Iwama style includes the combined study (riai) of traditional Japanese weapons (bukiwaza), specifically Aiki-jō (staff) and Aiki-ken (sword), and of empty-handed aikido (taijutsu), both accompanied by kiai. Iwama practitioners often claim that their aikido is close to that of the founder, as preserved by Morihiro Saito. Much of this claim is based on photos taken from the Noma Dojo and a technical manual written by the founder.
Among non-Iwama practitioners, a common opinion is that Iwama style mainly is Morihei Ueshiba's aikido of the 1940s and 1950s not taking into consideration his later years; this viewpoint is considered to be too simplistic by Iwama-style practitioners.
Iwama (style) Aikido has a strong grip when starting most of the kata (drills). Most Aikido styles uses a softer grip method when starting their kata. Iwama Aikido style grip is strong and powerful and the aim is to pin the whole body with a strong strategic grip.
Generally speaking, Iwama style is considered more martial than counterparts, such as Aikikai's, which tends to be more acrobatic and artistic than martial.