I was having a discussion with Chris about koryu and ninjutsu which has become a discussion about koryu in general and I thought maybe other people might want in on this. I was gonna pot in in the traditional ninjutsu section but I think the topic has gone beyond that. Here's our conversation. Himura Kenshin "Hey Chris, From reading some posts I've come accross people mentioning that the Xkans are not really recognized as koryu practitioners. I'm a little confused on this subject. Are they saying that the Xkans as orginizations are not koryu (as that would make perfect sense) or are the individual traditions in those organizations not considered koryu? If it is the latter, how can this be so? Are the arts of Togakure ryu, Koto ryu, and the like not backed up by hisotrical record or something? Just wondering if you knew what the deal is on this subject." Chris Parker's response: "Oh boy.... let's see how we go here! The arts that make up the Bujinkan (and related organisations) system are a mix of definitively Koryu systems (Takagi Yoshin Ryu, Kukishinden Ryu), and a number of systems that claim to be Koryu, but there is some contention to that (Gyokko Ryu, Koto Ryu, Togakure Ryu, Shinden Fudo Ryu, Gyokushin Ryu, Gikan Ryu, Kumogakure Ryu). However that does not make the Bujinkan a Koryu system. And that really comes down to what the Bujinkan really is, and what the Koryu really are. First off, Koryu are concerned with one thing, and that is correct transmission and preservation of the Ryu-ha itself. That means that changes are kept miminalist, adaptation to modern methods/weapons are eschewed, and many are aimed at preserving the art the way the founder developed it. In Koryu, you don't "train" them, you join them. As a result of all this, Koryu tend to be rather selective of how many students they accept, they will only take those who are seen to be potentially able to carry on the tradition in it's pure form. The Bujinkan, on the other hand, doesn't teach these arts (in a very real way). It teaches what is refered to as Budo Taijutsu, which is Hatsumi's creation, based on a series of principles gleaned from the source Ryu, and stressing creativity, spontenaity, free-flow, and so on. It is highly adaptive, and includes expressions including modern weapons (such as firearms). It does not transmit the Ryu-ha themselves. As a result, although the technical makeup of the system is Koryu, the Bujinkan itself, and what it teaches, is not. In terms of historical records, there are a few bits of evidence around, I've seen a scroll mentioning the Togakure Ryu name which is apparently from about 1864, there are a few mentions of arts such as Gyokushin Ryu and Gyokko Ryu, so although the histories as provided by the Ryu themselves are probably exaggerated (to say the least!), that is hardly unique amongst Japanese systems. Personally I feel that they are authentic, just not as old as the traditions say. But to be a part of a tradition means that you follow what the tradition teaches, so while Togakure Ryu may only be from the 16th or 17th Century, when teaching it, I say that the tradition itself says it dates from 1182. Hope that helps in some way, good to see you back, Chris. " __________________ Himura Kenshin: "I appreciate the speedy and informative resopnse! What you said is sort of what I assumed but I wanted to know for sure. I did not know that koryu were committed to not changing their cirriculum. I always kind of assumed that they kept the old traditions but added to them. Hmmm. It makes sense though when you think about it. In your own opinion do you feel that koryu schools are not practical to today's self-defense scenarios? I would assume one does not enter a koryu school with this in mind. Is it more about preserving a tradition that achieving skill applicable to todays world?" Chris Parker: "Koryu aren't commited to not changing, they are commited to preserving.... it's slightly different, but can have some big effects on the system itself. A few case studies: Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu was passed down on the understanding that the methods would be passed on unaltered. It was passed to three people, and the Ryu has continued that tradition by only having three people awarded Menkyo Kaiden in a generation. Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu, according to their traditions, are based on a scroll presented to the founder by the deity of the Katori Shrine in a dream. When he awoke he had the scroll in his hands. As a result, the Ryu is deemed to be Tenshinsho Den (Truly and Correctly Transmitted from Heaven), and to change anything would be seen as rather sacreligious. It is believed that every possible usable method of using a sword is present in the Ryu, so adding to it makes no sense as well. Over the years certain aspects, such as it's Kyujutsu, Bajutsu, and Suijutsu have been lost, and the current thinking is that if the aspects were reconstructed (the documents relating to them still exist), the risk of getting it wrong, and therefore making them no longer Truly and Correctly transmitted, so there are no attempts to do so. Toda-ha Buko Ryu has, in it's current generation, reconstructed it's lost kata for Kusari Gama and Nagamaki. This was done with access to the historical documents and consultation with the Soke of the Ryu... but that was not without problems. The first time that Ellis Amdur presented the reconstructed kata to the Soke, she was not impressed. The methods worked, but that wasn't the issue. They didn't "fit" with the Ryu itself, so they didn't pass muster. Ellis had given them more of a "Araki Ryu" feel (we'll deal with that Ryu in a second). So he went away, and came back with a new expression of them, which fit with the Ryu-ha itself. So there the idea of preserving the core concepts of the Ryu come out. Araki Ryu has a history of pressure testing, constantly examining it's methods to ensure they stand up to the rigours of use. If something needs to be altered, it is. If it needs to be dropped, it is. If something needs to be added, it is. That, however, is not the same as saying it gets "modernised", as that is not the case at all. Simply that the methods are tested by each new generation. Araki Ryu also has a tradition of expecting each member to go out and "create" their own branch of the Ryu in their local area once Menkyo Kaiden is awarded, leading to a range of different expressions of the Ryu across different instructors. Hontai Yoshin Ryu in the last generation were finding that most of their practitioners were not highly skilled with a sword, making their Muto techniques suffer as a result. Due to that, the previous head and one of the senior students, who were both highly ranked in Toyama Ryu, added an Iai portion to the curriculum from Toyama Ryu itself. It is not considered Koryu from the Ryu's perspective, but has been added to the regular curriculum, so it approached with the same type of mindset as the rest of the Ryu. Shinto Muso Ryu Jodo/Jojutsu has, over it's time, added a number of other systems to it's teachings, such as Kasumi Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu (so the swordsmen attackers are competant), Uchida Ryu Tanjojutsu (created by a Menkyo Kaiden holder in the mid-19th Century, taking advantage of the Western walking sticks that were becoming popular), as well as other arts such as Isshin Ryu Kusarigama, Ikkatsu Ryu Jutte (including Tessenjutsu), and Ittatsu Ryu Hojo. These are obviously just a few examples, but they cover the range of different approaches different Ryu take.... as well as why it can be difficult to generalise about Koryu, similar to trying to generalise about martial arts themselves. In terms of Koryu being suited to self defence, no, they're not at all. They are completely unrelated to self defence when it comes down to it. A good article to read about Koryu attitudes is this one from Dave Lowry (Yagyu Shinkage Ryu): http://shutokukan.org/join_the_ryu.html Personally, I am a member of a Koryu Kenjutsu training group, and am about to join a second, as well as looking into a Koryu Jujutsu school, with my Ninjutsu making the modern Self Defence portion of my training. So that's where I'm coming from in this, so you know." Any other questions, just ask. Or, of course, these could be a fun forum thread as well. And so here we are. I was wondering if anyone else has any experience with koryu or if you have any other interesting tidbits about how martial arts have changed over the centuries or how some may have stayed relatively close to what they were in the beginning.