The Iaido Journal  Mar 2010
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Through the Mists of Time 2

copyright 2010 Douglas Tong, all rights reserved 

In this series of articles, we examine parts of Master Yoshio Sugino’s seminal book Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Budo Kyohan (A Textbook of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Martial Training), published in Japan in 1941.

In this article, we examine the first part of the Second Preface in the book. This particular Preface was written by the 19th Headmaster (Sōke) of the Katori Shinto Ryu in 1941.

Second Preface (Part 1)

“The warrior gods founded Katori’s great shrine. After more than 500 years of continuous history has this style, Tenshin Tadashi (Heaven’s truth correct) Katori Shinto Ryu existed.

Founder Igamori Choisai felt about worldly wealth, that he threw away wealth and only lived for the sword.

This land of Katori in the dojo opened the way of the sword’s highest virtue, considered generation after generation, the first son not serving the regional warrior king, but born for the sword and dying for the sword, came until today.

This style had, for more than 500 years, not even one enemy and also did not seek enemies. The way of not seeking and never letting out the Way openly.

As a result, visiting people are not refused, and we do not seek after those who have left us, and this policy depends on a serious sword life, where humble people’s first aim is training as a long time passes.

After the Meiji restoration*, feudal politics died and civilization opened, even if the old spirit’s beautiful tradition and respect of Katori’s land stays and goes not one step to the world at all.

Set apart from society, without minding, the style’s center in the world, narrow and deep, keeps training and working…

(to be continued…)

Iishino Shuriryo Sensei
19th Leader of Katori Shinto Ryu
The 16th Year of Shōwa

Extract from:
Sugino Yoshio & Ito Kikue (1941). Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu Budo Kyohan.

* for more information about the Meiji Restoration, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meiji_Restoration

Author’s post-script:

Here we see the policy of Katori Shinto Ryu. Let’s examine some of the passages in more detail.

“This style had, for more than 500 years, not even one enemy and also did not seek enemies. The way of not seeking and never letting out the Way openly.”
Katori Shinto Ryu, like many koryu, were not and still to this day are not interested in popularizing their art. Typically, these old arts are family treasures, family traditions and creed. Koryu were and in some cases, still are insular.

“…this policy depends on a serious sword life, where humble people’s first aim is training as a long time passes.”
Seriousness and humility.
This is the serious budo practitioner’s creed. The great teachers I have studied under and the high-class budoka I have trained with and taught with all share these two essential qualities: they are really serious about their art and they are humble.

This is the policy of Katori Shinto Ryu. Its practitioners are serious about their art.

In recent times, people have argued heatedly about this style with questions about legitimacy, lineage, and so on, calling for someone to address the issues, to set the record straight. Perhaps these next two passages will help us to understand more about the Katori Shinto Ryu approach, according to this Sōke.

(Even after the Meiji Restoration and the opening of Japan to the world…) “…the old spirit’s beautiful tradition and respect of Katori’s land stays and goes not one step to the world at all.”
Their policy had not changed since the 1400s. They were not interested in discussing internal affairs with outsiders nor bending to outside pressure or swayed by popular opinion. What is important to them is what the Sōke mentioned: respect for the beautiful tradition of Katori Shinto Ryu and respect for the land of Katori.

Set apart from society, without minding, the style’s center in the world, narrow and deep, keeps training and working…”
Katori Shinto Ryu, like many classical koryu, sits apart from general society. They do not mingle with the modern world but keep their traditions and customs intact and to themselves. They are a special society of members dedicated to their art.

So what do we know? But all this would change…


 Mr. Tong can be contacted via email at: dtong@tokumeikan.com

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