居合術 抜刀術 Iaijutsu Battōjutsu
Commonly known as Iaido, the art of drawing the Japanese sword is known around the world. The question I get often: what is the difference between iaidō and iaijutsu?
The first difference to note is dō and jutsu. 道 Dō has the connotation of character refinement and spiritual training. In arts that use dō as their suffix the main ideas are character refinement and aesthetics. 術 Jutsu means art or technique. The styles usually using jutsu as their suffix are more concerned with combat effectiveness as their goal. The difference between dō and jutsu can be seen as semantics. People can argue over something like Judo or Iaido having decent martial applications. The changes in names from Jujutsu to Judo do have ramifications in the way the art was developed beyond its original intent as a true battlefield or warrior art.
Dō systems are some times erroneously looked at as inferior to the jutsu forms. Kendō while limited in its teachings for sword combat does have its own place in the spectrum of sword arts from Japan. It is not helpful to dismiss such a school as not worthy of swordsmanship training. Do not let the dō suffix always fool you into thinking the techniques are subpar. As well jutsu schools can also contain strong points of spiritual refinement and character development.
If you are thinking, well this is a slippery slope to climb, it is indeed. You have to keep an open mind and not judge a book by its suffix. Japanese of use these words interchangeably as well.
The word iai 居合 has the idea of meeting the opponent that is attacking you. There is a slightly defensive nuance to this word. These arts start with the sword in the saya (sheath). Alternatively it is called Battōdō 抜刀道 or Battōjutsu 抜刀術. Battō is pulling out the sword.
My iaijutsu is concerned less with looking perfect than with being true to its nature of sword fighting. In Shin Munen Ryu there are many forms and levels of interesting iaijutsu techniques.