- Feb 18, 2008
- Reaction score
- Melbourne, Australia
Like I said before you and I would agree on most points. What I disagree with is broad based comments that are incorrect. You see I and others have been in the room when kata for Kukishinden ryu were covered. So if we can agree that there is good sword work within that ryu then we can agree that people within the Bujinkan can have sword skill sets that are fine.
The material held within, say, Kukishinden Ryu Happo Biken Kenpo is great. However, in order to get that out of it, you need to have an understanding of the sword in the first place. There are plenty of clips of people using the material, but getting it completely wrong, because they don't understand the weapon. Having great material does not necessarily equate to having skilled practitioners, sadly. Here's an example:
Then we have the Pittsburgh Bujinkan, as part of their "Living Densho" series showing Kukishinden Ryu Kenpo Kamae:
This lack of understanding of sword is further supported by both your and my observations that the only decent sword people in the Bujinkan are those who have gone and sought sword training outside of the Bujinkan itself. The material might be there, but the people to teach it don't seem to be.
What the Bujinkan can lack quite often is people teaching to quickly with little to no understanding of what they are doing. This is and always has been the organizations main issue.
Yep. Of course, why that is could stand some objective introspection....
An organization that grew unproportionately like no other system in the world. (headed under one man and not a government) The Bujinkan did this and it is still an issue of immense proportion.
No, I really don't buy the "we're the biggest, we grew so quickly, that's why it's out of control" argument. The Bujinkan's lack of quality control is not due to the rate of growth or size, but the opposite argument could hold some merit. Again, some objective introspection is good.
Hand in hand would go the way ranks are handed out and you get many, many people completely inept as teachers.
So the question begs why are they awarded a teaching rank and taken into the fraternity of instructors if they're nowhere near ready for it?
However, with this great growth you also have exponents who traveled or lived in Japan and while attending Hatsumi Sensei classes they also attended and received primary instruction with one or several of the Japanese Shihan. Many of these people have received the proper training and in turn passed it down to their students.
I'm afraid even that argument gets shouted down by some.... There has been the argument put forth that the amount of time in Japan doesn't matter, the rank held in the organisation doesn't matter, the relationship to Hatsumi Sensei doesn't matter, the amount of experience doesn't matter, as no Westerners have ever "got it" (aside from Doron Navon... I'm sure you know who I'm referring to that puts this argument forth)... In fact, the argument is that if you're learning under a Westerner, you might as well not be learning the art, as you need to be learning in Japan from one of a few select individuals... who are the ones who taught the previous Westerners.... who you shouldn't learn from, as they didn't get it... which does put some doubt on the teaching credentials of the Japanese you should be learning from! After all, there are over 3,000 Shidoshi these days, and if none of them ever got it, why would you put any faith in their teachers?
I will say that I think that argument (no Westerners ever got sufficient skill) doesn't hold a lot of merit either, but I will say that I see plenty of issues with even the Japanese Shihan's use of sword, so learning from them, due to their status, wouldn't be enough for me. To learn Budo Taijutsu? Absolutely, go to them. To learn usage of the sword? Sadly, no.
I'll put it this way.... one of the things heard in Koryu sword circles, at least in some training sessions I've been in, is "no lazy Bujinkan sword!" It really does pervade the entire organisation.
The Bujinkan I would say has as many people of quality (actually more in my opinion) than in the Genbukan or Jinenkan or any off shoot. What they unfortunately also have is many, many more who are very, very bad.
Hmm, I don't know that the numbers would actually support you, to be honest Brian. But, more important is the second half of your statement. Simple number of "good" people doesn't actually indicate anything other than that those people would probably have been good no matter where they were. Having it be statistically far fewer (1 in 10, say, for the Jinenkan, 1 in 12 for the Genbukan, 1 in 1,000 for the Bujinkan), but relying on the fact that there are more Bujinkan members to give a higher number of "good" Bujinkan people than Jinenkan or Genbukan is frankly fudging the numbers.
Still in the end I am happy to have been and be a part of this because you actually do have the opportunity to be closer to the person who is the source for all of the Takamatsuden arts.
The most important thing, I feel, is to be happy where you are, so fantastic. However, it might be noted that the only person who claimed that Hatsumi was Takamatsu's only heir was, well, Hatsumi. Takamatsu Sensei had other successors in a range of lines, so saying that Hatsumi is the only source for the Takamatsuden arts isn't really accurate either. It gets magnified when the actual Ryu aren't really taught... Hatsumi may hold the lineage of them, but he really doesn't teach them.
What is important though and I mentioned it earlier in my previous post is that it is very, very hard to expect any system to have all the answers. That is some thing that people in any system need to understand. Older instructors from back in the day did a lot of cross training and that is some thing that should continue today!
Hmm, historically, the concept of cross-training, and it's prevalence in certain periods of history was far from a "standard" thing. Certainly a number did train in a number of arts and systems, but the reason wasn't necessarily even to be better at anything... it was that certain Daimyo would reward their retainers with higher wages, better appointments, swords etc for attaining Menkyo Kaiden in different systems. Then there were some systems that wouldn't let you train in anything else if you were training with them.
I quite often think people get confused when watching Hatsumi Sensei. This includes very experienced martial practitioners as well as people that study within his system.
I think the confusion, to be frank, is something deliberate that he does. It's much easier to be marveled at when people aren't sure what you're doing, or how you're doing it. The problem is that he's put himself in the position of being a "teacher", and if everyone is confused, and doesn't know how he's doing what he's doing, that's not teaching, it's putting on a show.
I have often believed that Hatsumi works in the world of possibilities and the what could happen.
Hmm. I'd agree if I hadn't seen so many, many instances of what he does being completely outside the realms of possibilities and realism. What he does is put on a show, and plays with concepts, whether they have anything to do with reality or possibility or not. Which is fine, provided that is understood. If you want to learn the finer details of controlling distance, balance etc, if you want to experience a truly creative martial artist in free expression, which is an amazing thing to witness, Hatsumi is the man, no doubt. But reality and actual possibilities? I'm afraid not.
This has been proven out in that at this stage if you want a good basis in the system then you need to study with his origional students. (ie. the Japanese Shihan)
Unfortunately, we then get back to the idea that none of the other students of the Shihan have really "got it" (according to some)... Additionally, you really shouldn't need someone like Noguchi Sensei to teach you the Kihon. I can certainly agree that he can provide a wealth of insight and knowledge to your performance of them, but you shouldn't need to go to someone of that level for such basic instruction. Maybe some fine-tuning, but that should be it.
Because he works in the realm of possibilities of what could happen he takes the basic fundamentals from the ryu-ha comprising Budo Taijutsu and applies them in a variety of different ways. He applies his skill sets without worrying about being perfect as in actual combat or any violent situation perfect simply will not happen. He shows this and is not worried about it. Not worried about criticism, not worried about anyones opinion. He teaches within the possibilities of what could happen and some times that is not perfect and yet in other times he shows perfection. (or as close to it is possible)
The biggest problem with this is what he says, though. If it was put forth that way, fine, but Hatsumi Sensei does have a tendency to say things like "this is what you need in a real fight... in a real fight, you need to be aware of these things...", even when what he's just shown is so unlikely to occur he might as well have told you that you need to know every language on earth in case the girl you meet tonight is from Lapland, and only speaks Swahili. He also has a tendency to show things that are so unrealistic as to never occur (an unarmed person punches when you have a sword or two in your belt, Hatsumi shows how to draw your sword in responce and use it to cut/lock up the attacker, then says that "you need to be able to access your sword, and draw it this way"(?). No, as that attack doesn't come up in any of the Ryu, and it's Hatsumi playing with ideas, not possibilities or reality. He just dresses it like he is. And completely agreed that he's not fussed about other people's opinions or criticism... but, honestly, that's another part of the issue in the first place.
When you look at iaido instructors and most Japanese systems there is a striving for constant perfection and rarely will you see an instructor show anything that is not very, very close to a very, very tight performance. This is a difference in approach of teaching. Having experienced both I can appreciate both. I think when learning a system one should work very, very hard towards perfection.
However, later on in ones training one needs to place yourself in positions where the perfect cut, technique, etc. is impossible. Whether through technique training, sparring, etc. When rolling with my students I have to constantly take a technique and slightly change it to the moment in conjunction to where the other practitioners body is. Is the technique perfect? No it would not be textbook per se but it incorporates all the fundamentals and has been maneuvered to get the desired result. To many people simply do not understand this in Hatsumi Sensei's approach!
There's quite a difference between needing to adjust a technique in the moment and going off on creative tangents, though.
Out of interest, does anybody know of pubilcally available clips showing good examples of Kukishinden ryu kenjutsu?
If there is, I haven't seen it! If you're looking for material to aid in your exploration, though, I'd suggest a combination of Manaka Sensei's DVD (which covers them in more "technically correct" fashion), and then bring in Hatsumi Sensei's Ken Tachi Katana DVD. He never actually shows the kata properly, but shows the concepts and ideas in a very close fashion (closer than Hatsumi Sensei tends to in any other DVD, he usually has the senior students show the formal kata first, then he explores concepts from it). In this one, there are a few things that are ill-advised in swordsmanship (to say the least), but you'll get a feel for the system itself. You'll still need someone to show you the formal kata, though.
Last edited by a moderator: