What Iai is:
* Repetitive form based practice. The same patterns over and over and over again. Class after class. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. Decade after decade. There are only 60 to 80 or so forms in Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu.
* Regular training is primarily solo work with unsharpened practice blades called Iaito.
* Amazingly detail oriented. The details can be as important as how to generate power from the hips, and as seemingly trivial as shifting the heel of your hand on the tsuka a quarter of an inch in one direction or the other. You will spend your entire training career seeking to correct very small aberrations in your technique.
* Repetitive in the extreme.
* Very efficient in movement, which means that there is very little of anything that anyone else would find flashy or exciting. As a result...
* Boring as all heck to watch for any length of time. Even for other practitioners. If there's someone really good performing a demonstration, then there are subtle details to look for, but to the uninitiated(all your friends) it will look amazingly dull.
* Repetitive practice designed to build certain patterns of movement into muscle memory so you don't have to think about them anymore.
* Repetitive
* Hard work. You'll come of the mat in sweating and sore. There's a good chance you'll develop a repetitive stress injury at some point. If you're flat footed, you're at risk for a plantar fascia injury in one foot or the other.
* Potentially very dangerous once you've graduated to a live blade. A guy over on another forum, trying to teach himself from a book, ran his left arm through with his sword. Nearly died after severing two arteries. Still doesn't have full use of that hand. Even the experienced folks have been known to take off their thumb or injure themselves or others in crippling ways. It's rare, but it happens.
* Repetitive beyond your wildest imagingings
* Very tedious
* Hard hard work
* Ultimately rewarding for those who stick with it
* Repetitive

Sense a pattern here?

What Iai is not:
* Iai will not allow you to free spar with other practitioners. There are two man forms in most styles, but you won't see them for years.
* It won't impress anyone. Trust me, other folks, even the geeky kind, pretty much won't get it.
* It won't keep you in especially good shape by itself. It will build certain muscle groups, some like the finger extensors in the right forearm to quite the extreme(ie you'll look like popeye eventually). It'll also build good strong legs, but it's not a cardio workout and is thus not sufficient to keep you thin.
* Not something you'll get to use to show off at any rate. It is unlikely your sensei will want you to continue your studies if you are constantly taking what you have learned and try to use it to show off. This is a pretty seirous endeavor and what you do outside the dojo still reflects on your sensei. Given the nature of the pursuit and it's inherant dangers there is no incentive for a sensei to keep students around who are disruptive or likely to end him in hot water with the local authorities or with higher ups within the organization.

It's not a glamours pursuit by any stretch. In all liklihood, even the renfest folks won't respect you especially for studying a JSA seriously. It's up to you to decide whether or not I judged your preconceptions accurately or not. It's no skin off my teeth what you do.
BY : Charles Mahan