Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū (天真正伝香取神道流)

By Yossi Sheriff
(Redirected from Katori)

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 daimyo 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 (2012), 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.

Curriculum of TSKSR

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, study is made of a broad range of martial and outdoor skills. Although it may be said that training in the school illustrates the concept of the bugei juhappan, unfortunately the arts of Sui-ren, Hojutsu, Bajutsu, and Kyujutsu have at some time been lost over the almost six hundred year history of the school. However, such knowledge as Ninjutsu and Houka is still passed down through kuden. The main emphasis of the school is on Kenjutsu. A long range of other weapons are being taught as part of the curriculum, but the sword remains the central weapon.

Techniques and kata of Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū

  1. Sword techniques - 剣術, Tachi Jutsu
    1. Basics of the Sword,表之太刀, Omote no Tachi
      1. Itsutsu no tachi, first bokken kata
      2. Nanatsu no tachi, second bokken kata
      3. Kasumi no tachi, third bokken kata
      4. Hakka no tachi, fourth bokken kata
    2. Five Teachings of the Sword, 五教之太刀, Gogyo no Tachi
      1. Mitsu no tachi, first bokken kata
      2. Yotsu no tachi, second bokken kata
      3. In no tachi, third bokken kata
      4. Sha no tachi, fourth bokken kata
      5. Hotsu no tachi, fifth bokken kata
    3. Ryōtōjutsu 両刀術, two swords at once
      1. Eigetsu no tachi, first two swords kata
      2. Suigetsu no tachi, second two swords kata
      3. Isonami no tachi, third two swords kata
      4. Murakumo no tachi, fourth two swords kata
    4. Gokui no Kodachi, 小太刀術, short sword kata
      1. Hangetsu no kodachi, first short sword kata
      2. Suigetsu no kodachi, second short sword kata
      3. Seigan no kodachi, third short sword kata
    5. Sword drawing and cutting - from a sitting position, 居合
      1. Kusa nagi no ken, TSKSR
      2. Nuki tsuke no ken, TSKSR
      3. Nuki uchi no ken, TSKSR
      4. Uken, TSKSR
      5. Saken, TSKSR
      6. Happo ken, TSKSR
    6. Tachi-ai Batto jutsu, Sword drawing and cutting - from a standing position, 立合抜刀術
      1. Yuki ai gyaku nuki no tachi, TSKSR
      2. Zengo Chidori no tachi, TSKSR
      3. Yuki ai Migi Chidori no tachi, TSKSR
      4. Gyakku nuki no tachi, TSKSR
      5. Nuki uchi no tachi, TSKSR
    7. Bojutsu, 棒術, Long staff techniques
      1. Seri ai no bo, TSKSR
      2. Sune hishigi no bo, TSKSR
      3. Sayu no bo, TSKSR
      4. Kaza hazushi no bo, TSKSR
      5. Hana tsurube no bo, TSKSR
      6. Tate nami no bo, TSKSR
    8. Naginatajutsu, 長刀術; glaive - curved spear techniques
      1. Itsutsu no naginata, TSKSR
      2. Nanatsu no naginata, TSKSR
      3. Kasumi no naginata, TSKSR
      4. Hakka no naginata, TSKSR
    9. Spear techniques, 表之槍
      1. Hiryu no yari,TSKSR
      2. Koryu no yari, TSKSR
      3. Tsuki dome no yari, TSKSR
      4. Anya no yari, TSKSR
      5. Denko no yari, TSKSR
      6. Yoru no ya yari, TSKSR
    10. Weapon throwing techniques, 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).

Video of TSKSR kata


  1.   The TSKSR itself gives 1387 as the birth year of its founder. See Deity and the Sword, Vol 1 p. 16-17. Watatani (1967) speculates 1417-1420 is more historically correct.


  • Amdur, Ellis (2002). Old School: Essays on Japanese Martial Traditions, Edgework, p. 21-45
  • Draeger, Donn F. The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan series, 3 volumes.
  • Friday, Karl F (1997). Legacies of the Sword, the Kashima-Shinryu and Samurai Martial Culture, University of Hawaii Press, p. 26 & 93, ISBN 0-8248-1847-4
  • Hall, David Avalon. Marishiten: Buddhism and the warrior Goddess, Ph.D. dissertation, Ann Arbor: University microfilms, p. 274-292.
  • Hurst 111, G. Cameron (1998). Armed Martial Arts of Japan, Swordsmanship and Archery, Yale University Press, p. 46-49 & 58, ISBN 0-300-04967-6
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  • Otake, Risuke (1977). The Deity and the Sword - Katori Shinto-ryu Vol. 2, Japan, Japan Publications Trading Co. ISBN 0-87040-405-9
  • Otake, Risuke (1977). The Deity and the Sword - Katori Shinto-ryu Vol. 3, Japan, Japan Publications Trading Co. ISBN 0-87040-406-7
  • Ratti, Oscar & Westbrook, Adele (1973). Secrets of the Samurai, A Survey of the Martial Arts of Feudal Japan, Charles E. Tuttle Co. ISBN 0-8048-0917-8
  • Skoss, Diane (editor) (1997). Koryu Bujutsu, Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan, Koryu Books, vol 1, ISBN 1-890536-04-0
  • Skoss, Diane (editor) (1999). Sword & Spirit, Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan, Koryu Books, vol 2, p. 67-69. ISBN 1-890536-05-9
  • Skoss, Diane (editor) (2002). Keiko Shokon, Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan, Koryu Books, vol 3, ISBN 1-890536-06-7
  • Sugino, Yoshio & Ito, Kikue (1977). Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Budo Kyohan (A Textbook of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Martial Training; originally published in 1941).
  • Warner, Gordon & Draeger, Donn F. (1982). Japanese Swordsmanship: Technique And Practice, ISBN 0834802368
  • Watatani, Kiyoshi (1967). (Zusetsu) Kobudōshi, Tokyo

External links