A short history of Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto Ryu

In 1387, the founder of the Katori Shinto Ryu, Ienaoko, was born in the village of Iizasa. It is told that at an early age he was already a master of the sword and the spear (yari). As a samurai (knight) of the daimyo (lord) of Chiba he took part in several battles. The ruling house of Chiba fell from power after a conflict with the Shogun. In this conflict the fortified homestead of the Iizasa-family was levelled with the ground, together with a number of villages in the family domain. Sad and masterless, Ienaoko travelled to the Katori-shrine, hoping to attain satori (enlightenment) by a combination of prayer, meditation and rigorous training. At this time, he was 64 years of age. He went to live in a plain home at the gate of the Katori-shrine, near his present grave.The present headmaster of the Katori Ryu Shurinosuke Yasusada has in his possession a large number of manuscripts, mostly written by Choisai, that show how he studied and elaborated in an exhaustive way the techniques given to him. When the Gods let him pass away, in the second year of Sho-Kyo (1488), at the fifteenth day of the fifth month, Choisai had reached the high age of one hundred and one year.

Starting with Choisai's eldest son, Wakasaka no Kami Morichika, his descendants continued for generation after genera-tion the school. After the foundation of the school by Choisai it became tradition that it only served the emperor, or the country in situations in which it was in danger. Each person who wanted to practice the martial arts in a serious and devoted manner could be admitted to the school. In the registers in the archives of the Katori Shinto Ryu are the names of famous sword fighters in Japanese history, such as Nobut-suna, the founder of the Kage Ryu, the renowned Tsukuhara Bokuden, founder of the Kashima Shinto Ryu, the famous generals Oda Nobuna-ga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Takenaka Hanbei Shigeharu and many others. Even the legendary Miyamoto Musashi visited the Katori-shrine in his quest for enlightenment.Till the present day there is held every year at the fourteenth of April a memorial service in the Katori-shrine. This service inclu-des a gohei: a Shinto-ritual in which the Gods are invoked with a holy staff, embellished with strips of paper folded in a complex way. Every twelfth year, the Year of the Horse, a great feast is held for two days, the Jinko-Sai. In the 35th year of Showa (1960) the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu was declared to be an 'intact (i.e., authentic) national cultural treasure of Japan', as the first and only one of the martial disciplines.

thank you