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

By Yossi Sheriff

Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū (天真正伝香取神道流) is one of Japan's oldest martial arts, a model of koryū bujutsu. Founded around 1447 by Iizasa Ienao near Katori Shrine, it's a tradition rich in history and technique. The ryū's influence extends globally, including a dojo in Israel where some retired AKBAN veterans, continue their martial journey through TSKSR.

Iizasa Ienao, a master of spear and sword, founded the ryū after a period of intense training and spiritual revelation. The current administrative headmaster, Iizasa Yasusada, is formally in charge of this legacy. The ryū's teachings, while rooted in Kenjutsu, cover a broad spectrum of martial skills, including Ninjutsu.

lizasa choisai ienao

Recent developments in the ryū's leadership have led to some changes. Otake Risuke, the father of Otake Nobutoshi the elder and Kyoso Shigetoshi the junior, has seen his sons become shihan. However, a disagreement resulted in Nobutoshi's expulsion by the administrative soke, Iizasa Yasusada. Despite this, Nobutoshi and his father continue teaching at the Shimbukan, their family dojo. Shigetoshi, on the other hand, conducts classes elsewhere, including at the honbu dojo for special occasions. This situation has led to a split, with each group maintaining its approach to the art's transmission.

Otake Risuke throwing a Ninjutsu Shaken

While the Shimbukan, under Nobutoshi and Risuke, boasts a larger international presence and continues its teachings, they face limitations in official koryu events and certification endorsement. Shigetoshi's group, smaller but inclusive of a soke family member, represents another path within the ryū. This division, a blend of personal and political elements, reflects the complex nature of martial arts inheritance and tradition.

Despite these internal dynamics, Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū remains a vital and influential martial art. Its teachings, passed down through generations, continue to inspire and educate practitioners around the world, including those in Israel who have taken the Keppan to train in this esteemed tradition.

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.


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External links