As explained in the section on history, Kashima-Shinryû first took shape when MATSUMOTO Bizen-no-kami Ki no Masamoto developed Ichi-no-tachi. This technique represents the ultimate physical expression of an approach to swordsmanship founded on the balanced application of Fivefold Laws (goko-no-hôjô) known as: Motion and Stillness as One (dôsei ittai), Origination and Manifestation as One (kihatsu ittai), Offense and Defense as One (kôbô ittai), Emptiness and Reality as One (kyojitsu ittai), and Yin and Yang as One (in'yô ittai).
A spiritual counterpart to this technique was introduced by the twelfth-generation shihanke (headmaster), KUNII Taizen Minamoto no Ritsuzan, when he formulated Musôken (unbeheld sword). Ichi-no-tachi illuminates the Fivefold Laws to reveal their operating principle of regeneration (shintô no genri), while Musôken distills the Fivefold Laws into kiate-no-koto (striking with ki). Kashima-Shinryû developed through this kind of process, in which each headmaster struggled to further refine the underlying principles of the art into techniques that more closely approach the ideal of shinbu (sublime martial and moral power). As a result, the technical applications that they devised do not stand apart from one another, but include within themselves the germs of all other techniques from this same matrix which is Kashima-Shinryû.
Just as essential as the Fivefold Laws, which provide Kashima-Shinryû with a unified set of philosophical or metaphysical principles, are the Five Vectors (hô-en-kyoku-choku-ei) which present a unified set of physical principles to govern Kashima-Shinryû movements. They dictate that all techniques must conform to certain fundamental patterns of spiraling interactions. Since Kashima-Shinryû teaches that the ultimate goal of martial art practice is to realize the "original creative principles of the universe," the martial techniques that one practices also must be performed as a part of the same beginningless and ceaseless cycle of emergence, reintegration, and re-emergence (hakken, kangen, suishin) exhibited by all natural phenomena.
The way that members of Kashima-Shinryû stand, for example, allows their sword to be in the same location when a technique is initiated and when the technique is finished, so that the dynamic motion of the swordstroke encompasses within itself an unmoving stillness.
The present form of Kashima-Shinryû resulted from the efforts of the eighteenth-generation shihanke, KUNII Zen'ya (18941966), who cultivated his martial art training to the very limits of human endurance as he re-evaluated in light of the Fivefold Laws each of the techniques handed down by tradition and sought to re-elevate them to the highest spiritual levels of Japanese martial art, which he identified as "Takemikazuchi's Sword of Hôyô-Dôka" (acceptance and resorption). This constitutes the essence of the martial art that the nineteenth-generation shihanke, SEKI Humitake, inherited and that he now teaches to the next generation in a manner consistent with modern educational methods.
Kashima-Shinryû forms a comprehensive martial art system, within which each one of its techniques has both omote (outer) and ura (inner) applications. In this framework of outside and inside as one (hyôri ittai), its outer systems consist of kenjutsu (swordsmanship), kaikenjutsu (dagger techniques), battôjutsu (striking while unsheathing the sword), jôjutsu(stick arts), sôjutsu (spearmanship) and naginata-jutsu (the art of the glaive) and so forth, while its inner systems consist of jûjutsu (grappling), bôjutsu (stick arts), and so forth. In accordance with the circumstances an outer technique can, even as it is being applied, become an inner technique. Because each and every technique rests on the same principles as every other technique, if one masters the basic techniques of kenjutsu and jûjutsu, then one can freely and skillfully employ the techniques of any other area of the Kashima-Shinryû martial art curriculum, such as polearms and so forth.
For this reason, a brief synopsis of the kenjutsu and jûjutsu curriculums should suffice to reveal the underlying structure of Kashima-Shinryû's martial art curriculum as a whole.
Kashima-Shinryû kenjutsu training follows a curriculum organized into the following series of exercises: Kihon Tachi, Ura Tachi, Aishin Kumi Tachi, Jissen Tachi Gumi, Kassen Tachi, and Tsubazeri - Taoshiuchi. Battôjutsu constitutes an indispensable adjunct to kenjutsu. All of these exercises are informed by kuden (oral initiations).
The Kihon Tachi exercises consist of standing encounters (tachiai) that enable one to internalize the ultimate attainment (gokui) of "Sword, Mind, Body: Three as One" (ken-shin-tai sanmi ittai). They always are performed with bokutô (wooden training swords). These are the techniques that beginners learns to practice as soon as the join Kashima-Shinryû, and they are the techniques that all members, no matter how advanced, practice at the beginning of every workout. Although seemingly simple, they consist of the distilled essence of all Kashima-Shinryû techniques. For this reason, even after earnestly exploring martial art training for ten years or twenty years, one still cannot exhaust all the implications hidden within the intriguing depths of the Kihon Tachi.
Aishin Kumi Tachi
Jissen Tachi Gumi
Tsubazeri - Taoshiuchi
Kashima-Shinryû teaches Battôjutsu as a kenjutsu encounter that begins while one's sword is still in its scabbard. Real Japanese swords (Nihontô) are used for practicing battôjutsu. These exercises require that one learn how to respond to the uchitachi's attack by evading his swordstroke as one unsheathes one's own sword and seizes control of the situation. Beginners learn the basic moves by practicing solo with an imaginary uchitachi. Paired practice, however, is essential in order to master the ability to detect and flow with the uchitachi's energy or ki.
Oral initiations (kuden) give life and meaning to the above (and to all) training exercises by insuring that they are performed correctly, that their significance is fully grasped, and that they are grounded in the context of Kashima-Shinryû philosophy and lore. Without access to the oral initiations (in the form of a certified teacher), one cannot even begin to learn Kashima-Shinryû martial arts. It should be obvious, therefore, that someone who lacks full initiation into this lore does not know real Kashima-Shinryû and cannot teach it. Even more obvious is the fact that it cannot be learned merely by observing and then blindly imitating the movements of someone else whether in person or from video tapes.
To develop these abilities, Kashima-Shinryû jûjutsu training follows a curriculum organized into the following series of exercises: Reiki-no-Hô and Reikinage, Idori, Tachiwaza, Nagewaza, Kumiwaza Gusokudori, Toritegaeshi, and Ushirowaza. Naturally, all of these exercises are informed by Kuden.
Reiki-no-Hô and Reikinage
Of course, oral initiations are just as essential for learning jûjutsu as for learning any other aspect of Kashima-Shinryû. One should never attempt to practice any of these techniques without direct supervision by a properly certified teacher.
Kashima-Shinryû training consists of traditional methods of paired pattern practice (kata keiko). These patterns are performed in a highly realistic manner that allows students to internalize skills that can be employed freely without rigid adherence to any predetermined formal elements (such as rhythms, sequences, stances, etc.). For this reason, Kashima-Shinryû training always regards patterns as flexible living matrixes and never as dry, formal, predetermined "forms." Old traditions (koryû) must be mastered as living, dynamic, and effective martial arts.