A short history of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu by historyman


									A short history of
Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu


In 1387, the founder of the Katori
Shinto Ryu, Ienaoko, was born in
the village of Iizasa. It is told that
at an early age he was already a
master of the sword and the spear
(yari). As a samoerai (knight) of
the daimyo (lord) of Chiba he took
part in several battles. The ruling
house of Chiba fell from power
after a conflict with the Shogun. In
this conflict the fortified
homestead of the Iizasa-family
was levelled with the ground,
together with a number of villages
in the family domain.

Sad and master less, Ienaoko
travelled to the Katori-shrine,
hoping to attain satori
(enlightenment) by a combination
of prayer, meditation and rigorous
training. At this time, he was 64
years of age. He went to live in a
plain home at the gate of the
Katori shrine, near his present

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Katori Dai Jingu
He rose every morning before dawn, in summer
and winter, and practised with sword, naginata
(halbard) and yari until late in the evening.
Before he returned to his home he took for
purification an ice-cold bath. After that he
recited for an hour his prayers at the Katori-
shrine. Coming home he studied, physical
exhaustion notwithstanding, till late at night
religious and philosophical scriptures. He led
this life for one thousand days.
                                                                  The Katori temple

Then one night there appeared to him in a dream the god to whom the Katori-shrine was
dedicated: Futsunoshi no Mikoto. The god had taken the form of a young man and was
sitting on a branch of an old tree near the place where Ienaoko performed his daily
exercises. The vision beckoned Ienaoko to come near him and presented him with a scroll,
the Mokuroku Heiho Shinsho, uttering the words: 'Choisai, thou shall be the tutor of all the
great swordfighters under the sun!' After this utterance the young man jumped out of the
tree and disappeared. As Ienaoko woke up he had the scroll clasped to his breast. The
Mokuroku contained the divine descriptions of martial techniques and strategy. Following
this revelation Ienaoko changed his name in 'Choisai' and founded his school of sword
fighting. He named it Katori, after the Katori-shrine. To honour Futsunoshi no Mikoto he
added the words Tenshin shoden (transmitted by the Gods). He added further the word
Shinto: immaculate (pure) sword.

The present headmaster of the Katori Ryu has
in his possession a large number of
manuscripts, mostly written by Choisai, that
show how he studied and elaborated in an
exhaustive way the techniques given to him.
When the Gods let him pass away, in the
second year of Sho-Kyo (1488), at the fifteenth
day of the fifth month, Choisai had reached the
high age of one hundred and one year. Starting
with Choisai's eldest son, Wakasaka no Kami
Morichika, his descendants continued for
generation after generation the school.
After the foundation of the school by Choisai it
became tradition that it only served the
emperor, or the country in situations in which
it was in danger.                                                     Chosai

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Each person who wanted to practice the martial arts in a serious and devoted manner could be
admitted to the school. In the registers in the archives of the Katori Shinto Ryu are the names
of famous sword fighters in Japanese history, such as Nobutsuna, the founder of the Kage
Ryu, the renowned Tsukuhara Bokuden, founder of the Kashima Shinto Ryu, the famous
generals Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Takenaka Hanbei Shigeharu and many others.
Even the legendary Miyamoto Musashi visited the Katori-shrine in his quest for

Till the present day, a memorial service is held every year at the fourteenth of April in the
Katori-shrine. This service includes a gohei: a Shinto-ritual in which the Gods are invoked
with a holy staff, embellished with strips of paper folded in a complex way. Every twelfth
year, the Year of the Horse, a great feast is held for two days, the Jinko-Sai. In the 35th year
of Showa (1960) the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu was declared to be an 'intact (i.e.,
authentic) national cultural treasure of Japan', as the first and only one of the martial

 Traditionally, every pupil that entered the Katori Shinto Ryu had to
 make the following blood oath (keppan):

1. When I become a member
of the Tenshin Shoden Katori
Shinto Ryu, which has been
handed down by the Great
Deity of the Katori Shrine, I
therewith affirm my pledge
of absolute secrecy about
matters of this ryu.

2. I will not have the
impertinence to discuss or
demonstrate my martial
technique to non-members.

3. I will never engage in any
kind of gambling nor
frequent disre-putable
                                    I will now pledge to firmly keep each of the above
4. I will not cross swords          articles. Should I break any of these articles I will
with any followers of other         submit to the punishment of the Buddhist deity
martial traditions without a        Marishiten. Herewith I solemnly swear and affix
certificate of full proficiency     my blood seal to this oath to the Great Deity.
in my art.

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It is to the disciples of the Katori Shinto Ryu not
allowed to engage in arbitrary contest, not even in
friendly contest. The drawing of a sword is
considered a grave matter, decisive of life and
death. The sword may never be drawn rashly.
Even when the blade is only drawn one centimetre
from the scabbard this is considered to be an
invitation to a duel. A friendly contest is in
Japanese called shiai. In Katori Shinto philosophy
this is synonymous to shi ni ai, fight till death.

                                                        Marishiten is originally the Brahman figure of Krishna.
                                                        In later Chinese Buddhist mythology she became the
                                                        heavenly queen who lives in one of the stars of the Great
                                                        Bear. She is mostly depicted with eight arms, two of
                                                        which are the symbols of sun and moon.

As a consequence of this there is no traditionally
dan-grading in the Katori Shinto Ryu as in Kendo
or Judo, because these grades are obtained in
competition. This competition is possible because
of the limitations on the fighting techniques in
modern sports, aiming at prevention of bodily
harm. In the Katori Shinto Ryu a disciple could
traditionally receive a certificate of appreciation
(mokurokuc) after generally fifteen years of
intensive training. Much later, on achieving a
certain level of proficiency, he could also receive a
menkyo (teaching license). The highest degree is
the gokui kaiden (master of the secret techniques).
Only a few individuals will achieve this level of
skill and maturity


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The teachings of the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu are described in the Mokuroku Heiho
no Shinsho and contain weapon techniques. Techniques of attack and defence with equal and
unequal weapons, is the art of strategy and the philosophy of the school. In so far as concerns
the weapon techniques the curriculum of the Katori Shinto Ryu consists of the following
parts: (Japanese names are given according to the Hepburn-system and are as far as possible
translated. These names are key words; some are rather cryptic. Kajo means 'part' or 'chapter'.)

   TACHI-JUTSU (sword fighting)

   •   Omote no tachi Basic techniques 4 kajo

   •   Gogyo no tachi Higher techniques 5 kajo

   •   Gokui hichijo no tachi Secret techniques 3 kajo

   •   Ryoto Fighting with two swords 4 kajo

   •   Gokui no kodachi Secrets of the short sword 3 kajo

                                                                    Sugawara Sensei and Igarachi Sensei

   IAI-JUTSU (drawing and striking with the sword)

   •   Iai goshi Squatted on the left knee 6 kajo

   •   Tachi iai-jutsu Standing 5 kajo

   •   Gokui no iai-jutsu Secret techniques 5 kajo

   BO-JUTSU (fighting techniques with the long staff)

   •   Omote no bo Basic techniques 6 kajo

   •   Gokui no bo Secret techniques 5 kajo

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    (fighting techniques with the halbard)

    •   Omote no naginata Basic techniques 4 kajo

    •   Gokui hichijo no naginata Secret techniques 3 kaj

    SO-JUTSU (fighting techniques with the spear)

    •   Omote no yari Basic techniques 6 kajo

    SHURIKEN-JUTSU (dart techniques)

    •   Omote no shuriken Basic techniques 7 kajo

    •   Gogyo no shuriken Higher techniques 8 kajo

    •   Gokui no shuriken Secret techniques 9 kajo

    JU-JUTSU (unarmed combat) 36 kajo

                                                            Yari, naginata, bo, bokken ja kodachi

Text: Willem Bekink
Translation: Stephen Snelders
Revised by: Thomas Sääf, 2006-01-28

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