Role of Kashima Grand Shrine in Japanese Martial Arts
The name Kashima

Kashima (meaning Deer island) is a commonplace personal and geographical name in Japan. Many individuals, towns, companies, and organizations (i.e. famous Japanese soccer team Kashima Antlers) have the word Kashima included in their name.

Kashima Grand Shrine

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In the context of martial arts , however, Kashima always refers to the Kashima Grand Shrine (Kashima Jingû) in Ibaraki Prefecture, located between the Pacific coast and lake Kasumigaura. Kashima Grand Shrine is dedicated to Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, patron deity of warriors and military men, and is a home of all traditional Japanese martial arts. For this reason all styles of traditional martial arts in Japan claim some allegiance to the Kashima Grand Shrine or its sister institution, the Katori Grand Shrine, and all training halls (dôjô) for traditional martial arts in Japan even today display scrolls from the Kashima or Katori Grand Shrine.

Kashima Grand Shrine and Traditional Martial Arts Today

Kashima Grand Shrine hosts exhibitions of traditional martial art styles (i.e. Bokuden tournament takes place every year in June). During special anniversary years as many as 30 or 40 different traditional martial art schools (ryûha) might participate, display of their skills at Kashima Grand Shrine being one of the highest honors for the students.
Only three of the schools, however, officially include the word Kashima in their name. These are:

1. Kashima-Shinryû
Founded by Matsumoto Bizen-no-kami (1467-1524 or 1543), its current (19th generation) headmaster is prof. SEKI Humitake.
2. Kashima-Shinden Jiki-Shinkage-ryû
is one of the the main lineages into which the shihanke line of Kashima-Shinryû diverged. Its present headmaster is NAMIKI Yasushi.
3. Kashima Shintô-ryû
Founded by a legendary swordsman Tsukahara Bokuden (1489-1571), who is also supposed to be instructed for a while by Matsumoto Bizen-no-kami. Handed down within the YOSHIKAWA family.
Although it is possible that other schools of martial art might use the Kashima name, none of them do so publicly in the presence of the Kashima Grand Shrine.

Historical usage of the name Kashima by the Martial art schools

Historically the name Kashima was used to refer to a wide variety of martial art styles and schools associated with the martial art traditions of the Kashima Grand Shrine. These include the following (NOTE: The suffix -ryû indicates "style" or "school" or "lineage"):

Kashima-ryû:
Generic name for all martial art styles in the tradition of the Kashima Grand Shrine. This name is used only by outsiders, NOT by any particular school or lineage. Other generic names for these traditions include: "Shintô-ryû" or "Shinryû" or "Shinkage-ryû."
Kashima Chuko Nen-ryû:
Name used by warriors at the Kashima Grand Shrine during the 16th century to refer to Kashima martial art traditions of earlier ages (ca. 10th-14th centuries). It was also known as "Chuko-ryû" or "Nen-ryû."
Kashima Chuko-ryû:
Name used by modern historians to refer to Kashima martial art traditions prior to the time of Matsumoto Bizen-no-kami (NOTE: They drop the term "Nen-ryû" to avoid confusion with the Maniwa Nen-ryû handed down within the Higuchi family).
Kashima-Shinryû:
Name for the style created by Matsumoto Bizen-no-kami originally used within the Kunii family (souke, i.e. founders house) lineage of the school. Shinkage-ryû, the original name used by Matsumoto Bizen-no-kami, was transfered along the shihanke line of the school (instructors house), starting with Matsumoto's student Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami Fujiwara no Hidetsuna. The shihanke line over time diverged into various new styles. Mentioning just two relevant streams, one lead back to the souke line of the original school, which with the re-merging became the Kashima-Shinryû it is today. The other stream lead to current Kashima Shinden Jiki-Shinkage-ryû, which shares a common lineage with Kashima-Shinryû for nine generations.
Kashima Shinden Jiki-Shinkage-ryû:
Official name of the Jiki-Shinkage-ryû. The prefix "Kashima-Shinden" explicitly acknowledges the fact that the Jiki-Shinkage-ryû originated in the "Kashima-Shinryû" of Matsumoto Bizen-no-kami. Also known as Kashima Shinkage-ryû, Shin-Shinkage-ryû, Seitô Shinkage-ryû, Jiki-Shinkage-ryû, Jikishin Kage-ryû. etc. Occasionally mispronounced as "Choku-Shinkage-ryû."
Kashima Shintô-ryû:
Name used by members of the YOSHIKAWA family to designate the Kashima martial art tradition as formulated by Tsukuhara Bokuden. Also known as Shintô-ryû, Bokuden-ryû, etc.