The University of Vermont

Iaido: an Introduction for Healthcare Professionals

Iaido (pronounced “ee-EYE-doe”) is a physical and mental practice developed during feudal Japan that has more recently been established as a peaceful, non-combative martial art. “Iai” means “being constantly prepared” and “do” means “the path.” Originally, Iaido was developed for training the Samurai to attend completely, clearly, fearlessly, and calmly to the moment at hand. 

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Today, Iaido is practiced in kata, or choreographed forms, and is often referred to as “moving Zen”. During the first 6-week course, students will learn two full kata: one from the Omori-Ryu style and one from the Seitei-Gata style. Beginning practitioners use a wooden sword (bokken) and progress to using an unsharpened (iaito) or razor-sharp (katana) metal sword. During the first six sessions, we will only be using the bokken.

The value of mindfulness and meditation continue to be well supported by research and can be of great help to Healthcare Professionals. UVM’s Iaido courses will be facilitated by Bob Gramling, a UVMMC palliative care physician who has found his daily Iaido practice helpful for his own resilience and goal of being “fully present” with those who are seriously ill. You can join him for six Sunday morning sessions during the Fall Semester to begin this movement-based meditation practice.

As with most Zen-based mindfulness approaches, Iaido is about the practice. Therefore, students will spend time together “doing” and “being” rather than discussing the philosophy, history, or others’ interpretations. Iaido may provide spiritual rejuvenation for some, but it is not a religion—all belief systems are most welcome here!

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Who can sign up for this course? This course targets students, residents, fellows, faculty, and staff involved in healthcare training and/or delivery at UVM.

When and where will we meet? We will practice at the UVM Patrick Gymnasium on indoor turf “court” 1&2 (where the tennis courts are located). We will meet on the following six Sunday mornings:

  • Oct 7: 8:30-9:45am (turfs 1 & 2)
  • Oct 14: 8:30-9:45am (turfs 1 & 2)
  • Oct 21: 8:30-9:45am (turfs 3)
  • Oct 28: 10:30-11:45am (turf 3)
  • Nov 4: 10:30-11:45am (turf 3)
  • Nov 11: 8:30-9:45am (turf 3)

What do I need to bring? Please wear loose, comfortable clothing. We will provide the equipment (wooden swords, sword maintenance oils, sword belts, carry bags) that you need for the first 6-week course.

What will we cover during the 6 weeks? We will practice the foundational movements of Iaido and two full kata—one each from the Omori-Ryu and Seitei-Gata styles.

I have an injury or have not trained in a while, is this strenuous? Iaido involves kneeling, standing from kneeling, changing stances, and handling the sword. How strenuously you engage these physical movements depends on how it feels to your body; be sure to participate with the level of physical engagement that is right for you. It is also important that you understand this practice is not just a physical activity, but a mental exercise as well. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.

What if I want to continue practicing Iaido after the initial 6 weeks? This course will occur four times per year, and we are designing the curriculum so that new kata are taught in each session. For those who wish to continue with the group, subsequent training will involve more precise attention to the fundamentals with an unsharpened training sword (iaito) and additional kata. Sensei Matt Dorsey will join the curriculum for more advanced training and promotion via private Skype lessons and an annual workshop at UVM.

How much does this cost? This pilot run will be free for all participants. However, please note that seats are limited, so don’t delay in registering. Students will be asked for feedback to help us better plan the next course offering. For those practitioners who wish to advance their training beyond one or two 6-week sessions, Bob will help coordinate purchasing an iaito (unsharpened sword), gi (top), obi (belt), and hakama (traditional pants).

What if I cannot make all six sessions?
We understand life is busy and that many of you might have clinical weekend responsibilities. If you need to miss a session or two, that is totally fine. You will still get an introductory sense of Iaido. If you cannot be there for at least four sessions, then we ask that you sign up for one of the next offerings (schedule is pending).

Where do I park? You can park at the Gutterson Garage on UVM Campus.  For more information about permits or pay-by-space options, please click here.

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Instructors
Bob Gramling has been practicing Iaido for ten years and holds the rank of Shodan (1st degree) in Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido. Bob will be the Instructor for this course under Sensei Dorsey. Bob is the Holly and Bob Miller Chair in Palliative Medicine at the University of Vermont. 

Sensei Matt Dorsey has practiced Japanese martial arts for more than 40 years and holds the rank of 8th degree in Isshin Ryu Karate and 2nd degree (Nidan) in Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido.