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A short history of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu
In 1387, the founder of the Katori Shinto Ryu, Ienaoko, was born in the village of Iizasa.
Katori Dai Jingu
He rose every morning before dawn, in summer and winter, and practised with sword, naginata (halbard) and yari untill late in the evening. Before he returned to his home he took for purification an icecold bath. After that he recited for an hour his prayers at the Katori-shrine. Coming home he studied, physical exhaustion notwithstanding, till late at night religious and philosophical scriptures. He lead this life for one thousand days. Then one night there appeared to him in a dream the god to whom the Katori-shrine was dedicated: Futsunoshi no Mikoto. The god had taken the form of a young man and was sitting on a branch of an old tree near the place where Ienaoko performed his daily exercises.
The vision beckoned Ienaoko to come near him and presented him with a scroll, the Mokuroku Heiho Shinsho, uttering the words: 'Choisai, thou shall be the tutor of all the great swordfighters under the sun!' After this utterance the young man jumped out of the trea and disappeared. As Ienaoko woke up he had the sroll clasped to his breast. The Mokuroku contained the divine descriptions of martial techniques and strategy. Following this revelation Ienaoko changed his name in 'Choisai' and founded his school of sword fighting. He named it Katori, after the Katori-shrine. To honor Futsunoshi no Mikoto he added the words Tenshin shoden (transmitted by the Gods). He added further the word Shinto: immaculate (pure) sword.
The present headmaster of the Katori Ryu 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.
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.