Kashima Shinden Jiki Shinkage-ryu Heiho (鹿島神傳直心影流 兵 法) is one of the most powerful forms of Japanese swordsmanship. It places emphasis on posture, breathing, focusing the mind and spirit (kiai), and developing a powerful cutting ability. It has a very austere character, with kata that are very strenuous to perform and develop a hard form of internal power.
This site contains information about the practice of Kashima-shinden Jiki Shinkage-ryu as maintained by students of Dr. David Hall, who studied under Namiki Yasushi (並木靖), 18th generation headmaster of the school. Information regarding training opportunities can be found at the link above.
Jiki Shinkage-ryu was founded by Matsumoto Bizen no Kami during the late 16th century and regards itself as the "true" Shinkage-ryu. Its fourth headmaster, Ogasawara Genshinsai Minamoto no Nagaharu (小笠原源信斎源長冶, 1574–1644), spent 20 years in Beijing in the early 17th century, practicing Chinese martial arts, including the large and heavy kwan dao. Its 14th headmaster, Sakakibara Kenkichi (榊原鍵吉, 1830–1894), was bodyguard to the Shogun and keeper of Edo castle. Jiki Shinkage-ryu contains a profound training regimen focused around the development of kiai (気合), which can be regarded as the active complement of aiki (合気). At the same time, Jiki Shinkage-ryu has far fewer techniques than other systems of kenjutsu. Up until the late 19th century, Jiki Shinkage-ryu was a sogo-bujutsu, and included in addition to tachi and kodachi the practice of bo, naginata, yari, and yawara (grappling) in its curriculum. A focus on shinai sparring by its 14th headmaster, led to eventual loss of those additional practices.
Below we describe aspects of the art and its curriculum.
Unpo & Suburi
In Jiki Shinkage-ryu, the foundational practices of suburi (cutting drills) and unpo (walking practice) allow practitioners to begin to develop the posture, alignment, and breath required of the art. A substantial amount of time is spend on these core practices before proceeding to the formal kata of the tradition.
HojoThe foundational practice of Hōjō no Kata (法定之形) or "Four Seasons" kata provides a crucible that develops posture, distance, timing, spirit, and power in a swordsman, and provides the proper foundation for learning the strategy and tactics of the system. The practice of Hojo was said by Yamaoka Tesshu to be as valid a meditative practice as zazen. Another famous practitioner of Jiki Shinkage-ryu and student of Sakakibara was Sokaku Takeda, reviver of Daitō-ryu Aiki-jujutsu and teacher of the founder of Aikidō, Ueshiba Morihei.
Jiki Shinkage-ryu: Habiki
To no Kata
Once the body and spirit are developed sufficiently, the strategy and tactics of the art are taught as part of To No Kata, typically performed with fukuro shinai to allow for full power practice within combative range. These kata are practiced with spring kiai. Gekken can be introduced at this time, as well as henka waza that explore each kata fully.
At higher levels of practice, a very aggressive set of kata with the small sword (kodachi) are taught, using summer kiai. Timing, distance, power, and balance are stressed, and the notion of kuzushi or off-balancing.
Eventually, students are introduced to formalized paired practice with metal swords (habiki), using autumn kiai, that further develops internal principles in the practitioner and introduces key strategies of the art.
The distinction between Jiki Shinkage-ryu and Yagyu Shinkage-ryu is clear, but both traditions are likely driven by the same essence. The last set of kata in Jiki Shinkage-ryu are called marobashi, which is also an essential component of other lines of Shinkage-ryu.
The word "jiki" means "correct" or "true". The emphasis on kiai and dominant spirit in Jiki are an outward (omote) manifestation of some of the essences of Shinkage-ryu. Because Shinkage-ryu grows out of a deep study of and critique of Shinto-ryu by its founder (Kamiizumi Ise No Kami), it is said to contain the gokui or essence of Shinto-ryu in its foundational kata (empi no tachi). This kata is a core part of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu -- it was the first set taught by Kamiizumi to his students, and other kata were developed later to explain and elaborate on its principles. Empi is curiously absent in Jiki Shinkage-ryu's formalism, but key elements of it can be found distributed throughout the art, if you look hard enough.