View Full Version : Q&A: Shinto Ryu

Charlie Kondek
17th May 2004, 18:34
Hi. I asked Chris Moses if we could do a Q&A with him on his school, Shinto Ryu. He asked his teacher and the teacher agreed it would be okay. I didn't know anything about his school, and was interested to find out more. We are hoping that this Q&A will serve to inspire more Q&A threads. If you've got something to share, would you consider it?

Anyway, here's what Chris and I have so far. This is assembled from our PMs on the subject. Please add your own questions, and nominate other Q&A's.

Q: Hey, can I ask you some questions about Shinto ryu? Would you consider participating in a Q&A on the swordforum? I had never heard of your art until I visitedyour site. I'd be interested in hearing more about the founder, it's history, and the other aspects of the art (the dance and poetry which, in fact, you do not practice, correct?).

A: From our website (www.Shinto-ryu.net):

“Shinto Ryu was formally founded in Meiji 23 (1890) by Hibino Raifu. Hibino Raifu was born Hibino Masayoshi in 1864, in Kagoshima, Kyushu.
At 5 years old he moved to Saitama ken and began his study of Iai and Kenjutsu. At 16 years old he began to accept students.
After its founding, Shinto Ryu began to spread throughout Japan with support from both the military and cultural communities.
In Meiji 44 (1911) the Shinto Ryu dojo opened.
In Taisho 15 (1926) the founder died.”

Flushing that out a bit: Hibino Raifu began training at a young age in Kyushu. In addition to studying with several teachers in his area (I don’t know exactly which ones) he devoted himself to 'defeating' the family tree. Every day he would train with the tree. Using his bokken he eventually wore the tree completely down. After that, he went around challenging various teachers in his area. He won many challenges, and became known for his extremely fast draw, Soke described his use of the sword as the same as we would use our finger, it was like an extension of him rather than a tool or weapon. This was when he was about 16. At this time he began to take on students as he defeated other teachers. At some point in addition to his batto/kenjutsu he became well known for his dance (kenbu) and poetry chanting. These three aspects of his art were structured into three schools under the Shinto-Ryu umbrella organization. During WWII, the second Soke died before being able to pass on the art to his son. The son, not wanting the art to be lost, encouraged several shihan who had trained with his father to coordinate the actual teaching/training, while he continued to act as the head of the organization and our link to the founder. There is some speculation that his eldest daughter may inherit the tradition and act as a shihan and as the Soke. There are currently less than 150 practitioners of Shinto-ryu, mostly in Japan, but also in the US, Korea and South America. Many of the current senior teachers seem to have come to Shinto-ryu from other styles. My teacher's teacher was influenced my numerous styles of kenjutsu and batto. He was also a fairly close acquaintance of Nakamura Sensei (of Toyama ryu). If you've ever seen "Budo" the scene of Nakamura running along the trail cutting down targets was shot near Fuji where Mochizuki Sensei (my teacher's teacher) lives. Mochizuki set the targets and helped coordinate the shoot and path.

I study under Robby Pellett Sensei, yondan, in Seattle, Wa. Our branch studies the iai-battojutsu portion of the curriculum exclusively. This consists of solo kata, paired kata, tameshigiri, and various drills/ exercises. I’ll do my best to answer whatever questions people may have, and welcome any additional information should anyone be familiar with our school or its founder. While very interested in our history, I must confess that I know more about the kata and curriculum of the school than specifics about our history and lineage. Thank you for your interest.

Charlie Kondek
17th May 2004, 18:39
Here's a follow-up question from me.

What are the dance and poetry like? You admitted you don't know much about them, but can you tell me if they are tied into the ryu for a reason? Taken as a whole, do all three comprise some kind of philosophy, ideology, or the like?

Also, what were the founder's duels like, life-and-death matches, matches with bokken, or something similar?

17th May 2004, 19:00
I'm more familiar with the Kenbu portion of the curriculum than the poetry side. The kenbu kata are typically done to music. Some of the kata are shared by the kenbu and the iai lines of the school, but have different emphasis. Typically the kenbu is more dramatic, longer and use a flashier chiburi. They definitely stem from the same tradition. If you already know the batto kata, you can see pieces within the kenbu, and I think the sense of the dramatic from kenbu has given the batto portion a certain flair that we may not have had otherwise. Where the batto kata is fairly linear and direct, the kenbu tends to be more flowing and circular, with very large dramatic chiburi. Our inside kata use a chiburi that is more similar to the kenbu curriculum, but still within the more pedestrian paradigm of batto.

I don't know much at all about the poetry chanting portion, I have heard the art described as U-to, I'll try to get a friend to translate that portion of my menkyo. The school teaches a type of poetry writing and a very particular chant/singing method for it's recitation. I'd be curious to know if other people have any experience with this.

I think it would be interesting to know more about these aspects of our school, but that would certainly require time spent in Japan, so I'm not sure if and when that will happen.

Richard Elias
17th May 2004, 19:13
I wanna learn kenbu. :(

17th May 2004, 19:26
I forgot to mention that at the last enbu I attended in Japan, one of the kenbu teachers performed several excellent cuts through a makiwara in the middle of his kenbu routine. I haven't seen that much kenbu, but I had never seen tameshigiri performed in the midst of a kenbu kata. That really impressed me that despite all of the drama, there was this reminder that the sword was real and that the sweeping cuts were real cuts.

Richard Elias
17th May 2004, 19:42
I wanna learn kenbu.:(

Charlie Kondek
17th May 2004, 20:11
Very cool. Again I ask: why these three arts connected? What's the connection? It's clear Masayoshi-soke was a master fighter (and still waiting to hear more about those fights); what did he see as the connection between the fighting arts and the humanities?

I have seen a kenbu demo, BTW. It was very neat, told a story in a kind of mime, and did include some lines/chanting. Told the story of a warrior on the battlefield who has lost his spear, his bow, his horse; he draws his sword and that is broken, too. Not quite sure how it ended, but it was on a down-note!

What is the chiburi in Shinto-ryu like?

Richard Elias: How about a Q&A?

George Kohler
17th May 2004, 20:26
John Lindsey has a very old book (I think it was made in the 1920's or 1930's) on Kenbu. I think it was from Shinto ryu, but I could be wrong. There were no pictures, but it did have drawings.

Do you know if there were any books made during that time period?

17th May 2004, 20:49
I have heard that the founder wrote a book on kenbu published around that time. If John had a copy, I would be MOST interested, as I have been unable to track one down, other than in a library (Kagawa-U?).

As for the relationship, I wish I knew more. Unlike more common arts and schools, there are very few resources available, even fewer if you are outside of Japan.

One source from Iaido-L thought that initially Shinto-Ryu was founded as a kenbu style, but that different teachers went different ways with the curriculum. I have been unable to verify that however.

Some websites for those of you who read Japanese (these came up in the Iaido-L discussion)
www.lib.kagawa-u.ac.jp/www/kanbara/moku/geijutsu.html This link is to the library which mentions the kenbu book, apparenly 2/3 down.

17th May 2004, 21:31
By the way, do you know these guys (http://www.shintoryu.ubbi.com.br)?

17th May 2004, 22:57
I haven't dealt with anyone from Shinto-Ryu Brasil, but they are definitely from the same lineage. I wish they had some pictures up, it would be really interesting to see what their waza looks like, as they trace themselves back to a teacher who left Japan in the 1930's.

Thanks for the link!

18th May 2004, 00:16
They don't seem to have pictures of waza, but there's some people posing in the Portuguese section (http://www.shintoryu.ubbi.com.br/chi.htm). The one captioned as "Sensei Yoshimatsu" (Mitsugi Yoshimatsu) is the one credited with bringing the style to Brazil. He died in 1977, being succeeded by Akira Tsukimoto (the Japanese man on the last picture), who died in 2001.

I don't know the group, but they seem pretty humble and polite. Interestingly, they claim to do Shinto-ryu kenbu and "Shoko-ryu Shibu" ("folding fan dance").

18th May 2004, 02:19
Great idea Charlie, and thanks Mr. Moses for humoring us.

We also do kenbu in our branch, I only know one dance though, and not too well at that. It is fun, but that is more about mine than your group. Here's my question:

So, many ryu use "shinto" or "shindo" in their name for various reasons, why does yours have it? I am thinking by contrast of TSKSR , KSR and some others. It is a simple question, but maybe one you get a lot and can clear up here. I am aware that not all ryu with it in the name refer to the Japanese religion; the kanji are different in some of the others; still, would you mind locating where your ryu is with this?

Thanks for your help,

18th May 2004, 03:38
Originally posted by nicojo
I am thinking by contrast of TSKSR , KSR and some others


I think these are the same thing? Unless it's Mea Culpa for not knowing the acronym of KSR, meaning something other than Katori Shinto Ryu.


18th May 2004, 04:22
Shin is a fairly common sound, most of you know that it can be written as true, divine or new. Technically the full name for my lineage is "Shinto Sho-bu ryu Iai-battojutsu" or "Divine sword true(ly) martial Iai-battojutsu". Apparently at it's founding Shinto Ryu Kenbu was written with Ken (sword) and Bu (martial) as opposed to the more common combination. Just to be clear, so far as I know, we have no specific relationship with TSKSR or KSR. They are both much older arts, and from what I have seen, have a very different flavor from what we study. I believe our use of Shinto stems from the assertion that in some way the founder was divinely inspired in his creation of the school.

I've written an e-mail to the contact person of the Brazilian Shinto-Ryu site, letting them know that this Q&A was going on. I have no idea if they will join us or not. They're definitely from our lineage however, I found my own teacher's name listed on one of the Portuguese pages. Great link!

For those of you who didn't follow the Brazilian link, according to their site, Shinto-Ryu was founded to help instill an older flavor to Kendoka at the time. From the Brazilian site,
"Shinto-ryu Kenbujutsu was founded in 1890 (23rd year of the Meiji Era) by Hibino Raifu Masayoshi sensei. Hibino sensei was born in Kagoshima in 1864, and as a child began training very hard in the ways of the martial arts. After studying the ultimate techniques of many styles, he was finally able to create the Shinto-ryu style. Originally, it was a gekiken (kenjutsu) style, but the times were such that people did not have enough time to make martial arts a primary field of study anymore. Hence, it was very difficult for them to attain a higher understanding of swords. Therefore, Hibino sensei spent a great amount of time and effort to devise a "shortcut," so that people would still be able to reach that level of knowledge while living in a busy world.

In December 1889, a gekiken tournament was held at the Imperial University (Teikoku Daigaku). There, Colonel Kosugiyama was enraged when he saw the low level of gekiken shown by the participants. He turned to Hibino sensei, who happened to be sitting at his side, and pointed out the lack of mental and spiritual training in the kendo displayed at the tournament. He also emphasized the need for Kenbu and asked Hibino sensei to spread this art. Hibino sensei was touched by Colonel Kosugiyama's enthusiasm and sincerity, and he decided to do further research into the art of Kenbu, or Kenbujutsu.

The next day, Hibino sensei visited Yasunobu Shigeno sensei, a scholar. After talking to him, Shigeno was extremely pleased with the idea and recommended that Hibino sensei do further research. Hibino sensei used the Shinto-ryu kenjutsu he had created as a basis, adding to it the techniques of Iaido/Iaijutsu and Judo/Jujutsu, creating the Shinto-ryu kenbujutsu.

After the death of Hibino Raifu sensei, Naito Masamitsu sensei became the 2nd Hibino Raifu sensei, and in 1961 Sekine Masamitsu became the 3rd Hibino Raifu sensei. And even after Sekine sensei passed away in 1971, Shinto-ryu kenbujutsu is still practiced in Japan.

As a reference, an excerpt of one of the teachings left by Hibino Raifu Masayoshi sensei is featured below. Hibino sensei has left many books and writings, including writings on kendo ("Gekiken Kyoikuron") .

Excerpt of the Teachings for the Daily Life of Shinto-kan Disciples

"Your hunger must not control the words that come out of your mouth.
Your pain must not control the expression on your face.
Your sadness must not control the energy that flows from your body.
Your anger must not control the actions taken by your mind.

Allow not the unforeseen to pour fear into your heart.
Allow not money to teach attachment to your soul.
Allow not food and drink to make you their slave.

Keep righteousness and never stray from the path.
Do what must be done and take no pride in your acts.

May the grandeur of your soul be as vast as the sea.
May the nobility of your ideals be as high as a mountain.
May the firmness of your determination be as hard as a boulder.
May the purity of your spirit be as graceful as a pearl.
May the path that you walk on be the same path that the wise traveled in the past.(...)"

18th May 2004, 06:26

I meant TSKSR as Tenshin shoden katori shinto-ryu, the ryu that Mr. Relnick is part of, and KSR as Kashima-shin-ryu, the ryu that Dr. Friday is part of. All these acronyms can be confusing!

Mr. Moses, thank you for your post. I thought Shinto-ryu may not be using it as "shinto religion", but I thought I'd ask. It is a very interesting post and I enjoyed the excerpt you posted. One of these days I will have to be a budo-bum and try to see as many ryu as possible, just for fun and appreciation, since America doesn't have an equivalent of the big national embus that Japan does (for obvious reasons). Do you guys often do any demos in Seattle?

I wish I could ask more interesting questions, but you are doing a great job of providing history and a sense of what your ryu sees as important, I think, especially in that last post.

18th May 2004, 06:48
Originally posted by nicojo

I meant TSKSR as Tenshin shoden katori shinto-ryu, the ryu that Mr. Relnick is part of, and KSR as Kashima-shin-ryu, the ryu that Dr. Friday is part of. All these acronyms can be confusing!


I think we need a Acronym Thread for Reference on E-Budo...it would stop unecissary posts like mine.

I was thinking it could mean Kukishin Ryu as well...I guess that would be KSR as well?

18th May 2004, 07:28
We can cut if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
'Cause your friends don't cut and if they don't cut
Well they're no friends of mine!

18th May 2004, 08:18
How many people are doing shinto-ryu then, in "your" branch? It would be interesting with a brief layout of the grading system. Do you have to do kenbu, tameshigiri and kata for gradings?

Most of the kata on one of the links looks very much like zenkenreniai.


I guess you have to read japanese to find the reference to shinto ryu ?

Charlie Kondek
18th May 2004, 14:04
Here's a question: What are the waza like? Can you compare them to anything you have witnessed or experienced, or provide a flavor of them? Are the aggressive? Do they count on siezing the initiative, or are they counters?

18th May 2004, 16:21
The kata of the school is split between kihon, outside kata and inside kata.

The kihon includes several "cutting to the four directions" pre-kata, three basic draws, basic cuts/tsuki and a batto section (fast nuku and noto from tate-hiza, hanmi, standing and walking). There is also a kihon waza for our fumichigae step change that's kind of a trademark of our movements.

The outside kata share some commonalities with Eishin Ryu, though they are distinct to our style. I wish I had some video on the site, we might post a few clips before too long. Most (but not all) of the outside kata are done starting from seiza, we have no kata that start from tate-hiza (and what we call tate-hiza is again different than Eishin Ryu). I'm using Eishin Ryu as an example; because it's what I'm most familiar with outside of our school, and I think most people have some familiarity with it (from Seitei or its general popularity).

The kata have a kind of logical order once you get to know them.

First is shiho-giri (which is written as four direction killing as opposed to cutting). This is 4 fast cuts to the four directions, depending on the direction, a different leg is forward. Next, Tenchi is a seated response to a standing attacker. Iwao Nami introduces "walking along and somebody tries to kill you." This is kind of the first set and teaches how to move through the four directions, cut while standing up, and cut while walking.

Next is what I call the directionals, these are similar to the Eishin Ryu kata of the same names: mae(I, II), migi, hidari, ushiro. These teach how to cleanly draw to the four directions, and develop a strong fumichigae. The thing that really makes these movements Shinto Ryu is fumichigae between the draw and the finishing cut; we switch our feet by jumping from a kneeling position. This is done partly to build leg strength, and partly to add the power of the legs and hips to a downward cut.

The next set includes attacking from under the bushes (soku harai), ukenagashi (again similar, but done a bit differently), and responses to the sword being grasped (tsuka otoshi, kojiri gaeshi).

The last set is about setting the foundation for learning the inside kata. Sure chigai is done from walking and cuts down someone to the left or right, Go Zume (I, II) responds to different attempts to restrain the arms from behind. The second is interesting because it uses a strike (head-butt) and then something almost like O Goshi simultaneous with cutting with limited arm mobility. Shin Myo Ken is a longer kata which teaches maai and tempo in addition to re-drawing after beginning noto. Rai Fu Jin introduces the ability to run and draw then cut while maintaining balance. It also introduces a different chiburi that is used in the inside kata. Yoshi and Suemono Giri are test cutting techniques (seated, leaping from a seated position and standing).

Nuku: Shinto-Ryu draw cuts are long fast flicks to vital points as opposed to decisive "mowing" style draws. We train to develop both, but generally the nuku cuts cover a lot of ground and are followed up with a decisive two handed cut.

Chiburi: The basic chiburi is similar to the small chiburi in Eishin Ryu, where the sword passes form left hip to right hip; the angle of the blade does not become flat as it does in Eishin Ryu. "Rai Fu Jin" chiburi is like the O-chiburi of Eishin Ryu's Mae, but the timing and feel is different. The tip is not dropped as the hand comes to the side of the head either, instead the sword projects straight back, and the actual chiburi is practically a cut.

Noto: We have a basic noto that is taught to new students, then as a student approaches Shodan, (the same time they are learning Rai Fu Jin) they learn the real noto. The blade is put away with the edge vertical. Initially the saya and tsuba are very close and the sword is drawn out, but we work to have a very short noto. I recently started using shinken for all of my waza, so I've backed off a bit for safety, but with my iaito, I generally touched only the last 1-3" of blade to the back of my hand before the tip dropped into the saya. Even with my shinken, I'm only touching maybe the last 9-11". If done properly, it almost looks like you were able to put the sword directly into the saya without feeling for it.

Well, congratulations if you made it to the end of this, gold stars all around. :)

If David Pan or Scott Irey feel like commenting, feel free as you may be able to shed some light on what seems different and what seems similar.

Charlie Kondek
18th May 2004, 17:18
Great posts, man.

What is "fumichigae step?"

And can you tell me a bit more about how the batto is different? Do you draw from farther away and reach for the opponent?

18th May 2004, 18:07
Fumichigae has several forms, generally it means switching from right foot forward to left foot forward. In Mae for example, after the draw, your right foot is down out in front of you, and your left knee is down with your toes back (much like Eishin-Ryu). As you cut (kiri-otoshi/men/shomen/whatever) you jump just enough to switch your feet mid cut, so that by the time the cut finishes, you are in exactly the same position, but your left foot is forward, and your right knee is down. This move is also done from standing, sometimes without jumping up so much as "scissoring" your legs under you, other times (and some people) tend to get well over a foot (or two) of air under them when they perform this movement. One of my Sempai in Japan seems to have had his legs surgically replaced with springs, he just explodes into the air when he does fumichigae.

18th May 2004, 20:38
Originally posted by ulvulv
How many people are doing shinto-ryu then, in "your" branch? It would be interesting with a brief layout of the grading system. Do you have to do kenbu, tameshigiri and kata for gradings?

Missed answering this earlier, sorry.

Our branch is about 12 people, and that's pretty much all that's in the US. There was supposed to be a dojo in LA for a while, but I never was able to confirm that.

Grading is fairly typical of modern budo, 6-1 kyu, then 1 and up dan ranks. Our dan ranks are written as licenses however instead of "ranks" per se. The menkyo actually list the three schools and a stamp is placed over the column that corresponds to what the certificate is specifically for (ie. Shinto Sho Bu Ryu Iai-Battojutsu).

For grading we demonstrate solo kata. Dan grading includes inside kata and a few paired versions of the outside kata. The inside kata aren't really taught to mudansha, they may see them in class, but the techniques (at least at our dojo) are reserved for people with at least a shodan. We send photos and video a few times a year to Mochizuki sensei of our tameshigiri in order to get specific feedback, and I'm sure how we're doing at that will affect who's being graded, but tameshigiri isn't a specific part of our demonstrations for rank.

6th July 2004, 18:34

8th July 2004, 02:45
Earlier I wrote:
We also do kenbu in our branch, I only know one dance though, and not too well at that. It is fun, but that is more about mine than your group.

Sorry to break in with my inanities, but reading back over my earlier post, I wanted to clarify that the kenbu at our dojo (we aren:t shinto-ryu) is not part of the iai syllabus, but rather additional study, separate from the iai. Didn:t want to cause any confusion. OK, back to Shinto-ryu!

9th July 2004, 12:25
Hi, i am new to both the site, and tenshin shoden katori shinto ryu, and am starting this with adam.a.wong from the YDM ninjutsu academy in malaysia, do you know him?

His site is here for checking out: www.geocities.com/ydm_hombu


Charlie Kondek
9th July 2004, 14:34
Welcome, Xeo!

Two things:

Make a new thread about the art and your questions. It will get more attention that way.

And sign your full name. It's an e-budo rule.

Glad to have you!

9th July 2004, 15:39
Yeah, what Charlie said.

My lineage is separate from Katori Shinto Ryu, I'd recommend starting a new thread. Sorry I couldn't be more help.