Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu is one of the oldest existing warrior traditions in Japan. Many other ryu are derived from Katori Shinto Ryu, or are technically indebted to it. Founded in 1447 by Iizasa Choisai Ienao (1387-1488), it is a comprehensive field-combat system (sogo bujutsu) containing several combative weapons systems, including swordsmanship (kenjutsu), long hardwood staff arts (bojutsu), long-hafted glaive arts (naginatajutsu), quick-draw sword arts (iaijutsu), spearmanship (sojutsu), and the use of small throwing blades and darts (shurikenjutsu), among others.
The Katori Shinto Ryu falls into the category of “positive” swordsmanship in that it emphasizes taking the initiative and closing with the enemy.
Today there are at least four lines of the Katori Shinto Ryu in Japan. The main family line is that of the Iizasa family, who still live in close proximity to Katori Jingu. Another line is that of the late Sugino Yoshio (1904-1998); and yet another recently split when Sugawara Tetsutaka defected from the family line of Iizasa Yasuade. There is also one separate line not transmitted through the Iizasa family; this one dates from about the same time as Sugino’s line. Interestingly, all four lines owe their technical origins to the previous chief instructor of the ryu, Hayashi Yazaemon Iekiyo (1882-1964).