The Iaido Journal  Mar 2010
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Through the Mists of Time 3

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 second 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 2)

“Because of this reason, since the founder’s soldiers law is in order to be rich, not one thread of confusion, strictly, now has succeeded in reaching us and can be inherited.

In the spring of the 10th year of Shōwa*, the Japanese old budo federation was born after society’s situation was that self centered styles could only follow steps not allowed, this emergency meant the sword way would die in the warehouse. This country’s disappointing feeling, set its mind decisively to bring the sword, though our power is not strong.
(* 1935)

To serve the country, truly, and show in many places the technique apart and open to the public, to give out a small power to the country.

At this time, the high apprentice, Sugino Sensei and Ito sensei with this style’s way proposed that to lead junior people, the way be made shown apart and open to the public, I agreed with them. The result of this way is seen in this book.

The contents examine kobudo seishin* and to grasp the core, understand the rich experience that was put in each word, and explain in very clear detail the martial arts, this is written.
(* “old budo spirit”)

This book can be reference for leaders or beginners textbook, without any problems, truthfully and in a good way, our style’s deep secrets are expressed. I am pleased about this.

Lately, with budo people in this country, mind and body training, spirit and inspiration try to, with today’s situation, this book was born painfully. From now on, to society, with no regrets and no doubts.

At the same time, the author is trying hard from the heart to show respect and with this publication, face and address changes in this important matter.”

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.

Author’s post-script:

A very illuminating text. Let’s look more closely at some of the key passages.

“… this emergency meant the sword way would die in the warehouse.”
Here we see some of the history of Katori Shinto Ryu. Not unlike other koryu, at this time in history, in danger of dying out and being extinguished.

“To serve the country, truly, and show in many places the technique apart and open to the public, to give out a small power to the country.”
Here we see the reason leading to permission being granted to Master Yoshio Sugino to write about the art openly to the public.

“At this time, the high apprentice, Sugino Sensei and Ito sensei with this style’s way proposed that to lead junior people, the way be made shown apart and open to the public, I agreed with them.”
Presumably, this may explain why Yoshio Sugino Sensei was given permission by the Sōke to teach Katori Shinto Ryu from his dojo in Kawasaki-shi.

In the spring of the 10th year of Shōwa (i.e., 1935)
At this time,…”
“…with today’s situation…,”
We have to place the text historically and chronologically in its proper context. Published in 1941, this text undoubtedly was conceived and written during the build-up to and opening years of the Second World War. Japan was fighting the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1941) with China. Japan was also fighting the Soviet Union at the same time. Japanese expansion into the Soviet Far East was stopped by Zhukov at Khalkhin Gol in 1939. And Japan was invading French Indo-China in 1940. For more information, see:

The contents examine kobudo seishin* and to grasp the core, understand the rich experience that was put in each word, and explain in very clear detail the martial arts, this is written.”
With war at hand, it is no wonder that an issue like kobudo seishin (“old budo spirit”) would be of supreme importance for the people.

“… mind and body training, spirit and inspiration try to, with today’s situation, this book was born painfully.”
“To serve the country, truly,…”
“… to give out a small power to the country.”
So essentially, it seems that the rationale for the book was to try to impart the essence and fundamental philosophy of the classical budo spirit to the people, in support of the national war effort.

People recently have been arguing over such questions as: Why was Sugino Sensei given permission to teach Katori Shinto Ryu? Didn’t the Sōke know it would cause division? Why was Sugino Sensei allowed to teach in Kawasaki? etc.. etc…

People nowadays have many theories but we must remember this one fact before we go jumping to conclusions: decisions are made at a certain time, in a certain place, under certain conditions and circumstances. And these decisions are made by people caught up in those circumstances.

It is difficult and dangerous for us to second-guess decisions that were made 70 years ago, in a time of global war, when the world was in flames, the enemy at the gates.

Desperate times call for desperate measures…

Kobudo seishin is the old budo spirit and the old budo spirit is about Bushido. Bushido is about the samurai ethic and the samurai ethic is about service to one’s lord. Service to one’s lord, in 1941, meant service to the country, to the nation, to the Emperor.

When the nation calls, we all must answer the call of duty.

For example, the American’s Creed:

“I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.

I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.”
William Tyler Page (1917)
The American's Creed

“To serve the country, truly,…”
“From now on, to society, with no regrets and no doubts.”
“…to give out a small power to the country.”

So let’s take stock. What do we know? The question is: Why do it? Why open it up? To open up a style that for centuries (half a millennia, to be more exact) had remained secluded and insular.

The following excerpts may shed some light on the reasons why. We must remember the circumstances of Japan in that time period.

The need for Busen arose from a nationalistic fervour in Japan after the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). This nationalism led to an increased interest in the "martial way".

In 1911, Bujutsu Senmon Gakko ( Busen ) (Martial Arts Professional School) was established within a framework of Dai Nippon Butoku Kai to administer national accreditation, certification and professional training of all martial arts disciplines throughout Japan.

Dai Nippon Butoku Kai (DNBK) (Kyūjitai: 大日本武德會; Shinjitai: 大日本武徳会, Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society) was established in Kyoto, Japan in 1895 under the authority of the Ministry of Education and sanction of the Emperor Meiji. Its purpose, at that time[1] was to standardize martial disciplines and systems throughout Japan. This was the first official martial arts organization sanctioned by the government of Japan. It stressed the martial virtues of Samurai warrior and incomparable historical excellence in martial disciplines. In 1946, after the end of World War II the SCAP (the supreme commander of allied powers) issued a directive to dissolve all military related organizations, and the DNBK was broken up.


As Japan grew in military strength, it began to use Budo as a tool for training its future soldiers. In 1872, early in the Meiji Period, Western-style sports and physical education, not the martial arts, were part of the school curriculum. As Japan expanded its military powers, military drills and gymnastics were added in 1885, and in 1913, elementary schools began to adopt martial arts training. Shortly after, secondary schools added judo, kendo, and sumo. In 1941, Japan's war time National School Reform act replaced physical education teachers with military instructors and made intense training in judo and kendo mandatory, as well as "squad drills, military maneuvers, and the use of hand grenades." (Neide, 1995, p. 37.) According to Neide, martial arts "provided the training for a psychologically efficient soldier" (p. 37) and was a way for future soldiers to learn "strategy, self-control, and above all, allegiance to authority." (p. 38.)

Neide, J. (1995). Martial arts and Japanese nationalism. Journal of Asian Martial Arts, 4(2), 34-41.


This next excerpt gives a broader view of the brewing storm at that time:

Sadao Araki was an important figurehead and founder of the Army party and the most important right-wing thinker in his time. His first ideological works date from his leadership of the Kodaha (Imperial Benevolent Rule or Action Group), opposed by the Toseiha (Control Group) led by General Kazushige Ugaki. He linked the ancient (bushido code) and contemporary local and European fascist ideals (see Japanese fascism), to form the ideological basis of the movement (Shōwa nationalism).

From September 1932, the Japanese were becoming more locked into the course that would lead them into the Second World War, with Araki leading the way. Totalitarianism, militarism and expansionism were to become the rule, with fewer voices able to speak against it. In a September 23 news conference, Araki first mentioned the philosophy of "Kodoha" (The Imperial Way Faction). The concept of Kodo linked the Emperor, the people, land and morality as indivisible. This led to the creation of a "new" Shinto and increased Emperor worship.

On February 26, 1936, a coup d'état was attempted (the February 26 Incident). Launched by the ultranationalist Kōdō-ha faction with the military, it ultimately failed due to intervention from the Emperor. Kodoha members were purged from the top military positions and the Tōseiha faction gained dominance. Both factions believed in expansionism, a strong military and a coming war however. Furthermore, Kodoha members while removed from the military, still had political influence within the government.

The state was being transformed to serve the Army and the Emperor. Symbolic katana swords came back into fashion as the martial embodiment of these beliefs, and the Nambu pistol became its contemporary equivalent, with the implicit message that the Army doctrine of close combat would prevail. The final objective, as envisioned by Army thinkers such as Sadao Araki and right-wing line followers, was a return to the old Shogunate system, but in the form of a contemporary Military Shogunate. In such a government the Emperor would once more be a figurehead (as in the Edo period). Real power would fall to a leader very similar to a Führer or Duce, though with the power less nakedly held. On the other hand, the traditionalist Navy militarists defended the Emperor and a constitutional monarchy with a significant religious aspect.


As regards mobilization on the home front:

National Spiritual Mobilization Movement (国民精神総動員運動, Kokumin Seishin Sōdōin Undo?) an organization in the Empire of Japan established as part of the controls on civilian organizations under the National Mobilization Law by Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe.

Representatives from 74 nationalist organizations were assembled at the Prime Minister’s residence in October 1937, and were told that their organizations were now part of the “Central League of the Spiritual Mobilization Movement”, headed by Admiral Ryokitsu Arima and under the joint supervision of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Education. The purpose of the Movement would be to rally the nation for a total war effort against China in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Konoe later ordered another 19 nationalist organizations to join the League. This movement and other policies were part of "New Order" (Shintaisei) which was promulgated on 3 November 1938, a holiday marking emperor Meiji's birthday. [1]

Apart from public calls for increased patriotism,….


Divine Right and Way of the Warrior

One particular concept exploited was a decree ascribed to the mythical first emperor of Japan, Emperor Jimmu, in 660 BCE: the policy of hakko ichiu (八紘一宇, all eight corners of the world under one roof). While Emperor Jimmu's policy would really only have applied to Japan itself, it was used by the imperialists who supported official State Shinto to guide Japan in its dealings with Far east Asia and the entire world, which should be brought under the imperial rule of the divine emperors as manifest destiny.

The bases of the modern form of hakko ichiu were to develop after 1868 and would take the following form:

1. Japan is the center of the world, with its ruler, the Tenno (Emperor), a divine being, who derives his divinity from ancestral descent from the great Amaterasu-Omikami, the Goddess of the Sun herself.
2. The Kami (Japan's gods and goddesses) have Japan under their special protection. Thus, the people and soil of Dai Nippon and all its institutions are superior to all others.
3. All of these attributes are fundamental to the Kodoshugisha (Imperial Way) and give Japan a divine mission to bring all nations under one roof, so that all humanity can share the advantage of being ruled by the Tenno.

The concept of the divine Emperors was another belief that was to fit the later goals. It was an integral part of the Japanese religious structure that the Tenno was divine, descended directly from the line of Ama-Terasu (or Amaterasu, the Sun Kami or Goddess).

The final idea that was modified in modern times was the concept of Bushido. Bushido was the warrior code and laws of feudal Japan, that while having cultural surface differences, was at its heart not that different from the code of chivalry or any other similar system in other cultures. In later years, the code of Bushido found a resurgence in belief following the Meiji Restoration. At first, this allowed Japan to field what was considered one of the most professional and humane militaries in the world, one respected by friend and foe alike. Eventually, however, this belief would become a combination of propaganda and fanaticism that would lead to the Second Sino-Japanese War of the 1930s and World War II.

It was the third concept, especially, that would chart Japan's course towards several wars that would culminate with World War II.

So it seems that swept up in the events of the time and the call (or the pressure) for increased patriotism and contribution to the growing war effort, the leaders of martial arts organizations were not exempt. Instead, they were expected, perhaps more than others, to aid in upholding the current political and military policy of that time. I would speculate that they would be expected to provide leadership in a time of war and with a pro-Fascist regime, it is not unthinkable that they might be expected to demonstrate loyalty to the cause through taking a leadership role in such initiatives as homeland security or preparing the people for defence. If we think of wartime Nazi Germany, we can easily see such circumstances occurring.

As I said above,
decisions were made at a certain time, in a certain place, under certain conditions and circumstances.
And these decisions were made by real people, caught up in the turbulent waves of those circumstances…

 Mr. Tong can be contacted via email at:

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