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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    Chuck Liddel would beat me to a pulp. Though not following MMA much these days, my preferred example would be Bas Rutten. At least I could have a beer with him afterward and talk in Dutch :)

    Both Tanemura soke and Bas Rutten would be able to rip me to shreds, regardless of whatever I train or how I train it, unless I dedicated my entire life to MA, just like they did.

    Failing that, I have to evaluate a) why do I train, and b) what is the price I want to pay.
    I don't train for self defense per se. Or rather, I train because I want to learn to fight, but self defense is not an immediate worry for me. I hope this makes sense. If I had a problem and needed to learn to defend myself asap and have a realistic chance of being in fights in the next couple of months, I'd choose boxing or krav maga much sooner than Genbukan ninpo or jujutsu.

    Half a year of dedicated training in the first would give me a good set of skills, and the ability to hit and get hit. Half a year of training in the latter would mean I figured out how to move in ichimonji no kamae, and do basic rolls and ukemi. Possibly even tai sabaki if I trained hard enough. While those skills are valuable in the long run, they won't be of any practical use in the short term. Marketing those arts as self defense is not accurate imo.

    Then there is also the realism / aliveness in training. This is a problem in many TMA, and not limited to specific arts themselves, but more to specific dojo / teachers. Aikido is a good example. I've seen many aikido dojo where I would refuse to train, because they don't teach proper distancing or intent. I've seen a public aikido demo that was an example of everything that is wrong in MA. It made me nauseous. Otoh, I have also seen great aikido, that was taught with intent and with proper distancing and angling. A former colleague of mine was a local kickboxing champion / jujutsuka, and at a seminar he was making fun of an aikido sensei 'in a skirt'. Long story short: the sensei invited him for randori, and faceplanted the other guy several times, even though he was really trying to kick / strike the sensei in order to save face in front of his friends.

    This is where sparring oriented arts really have the advantage on the traditional non sparring arts. The contact level automatically weeds out the ones who are only the in it for the feel-good factor. Additionally, clubs can be judged on their tournament results if applicable)Ninjutsu and aikido to name but a few really don't have that luxury.

    Many of the arts that do not include sparring have devolved into places where you can learn techniques, without learning how to actually apply them properly, and without any preparation for an actual confrontation or a resiting opponent. There is little to no way for a newbie to figure out if this is the case. For those arts, you really depend on the teacher. If you have a teacher which does not pressure you, does not prepare you, does not allow contact or resistance (when appropriate), ... then you are really learning glorified dancing. And sadly, this happens a lot.

    Done right, traditional training includes attacks that have intention behind them, aliveness, randori (like I descibed earlier, not unlimited free round-based sparring), adrenalin training, pressure testing as well as the slow and methodical kata training... In that case the TMA approach is imo a good one.

    Sparring based arts suffer their own problem though. That type of training teaches people to focus on their opponent to the exclusion of everything else, and ingrains that the goal is in destroying he opponent through arm bars, KO, or whatever. In self defense scenarios, those atributes can get you killed. Ignoring everyone else means the other guy's buddy can stab you in the back. Going to the ground means people can leisurely kick the crap out of you, and prolonged engagement with the desire to 'win' can mean wasting a lot of valuable time during which you are vulnerable and the other guy's friends have the opportunity to get involved.

    And those issues are where our type of training is more beneficial. Someone attacks, we deal with the attack, create space and get out while at all times trying to be aware of where people are and whether they will come back to the fight. Competition fighters have the physcial skills needed for self defense. But unless the self defense angle is actively trained, their art does not make them skilled at SD despite having all the physical skills required.

    Ultimately, I think that there is no silver bullet. Dogma has never benefited anyone.

    It all depends on how -you- train, and whether you keep an open mind to be a least aware of your own weak points, as well as putting things into their intended context. An MMA fighter who has never been trained to consider the self defense aspects of what he is doing, is no more suited to self defense than I am suited to -for example- step into an MMA ring.
     
  2. Himura Kenshin

    Himura Kenshin Master Black Belt

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    I forgot for a moment that this had been about koryu. I did overgeneralize. I stated it the way I did because ElfTengu seemed to want to understand how kata ractice is associated with actual fighting.
    I suppose what I said is likely more in line with gendai budo where even if a kata by itself does not have much to do with fighting it should teach you something that could be useful in fighting such as proper posture, timing, distance and angling, or what have you.
     
  3. ElfTengu

    ElfTengu Blue Belt

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    Not at all grumpy Chris, I am beginning to have a greater appreciation of what koryu 'might' be all about, and as long as no koryu practitioners keep popping up claiming to have a more effective method of training for real fights than other types of martial art then I will say no more on the matter.

    I appreciate that the X-kans are not koryu, but have never quite understood why some of the ryuha within each system are not koryuha, is it simply because they are not accepted on certain 'lists' (Daijiten something or other?) or because the Takamatsu-ha/Hatsumi-ha lineages are not accepted, even if the arts themselves are?

    I agree that the Jinenkan and Genbukan/KJJR are closer to koryu than the Bujinkan in their approach, and I know that the GBK/KJJR does have koryu arts such as Yagyu Shingan Ryu. What pzzles me though, is that the GBK/KJJR practice Yagyu Shingan Ryu in what appears to be the same way as non Tanemura-ha branches of the same art/school, so are they not koryu in part? And then I am confused further because the GBK/KJJR practice a lot of the arts also common to Bujinkan e.g. Takagi Yoshin Ryu, in the same way they practice Yagyu Shingan Ryu, i.e. the full bow, the approach (I do aplogise about the moonwalking comment, even at the time I knew it was wrong and inflammatory) and for all intents and purposes looks like any koryu embu clip I have seen. But I appreciate I am not necessarily equipped to judge and that some geese quack like ducks. :)
     
  4. ElfTengu

    ElfTengu Blue Belt

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    Bas Rutten's foreword in 'Complete Krav Maga' is a perfect example of having respect for other aspects of martial arts (and Krav Maga is a martial art whether it wants to be or not, or it wouldn't be all over the martial arts magazines, it would be in Combat and Survivalist magazines instead).

    Bas appreciates that outside the ring there is a lot more to consider, but I can't help thinking that Bas Rutten would be in a better position to take on those additional concepts with his strong MMA background, than someone who has done nothing but kata for 20 years with no fitness/strength/conditioning training climbing into the cage to add that string to their bow. But again this is generalising, and again, is off topic for this thread.
     
  5. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Senior Master

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    The only thing that Koryu claim is that they have the best method for transmitting their particular Ryu-ha. That may or may not contain aspects of learning to fight/applicable combative methods, then again the same can be said for modern systems as well. TKD has the best method of training for TKD competition, for example. After all, training methodology is as much a part of the personality and individuality of each martial art as the techniques are.

    Ah, now this is where it gets fun.

    The X-Kan are modern organisations, each teaching their own interpretation of various arts, which in the case of the Bujinkan resulted in basically a new martial art known as Budo Taijutsu, and in the Genbukan became a standardised system refered to as Genbukan Ninpo Taijutsu. The arts that go into making up these systems are a mixture of established and unquestioned Koryu traditions and other arts that make that claim, but have some verification issues about them. However, although these individual systems are Koryu, that does not make the organisations themselves Koryu.

    They are not taught as Koryu (although the Genbukan comes closest with the option/opportunity to train and rank in individual Ryu-ha after a certain point). It has nothing to do with Takamatsu-ha or Hatsumi-ha forms not being recognised, as they are in many places (Takagi Yoshin, Kukishinden for example, are pretty much universally acknowledged as legit Koryu traditions). As for needing to be part of certain groups, or on particular lists, no, that's really up to the individual heads of the Ryu to decide upon. Hatsumi has disallowed Koryu groups to view his scrolls for the necessary verification, which was his right and prerogative, although it has lead to a fair amount of questioning. For the record, though, the previous head teacher of the Kashima Shinryu also didn't want to be a part of the Koryu groups, so they are not part of it either (and they are completely recognised as Koryu, so that is far from a requirement.... there's even a Karate system that has been recognised as Koryu, Goju Ryu, albeit with some controversy....).

    Yep, that's the Yagyu Shingan Ryu Heijutsu line, the other line (the Edo branch) is a little different in a few aspects, refering to themselves as Yagyu Shingan Ryu Taijutsu. Practicing them in a similar form is not the same as a Koryu transmission, though, although to really get into that, it may require training in a Koryu to understand the difference as it manifests (it's really more in the feeling of the immersion, rather than a technical difference). And it really can't be overstated that an Embu is not training.
     
  6. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    In Genbukan we are indeed able to learn specific ryuha.
    first of all, elements of specific ryuha are identifiable in the Genbukan and KJJR curriculum. What we learn comes directly from the ryuha in many cases. Then there are the 1st dan requirements, which are specific kata from specific ryuha. IIRC 3 times 6 kata (from 3 named ryuha) with their ura and omote variants.

    After BB, we're allowed to receive licensing in specific ryuha as well. So I can work my way from Shoden, to Kaiden and receive the transmission. There are various requirements for being allowed, and this is beyond the scope of this discussion.

    I think it is fair to say that schooling in the general GBK and KJJR curriculum is not the same as learning a koryu art. Even though the training methods are fairly similar to koryu, the reality is just that as a whole, it is just different from the way that things go when you actually join a koryu. Koryu transmission teaches specific concepts. The general curriculum does not do that. We learn the techniques, and our concepts are a mash of the concepts, the way Soke wants us to learn them, which is his own interpretation. And of course, we do not have the cultural content of a koryu.

    Even when we receive licensing in a ryuha, we can argue about whether that consists koryu transmission or not. By the time we'll get to menkyo kaiden (which in my case will be ... probably never) we'll have received a full transmission of the system, including kuden. So from that pov the transmission is legit.

    However, for the people not living in Japan, most of the transmission of the ryuha is done in (BB) seminars on taikai where also the testing is done, via dvd (for preparing for the taikai) and is built on top of the basics which were learned as part of the general curriculum. So while the content of the ryuha was transmitted whole, it was done in a manner that is not the way things are done in other koryu systems. This is of course a matter of opinion. I could see arguments either way. In the end, the most important thing is that the lines continue and that the system survives.
     
  7. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Black Belt

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    'Zactly. :)

    What I was getting from ElfTengu's earlier posts was why don't the Koryu "get with it" and train to prepare for real, MODERN fights or somesuch. Fair question.

    In my opinion, that way lies death for Koryu. "Getting with it" is exactly why the martial traditions of Renaissance Europe died out. There are no longsword masters alive today, no Ringen masters, not even any rapier masters. Koryu are already dying out in places, because the Japanese aren't learning from the history of European martial arts. There's no need to find more nails and coffins. The idea is to preserve the ryu. Nothing else matters. When you make modernity your goal, then you lose the longsword and get stuck with foil, sabre and epee. I'd rather have all of it.

    Best regards,

    -Mark
     
  8. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    +100000

    That is the big irony of JMA. Tanemura sensei mentions in the foreword of the jujutsu handbook that part of the reason for opening up the traditional jujutsu (and ninjutsu related ryuha) for the west was that fewer and fewer Japanese people were interested in those teachings. And this seems to be true. If you look at the master level instructors page of Genbukan, you'll see that all but a couple of older Japanese Shihan are westerners. There is not a single Japanese master level instructor listed (other than those few older shihan who have been with Soke since the beginning).

    I think that westerners value the Japanese arts more because we know what we lost and there is no way to get it back, whereas the Japanese don't yet realize this, or perhaps they don't care, or even think it is appropriate. Fujita Seiko thought that ninjutsu should die (or at least stay secret) instead of being opened to the world.
     
  9. ElfTengu

    ElfTengu Blue Belt

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    Like Tsunetomo's ideal samurai I rush in shooting without considering the consequences. I've been doing it for a decade or more and still haven't learned my lesson!

    If I had known/considered that koryuha make no claims of combat effectiveness, I would probably not have caused such a kerfuffle.

    I know what it is though, it is my inner demons insisting that anything 'martial', especially a martial art, must at the very least be a live effective fighting method, and maintain that effectiveness through the centuries and into the future, and that principles never change that much because humans can only batter other humans in a finite number of ways. So no need to change kata, just different ways of applying the principles contained within the kata, but then this is what my approach is with my Bujinkan studies. Of course there could be new kata, with Tori holding a CO2 fire extinguisher in one hand and an Ingam M11 in the other, but these would be new kata and not affect the old. But I see now that this is not the way of koryuha. I just am not convinced that the koryuha came into existence merely to exist and then prepertuate that existence, I believe they came into being to consolidate practical combat methods contemporary to the time of their formation, with a very real focus on effectiveness when life and death encounters were far more likely (with sword fights). So my confusion comes from the idea that if something was created for a specific practical reason, but continued verbatim for centuries without the original raison-d'etre, how can it really be the same thing, and how can it really be being preserved in its original state?

    Don't try this line of logic on Swordforum.com

    They get very worked up. I made the mistake of asking how they can claim to be have rediscovered European martial traditions solely from illustrations in books without the skills being passed down physically from master to student in unbroken lineages. But they claim that their reconstructed skills are every bit as legitimate as any Oriental art with unbroken lineages.


    You can't force people to care. Those koryu practitioners who it emerges are no more than assimilated Borg in the eyes of their respective collective, would not be training at all if they didn't have some kind of calling or enjoy it immensely.

    The ironic thing is that the exotic factor always plays a part too. I'm sure that some of those young Japanese people who don't care for their own nation's koryuha are dressing up in European, Fantasy and Sci fi costumes and waving big foam swords around, but perhaps it has more to do with the freedom of expression in occidental waggling that appeals more than being under the auspices of a fierce old guy moulding them into something not of their own choosing.
     
  10. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Black Belt

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    Well yes and no. The manuals are much, much more than pictures. Many are technical treatises that go into great detail. I do both koryu and reconstructed European martial arts. The recon effort itself is legitimate. Not all schools and practicioners are, but you can say that about any MA. The manuals are in effect the koryu of the west. If you've got a solid MA background, then yes you can arrive at something legitimate. But that's not what we're discussing now. :)

    Best regards,

    -Mark
     
  11. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    Well to be fair, koryu ARE combat effective. Very much so. But just within the parameters for which they were created. For example, as far as sword styles go, HNIR seems to be very effective within the context for which Musashi created it (it was born out of his duelling experiences)

    I've heard it contains little to no real iai practice. So if drawing the sword and making the first cut are important for what you do (for example as a feudal bodyguard) then there are better things to learn. Otoh, if your personal concept of combat consists of open fighting of known opponents (meaning you already have your weapon out) then it is probably the bees knees.

    You could argue that things could be added by the current Soke to make it more effective for other approaches, but that is not the point of koryu. You are right that they didn't just spring into existence without a reason, just for the point of continuing the ryuha. They are about preserving the ryuha, within the parameters and concepts for which it was developed and for which it IS effective.

    True.

    1 word: Baseball.
     
  12. RRepster

    RRepster Yellow Belt

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    fascinating discussion; learned a lot. Thanks for it everyone!

    edit/add: regarding self-defense and koryu. I have no doubt that a koryu practioner could defend themselves in many situations due to their body mechanics practice - a bar brawl involving an attack with a pool cue comes to mind :)

    Rob
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2011
  13. ludde

    ludde White Belt

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    Also, it is very important to remember that the koryu's mission is not to create a fight champ as fast as possible. But to create a fight champ inside the said ryu-ha's principle. This means that things will take a long time. Several stages is need to ensure that he is formed by the schools flavor. This again shows that priority 1 is the continuation of correct teaching in said ryu. True, what is a practitioner worth if he completely lacks fighting skills, but more important is, what use have koryu schools of a bunch of fighters without a slightest care towards the teachings of a ryu. This is also why there will always be few koryu practitioners.
     
  14. Stealthy

    Stealthy Blue Belt

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    I am very interested in the complex nature in which exact method kata are required to be interconnected in order to maintain their usefulness, would you kindly share the examples of Ryu that use them?

    If I am understanding this correctly does it mean Hatsumi has essentially been granted the reins of several Koryu and then dis-honoured every last one ultimately relegating them to the history books while not only choosing his own personal wishes over the survival of the Ryu in his care but also selfishly witholding documentation which may assist those who do wish to preserve them?

    Can this even be possible? With everything that has been said about the strict practices of Koryu traditions how can such a tragic mistake have been made?
     
  15. jks9199

    jks9199 Cause of War & Destroyer of Civilization Staff Member

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    He's not teaching koryu martial arts. It's that simple. He has (kind of understandably) chosen not to submit the scrolls entrusted to him to the process of verification. His call; they're HIS trust. He was entrusted with a set of traditions and arts, and the responsibility to either pass them on or to make the call that they should not be passed on further. The method he has chosen (at the moment) is through the Bujinkan. It's not a mistake. It's his decision. Many documented ninjutsu systems were consciously ended (most notably the Koga-ryu school of Fujita Seiko) or simply not passed on. (It's even theoretically possible, if quite unlikely, that there are some that have been secretly or quietly maintained within families and not taught outside those family lines... not to give credibility to the numerous secret master stories!)

    There's no obligation or duty for anyone to submit their training to verification as koryu or not. The effect on their "legitimacy" is limited.
     
  16. Stealthy

    Stealthy Blue Belt

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    I know he is not, that is a precursor for my question. My question is how can someone entrusted with the preservation of multiple legitimate Koryu terminate them? If Koryu have such stringent protocols for transmission, what went so drastically wrong that licenses and scrolls have been left with a man more interested in his own little invention than the preservation of the Koryu in his care.

    Perhaps I am wrong and have mis-interpreted the quote above as I have taken it to mean some of the Ryu Hatsumi no longer teaches were/are in fact Koryu.

    edit: as for the Fugita Seiko story about deliberately relegating his art to the history books, well never a greater piece of codswallop have I heard, I mean really? I would be more inclined to believe the yakusa whacked him for intending to pass it on and at least that would translate better to the silver screen.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2011
  17. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Senior Master

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    Oh boy, lot's to address here....

    Not sure you quite get what I meant there.... what I am refering to is that there are scant kata within the various Ryu that I am familiar with where the exact actions and movements from a real encounter have been preserved in a kata form... mainly because that can be a limited usage of kata transmission, as a more "designed" kata can include far more information and many more lessons. But, for the record, much of Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu is said to have come from Musashi's duelling experience (particularly the first set, or the Itto Seiho, with the later sections being far more strategic examples), or the initial kata of some lines of Araki Ryu, where you offer a guest some tea, then attack them. The story goes that the founder of the Araki Ryu used that method to kill a friend of his after being ordered to by his Daimyo (interestingly, a number of other Ryu-ha have this kata, or at least a variation of it, but without the annecdote alongside).

    Whether or not a Koryu survives has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with it being recognised by anyone, or being part of any type of club, so there's no basis for your concern there. The former head of the Kashima Shinryu, Kunii Zen'ya, also refused to be a part of a Koryu organisation, and they're very well respected as well (and, like the Bujinkan arts, almost unknown, except to a few practitioners, until the mid 20th Century).

    You have misunderstood, Hatsumi has dishonoured nothing, relegated nothing to the history books, has simply done what he feels is best for their continued survival, by putting them together in a form that many around the world now practice. The preservation of a Ryu is entirely in the hands of the membership of that Ryu, not in the hands of a Koryu commitee or organisation. They have no authority, no way to pass on anything in their group, it really is just a collection of the heads and membership of a number of Ryu (not all of them) who come together for mutual benefit in things like public demonstrations etc. But being a member in no way means that your art will make it to the next generation if there are no students, and not being a member doesn't condemn it to anything.

     
  18. Stealthy

    Stealthy Blue Belt

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    Fantastic, thanks for that. I figured I was wrong but it was worth asking anyway.
     

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