Below we describe aspects of Kashima Shinden Jiki Shinkage-ryu Heiho (鹿島神傳直心影流 兵 法) 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.