Today there are twelve designed kata trained by all iaidoka of the association, which form the common ground for examinations and matches. This is Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei or Z.N.K.R. iai (formerly, but informally still known as seitei iai), which emerged in 1966, 1980 and 2001, when headmasters associated with the Z.N.K.R. were seeking a way to confront kendoka with the roots of their sport. Traditional kendo kata, performed with a wooden sword (boken), gave insufficient opportunity for this, while either judo or kendo were obligatory parts of the curriculum at Japanese schools at the time. Z.N.K.R. iaido comprises of four sitting and eight standing kata, featuring the most representative and effective sword techniques from various traditions: horizontal, vertical, diagonal and successive cuts, as well as thrusts and stabs. The series is preceded and concluded by a short saluting ritual, which figures largely in iaido. Depending on local circumstances, it is an expression of respect to the past (the gods or early headmasters), the present (the teacher and the sword) and the future (the students) of the discipline. Before the sword is put at the waist, the iaidoka salutes the sword so it becomes one with his body and mind. The etiquette also involves alertness (zanshin), however, for a lack of mutual respect in feudal Japan often resulted in certain death. Z.N.K.R. iai definitively marks the transition of iaijutsu to iaido. In this present form, iaido is practised world-wide.

With the advent of Z.N.K.R. iaido, the many traditions (ryuha) were provided with a standard with which to compare their expertise among themselves. Apart from the appraisal within the various schools, a system well-known from other budo disciplines was introduced, featuring seven kyu- and ten dan grades, with which one could judge the level of experience of candidates (read more on shinsa and shogo). In the Dutch Kendo Federation (N.K.R.), candidates must pass the exam for the 1st kyu-grade, prior to being admitted to the exam for 1st dan. Examinations always consist of a theoretical and a practical section. The Z.N.K.R. system also opens the road to matches (shiai), where two candidates of about the same level of experience – sometimes with one grade disparity – simultaneously show a number of free or prescribed kata to a jury (read more on shiai). Of course, they will be judged by the technical perfection of their performance, measured by the depth of their training background, but also by the atmosphere they are able to evoke with their kata.

The names and translations of the twelve kata of the Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei iaido are being displayed in the following section:

Seiza no bu sitting section  in seiza
1 Ippon me Mae Front
2 Nihon me Ushiro Rear
3 Sanbon me Ukenagashi Receive, parry and cut
Tate hiza no bu sitting section in tate hiza
4 Yonhon me Tsuke-ate Strike with the tsuka
Tachi iai no bu Standing section
5 Gohon me Kesageri Cut across the kesa
6 Roppon me Morotetsuki Thrust with two hands
7 Nanahon me Sanpogiri Cutting in three directions
8 Hachihon me Ganmen ate Strike in the face
9 Kyuhon me Soetetsuki Joined hand thrust
10 Juppon me Shihogiri Cutting in four directions
11 Juichippon me Sougiri Complete cuts
12 Junippon me Nuki uchi Drawing and cutting