In Hokuo Aikikai we also practice a special style of iaido (sword practice) called toho. Toho is a separate budo art and has its own grading system, but is intimately connected to the style of aikido taught by Nishio sensei. The toho style was created by Nishio sensei, and consists of a number of techniques where body movements and footwork are related to the aikido techniques he created.
A basic concept in Nishio sensei's style of aikido is that all techniques that can be performed unarmed should also be able to be perfomed with a sword in your hand, without having to change your footwork or hand movements. By using the sword extensively during practice, we can keep the true budo spirit in our techniques—if my opponent tries to cut me with a sword, my techniques must be exact and my level of concentration high for me to be able to handle the situation. When we then perform the same techniques unarmed, the idea is to keep the same movements and mental attitude as if we, and the opponent, were still using swords. This makes for powerful and effective techniques, and it becomes easier to keep your mental sharpness and control of the opponent.
In the toho system, each sword techniques has a corresponding aikido technique. By practising toho, you can see even more clearly from which sword movements the aikido techniques derive, and the toho practice becomes yet another aid in keeping the true budo spirit in your aikido and to make the aikido techniques effective.
In the beginning, the techniques can be performed using a wooden sword (bokken), but after a while it is better to start practising using a real sword (iaito), which has a totally different balance and feel than a bokken.