Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū was founded by Iizasa Chōisai Ienao, a renowned Japanese spearsman and swordsman who served the Chiba family. Ienao was born 1387 in Iizasa village in modern-day Chiba prefecture, near the well-known Katori shrine. When his daimyo, or lord, was deposed, Ienao retreated to a life of quiet contemplation and study of the martial arts as a Buddhist lay monk, and was known as Chōi-sai. Acording to legend, at the age of 60, Chōi-sai spent 1000 days and nights training sword techniques at the Katori shrine. On the final day, the kami of the shrine, Futsunushi no Mikoto, came to him in a dream and revelaed the secrets of martial strategy in a scroll, the Mokuroku Heiho no Shinsho. This is how Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū, the “Heavenly True, Correctly Transmitted Style of the Way of the God of Katori” was begun.
Katori is a koryū, meaning “traditional school” or “old school”; the koryū are schools of martial arts once used by Samurai in war and combat. Unique to other schools, members from all social classes were welcome to join Katori and the fundamental position was “Turn no one away, nor rope them back in”.
Katori Shintō-ryū has changed very little over time either in purpose or form from its original nature and purpose. This is because the art is taught with a commitment of quality, not quantity, of students. Members of the school are committed to a sense of duty and service to the past and a sense of responsibility for the future. The original spirit of the classical martial teachings is adopted as the disciplines of daily life and we strive to transmit the cultural assets of the classical tradition precisely in their original form. The purpose of the ryū is to keep alive and pass from one generation to the next the values and principles of the Japanese warrior tradition. There are no competitions for award or promotion. Students learn from each other, like the interdependency of yin and yang, in and yo. We dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to training. The core virtue of Bushidō is humility and the martial arts practiced with moral or humane sentiments are the only true Budō.
Elements of Heiho
Through the spontaneity of physical training and experience, members undergo a remolding of the mind that teaches the spirit of cooperation and tunes intuitive processes to a new degree of acuity. These combative skills are to be used for the sake of peace which is the true essence and mindset of fudoshin. The magnanimous and compassionate heart is undaunted by any force in the world. In Japanese, immovability is fudo and heart is shin. A heart filled with unwavering resoluteness is called “fudoshin”. Heiho is the Japanese word that represents the concepts of strategy and tactics in combat. In the teaching of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, martial law is ordinary law. Or the “Art of war is the art of peace”. One saying that also speaks to the mindset prescribed by Katori Shinto Ryu is “The control of one’s self is a far greater feat than the defeat of a thousand enemies”. Zanshin, the “spirit that lingers on” is the characteristic of maintaining a calm presence and steadfast awareness of all that transpires without specific focus on one thing; perfect awareness which is also a predictor of success and failure. In today’s modern world, these concepts bring value to our daily lives both inside out and outside the dojo.
The Atlanta Katori group has been active since 2004, when we started out training in parks, backyards, and secure government facilities that we infilrated using ninja outfits. We finally settled down at the Aikido Center of Atlanta in 2008 and we have been there ever since.