Shinmei-ryū (神鳴流 shinmei-ryū "Gods'-Cry School") is the name of a legendary organization of swordswomen that reside in the mountains of Kyoto. The organization practises a style of Japanese kenjutsu that goes by the same name.
Practitioners are characterised as traditional Japanese swordswomen in red and white hakuma, wielding energy attacks and swords made out of white wood, the style is most notable for appearing in two of Ken Akamatsu’s more prominent works (Love Hina and Negima! Magister Negi Magi).
Originally created as a combat troop with unparalleled power to protect Kyoto and avenge misused magic, the Shinmei-ryū troop were also made guardians of the Japanese talisman users; assisting the onmyou wizards as bodyguards during magic wars.
In modern times the Shinmei-ryū are often acting as expert demon slayers and exorcists, the swordswomen of Shinmei-ryū are adept at using their ki energy in combat and also act as aides or hired mercenaries to the Kansai Magic Association with whom they have long-standing ties. In the past, the partnership of the Shinmei-ryū's swordsmanship and Kansai's traditional magic was a formidable combination.
While the school and Shinmei-ryu Dojo were originally owned and run by the Aoyama family, the school was eventually declared a national landmark and became the formal property of the government of Japan.
The Shinmei-ryū school weapons-of-choice are primarily based around the katana, kodachi and nodachi. However, practitioners are expected to be adept in unarmed combat and other general weapons aside from their sword.
Along with formidable physical combat skills, Shinmei-ryū warriors also possess knowledge of eastern magic; possessing the ability to learn onmyōdō magic (traditional Japanese yin-yang magic) and use shikigami (special constructs of limited intelligence made of paper and controlled by magic).
As their primary skill’s are based on their ki, Shinmei-ryū practitioners may be skilled with whatever weaponry they have on hand, be they swords, knives, deck brushes or chopsticks. Highly skilled practitioners can channel their attacks without the use of a weapon, simply using their bare hands.
Another noteworthy trait is that, when a practitioner reaches a certain point in their abilities, Shinmei-ryū users take on the resemblance of demons, particularly seen in the eyes, during combat.
Motoko Aoyama was the next successor in line to own and run the Shinmei-ryū school of swordsmanship. She became successor after her elder sister Tsuruko Aoyama, a legendary practitioner of the school, married; leaving behind the responsibilities.
While not an official practitioner, Keitaro Urashima has managed to replicate at least one Shinmei-ryū technique through observation and later fell under the tutelage of Motoko Aoyama.
Setsuna Sakurazaki is a former member of the Shinmei-ryū school. She acts as a bodyguard, classmate, and close friend of Konoka Konoe, the daughter of Eishun Konoe, who is also a Shinmei-ryū practitioner as well as the head of the Kansai magic Association.
Tsukuyomi is a child currently in training with the Shinmei-ryū school, much as Setsuna was, although she currently works as a mercenary for the child magician, Fate.
Tōko Kuzunoha is a mercenary from the Shinmei-ryū school, hired by Konoemon Konoe; head of the Majora Academy. She taught Setsuna Sakurazaki other aspects of the Shinmei-ryū style after her relocation to Academy.
Eishun Konoe, the father of Konoka Konoe and the Chief of the Kansai Magic Association, is a practitioner of Shinmei-ryū. He fought alongside "The Thousand Master", Nagi Springfield.
Although not an official practitioner, the General-Governor of New Ostia Kurt Godel was a one-time student of Eishun Konoe, and is skilled enough in Shinmei-ryū to injure Negi Springfield.
The Shinmei-ryū style uses ki to increase the strength of attacks and produce different effects. They are generally elemental attacks (lightning, wind, and earth are common elements) or normal empowered physical feats.
Ougi 奥義 - (lit. "Inner Meaning") Secret Technique
Hiken 秘剣 - Hidden Sword Technique
Kessen Ougi 決戦奥義 - Decisive Battle Secret Technique (Del Rey "Final Attack") – seems to be only applicable to Shin Raikōken, most probably denotes a powerful area-effect technique
Ougi, infuses ki into the sword to cut a boulder in half. First used by Motoko Aoyama (Love Hina; Chapter 6) and replicated by Keitaro Urashima (Love Hina; Chapter 113), also used by Setsuna Sakurazaki (Negima; Chapter 29) and by Tsukuyomi (Negima; Chapter 32).
Zanganken Ni-no-Tachi (斬岩剣・弐の太刀, "Stone-Cutting Sword, Second Strike")
Ougi, cuts an object behind a person without injuring the person. Used by Motoko Aoyama (Love Hina; Chapter 70), also used by Kurt Godel (Negima; Chapter 254) to injure Negi in his lighting form.
Zanmaken (斬魔剣, "Evil-Cutting Sword")
Ougi, disperses demonic spirits. Used by Setsuna Sakurazaki (Negima; Chapter 74).
Zanmaken Ni-no-Tachi (斬魔剣・弐の太刀, "Evil-Cutting Sword, Second Strike")
Ougi, cuts a demonic spirit behind a person without injuring the person. First used by Motoko Aoyama (Love Hina; Chapter 40 onwards) and by Tsuruko Aoyama (Love Hina; Chapter 72).
Raimeiken (雷鳴剣, "Thunderclap Sword")
Ougi, a slashing attack with lightning energy infused onto the sword. Used by Motoko Aoyama (Love Hina; Chapter 74), also used by Setsuna Sakurazaki and once by Tōko Kuzunoha (Negima; Chapter 140).
Raimeiken Ni-no-Tachi (雷鳴剣・弐の太刀, "Thunderclap Sword, Second Strike")
Ougi, a lighting-slash attack that cuts possessive demon without injuring the person it possessed.
Kyokudai Raimeiken (極大雷鳴剣, "Maximum Thunderclap Sword", Del Rey "Giant-Sized Thunderclap Blade")
Ougi, a more powerful and larger-scale version of the Raimeiken. Used by Setsuna Sakurazaki during her illusory battle with Evangeline (Negima; Chapter 108).
Shin Raikōken (真・雷光剣, "True Lightning Sword")
Kessen Ougi, infuses lightning energy into the sword and causes an explosion that destroys an area. Used by Motoko Aoyama against Keitaro Urashima (Love Hina; Chapter 106)
Hiken, releases ki in a circular fashion to cut the enemy. First used by Motoko Aoyama (Love Hina; Chapter 26), also used by Setsuna Sakurazaki (Negima; Chapter 31) and Kurt Godel (Negima; Chapter 254).
Zankūsen Kai (斬空閃・改, "Air-Cutting Flash, Revised")
Hiken, unknown, a stronger version of Zankūsen, one of the techniques used by Motoko Aoyama when she went berserk against a mob of turtles, (Love Hina; Chapter 65).
Zankūsen Ni-no-Tachi (斬空閃・弐の太刀, "Air-Cutting Flash, Second Strike")
Cuts an enemy behind a person without injuring the person.
Jakuzankūsen (弱斬空閃, "Lesser Air-Cutting Flash")
Hiken, used to blow an object far away. Used by Motoko Aoyama to send Keitaro Urashima flying in (Love Hina; Chapter 84).
Zantetsusen (斬鉄閃, "Iron-Cutting Flash")
Releases ki in a spiral fashion to attack the enemy. First used by Motoko Aoyama (Love Hina; Chapter 9) and Setsuna Sakurazaki (Negima; Chapter 274).
Shinmei-ryū throw technique. Grabs onto the opponent's shoulder while locking one foot behind the opposite leg and ankle, then flips oneself into the air, bringing the opponent with them before knocking them into the ground. Used only by Setsuna Sakurazaki in her fight with Asuna.
Shinmei-ryū throw technique. Grabs onto either side of the opponent's head with both legs, then flips backwards to throw the opponent into an overhead spin into the ground. Used only by Setsuna Sakurazaki on her semi-finals bout with Negi.
It is a fanon assumption that the orphaned Setsuna was taken in by Motoko and Tsuruko's family, the Aoyama Clan, and was trained in their ways, which is supported by a panel during a flashback showing Motoko & Tsuruko introducing Setsuna to Konoka Konoe.
Likewise, a fanon assumption is that Tsukuyomi was a student of the Shinmei-ryū who either went off the path of bushidō after completing or discontinuing her studies, or was thrown out of the school for her dishonourable mindset.
The Shinmei-ryu campus possesses a Jiryoudo, a spirit-containment temple, which acted as a prison for evil spirits that would not perish. The Jiryoudo and the Abandoned Annex, according to Motoko Aoyama, posses the same atmosphere possibly due to them both retaining spiritual energies.