Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu

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Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu (??????????) is one of the oldest extant Japanese martial arts, and an exemplar of koryu bujutsu. The Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu was founded by Iizasa Ienao, born 1387 in Iizasa village (present day Takomachi, Chiba Prefecture), who was living near Katori Shrine (Sawara City, Chiba Prefecture) at the time. The ryu itself gives 1447 as the year it was founded, but some scholars claim circa 1480 is more historically accurate.[1]

Iizasa Ienao (?? ??? ?? Iizasa Choi-sai Ienao, c.1387–c.1488) was a respected spearman and swordsman whose daimyo was deposed, encouraging him to relinquish control of his household to conduct purification rituals and study martial arts in isolation. During his youth he had been in the service of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1436-1490). Legend says at the age of 60 he spent 1000 days in Katori Shrine practising martial techniques day and night, until the kami of the shrine, Futsunushi no Mikoto (?????), appeared to him in a dream and handed down the secrets of martial strategy in a scroll named Mokuroku Heiho no Shinsho. Ienao died in 1488 at the age of 102.

The current (2008), twentieth generation headmaster, is Yasusada Iizasa (?? ??? ?? Iizasa Shuri-no-suke Yasusada). The representative, and head instructor on behalf of the headmaster is Risuke Otake (Narita City, Chiba Prefecture).

Other instructors also teaching Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu include:

Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu is the source tradition of many Japanese martial arts such as Kashima Shinto-ryu (Bokuden-ryu), Arima-ryu, Ichiu-ryu, and others. As such in 1960 the school received the first ever “Intangible Cultural Asset” designation given to a martial art. It claims to have never aligned itself with any estate or faction, no matter what stipend was offered. This allowed the ryu to maintain its independence and integrity.

Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu was popularized in the west by the writings of late Donn F. Draeger (1922–1982).

The Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu is a comprehensive martial system. This means that unlike modern martial ways such as Kendo or Iaido, which concentrate on one specific area of training, study is made of a broad range of martial skills.

The main emphasis of the school is on Kenjutsu (sword technique). A wide range of other weapons are being taught as part of the curriculum, but the sword remains the central weapon.

The primary curriculum includes:

The Gogyo and Gokui kata are only taught to advanced practitioners after many years of fundamental practice.

Other, more advanced areas of study of the school include:

Historically, the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu variant headed by Risuke Otake applied stringent limitations on prospective members. These, as detailed in Otake’s formal Shinbukan Dojo Rules, include…

In recent years, however, with the relaxing of these rules Otake’s Narita-headquartered organisation has achieved significant growth in membership through a crop of recently appointed and soon-to-be-appointed shidosha (country representatives) in a number of European countries, Russia, South America and as far afield as South Africa. A rapidly increasing inflow of visiting foreign enthusiasts spend periods of up to a few weeks at the Hombu (head) dojo, no longer excluded by the historic rules (2) to (4). Otake’s younger son and Shihan (chief instructor)-in-waiting, Shigetoshi Kyoso, in actively fostering the school’s upsurge in accessibility and recent international growth, has made a number of overseas training visits in support of these new branches.