Tenshinshō-den Katori Shintō-ryū

Chiba Prefecture Intangible Cultural Asset

Otake Risuke-shihan and Otake Nobutoshi-shihan practicing Naginata


Katori Shintō-ryū is a comprehensive art that instructs in combat, strategy, philosophy, and character development. Training methods include: kenjutsu (swordsmanship), iaijutsu (sword drawing), bōjutsu (staff techniques), naginatajutsu (halberd techniques), ryōtōjutsu (twin swords), kodachijutsu (short sword techniques), sōjutsu (spearmanship), jūjutsu (unarmed combat) and shurikenjutsu (art of throwing spikes). Studies on strategy include gunbaihō (troop movement and positioning), chikujohō (fortifications), jin’ei (troop formation), noroshi (smoke signaling), ninjutsu (espionage), and tenmon chiri fūsui based on yin/yang and five element theory. These advanced studies of strategy and the way of peace have been transmitted through the generations to the present day.

Otake Nobutoshi-shihan demonstrating Iaijutsu

Joining the Tradition

Even today, those interested in joining the tradition must sign an oath to the deities of the Katori Shrine. This blood oath is a tradition that has been transmitted for generations. It ensures that aspiring students understand the correct attitude with which they are expected to approach entry to and study within the tradition. Applicants pledge to uphold the following rules:​

Oath to the Supreme Deities

On becoming a member of the Tenshinshō-den Katori Shintō-ryū, which has been transmitted by the Great Deity of the Katori Shrine, I herewith affirm my pledge that:

      1. I will not have the impertinence to discuss or demonstrate details of the ryu to either non-members or members, even if they are relatives;

      2. I will not engage in altercations or misuse the art against others;

      3. I will not engage in any kind of gambling or frequent disreputable places;

      4. I will not cross swords with any followers of other martial traditions without authorization

I hereby pledge to firmly adhere to each of the above articles. Should I break any of these articles I will submit to the punishment of the Great Deity of Katori and the Great Deity Marishiten. Herewith I solemnly swear and affix my blood seal to this oath to these Great Deities.

Once completed, the applicant is recognized as a member of the tradition, with the pledge serving to teach them the correct approach toward the tradition and the learning process.

Otake Risuke-shihan demonstrating Iaijutsu

Learning Process

Students are taught kata (pre-arranged routines) that are studied and practiced together with more senior practitioners under the supervision of their teacher. Training consists of the practice of prearranged forms that contain the art’s quintessence, and enables students to gradually acquire the art’s technical, theoretical and philosophical approach. The first kata learned are omote no tachi (swordsmanship: 4 kata), omote iai (sword drawing: 6 kata), tachiai battōjutsu (standing sword drawing: 5 kata), omote no bōjutsu (staff techniques: 6 kata), and omote no naginata (halberd techniques: 4 kata).

​Students practice these kata in earnest over many months and years, and are eventually introduced to a wider range of instruction. Practitioners are awarded scrolls (Mokuroku, Menkyo, and Gokui Kaiden) in line with their development.

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