Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū (天真正伝香取神道流) is one of the oldest extant martial arts in Japan, an exemplar of koryū bujutsu. The Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū 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 ryū itself gives 1447 as the year it was founded, but some scholars claim circa 1480 is more historically accurate (Watatani 1967).
Iizasa Ienao (飯篠長威斎家直 Iizasa Chōi-sai Ienao) was a respected spearman and swordsman whose daimyō was deposed, encouraging him to relinquish control of his household to conduct purification rituals and study martials arts in isolation. 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, Futsunoshi 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 (2006), twentieth generation headmaster, is Iizasa Yasusada (飯篠修理亮快貞 Iizasa Shūri-no-suke Yasusada). The representative, and head instructor on behalf of the headmaster is Otake Risuke (Narita City, Chiba Prefecture).
Son of the late Yoshio Sugino sensei (1904-1998), Yukihiro Sugino sensei, is also teaching Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū in Yuishinkan Dojo, Kawasaki, Japan.
Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū is the source tradition of many Japanese martial arts, and as such received the first ever Intangible Cultural Asset designation given to a martial art in 1960. 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 Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū was popularized in the west by the writings of late Donn F. Draeger.
The Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū 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.
Although it may be said that training in the school illustrates the concept of the bugei juhappan (the eighteen separate martial areas that were said to make up the ideal warrior's training curriculum) unfortunately the arts of Sui-ren (Swimming arts), Hojutsu (Musketry), Bajutsu (Horsemanship), and Kyujutsu (Archery) have at some time been lost over the almost six hundred year history of the school. However, such knowledge as Ninjutsu (Espionage Art) and Houka (Signaling using fires) is still passed down through kuden (oral teachings).
The main emphasis of the school is on Kenjutsu (sword technique). A long range of other weapons are being taught as part of the curriculum, but the sword remains the central weapon.
The weapons practiced include:
- Kenjutsu (剣術; sword technique)
- Omote no Tachi - (4 kata)
- Gogyo no Tachi - (5 kata)
- Gokui Shichijo no Tachi - (3 kata)
- Iaijutsu (居合術; sword drawing and cutting - covering both kneeling and standing forms)
- Iai Jutsu - (6 kata)
- Tachi Iai Jutsu - (5 kata)
- Gokui no Iai - (5 kata)
- Ryōtōjutsu (両刀術; both long and short swords at once)
- Kodachi) (小太刀術; short sword)
- Gokui no Kodachi - (3 kata)
Bojutsu (棒術; staff)
- Omote no Bo - (6 kata)
- Gogyo no Bo - (6 kata)
Naginatajutsu (長刀術; glaive - curved spear)
- Omote no Naginata - (4 kata)
- Gokui Shichijo no Naginata - (3 kata)
Sōjutsu (槍術; straight spear)
Shurikenjutsu (手裏剣術; spike throwing)
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:
- Yawara-jutsu (grappling and knife fighting)
- Ninjutsu/Shinogi (intelligence gathering and analysis)
- Chikujojutsu (field fortification art)
- Gunbai-Heihō (strategy and tactics)
- Tenmon Chirigaku (astronomy;geomantic divination)
- In-Yo kigaku (philosophical and mystical aspects derived from Mikkyo - esoteric Buddhism).