Shinto Ryu is a form of Japanese swordsmanship and Japanese cultural arts. Shinto Ryu’s curriculum consists of three main sections or schools, Iai-Battojutsu, Kenbu (sword dance) and Uto (a type of poetry/chanting).
Our branch in Seattle studies the Iai-Battojutsu portion of the curriculum exclusively. Shinto Ryu training is via traditional sets of patterned movements called kata. There are solo kata and paired kata. Precision during the kata is stressed through tameshigiri (target cutting with live blades).
The primary focus is on solo kata followed by tameshigiri. In addition to the more formal solo portion of the curriculum, we also use various drills, paired forms of the kata and some jo kata (wooden staff) to further our understanding of the sword.
Shinto Ryu was formally founded in Meiji 23 (1890) by Hibino Raifu. Hibino Raifu was born Hibino Masayoshi in 1864 in Kagoshima, Kyushu. At age 5, he moved to Saitama-ken and began his study of Iai and Kenjutsu. Most information about his teachers was lost, but some details of his background were passed on by oral tradition. One of these is his devotion to training. Hibino sensei devoted himself to “defeating the family tree.” Every day he would train with the tree. Using his bokken (wooden sword) he eventually wore the tree completely down.
After that, he went around challenging various teachers in his area. He won many challenges, and he became known for his extremely fast draw. Hibino 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. At this time, when he was about 16 years old, he began to take on students as he defeated other teachers.
In addition to his Batto/Kenjutsu, Hibino Soke took part in traveling shows with well-known Bujutsu teachers such as Sakakibara Kenkichi, in an effort to promote the martial arts. These shows were as much to entertain as educate, and inspirations for performances came from Noh dramas. Music and poetry accompanied these performances. Hibino Soke was one of the performers well known for his dance (kenbu) and poetry chanting (uto). These three aspects of his art form the schools under the Shinto-Ryu umbrella organization.
After its founding, Shinto Ryu began to spread throughout Japan with support from both the military and cultural communities. In 1908, Yoshizawa Shoten built the first movie studio in Japan in the area of Meguro, Tokyo. The building was all glass and an imitation of the Edison Studio in Bronx, New York. The first production from the studio featured Hibino Raifu in a film called “Kenbujutsu Sugekimi Shinto-ryu” (The Drama and Art of the Sword Style Shinto). This silent film premiered at the Denkikan in Asakusa on May 1 and was accompanied by the narration of Somei Saburo.
In Meiji 44 (1911) the Shinto Ryu Dojo opened. The dojo appears to have been in Yokohama, since the soke of the Hokushin Shinoh Iaido, Shinoda Ohho, moved to Yokohama and studied under Hibino Raifu.
In Taisho 15 (1926) the founder died.
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. The three aspects of the art — Iai-Battojutsu, Kenbu, and Uto — were structured into three schools under the Shinto-Ryu umbrella organization.
Today, Shinto Ryu is a smaller, traditionally taught art, with less than 150 practitioners, mostly in Japan, but also in the US, Great Britain, Korea, and South America.