On your first visit to the dojo, no special equipment is required. If you decide to become a member, you will need to buy a uniform with the following pieces. All this equipment except the name patch is available at the Nihonzashi link below:
道着 Iaido-style Dogi (jacket) in black*
袴 Hakama (wide trousers) in black
帯 Iaido-style Obi (belt) - Note: this style of belt has soft ends for easy tying, but is reinforced in the middle to help support the katana.
名札 Nafuda (name patch) - These can be ordered directly from Japan to ensure they are of regulation style: See the instructor for details.
[optional]: 足袋 Tabi (socks) with leather or nylon soles, in black. Batto-do is often done barefoot, so these are not required.
*It is possible to wear a matching white gi and hakama, but note that white gi are often worn by sensei, so black is typically worn by students.
A katana is the essential tool for batto-do students, and you will need to have one available for your individual practice. There are a few practice katanas and one real (edged) katana available at our dojo practices, so you don’t need to buy one immediately, but you will probably find that owning your own katana helps you feel more independent and confident when approaching a test or competition. Luckily, you have several options:
A practice aluminum katana, sometimes called an iaito (居合刀). These have sharp points, so you need to be careful handling them, but they are not edged, so you may feel more comfortable practicing noto (納刀), or sheathing your sword, with a non-edged sword. The downside to using these is that a real (edged) katana will handle differently, being heavier and perhaps a different size, so you’ll need to practice using both. These are available at the link below for $300, which is a typical price in a Japanese sword shop.
A factory-made Chinese steel katana. All real, edged swords are called shinken (真剣), and they must be licensed if used in Japan, although they can be ordered online for $300 and up at the link below. These make good beginner swords, since they can be sharpened to batto quality. [*Note: if ordering from Nihonzashi, please let them know this katana is for batto practice and request sharpening before they ship it to you].
A hand-forged steel Japanese katana. These are beautiful and individualized, made by highly skilled swordsmiths who are dedicated to preserving their art. It is possible to buy these katana from collectors for $2000 and up, although $4000 is a typical price in a shop. It is also possible to order a custom-made katana from a swordsmith in Japan: See the instructor for more details.
There are several martial arts supply businesses that will ship to American addresses, but Nihonzashi, based in Florida, USA, is notable for its comprehensive inventory. [Note: I am not compensated for this endorsement; I’m just offering it as a satisfied customer. Much of the Shishinkai’s practice equipment and all of the tatami are ordered through Nihonzashi]: