Koryu in Rome

Discussion in 'Koryu Corner' started by O'Malley, Jan 6, 2017.

  1. O'Malley

    O'Malley Green Belt

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    So I might relocate to Rome in the future and out of curiosity I checked out the clubs and dojos in the area.

    One club caught my eye but not for good reasons: Garyuan Dojo Roma

    They offer a lot (!) of different arts and I figured that they'd have a lot of specialized instructors but what troubles me the most is that their head instructor (who turns 46 next week) has a ridiculous CV: http://www.asd-ilponte.org/cv/Maurizio_Germano_CV_online.pdf

    - Menkyo Kaiden - Seikukan Dojo in Iwakuni (Jp): “Asayama Ichiden Ryu Tai Jutsu”
    - Menkyo - Honbu Dojo Seikukan in Iwakuni (Jp): “Katayama Ryu”
    - Menkyo Mokuroku: “Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu"
    - Menkyo - Seikukan Dojo in Iwakuni (Jp): “Tenjin Myoshin Ryu Heiho”
    - Chuden (5° Dan) Shian - Garyuan Dojo di Kurume (Jp): “Hoki Ryu Iaido - Nakazono ha”

    Among many other arts as well. I'm no Koryu guy but I thought that the Menkyo Kaiden was the pinnacle of koryu arts so a 46-yo holder seems suspicious to me, a fortiori when that person claims such high ranks in a lot of other arts as well. Then, he claims to have gotten a lot of them from that dojo in Iwakuni so could he have been taught all those systems at the same time?

    I checked out their videos and wasn't impressed but again I don't know the systems. The iaido part and the Asayama Ichiden Ryu part (the style he claims Menkyo Kaiden in) were the fishiest: Garyuan Dojo Roma - Video

    Any opinions on this?
     
  2. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hi O'Malley,

    Koryu are a funny beast, really... what is seen isn't always what is... and what is isn't always what is shown... additionally, the context is so wildly removed from modern arts that most people are familiar with, that trying to do any kind of direct comparison isn't really fair to either. That said, let's look at what you're asking about.

    Yeah, a large number of ryu-ha is not typical... it's unusual enough to be noticeable, but it's not completely unheard of. I know a number of dojo who teach a large number of classical traditions, and I myself train in a few different systems, but it's a dangerous path to tread. Each ryu is really trying to give you a particular way of moving, acting, reacting, and even thinking. To try to do too many at once, particularly all starting at the same time, is similar to trying to learn 5 different languages all at once by learning one word at a time, and trying to use grammar from one with the vocabulary of another It just doesn't work. Now, to be clear, you can learn more than one system... but not all at once, and certainly not all of them starting at once.

    With regards to the arts listed for the Garyuan Dojo, there are a number of interesting systems listed in there... most notably those associated with Nakashima Atsumi. He has re-created a number of systems (in somewhat controversial fashion, in cases), as well as training in some others (such as Asayama Ichiden Ryu, which is one of the various lines of the system, based around it's Taijutsu). The Katori Shinto Ryu is from Hatekayama Goro, former senior teacher at the Sugino Dojo (at the time in charge of training the foreign students when they came to the dojo), who formed his own dojo after the passing of Sugino Yoshio Sensei. Hatekayama Sensei passed in 2009, and I believe the Garyuan Dojo are now training under the Sugino Dojo banner. Interestingly, the videos I saw were a little odd... some aspects were performed similar to the Otake Dojo, with others like the Sugino Dojo... a little intriguing, considering the ranking in Shinto Ryu claimed...

    As far as the videos are concerned, it's more important to focus on studying the art itself... so don't focus too much on what you think looks "fishy"... honestly, keiko is not embu... what is shown, particularly when it comes to Asayama Ichiden Ryu, is often not something that comes across as particularly impressive... you need to go a fair bit beyond the simply kata form to understand what's happening.

    In some arts, yes, Menkyo Kaiden is the highest licensing that a student can attain... but that doesn't make it a pinnacle, nor indeed a "standard" for any school... the ranking form of any particular art is entirely up to it. Additionally, it should be remembered at all times that Menkyo Kaiden refers more to how much of the art you have been exposed to and learnt, not how impressive you look doing the waza... as far as time to attain it, well, that again varies... but 15-20 years wouldn't be unusual or unreasonable... so, if the person started when they were 20, gaining Menkyo Kaiden by then isn't too extraordinary.

    In the end, I have little to no opinion of their dojo, but would ask why you are looking to Koryu? That's probably the more important aspect... if you're not looking to train there, it doesn't matter... if you are, then it's best to be clear about what you're after.
     
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  3. O'Malley

    O'Malley Green Belt

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    Hi Chris!

    Thank you for your feedback.

    I'll start by answering your question: I was looking for aikido dojos in the area I might relocate in and this one showed up. They offer koryu classes and I figured it would be awesome to train in those systems during my "aikido off days", since I've always been very curious about koryu. I don't mind studying an old art that's not impressive or "realistic" but I want to know what the deal is. If someone says he teaches Katori Shinto ryu the student will expect to be taught just that: Katori Shinto ryu. What I don't want to do is believe I train the real ryu while I'm just being taught a synthesis, or some made up forms or the real forms but taught by someone who hasn't a sufficient understanding of the art.

    What I am after is an art with "makes sense" on a martial point of view, which would be consistent with the aikido I'm currently training in (even though it's not "realistic"). And what I want to avoid is learning some kata while leaving out crucial points like distance, timing or basically what makes it "work" when you train the ryu properly.

    I wondered "does this teacher know what he claims to be teaching?". I've seen several dojos where the instructor claimed to teach you traditional arts but obviously didn't know what he was doing. For example there's a "Genbukan" dojo in my (current) city and after some Google-do I found out that the teacher's teacher was simply a karate shodan who won a couple of competitions in Algeria and made up a mystical story about meeting "ninja master Tanemura Soke" under the moonlight and being taught the secret arts of the ninja.

    "Fishy" might be a harsh word and I by no means meant to disrespect the teacher at Garyuan dojo.

    I was just perplexed when seeing that the head instructor had high ranks in so many arts at 46. Also I couldn't tell if their movements were sound or not. That's why I started this thread to ask whether people recognized what the instructor at Garyuan is doing, if the forms are the ones from the claimed ryu and if the technique and principles are applied well.

    Also, after further investigation, the way they work is clearer to me: novices learn what they call "Hashi ha jujutsu", a "modern jujutsu style" aimed to "cultivate solid basics". As I have found no information on that style my guess is that it is a synthesis made by the head of the Garyuan dojo.

    After some time, the students can choose to study a Koryu between Asayama Ichiden Ryu Tai Jutsu, Fudo Chishin Ryu Hakuda, Tenjin Myoshin Ryu Heiho and Hontai Yoshin Ryu. Found nothing about Fudo Chishin Ryu Hakuda other than an article by a Spanish teacher saying that he learnt it from Nakashima Atsumi.

    And once they get to black belt they study Bianchi Method Jujutsu in addition to the Koryu.

    It looks like the instructor learnt those ryu under Nakashima Atsumi, with a focus on Asayama Ichiden Ryu.

    Now what's not known is how much time Maurizio Germano spent under Nakashima and whether he has a sufficient understanding of the different ryu.
     
  4. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    No problem.

    Cool, thanks for that.

    Hmm... there are reasons that training in multiple koryu is not advised... let alone training in koryu and other systems (as a rule). There are a number of ways of thinking of koryu, such as thinking of them as political entities (they are), but the most accurate way to think of them here is as a way of teaching you how to think and move... and, as such, anything that detracts from that particular way of thinking and moving, such as learning or training yourself in a different, potentially conflicting form, does nothing but take you away from actually doing that particular ryu. As a result, if you're training in a koryu to supplement your Aikido training, then you're not really training in that koryu... as you're approaching it through the filter of the Aikido practice... and aren't able to take on the thought and movement ideals of the koryu itself.

    Bear in mind that what all this is saying is that training in a koryu isn't about learning "techniques"... while you will certainly learn them (appropriate to the art in question), it's more that they are an expression of the ryu, rather than the "real" art itself. As a result, if you're not training a koryu for the ryu's sake, then it's not really worth doing in the first place. All you're becoming is a technician... which is fine in modern arts, but goes against much of the idea of koryu training in the first place. This is the issue with a school teaching such multiple systems... "blending" means you're not actually doing anything... like having three exquisite meals prepared from three top chefs in three different cuisines, then putting them all in a blender together and saying "I have all these great dishes, this is the best meal in the world!" Uh... nope.

    Yeah... that's the thing... what is the actual "Katori Shinto Ryu"? How do you identify it?

    Of course, when it comes to "impressive", that's a matter of personal opinion... I was watching a clip the other day of a number of Iai systems at an embu... many embusha were younger, showing some of the more intricate and complex kata of their systems... then an older practitioner came on, and performed one of the simplest kata (a simple horizontal, then vertical cut, something familiar to many systems)... but he performed it with such precision, such control, such focus that it was a huge standout to me of "this is what it's meant to be!" Suffice to say, to me, that is the definition of "impressive".

    "Realistic" is another matter, of course... I would argue that I have yet to find anything koryu that isn't realistic... you just need to look at what the context is, and what it's meant to be realistic to.

    Okay, I'd advise not looking for something that is "consistent" with your Aikido... if you're looking for that, you'll miss the actual ryu-ha and it's teachings, as mentioned above. As for the rest, if they're missing, then so is the ryu...

    Yeah... not unheard of. Rarer with the Genbukan, as they have much stricter standards, and are far more open about who is at what level, but still, some will try to present some very false stories as truth...

    Sure. My point was more that, without having some kind of actual knowledge of the system, videos aren't always the best way to constructively assess systems such as koryu arts. To that end, here is a video of Iwaki Hideo presenting Asayama Ichiden Ryu... this is very much the same line/form as is found in the Genbukan, and in the Garyuan Dojo... and, unless you have some knowledge of the system, it simply doesn't look like much... even compared to the Garyuan Dojo clip.



    The forms are fairly accurate to the ryu in question... albeit with a few odd aspects... but, as said, that's not the real litmus test for koryu...

    Yeah... to my mind, that's not really the right way to study koryu... koryu are dedicated studies in and of themselves... the only way to really train in one is to join one, and follow it purely (separate from any external influence), hence the idea of multiple systems not being a good idea, particularly early on. That's not to say that this approach isn't valid for some people, but it's not the same as training in koryu properly.

    Yeah... there's a lot of questions there that can take us down some rather dark (hidden) pathways... such as what exactly much of the ryu listed from Atsumi actually are, and where they come from...which leads to a question of exactly how accurate any study can have been...
     
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