Katori Shinto Ryu is the style of swordsmanship practiced at Toronto Kenjutsu. It is the most ancient of all the martial arts of Japan, and is considered an Intangible Cultural Treasure by the government of Japan. We consider it a great privilege to have the opportunity to learn and share this historic art.
According to legend, because of his deep sorrow over his inability to stop the massacre of the people in his villages by the Shogun, a samurai named Choisai Ienao locked himself in the Katori shrine for 1000 days and nights to pray and recant. He trained all day and prayed to the gods at night. Finally, one night, the god came to him in his dream and said: “One day, you will be the teacher of every sword” and gave him the secret of the warrior’s law.
The first truly organized style of Japanese swordsmanship is Katori Shinto Ryu (“the sword style of the God of Katori”). It was created by Choisai Ienao around 1460 A.D. This style has produced such celebrated and famous sword masters as Tsukuhara Bokuden (founder of Kashima Shinto Ryu) and Kamiizumi Nobutsuna (founder of Shinkage Ryu and teacher of Yagyu Muneyoshi).
Since olden times, this style has been kept hidden away from the prying eyes of outsiders. It has been passed down as a secret tradition from generation to generation, teacher to student, intact and relatively unchanged for more than half a millennium. Only recently have outsiders been allowed to see it.
Katori Shinto Ryu was officially recognized as a “cultural treasure of Japan” by the Japanese Government in the 35th year of Showa (1960). It was the first martial art to be so recognized.
Born during Japan’s Warring States Period, Katori Shinto Ryu was created to prepare samurai for fighting on the battlefield. To survive on the battlefield, a samurai needed to be able to use not only the sword well, but also other related battlefield weapons. In this way, this style attempts to create the complete warrior or master-at-arms, one who is adept at a variety of weapons. Weapons studied in this style include: sword, wooden staff, naginata (halberd), short sword, two swords, and spear.
The hallmark of this style is its focus on diversity as the key to success: to be able to attack and defend effectively from any position or situation and with any weapon available.
KATORI SHINTO RYU TODAY
Katori Shinto Ryu is practiced today in Japan, England, Norway, France, Italy, Belgium, the United States and Canada. Toronto Kenjutsu belongs to an international association of Katori Shinto Ryu practitioners who follow the instruction of Master Sugino Yukihiro.
You can read more about Katori Shinto Ryu at the Wikipedia, including some notes on both Masters Sugino.