometimes authentic. There are also steel iaitos, mostly of Chinese origin. Steel blades are recommended, but some of the products are partially unbalanced or have poor grip wraps — test beforehand!
The prices depend on the length of the sword and the processing of the blade. Customizing for the handle, tsuba and sword scabbard (saya) is driving the price. The sword prices range from 250 to 1,500 Euros. They depend on the length of the sword and the extent of personal wishes. It makes sense to buy a used sword at the beginning, but then choose it again individually and later.
An Iaito is much more difficult to manage. Saya and blade must be moved synchronously. The blade is heavier, the weights are more centered. These are clear differences from training with the Bokken. All movements inevitably become finer and more complex. Errors in the movement become clearly visible and palpable (and audible: the cut sound reveals a lot about the quality of the cut).
A light oil is required to clean and care for the Iaito. Balistol gun oil is ideal for this . This brand does not crawl under the chrome layer of the Iaito blade. This leaves it intact. The agent cleans the blade, lubricates it for the next use and spreads a pleasant fragrance. The care product is also kind to the skin. Two small cloth rags are ready for cleaning. The first one cleans the blade after training. With the second one you then apply some gun oil.
A high quality sword bag is essential for the transport of sword and bokken. There are simple bags made of synthetic leather. These last about 3 to 5 years, then they crack. Bags made of genuine leather are even better because they are supple. Small side compartments hold cleaning supplies. A large version of the sword pocket – possibly with inner pockets – allows the sword and bokken to be transported at the same time. So you should pay attention to quality when purchasing..
If you train a lot of Iaido, you should buy knee pads (Zafu). Nobody can move so well on hard dojoboden that they do not need a little cushion for repeated practicing of sitting kata. Knee pads with neoprene filling are very suitable. Simple padded protectors are no good because they quickly squeeze through. Buy with a wide fit (cut out the back of the knee, try it!) So that sitting in the Seiza remains comfortable.
So-called Zori , Japanese rice straw sandals are useful for training etc. to quickly slip on and off. In the dojo there is barefoot zone – outside of the exercise area, i.e. the dojo, you always wear shoes.