On Kashima Shinryû and Aikido

The following article was published around 2000. The current Shihanke (19th generation), since 2000, is Seki Humitake and the current Sôke (21st generation) is Kunii Masakatsu. The history of Kashima-Shinryû can be found here.

Mr. Tissier’s swordwork derives from Kashima-Shinryû (鹿島神流), via Inaba Minoru, the head Aikido (合気道) instructor at the Meiji Grand Shrine in Tokyo. It is not, however, Kashima-Shinryû in either a formal or a practical sense.

Inaba has worked a bit of Kashima-Shinryû kenjutsu and some other weapon training into his Aikido curriculum at the Meiji Grand Shrine. Neither he nor his teacher, Tanaka Shigeo, however, has any formal connections with the current Kashima-Shinryû soke or shihanke, and neither has any Kashima-Shinryû license or diploma from either Kunii Zen’ya (the previous soke/shihanke) or Seki Humitake (the current shihanke; Inaba has a diploma written by Kunii, but unsigned, which he received from Kunii’s widow).

The Inaba connection with Kashima-Shinryû began when Tanaka wished to learn Kashima-Shinryû from Kunii, because he was teaching Aikido at the University of Tokyo, and his students were becoming discouraged by their inability to hold their own in friendly matches with the Karate club students, who practiced at the same time. Determining that what his students needed was some weapons training, he went to Kunii to learn kenjutsu. But, as he was already 40 at the time, he found he was not learning well, and so he brought one of his senior students, Inaba, at the time an undergraduate university student, to study with Kunii as well.

Inaba studied Kashima-Shinryû for less than a year, and never received any official diploma from Kunii Zen’ya, from Seki, or from the Kashima-ShinryûFederation of Martial Sciences, but he did, at the request of Kunii’s widow, receive permission to teach kenjutsu (but not other weapons; he had never actually trained at any Kashima-Shinryû weapons other than the sword) at the dojo of the Meiji Grand Shrine. Sometime after Kunii’s death in 1966, one of Inaba’s supervisors asked Mrs. Kunii for permission for him to not recognize Aikido as proper martial training for shrine attendants, because it lacks any form of *harai* (exorcism). Under the circumstances, it was the permission granted Inaba extends only to the teaching of fundamental kenjutsu techniques, because his period of training was far too short to learn and understand the arcana of Kashima-Shinryû. He has no authority to issue Kashima-Shinryû diplomas, nor does he have any right to use the name Kashima-Shinryû or to allow any of his students to use it. Thus, Inaba’s formal status within Kashima-Shinryû is that of teaching fundamental kenjutsu techniques within the framework of teaching Aikido at the Meiji Grand Shrine dojo. His students and the students of his students, other than those teaching under him at the Meiji Grand Shrine dojo, have no formal relationship whatsoever to Kashima-Shinryû.

Aikido and Kashima-Shinryû have elements in common, but they are really fundamentally different in strategy, philosophy and patterns of movement (a rough analogy might be the differences and similarities between Islam and Christianity). Inaba’s interpretation of Kashima-Shinryû kata is heavily flavored by Aikido and thoroughly reshaped by minimal initial exposure to the real thing compounded by 3 decades of practicing in isolation. Many of the kata are unrecognizable to students of orthodox Kashima-Shinryû; most of the basic patterns and rhythms of movement and application of power are.

Mr. Tissier has been apprised of these facts, and has indicated that while he had been unaware of the situation, he will no longer call what he teaches Kashima-Shinryu.

There are currently only two places in Europe, one group in Helsinki and one in Frankfurt, where legitimate Kashima-Shinryû is taught under authorization by the current shihanke.

The syllabus of Kashima-Shinryû kenjutsu training includes 52 techniques arranged in seven series:

  1. Kihon Dachi (基本太刀): 5 techniques
  2. Ura Dachi (裏太刀): 10 techniques
  3. Aishin Kumi Tachi (相心組太刀): 5 techniques
  4. Jissen Kumi Tachi (実戦組太刀): 10 techniques
  5. Kassen Dachi (合戦太刀): 10 techniques
  6. Tsuba Zeri (鍔競り): 6 techniques
  7. Taoshi Uchi (倒打): 6 techniques

Sources: aikidojournal.com, kashima-shinryu.jp, fr.wikipedia.org