In the very beginning, in addition to learning mundane things like how to put on a hakama, and basic dojo etiquette, students of Iaido are taught the fundamentals of how to handle a sword, which includes nukitsuke (drawing the sword out of the scabbard) and how to perform noto (returning the sword to the scabbard). This is¬†first done ¬†with a bokuto (wooden sword) with a saya, or with an iaito (non-sharp practice blade of metal), but never with a shinken (sharp Japanese samurai sword). Beginners will also learn basic sword cuts and movements, along with the proper terminology.
The first kata that a novice will learn are from the Omori Ryu, or Shoden (first level) set. There are twelve solo kata in this set. These are what a student will spend the majority of their time on until they test for Shodan.
There are also two person kata¬†done with bokuto,¬†called kumitachi, that teach timing, distance, and focus.