Peter Gunstone, head instructor at Todo Kai Dojo, has been honing his swordsmanship for thirty years, and now he aims to pass his knowledge onto others.

Gunstone is a practitioner of the Japanese martial art known as iaido. Unlike kendo, and many other martial arts, iaido does not incorporate real combat. Iaido is about overcoming your own barriers, says Gunstone. “The sword is a training tool to ultimately gain focus and calmness in your life.”

Iaido is all about perfecting fine movements. Due to the risk involved with using razor- sharp swords, students practice against imaginary opponents, simulating a situation in which they have been pressured to use their sword. However, the goal of iaido is to bypass conflict.

“In the art of the sword, it’s the art of no sword,” Gunstone says. “Just like a good policeman will never have to draw his gun. The whole idea is to never have to use it; to be able to focus and assert things ahead of time so that you can walk around a problem as opposed to having to deal with it.”

Iaido, like many martial arts, is steeped in tradition. Each class starts with a bow in order to show humility and respect to those who have done it before.

“To know that you have hundreds of years of history and structure behind you makes it more rewarding,” Gunstone says. “The concept of iaido is to learn it as faithfully as you can, without changing it.”

Todo Kai Dojo holds weekly classes at Departure Bay Activity Centre on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m., and Ladysmith Primary School on Mondays at 7:30 p.m.

“A lot of people in the class are university students,” Gunstone says, “and I haven’t found anyone who hasn’t said that it’s been a value to their studies and their daily lives.”

For more information on iaido or Todo Kai Dojo, visit <www.todokai.ca>.

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