The purpose of the ryu

Discussion in 'Koryu Corner' started by Bruno@MT, Feb 20, 2011.

  1. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    I mentioned this in a TKD discussion to make an analogy, and I think I should post it here again because it is at odds with how most clubs are run.

    The purpose of tuition in a ryu is to continue the ryu. Each generation of students is taught for the purpose of getting someone to the point where they can be granted menkyo kaiden (meaning full and complete transmission) so that there is always at least one person alive who can continue the ryu. If the line fails and there is a period where there is no menkyo kaiden holder left, the ryu is dead. No matter how many other advanced students there are, if the highest teachings are lost, they are lost and noone will be able to continue the ryu.

    With this in mind, you can also see why -to the teachers in the ryu- it doesn't matter what you get out of the training or why you train. Their primary concern is continuing the line. This also means that if students become a liability to that purpose, they are asked to leave, or not accepted in the first place. The idea that you train for a couple of years and then go do something else is at odds with the reason you were taught. After all, you were taught for the purpose of the ryu. Antyhing else is pointless from that pov. If all high level students were to walk away after a while, it would be impossible to continue. Therefore the privilege of receiving tuition comes with responsibilities as well. Being a menkyo kaiden holder is a terrible responsability.

    Dave Lowry has written a most excellent article on this subject, which you can find here:
    http://shutokukan.org/join_the_ryu.html
    I've posted the first couple of paragraphs because they paint an accurate picture of what I mean. Be sure to read the full article if you are interested in this topic.


     
  2. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master Black Belt

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    It's a very good article. I have a lot of trouble making new people understand this idea.
    It also goes a long way toward explaining why the X-kans are not considered koryu. It's all about how they are distributed, not the age of the various ryuha that they are made from.
     
  3. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    Exactly. The kans (at least Genbukan) is somewhere between a koryu and a gendai art like karate in this manner. We do adhere to many of the principles in the article and general koryu distribution, but there are also several differences.

    Even though at higher levels we can learn the individual ryuha, that is imo still different from learning the same art as a dedicated koryu.
     
  4. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    If you have the patience, there is a rather involved thread on that very idea over on MAP (http://www.martialartsplanet.com/forums/showthread.php?t=98991).

    It seems there are a number who think that the date alone makes something Koryu, but even if that was the case, the Kan's aren't as they are modern systems with a basis in some Koryu systems. It's really rather simple to me, but it seems that some were unable to accept that:

    a) They aren't training in a Koryu, and
    b) They have little to no idea of the way Koryu work.
     
  5. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    I already read part of it. Love how people dismiss zanshin and reiho because 'they're not the actual fighting bits' :) Pearls before swines...

    Last week we were preparing for a jujutsu exam (not me but a couple of junior students) and I was teamed up with one of them. We were performing kasumi dori over and over again, with me also performing do gaeshi every other turn.

    We did that for nearly a full hour. Despite appearances, kata can be physically very draining. Especially if you try to remain mentally immersed and focused. After a while, that became difficult, just because of exhaustion (despite being in very good shape). And as my higher brain function started to give in, the reiho acted as a trigger, firing me up once more to put me in 'battle mode'. To my surprise, this really works. Same with maintaining zanshin at all times until you've bowed out.

    Reiho and zanshin are an essential part of kata.
     
  6. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    Zanshin, I am familiar with, but reiho is not a term i recognize. What does it refer to? I haven't the opportunity to fully read those articles in the links provided as yet. I will though and hopefully come back with something more constructive to say.
     
  7. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    reiho is essentially the rituals of courtesy associated with the art, Himura, I have normally heard this in relation to kendo.

    Also called reigi in the sword arts, such as the MJER I practise.

    I think that reiho refers more to the meaning behind the actions rather than the actual actions themselves.
     
  8. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    In jujutsu kata, reiho is the formal etiquette as well as the way you compose yourself and treat the other person.

    In Takagi Yoshin ryu, you start the kata by taking 1 step forward, going down on your right knee and saying 'ote yawarakani yoshi' (the yoshi is more of a yell) at which time you slap your hand on the ground, hard. I don't have the translation at hand at the moment (weak hand strong heart, start. or something like that) but the idea is 'I am going to rip your head off, now!'.

    While it is easy to dismiss the formal bowing, it is used to draw a very clear line between 'casual' time, and 'war' time. Kata has to be performed as if you are going to kill each other, and the reiho helps you make that switch. Same with the hand slap and the 'yoshi'. The second your hand slaps down, it is a signal that you are going to punch the other guys lights out.

    It is hard to explain, but if you practice it enough, you'll really notice the difference this makes. Especially once you get tired. It's a bit like putting on a broken-in leather jacket. Only it is a mindset instead of a garment.
     
  9. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Koryu transmission is not the same as most modern martial arts (as the article linked states), with many modern systems encouraging students to fit the art to themselves, adapt as required, and so on. In Koryu, this is not the way it works. You are expected to adapt yourself to the Ryu. What that means is that you are expected to adopt the thought patterns, movement, mindset, and approach of the Ryu, rather than take the mechanics of a system and use what you like out of it, which seems to be the current trend (especially with MMA and cross-training being so prominent).

    The first part of getting into the mindset of the Ryu is found in the Reiho. It is a ritualistic entrance into the training, designed to put you into the mindset appropriate for the training, specific to the Ryu itself. It marks the line where the way "you" think stops, and the way the Ryu thinks takes over. It creates a serious mind, and encourages you to recognise that everything you do from there on is to do only with killing (particularly in weapon systems). In fact, the 16th Dai Shihan of the Sosuishi Ryu was quoted as saying "From the moment you bow in for kata practice (Reiho) you and your opponent are professional warriors, whose only job is killing the other".

    The concept of Reiho is not just bowing, it includes adopting of a Mushin attitude, and continuing through to Zanshin.

    Agreed on the focus being the meaning, or attitude behind the actions, the actions themselves are the ritual associated. Psychologically, they form an internal trigger to begin the training.

    When it comes to the terms, it really comes down to the individual system itself. Reiho (Rei = bow/etiquette, Ho = methods), Reigi (Rei = bow/etiquette, Gi = skills/techniques) are two of the most common, but Reigi is not exclusively used, or even universally used by sword systems. Some use Reiho, others, such as Tenshinsho Den Katori Shinto Ryu use another term again, Reishiki, which more literally refers to adopting the spirit, or heart of the etiquette, or utilising the etiquette to adopt the correct heart and spirit of the Ryu-ha.

    Another term sometimes associated is Saho, which refers more to correct manners and deportment in life in general, which is also an important thing to most Koryu. If you train very well in class, have a good attitude in there, but then are a thug outside of class, you could very easily be asked to leave on those grounds. Again, not universal, but fairly common.
     
  10. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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  11. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    Thanks for the clairification everyone. Now I have term to use when explaining to people why they should not just mindlessly go through the motions during kata.

    For further clairfication I am taking from these comments that reiho is the purposeful undertaking of a serious warrior mindset for the purpose of training. Is this a correct assessment?

    It seems different but still related to Isshin, and I cans see how it is essentially linked to mushin and zanshin based off the descriptions you all provided.
     
  12. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hmm, none of the terms used so far are ones that you would use to explain that.... really, the reason they shouldn't just mindlessly go through the kata is that then they are telling themselves (on an unconsious level) that it's not important or powerful, so they're just wasting their time. That's what I'd tell them.

    If you're after the terminology for that mindset, Mushin should be applied throughout a kata, with Zanshin afterwards. In terms of instruction, there is the concept of Nyunanshin/Junanshin so consider, which is essentially accepting that the instructor knows what is best for you and is teaching you in a way for a reason, so to follow what they say without undue questioning. There is also the concept within a kata performance of spirit, part of what Roy Ron Sensei was refering to in Kokoro no Kamae, although that is only one expression of it.

    Reiho has the purpose of establishing the mindset correct for the Ryu, but it is literally only the methods of bowing and etiquette associated with that Ryu. It is not really anything more, except for what you make it. I like to think of it as the doorway into the Ryu, once you go through it (perform the bowing and any other aspects associated), you are then "inside" the Ryu itself. But the door isn't the house, and it certainly isn't the room you've gone into.

    Really, you should just tell them to train as if it's the one and only shot they get to get it right, for the very reason that if they don't, they get killed. If that isn't enough, they won't get any more esoteric concepts, I'm afraid. And I'm saying that as an instructor, watching what my guys pick up, and what they don't....
     
  13. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    As Chris said, looking at it from a distance, the reiho are literally nothing more than the bowing and way you compose yourself. It doesn't magically do anything, and performing reiho in itself will not do anything for you.

    What you have to try to strive for is use it as a doorway.
    Every time you perform reiho, try to push all frivolous thoughts from your concious mind. Try to adopt mushin, and maintain zanshin throughout every moment of the kata until you've bowed out.

    By doing that every time, and performing the kata 'for real', your brain will start to associate the required mindset with the reiho. And after a while, performing reiho will allow you to make that switch instantly. In that way it works like a trigger. But the reiho itself is still 'just' reiho.

    In a way, that is similar to the kuji-in mudras. They are really only finger movements and have no intrinsic values other than perhaps increasing finger flexibility. But by training them properly under an experienced teacher, you can start to use them as triggers to help you acquire a specific mindset.
     
  14. ElfTengu

    ElfTengu Blue Belt

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    The problem with koryu, including those aspects of x-kan training that are koryu or similar, is that you never really know with an 800 year old art whether the version preserved today is the 800 year old version, the 700 year old version, the 600 year old version etc etc etc. For those arts that pre-date the Sengoku era there MUST have been changes to kata and training methods as warfare itself changed, as well as different fashions in sword/spear length etc.

    You could even say that we need EACH snapshot to be preserved separately, to show the difference between the 800 year old version and a 400 year old version. In future this will be possible with the advent of film footage in the early 1900s, such as the following recent reconstructed clip:



    It is also difficult for me to believe that people really trained in the painfully slow kata methods that seem to be de rigeur for most koryuha today, according to all the clips on youtube, as they are missing a lot of what would have been needed to keep them alive in real combat, or perhaps they do also have lively 'free' training and it just doesn't get filmed! ;) :p

    It is a shame to have to hold the opinion that the average cage fighter with a couple of years training would destroy most of these koryu jujutsu 'masters' in seconds in a no-holds barred fight, and with a fraction of the techniques and not a single 'kata' in their MMA repertoire, but many of us cannot help it, and no one is EVER going to convince us via the medium of frantic keyboard tapping on a forum.

    Don't get me wrong, I am not anti koryu, or anti kata, or I wouldn't be training in 'traditional arts' at all, but I think that today's martial artist needs to go further than holding the paintbrush perfectly, and occasionally dipping it in paint, and if at all possible, to paint one's name on a fast moving train, in the dark, when not even expecting a train or being consciously aware that he is holding a brush and paint. In short to test oneself by other's standards, rather than one's own, or those of an indoctrinated group of people.

    For the Bujinkan for example, it could have been said not long ago that the rank structure was pretty accurate of the martial ability within the organisation, even if it could not claim a level of quality control when comparing these standards with other arts or street fighting prowess. But now we have people who are cross training, people who can switch to superior methods than taijutsu when the fight goes to the floor, or who can explode into striking methods that will overwhelm anyone who is not used to a training regime that includes defence against quality representations of these methods. And we have shodan who would beat most 10th dans, which should not be possible when there is often less than a decade in age difference.

    Koryu and ancient methods are an essential part of the whole, but anyone who is not interested in the 'whole' should be more honest with themselves and others that they are not rounded martial artists with any greater chance in a real fight than a seasoned untrained ruffian, but are merely (and often highly) skilled in one aspect/facet of martial arts [fighting methods] as a whole.

    It is perfectly fine to study without being interested to learn how to fight for real, but be honest that this is the case, that you are more interested in preserving and mastering movements created by those who have gone before.

    I'm not saying that there aren't 'stars' out there in the koryu world who could wipe the floor with all comers, but they certainly aren't being churned out of those systems with any consistency.
     
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  15. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    I don't have much time atm, but a couple of things

    1) kata is trained slowly at first, to make sure that you get the movements down pat. the pace and intensity get ramped up gradually until they can be done controlled at full speed. starting off at full speed is pointless and you'll just fudge over the rookie mistakes.

    2) any kind of competition is different from the idea behind koryu (esp weapons) training. an MMA fighter does not fight with the expectation to die if they lost. to be fair, we don't either. but in the past, loss could mean death. you'd think that if the kata form was inferior to the MMA approach, they would have chosen that in a time when it could mean the difference between life and death.

    3) any kind of competition has rules that limit what you can do. for example, I once tried groundfighting without rules, but with the understanding that we would concede the point if an attack would have ended the fight. groundfighting is seriously different if the other guy is allowed to bite, poke your eyes, pull your hair (which is not a problem for me personally :D). I would not be dismissing an experienced Genbukan practicioner against an MMA fighter IF rules were not an issue. in an MMA cage however, yes, we'd probably not do that well.
     
  16. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hmm, maybe I can help clear a few things up here.

    First off, the idea of preserving the exact training methods really isn't what is being done in many cases of Koryu. What is preserved is the Ryu, it's philosophy, it's teachings, it's heart, and so on, and that is expressed through the training methods. For example:

    Kashima Shinryu has restructured it's Jujutsu syllabus (at least) within each of the last three generations, moving around where the kata are, removing some, adding others, re-incorporating more still. This is done as a reflection of the current headmasters view of the best way to pass on the lessons of the Ryu itself, as well as the relative time and student body that is being taught.

    Hontai Yoshin Ryu has started to incoporate Iai from the Toyama Ryu in the last 20 years.

    Araki Ryu has a long history of pressure testing it's methods to ensure that they work against resistance, and under the realities of adrenaline, and anything that is not found to be acceptable is either dropped or re-worked to make it workable. Add to that the tradition of each Menkyo Kaiden holder being expected to go their own way and create their own version of the art, change is inevitable.

    Toda-ha Buko Ryu reconstructed their Nagamaki and Kusarigama kata in the current generation.

    For those that have not changed (according to their traditions), the best known is the
    Katori Shinto Ryu. They maintain that they are unchanged, although certain parts of the syllabus have been lost (such as the Kyujutsu and Sui-ren aspects), and the art itself has changed names about half a dozen times.

    In terms of the art necessarily changing, I don't know about that. It depends on what the art was trying to teach. For example, the more common responce to changes in environment seemed to be to found a new Ryu, rather than change an existing one. Add to that the fact that many Ryu (in fact, almost every one I can think of) was removed from battlefield combat, and were more about teaching strategies and tactics to the leaders of various factions, rather than giving physical fighting skills to general soldiers. They're best thought of like training to be an officer, say, a Major or General, rather than the training for a regular infantry soldier.

    When it comes to dating the systems, that's actually not that difficult. What you need to know is the styles of armour that were popular, what forms of weaponry and warfare were prominent at the time, and the surrounding details to the founding of the Ryu itself. To look at something like Gyokko Ryu, for instance, the Shime Waza (Ketsu Myaku, Sakketsu, Teiken) all seem to be much later additions, as do a number of kata within Koto Ryu (such as Hissaku, and Shinsen). Togakure, so you know, seems to come from the mid-1500's in it's movement.

    Love that clip. To my eyes, it's an early form of Judo, making it's way to the West. But unfortunately we don't have footage like that from 1185, so what we need to rely on are the contemporary art works, which show the forms of armour worn, the weaponry being used, and the tactics being utilised, then compare those with the extant systems to measure the claims against the evidence we have. And that can be done now. It just comes down to knowing the history.

    Painfully slow? Really? Mayhap you haven't seen Koryu the way it should be done then....

    Ideally, a kata when done properly is only a fraction away from a real fight. It should be at the same speed, intensity, power, distance, adrenaline, and stress level as a real fight. And, as a result, by experiencing kata in that form you are actually getting closer to a real fight than a "sparring" form, by virtue of the necessity of safety considerations. The only safety consideration that is needed in kata is the fact that the action is pre-determined.... and even that isn't enough. When done properly, you simply don't have time to "remember" the kata, and simply try to survive it by giving over to the repetitive training you should have gone through. The various Katori clips around here are good examples of that.

    In terms of free-form training in Koryu, that's actually not too uncommon actually. But it is rather different from "sparring" in many cases. But, so you know, Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu has a form of free-form training at it's higher levels (known as Aikuchi Roppo), many Jujutsu systems have a "randori" element to the training (closer to Aikido's than anything else), and some systems such as Owari Kan Ryu Sojutsu actually begin their training with Shiai (contest) before kata training begins.

    [yt]UN2g-hD_dSw[/yt] Owari Kan Ryu randori

    The problem there is that you are looking at two completely different situations. I can think of a few things you could do that would leave the MMA guy high and dry, for instance, but if you're talking about a modern sporting competition, of course the MMA guy will have a field day. That's really not what the Koryu are about, and to think they are is to not understand them, and have a rather limited view of martial arts.

    Why? I'm actually serious here, if the aim of Koryu is nothing whatsoever to do with handling violence as it exists today (and, to be sure, it's not), why on earth do they need to measure themselves by anything other than their own standards? You may not be anti-Koryu, my friend, but you're a little shy of understanding what they are about.

    This, to me, is looking at the wrong thing, though. If your aim is to be as dominant a street fighter as possible, then you are better off not training in a traditional, or traditional-based system, as it is so far removed from the requirements as to be completely irrelevant. If your training in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu in order to get good at Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu (for whatever personal reasons you may have), then training in other things are in no way going to improve your Budo Taijutsu. If, on the other hand, you are only concerned with self defence, then Budo Taijutsu isn't the right choice for you.

    Who can beat who is largely irrelevant when it comes to looking at a system, the ranking should be based on the abilities, knowledge, experience, and understanding of the individuals in question in the system they are ranked in, and that's all (and I'm not touching whether or not that is the case in the Bujinkan ranking system....)

    Again, completely beside the point. Really, if modern self defence is the aim, you have no reason to be training in a Koryu.

    Closer, but not quite there either. It's not about just repeating their movements and mastering them, it's about gaining the heart and mind of the Ryu, and the movements and techiniques are the way of getting to that.

    Actually, Koryu tend to have a much higher consistency than other systems, mainly due to the very low numbers of people who actually train in them. Koryu are far more restrictive to who is allowed to join than other, more modern systems, and that allows them to choose those who are the best suited and most likely to preserve the art. That then allows the Ryu to ensure that those being trained get a very personal level of attention, and very serious training. Compare this to regular TKD classes, or MMA classes even, not everyone gets to be at a professional level, whereas Koryu aims to get everyone to that level.
     
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  17. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    Thanks for the further clarification of rieho. So to be clear it is an etiquette thing, and not really related to the connection one should feel with a training partner when performing kata or randori correct?

    Still tho, from my understanding, the etiquette can help get you in a more focused mindset which could have a direct effect on a person's focus when it comes to zanshin,mushin, and isshin could it not?
     
  18. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    Yes, and yes.
    :)
     
  19. Aiki Lee

    Aiki Lee Master of Arts

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    With this talk of mindfulness I figured I'd mention this while we are on the topic:

    I'm writing a rather lengthy paper on the similarities between mindful social work practice and mindful practice of budo. It's still in the conceptual stages at this point but I am looking into martial arts practice as an unconventional form of mindfulness based therapy for clinicians, certain clients, and students in the social work field. When I finish it I think I will post it as a blog or something as it will like be between 18-25 pages long.
     
  20. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    That will be interesting to read, Himura.
     

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