The purpose of the ryu

pgsmith

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I agree, that should be an interesting read.



elftengu said:
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.
Interesting theory. Exactly how many 'real' fights have you been in to test this theory of yours? I'm not talking about competition with rules, or randori in the dojo with rules, we're talking 'real' fights where the other guy is trying to kill you and you're trying to prevent that from happening. Any at all? Don't feel bad about it, the vast majority of martial artists haven't ever been in a 'real' fight either, nor will they be. There are as many reasons for doing martial arts as there are people doing them, koryu included. If you like to believe that you are learning how to have a chance in a 'real' fight, then that's as good a reason as any other. However, it's important that we each be honest with ourselves and understand that the only way to determine if the training you are receiving is valid in a 'real' fight, is to engage in them. Of course, this means that you'll either die, or be locked away for assault or murder, but that's just the way of today's society. Luckily, in today's society, the odds of any of us being required to actually test our training are exceedingly small.

To be pushing forth your theories without having actually tested said theories indicates either ignorance or inexperience, in my opinion.
 

Langenschwert

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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

Properly done, paired kata can be plenty scary. Now, remember that sparring and "real fight" are not the same. Sparring won't necessarily prepare you for a real fight by iteself. One thing to take into account is the expectation of limited harm you have during sparring. You KNOW your partner is actively trying to preserve you life, rather than end it. You react differently when facing someone who actually WANTS to kill you. Real violent encounters with lethal intent are often a lot closer to well-done kata than sparring. When someone intends to cut someone down or shank them, they tend to do it with full commitment, rather than the calculated feints of seasoned duellist. Personally, I like sparring and I find it useful for training reflexes and spontaneous decision making. However, when I do sparring in my German longsword class, it's not like a REAL encoutner with sharps at all. It can't be. People would die if we went "full out" with realistic steel weapons and no rules. One good mortschlag to even a good helm can kill. Not a good price to play for a sparring match.

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.

What's your point? Someone with a firearm and 10 minutes' training can kill either one of them. No kata or conditioning involved either. When weapons come out, things change. A knife can turn a punch into an instant kill. You can't afford to eat a cross to get a takedown when that rear hand is holding a knife. :) Does that make good MMA training a waste of time? No, it's about context. Koryu were developed within a certain context, and the goal is to keep that creation going, genreally with as little change as possible.

To wit, a fun article:

http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=1783

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.

That's the whole point of koryu. You join a ryu to preserve the ryu. That's it. It's not about you (or me) at all. If that makes you a monstrous fighter, great. If it makes you something else, that's great too. In a REAL fight, you could get shanked in the dark by ambush, outnumbered three to one. Very few MA deal with that scenario. And so what? That's what RBSD is for. Simply put, the koryu don't care what any of us think. What matters really is to become a living manual of the Art. My batto won't help me in a street brawl, but I do it anyway. Should I find myself having to defend myself with a baseball bat, my German longsword training will come in handy. But the chances of anyone ever, actually trying to kill you in this present society are practically nil. You can train with the most vicious "reality based" MA, with the best training regimen known to humanity, but in the end it's likely to be as much as an art form or sport for you since you know what? You'll likely never, ever use it. :)

Best regards,

-Mark
 

ElfTengu

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Chris's response was very helpful, if a little condescending at times. The rest of you did exactly what I said you would not be able to do and that is convince me to change my opinions based on keyboard tapping on a forum.

Recent changes to ryuha just scares me, because these are changes being made in an age where people just don't fight to the death any more in Japan with swords, but I'm sure they must know what they are doing, and hope that what they are actually trying to do is to 'get back' to the methods that worked long ago, rather than re-invent the guruma.

I entirely disagree that ANY kata is more like a real fight than sparring, although I have always been aware of the limitations of sparring in an art such as ours.

I am not 'only' concerned with 'modern' self defence (whatever modern is), but I am 'primarily' concerned with self defence (and defence of others when running is not an option), because if it doesn't WORK then you have no business practicing it, whether it is something from 600 years ago or last Tuesday.

A massive bloke sitting astride you trying to punch your head into the ground is pretty much closer to how a real fight will play out, than some dude in hakama moonwalking towards you with a big wobbly stick, roaring, thrusting and freezing.

Perhaps there are clips out there that are more to my taste, but I always seem to come across this kind of thing, and I am talking about many many different ryuha:


and this is one of the better examples.

At the end of the day, our predecessors did not practice any of these arts as some kind of fantasy-borne, academic, larping hobby. They would have been largely concerned with staying alive and geared their training towards that end.

And as for kata being plenty scary. More scary than having no idea what the other guy is going to do next, but fully aware that he has knocked out his last ten opponents?

Kata is about having paper when you know rock is coming, scissors when you know paper is coming, and rock when you know scissors are coming.

A real fight is about making sure you provide the correct response when you don't know whether they are going to show rock, paper or scissors, to feint rock and then switch to scissors, or show scissors and then get their buddy to throw a rock at you from behind, and if you get it wrong, you get hurt or killed.

It doesn't matter how good your paper [kata] is, if you use it against scissors. It might be the best paper ever, but if use inappropriately, or not tested properly, it will just be pretty paper for lay philosophers to coo over.
 
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Chris Parker

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Chris's response was very helpful, if a little condescending at times. The rest of you did exactly what I said you would not be able to do and that is convince me to change my opinions based on keyboard tapping on a forum.

Sorry about that, it really wasn't my intention to speak down to you, more to highlight some of the differences between what people training in a modern system (including one like the Bujinkan) think of when it comes to Koryu, and what they actually are. Despite it's origins, the Bujinkan is rather removed from being Koryu. In fact, as soon as you have people looking at the art and training for "self defence" in a modern setting, you have moved away from Koryu.

Recent changes to ryuha just scares me, because these are changes being made in an age where people just don't fight to the death any more in Japan with swords, but I'm sure they must know what they are doing, and hope that what they are actually trying to do is to 'get back' to the methods that worked long ago, rather than re-invent the guruma.[/;quote]

I get where you're coming from here, and agree. This is why the choice of Soke is so important, as it's their job to ensure the continuation of the Ryu itself, not to alter it for no reason. So if any changes are made, they aren't made lightly.

To show what I mean by that, I mentioned a few examples of changes in Koryu earlier; here, I'm going to give a little more detail, to explain how those changes came about.

Hontai Yoshin Ryu, a sister school (different branch) of our Takagi Yoshin Ryu, has begun integrating Toyama Ryu Iai into their syllabus, as mentioned. The reason for this was actually to aid in the preservation of the existing curriculum. The previous Soke, Innoue Munetoshi Soke, with a few of his senior students, noted that with a lack of sword skills in the students (due to them not being samurai, or training in other, weapon-related arts) the performance of their Muto Dori kata was lacking in a number of ways. With the sword attacks not being skillful, the Jujutsuka's responces were losing their skills as well. The evasions weren't clean, the weapon control wasn't tight, and so on.

Innoue Soke had trained in a range of weapon arts himself, including Iai (Seitei, I believe, as well as Toyama Ryu), and one of the senior Shihan was also training in Toyama Ryu at the time. Using the Toyama Ryu kata they put together a syllabus for the Hontai Yoshin Ryu students to improve their sword-handling skills, with the practical upshot being that the students gained a far greater appreciation for why the Muto Dori techniques are performed the way they are, and their skill improved while preserving that important section of the HYR curriculum. It may be noted, though, that the Hontai Yoshin Ryu do not consider the Toyama Ryu material part of the Koryu transmission of it's teachings, although they do approach, teach and train them (as well as test them for rank and licence) in the same manner.

The Toda-ha Buko Ryu, over it's history, had lost a number of sections of it's curriculum leading up to the current generation, such as it's Kusarigama Jutsu, and Nagamaki Jutsu. They did, however, retain very detailed notes on exactly what the "lost" kata contained.

After attaining the rank of Shihan in the Ryu, Ellis Amdur requested permission from Niita Soke to try to reconstruct these lost sections. She agreed, and Ellis set to work with some of his students figuring out the kata, and when ready, presented them in front of the Soke. Ellis' efforts had been substantial, working out the mechanics, ensuring that the techniques "worked" for real, and so on, however when Niita Soke saw the kata being demonstrated, she was not happy with them (in a very Japanese way of thanking Ellis for his effort...). The problem was that Ellis had looked too much at how he would personally express the kata, and that lead to a large amount of his Araki Ryu methods coming through in the "feel" of the demo.

Ellis, a little dismayed at that, went away and redid the kata, ensuring that the kata remained completely true to Toda-ha Buko Ryu this time. Mechanically, the kata didn't really change, but when the Soke saw the second demonstration, she was immensely pleased with them, and declared that at the next Embu they would be demonstrated and performed by the senior Shihan of the Ryu (interesting note: Toda-ha Buko Ryu only has Western Shihan, no Japanese ones).

In both cases, the interests of the Ryu, and it's preservation, are the impetus for any change. Anything else just doesn't suit the title of Koryu.

I entirely disagree that ANY kata is more like a real fight than sparring, although I have always been aware of the limitations of sparring in an art such as ours.

For me, a kata is an attempt to replicate a real fight/encounter, all the way to the adrenaline that is generated, and moving through that. It is also concerned with instilling the ways of moving that are part of the system itself, whereas sparring is more about exploring your own personal way of moving. The lessons of kata come from real encounters, the lessons of sparring come from the experience of sparring, which is removed from a real encounter in a number of ways.

I am not 'only' concerned with 'modern' self defence (whatever modern is), but I am 'primarily' concerned with self defence (and defence of others when running is not an option), because if it doesn't WORK then you have no business practicing it, whether it is something from 600 years ago or last Tuesday.

And that type of approach is great. But what it leads you towards is more of a personal exploration of your own movement in different situations, which is taking you away from Koryu-style training where you are attempting to embrace and inhabit the methodology and thought patterns of the Ryu itself. As for what I meant by "modern self defence", that simply refers to self defence in the modern, Western world. That implies a different form of attack than that found in older times and other countries, different weapons that may be encountered, different environments that may prove dangerous, and vastly different senses of legality and the repercussions.

If you are primarily concerned with self defence, then the Koryu aren't for you. Which is fine, they really aren't for many people. I may point out that the topic of the thread is "The purpose of the Ryu", not "the reasons for training in the Ryu". That's a big part of the equation, really.

A massive bloke sitting astride you trying to punch your head into the ground is pretty much closer to how a real fight will play out, than some dude in hakama moonwalking towards you with a big wobbly stick, roaring, thrusting and freezing.

In a modern context, yeah. But there may be some misunderstanding of the "moonwalking" there. In my experience, the walking towards an opponent is cautious, mainly due to the fact that both are there to kill/injure each other, so caution may be wise. The Uke/Uchidachi is looking for their right opening to launch their attack, and the walk in reflects that. It's little different to two sportsmen (boxers, MMA competitors, and so on) "feeling each other out" at the beginning of the first round. It's an expression of the awareness on both sides.

For the last few weeks I've been trying to get my students to understand the role of the attacker in our training. We're going through Koto Ryu, and we've been getting to the end of the Shoden no Gata, where the majority of the attacks are double stepping lunge punches. But of course, no-one pays attention to that side of things, as it's not "their turn". So I've been trying to stimulate their understanding of what is going on there, by highlighting the approach that Uke is taking, their strategy, tactics, and techniques. The strategy is simply to injure Tori. The tactic is to not stop until that has happened, basically a continuous barrage assault. The technique is then a stepping Fudo Ken to the head. As a result, if Tori doesn't do what they need to do at the right time, with the right timing etc, Uke will just keep coming with more and more punches until one lands, or they are stopped.

When watching a demonstration like the ones you can find on You-Tube, it often helps to think of what Uke is really trying to achieve in the kata, as that can help explain certain aspects, like the slower walk in found in some systems and demos.

Perhaps there are clips out there that are more to my taste, but I always seem to come across this kind of thing, and I am talking about many many different ryuha:


and this is one of the better examples.

Ah, Yagyu Shingan Ryu, nice find.

One other point about Embu, they really aren't all the same, and not all of them really showcase what the Ryu is like as a training entity all that accurately. Some Embu are smaller, local affairs, with the junior students sent out to get their feet wet, so what you see there won't be necessarily anywhere near as polished as you may like (incidentally, a few weeks ago, there was a demonstration out here of Nittai Dai Sports University, a University in Tokyo know for it's martial arts and cultural arts programs, and they put on a demonstration of a number of disparate arts, including Judo, Kendo, Shotokan Karate-do, Shorinji Kenpo, Sumo, Kyudo, Naginatado, and Aikido, as well as traditional drumming [Taiko] and dance. A number of the demo's were incredibly well done, such as the Karate, Sumo, Shorinji Kenpo and Judo ones. Others were very interesting to me, but fell a little flat with the crowd, such as Kyudo, and a couple were rather lacking, frankly. They were the kata demonstration of Naginatado and the Aikido demo. And that was no fault of the performers, it was just that the Judo demonstrators appeared to have very thorough grounding in Judo before going to the University, and the girls who demo'd Aikido and Naginata kata seemed to have only a year or so training behind them, and were very new to the respective arts). Other Embu will have the senior members involved, but they may all be in their 80's or nearabouts, which can severely limit how intense a demonstration can be, or what can be shown.

Add to that the fact that the Embu are supposed to showcase the kata in a pure form in most cases, and the variances that may be present in a training session may not be there in the Embu performance.... then again, it may be! It really depends on the Ryu-ha itself.

At the end of the day, our predecessors did not practice any of these arts as some kind of fantasy-borne, academic, larping hobby. They would have been largely concerned with staying alive and geared their training towards that end.

Fantasy-borne and larping, absolutely not. Academic, though? Possibly, to be frank. Remember that the training forms of Koryu are not necessarily designed with combative effectiveness in mind, if something more important can be transmitted through the kata, which is most often the case. After all, we all realise that a true combative encounter won't possibly happen the way a kata is presented (in fact, I can only think of a handful of examples of Ryu that teach exact methods that have a basis in tried and tested violence), so the thing is to look at what the training is supposed to actually teach, and from there, gain an understanding of who was supposed to benefit, how, and why. Staying alive is certainly a big part of it, but that doesn't necessarily translate to personal survival in all cases.

And as for kata being plenty scary. More scary than having no idea what the other guy is going to do next, but fully aware that he has knocked out his last ten opponents?

In a number of cases, yes. When training in a Koryu Kenjutsu system, for example, ideally the feel should get to the point where you feel enough pressure that you forget the kata itself... and then have a heavy lump of oak (or hickory, Ken....) aggressively and powerfully swung down at your head at speed! If you don't move, pain and stiches ensue. I can think of a number of kata in a number of systems where if both members aren't completely concentrated, broken bones happen pretty much instantly. And if that lump of oak is aiming at your head, and hits.....

Kata is about having paper when you know rock is coming, scissors when you know paper is coming, and rock when you know scissors are coming.

Not quite, I'd say. It's more that kata training is about how to handle when the opponent has a rock, or scissors, or even paper. It's about recognising those forms of attack, and responding in a tested and established (proven) way.

A real fight is about making sure you provide the correct response when you don't know whether they are going to show rock, paper or scissors, to feint rock and then switch to scissors, or show scissors and then get their buddy to throw a rock at you from behind, and if you get it wrong, you get hurt or killed.

But the question there becomes how do you know what responces are best against such attacks? Kata should teach you to recognise those attacking methods of the opponent, as well as provide the options and actions to respond properly and powerfully. And remember that kata training doesn't have to be nominated all the time.... when you have a range of kata against the same, or similar attacks, or even a variety of attacks, part of the training can allow for Uke to come in with any of those methods, and Tori needs to respond properly without knowing which form the attack will come in with. It's really not about deciding what you're going to do before it happens. That's a big part of the Mushin concept there, no pre-determination or judgement.

It doesn't matter how good your paper [kata] is, if you use it against scissors. It might be the best paper ever, but if use inappropriately, or not tested properly, it will just be pretty paper for lay philosophers to coo over.

And the answer to that may well be that if you use your "paper" responce kata against a "scissors" attack method, you didn't understand the kata properly in the first place.
 
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ElfTengu

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Sorry about that, it really wasn't my intention to speak down to you, more to highlight some of the differences between what people training in a modern system (including one like the Bujinkan) think of when it comes to Koryu, and what they actually are. Despite it's origins, the Bujinkan is rather removed from being Koryu. In fact, as soon as you have people looking at the art and training for "self defence" in a modern setting, you have moved away from Koryu.

I get where you're coming from here, and agree. This is why the choice of Soke is so important, as it's their job to ensure the continuation of the Ryu itself, not to alter it for no reason. So if any changes are made, they aren't made lightly.

To show what I mean by that, I mentioned a few examples of changes in Koryu earlier; here, I'm going to give a little more detail, to explain how those changes came about.

Hontai Yoshin Ryu, a sister school (different branch) of our Takagi Yoshin Ryu, has begun integrating Toyama Ryu Iai into their syllabus, as mentioned. The reason for this was actually to aid in the preservation of the existing curriculum. The previous Soke, Innoue Munetoshi Soke, with a few of his senior students, noted that with a lack of sword skills in the students (due to them not being samurai, or training in other, weapon-related arts) the performance of their Muto Dori kata was lacking in a number of ways. With the sword attacks not being skillful, the Jujutsuka's responces were losing their skills as well. The evasions weren't clean, the weapon control wasn't tight, and so on.

Innoue Soke had trained in a range of weapon arts himself, including Iai (Seitei, I believe, as well as Toyama Ryu), and one of the senior Shihan was also training in Toyama Ryu at the time. Using the Toyama Ryu kata they put together a syllabus for the Hontai Yoshin Ryu students to improve their sword-handling skills, with the practical upshot being that the students gained a far greater appreciation for why the Muto Dori techniques are performed the way they are, and their skill improved while preserving that important section of the HYR curriculum. It may be noted, though, that the Hontai Yoshin Ryu do not consider the Toyama Ryu material part of the Koryu transmission of it's teachings, although they do approach, teach and train them (as well as test them for rank and licence) in the same manner.

The Toda-ha Buko Ryu, over it's history, had lost a number of sections of it's curriculum leading up to the current generation, such as it's Kusarigama Jutsu, and Nagamaki Jutsu. They did, however, retain very detailed notes on exactly what the "lost" kata contained.

After attaining the rank of Shihan in the Ryu, Ellis Amdur requested permission from Niita Soke to try to reconstruct these lost sections. She agreed, and Ellis set to work with some of his students figuring out the kata, and when ready, presented them in front of the Soke. Ellis' efforts had been substantial, working out the mechanics, ensuring that the techniques "worked" for real, and so on, however when Niita Soke saw the kata being demonstrated, she was not happy with them (in a very Japanese way of thanking Ellis for his effort...). The problem was that Ellis had looked too much at how he would personally express the kata, and that lead to a large amount of his Araki Ryu methods coming through in the "feel" of the demo.

Ellis, a little dismayed at that, went away and redid the kata, ensuring that the kata remained completely true to Toda-ha Buko Ryu this time. Mechanically, the kata didn't really change, but when the Soke saw the second demonstration, she was immensely pleased with them, and declared that at the next Embu they would be demonstrated and performed by the senior Shihan of the Ryu (interesting note: Toda-ha Buko Ryu only has Western Shihan, no Japanese ones).

In both cases, the interests of the Ryu, and it's preservation, are the impetus for any change. Anything else just doesn't suit the title of Koryu.



For me, a kata is an attempt to replicate a real fight/encounter, all the way to the adrenaline that is generated, and moving through that. It is also concerned with instilling the ways of moving that are part of the system itself, whereas sparring is more about exploring your own personal way of moving. The lessons of kata come from real encounters, the lessons of sparring come from the experience of sparring, which is removed from a real encounter in a number of ways.



And that type of approach is great. But what it leads you towards is more of a personal exploration of your own movement in different situations, which is taking you away from Koryu-style training where you are attempting to embrace and inhabit the methodology and thought patterns of the Ryu itself. As for what I meant by "modern self defence", that simply refers to self defence in the modern, Western world. That implies a different form of attack than that found in older times and other countries, different weapons that may be encountered, different environments that may prove dangerous, and vastly different senses of legality and the repercussions.

If you are primarily concerned with self defence, then the Koryu aren't for you. Which is fine, they really aren't for many people. I may point out that the topic of the thread is "The purpose of the Ryu", not "the reasons for training in the Ryu". That's a big part of the equation, really.



In a modern context, yeah. But there may be some misunderstanding of the "moonwalking" there. In my experience, the walking towards an opponent is cautious, mainly due to the fact that both are there to kill/injure each other, so caution may be wise. The Uke/Uchidachi is looking for their right opening to launch their attack, and the walk in reflects that. It's little different to two sportsmen (boxers, MMA competitors, and so on) "feeling each other out" at the beginning of the first round. It's an expression of the awareness on both sides.

For the last few weeks I've been trying to get my students to understand the role of the attacker in our training. We're going through Koto Ryu, and we've been getting to the end of the Shoden no Gata, where the majority of the attacks are double stepping lunge punches. But of course, no-one pays attention to that side of things, as it's not "their turn". So I've been trying to stimulate their understanding of what is going on there, by highlighting the approach that Uke is taking, their strategy, tactics, and techniques. The strategy is simply to injure Tori. The tactic is to not stop until that has happened, basically a continuous barrage assault. The technique is then a stepping Fudo Ken to the head. As a result, if Tori doesn't do what they need to do at the right time, with the right timing etc, Uke will just keep coming with more and more punches until one lands, or they are stopped.

When watching a demonstration like the ones you can find on You-Tube, it often helps to think of what Uke is really trying to achieve in the kata, as that can help explain certain aspects, like the slower walk in found in some systems and demos.



Ah, Yagyu Shingan Ryu, nice find.

One other point about Embu, they really aren't all the same, and not all of them really showcase what the Ryu is like as a training entity all that accurately. Some Embu are smaller, local affairs, with the junior students sent out to get their feet wet, so what you see there won't be necessarily anywhere near as polished as you may like (incidentally, a few weeks ago, there was a demonstration out here of Nittai Dai Sports University, a University in Tokyo know for it's martial arts and cultural arts programs, and they put on a demonstration of a number of disparate arts, including Judo, Kendo, Shotokan Karate-do, Shorinji Kenpo, Sumo, Kyudo, Naginatado, and Aikido, as well as traditional drumming [Taiko] and dance. A number of the demo's were incredibly well done, such as the Karate, Sumo, Shorinji Kenpo and Judo ones. Others were very interesting to me, but fell a little flat with the crowd, such as Kyudo, and a couple were rather lacking, frankly. They were the kata demonstration of Naginatado and the Aikido demo. And that was no fault of the performers, it was just that the Judo demonstrators appeared to have very thorough grounding in Judo before going to the University, and the girls who demo'd Aikido and Naginata kata seemed to have only a year or so training behind them, and were very new to the respective arts). Other Embu will have the senior members involved, but they may all be in their 80's or nearabouts, which can severely limit how intense a demonstration can be, or what can be shown.

Add to that the fact that the Embu are supposed to showcase the kata in a pure form in most cases, and the variances that may be present in a training session may not be there in the Embu performance.... then again, it may be! It really depends on the Ryu-ha itself.



Fantasy-borne and larping, absolutely not. Academic, though? Possibly, to be frank. Remember that the training forms of Koryu are not necessarily designed with combative effectiveness in mind, if something more important can be transmitted through the kata, which is most often the case. After all, we all realise that a true combative encounter won't possibly happen the way a kata is presented (in fact, I can only think of a handful of examples of Ryu that teach exact methods that have a basis in tried and tested violence), so the thing is to look at what the training is supposed to actually teach, and from there, gain an understanding of who was supposed to benefit, how, and why. Staying alive is certainly a big part of it, but that doesn't necessarily translate to personal survival in all cases.



In a number of cases, yes. When training in a Koryu Kenjutsu system, for example, ideally the feel should get to the point where you feel enough pressure that you forget the kata itself... and then have a heavy lump of oak (or hickory, Ken....) aggressively and powerfully swung down at your head at speed! If you don't move, pain and stiches ensue. I can think of a number of kata in a number of systems where if both members aren't completely concentrated, broken bones happen pretty much instantly. And if that lump of oak is aiming at your head, and hits.....



Not quite, I'd say. It's more that kata training is about how to handle when the opponent has a rock, or scissors, or even paper. It's about recognising those forms of attack, and responding in a tested and established (proven) way.



But the question there becomes how do you know what responces are best against such attacks? Kata should teach you to recognise those attacking methods of the opponent, as well as provide the options and actions to respond properly and powerfully. And remember that kata training doesn't have to be nominated all the time.... when you have a range of kata against the same, or similar attacks, or even a variety of attacks, part of the training can allow for Uke to come in with any of those methods, and Tori needs to respond properly without knowing which form the attack will come in with. It's really not about deciding what you're going to do before it happens. That's a big part of the Mushin concept there, no pre-determination or judgement.



And the answer to that may well be that if you use your "paper" responce kata against a "scissors" attack method, you didn't understand the kata properly in the first place.

That was a fantastic post Chris (as in 'good' rather than 'fantastical').

I see I am running out of arguments, and luckily I have the kind of pliable ego that can live with that. It appears to be my understanding of what koryu are, and what they are for, which needed nudging in the right direction, but I am sure even then that we cannot generalise too much.

I suppose my expectations of anything with 'jutsu' on the end of it, is that it is battlfield-ready regardless of it being 1511CE or 2011CE, and that it is the 'do' forms that are concerned with other aspects, but I am aware that this is an outdated way of thinking, based on the usual misinformation in the 1980s.

What the Hontai Yoshin Ryu people are doing sounds great, and Toyama Ryu, even though my exposure to it is via a certain Mr. Obata who has several dubious aspects about him (and his embu aren't great either), it appears to be a very direct no-nonsense method. We could certainly do with this approach in the Takamatsuden arts, although I am sure that there are people cross training in arts such as Katori Shinto Ryu to this effect, just as people are polishing their newaza with BJJ.

I don't think we will ever agree about kata though. There just isn't the proof that this was the primary training methodology way back when, and whilst important, for all the reasons you have stated (and more), I think they are not as large a part of the overall puzzle as others do, and despite knowing that I will never 'master' a kata, I can still appreciate the idea of throwing it away and moving on, to progress holistically with the option to return to the kata periodically to learn new lessons from it.

And when I talk about sparring, I am not necessarily talking about putting on gloves, throwing all my taijutsu out of the window and bobbing and weaving around like something I'm not (although I do this lots at my JKD sessions), I am really talking about going one step beyond kata and removing the 'predetermined' attack. One of the ways I train kata in any case is to add additional attacks if tori leaves openings during the execution of a kata, and I expect the favour in return. It tightens up the kata, improves zanshin and can indeed generate that 'scary' side to kata training.

I also think we should look more to Karate's one-step, two-step, three-step etc 'sparring' as these can give a good indicator of your ability to choose, rock, paper or scissors (I'm not letting go of this analogy!) and is not really seen in taijutsu.

Did any of you have a go at Ant Kendo btw?
 

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That was a fantastic post Chris (as in 'good' rather than 'fantastical').

Thanks!

I see I am running out of arguments, and luckily I have the kind of pliable ego that can live with that. It appears to be my understanding of what koryu are, and what they are for, which needed nudging in the right direction, but I am sure even then that we cannot generalise too much.

Ha, yeah, generalisation is rather a dangerous thing to try with something like Koryu, same as with martial arts in general.... pretty much anything you can say, you need to add the addendum "oh, except for these guys". Like the idea that Koryu don't do free-form training, then you find the Owari Kan Ryu which does it before kata training!

I suppose my expectations of anything with 'jutsu' on the end of it, is that it is battlfield-ready regardless of it being 1511CE or 2011CE, and that it is the 'do' forms that are concerned with other aspects, but I am aware that this is an outdated way of thinking, based on the usual misinformation in the 1980s.

Yeah, the whole "jutsu/do" argument is largely false, honestly. There were systems refering to themselves as Judo a hundred years before Kano, and they were plenty combative. Shinto Muso Ryu was known as Jojutsu for the most part, until Shimizu Sensei (the unofficial 25th Head of the Ryu) changed it to Jodo. Some follow his naming convention, others don't.

The thing to remember with "battlefield ready", is that the battlefield has changed... so if you're training an old system purely the way it has been trained in the past, then it just won't apply to the modern "battlefield", so either adaptation needs to occur (as it has with the Bujinkan), or it needs to be accepted that it won't really apply that way. Both are good, just for different reasons. Personally, I train in a Koryu Kenjutsu system, I'm about to start training in another one, I teach and train Ninjutsu as I have been taught the systems, and if things work out, there's another Koryu Jujutsu system I may have the opportunity to train in. And each of these are for different reasons, for example, the Ninjutsu side of things gives me the modern adaptation for if and when I may need that. But the Koryu are far more about the fact that I love them, I have managed to find some of my top choices and moved my other aspects of life around to train in them, and want to preserve them as well as I am able to be a part of that.

That does give me an interesting viewpoint on things, though....

What the Hontai Yoshin Ryu people are doing sounds great, and Toyama Ryu, even though my exposure to it is via a certain Mr. Obata who has several dubious aspects about him (and his embu aren't great either), it appears to be a very direct no-nonsense method. We could certainly do with this approach in the Takamatsuden arts, although I am sure that there are people cross training in arts such as Katori Shinto Ryu to this effect, just as people are polishing their newaza with BJJ.

I know of some Bujinkan members being allowed to train in Hontai Yoshin Ryu, but when it comes to Katori Shinto Ryu, I'm assuming that they are part of the Sugino branch? From what I've heard, Otake Sensei was rather definate about not accepting any students from a Bujinkan background, something to do with the behaviour of previous inquirers.....

With the training in other arts to increase skill in certain areas, agreed. To be frank, I have yet to see much in the way of real skillful swordsmanship in the Bujinkan, so training in a sword system can help there, as it can increase the understanding of the mechanics of the sword. It'd be great if that happened, really, as it'll improve everything across the board (when it comes to the traditional side of things), as it'll make the attackers in Muto Dori far better, forcing the Muto Dori to improve, and the attackers in the weapon kata the same. Use of Bo will improve when there's a real swordsman on the other side on the kata, use of spear will improve, hanbo will improve.... be a great idea! Personally, I'd not advise Seitei Iai or Kendo, though.... but that's because I'm a purist when it comes to these things!

I don't think we will ever agree about kata though. There just isn't the proof that this was the primary training methodology way back when, and whilst important, for all the reasons you have stated (and more), I think they are not as large a part of the overall puzzle as others do, and despite knowing that I will never 'master' a kata, I can still appreciate the idea of throwing it away and moving on, to progress holistically with the option to return to the kata periodically to learn new lessons from it.

The proof is the Koryu themselves. Most are very clear about keeping records about the training methods that have been passed down. Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu was passed down by Musashi Miyamoto on the condition that it remain unaltered. Katori Shinto Ryu is predicated on the idea that the techniques were passed down from a Heavenly Deity, so it is considered sacriligious to alter, or change the training methods, or the techniques. Others may have changed over time, but I still feel that kata was the primary method for each. It simply allows a much more reliable method of passing the lessons on from one generation to another.

And when I talk about sparring, I am not necessarily talking about putting on gloves, throwing all my taijutsu out of the window and bobbing and weaving around like something I'm not (although I do this lots at my JKD sessions), I am really talking about going one step beyond kata and removing the 'predetermined' attack. One of the ways I train kata in any case is to add additional attacks if tori leaves openings during the execution of a kata, and I expect the favour in return. It tightens up the kata, improves zanshin and can indeed generate that 'scary' side to kata training.

Actually, that's a big part of the way kata are trained. When you start, obviously, it's restricted to the pre-set movements to instill the lessons and get the movement of the Ryu established, but as you become more and more skilled, if a practitioner leaves a gap in their performance, in many systems it basically is the "duty" of the attacking partner (who is the more senior) to point it out to them. Usually with a strike or similar. That's a rather Koryu approach, as it demonstrates to you the way that the kata works, when done properly.

I also think we should look more to Karate's one-step, two-step, three-step etc 'sparring' as these can give a good indicator of your ability to choose, rock, paper or scissors (I'm not letting go of this analogy!) and is not really seen in taijutsu.

Again, there are similar training methods in various Koryu systems.

Something I do when starting this type of experience with students is to give them a couple of kata that may deal with a similar attack, have them drill those kata, and then get them to "free-form" train against the attack... but without telling them which responce I want them to use. And, a lot of the time, what comes out is not exactly what was shown, or drilled, which is fine. Eventually, it gets to free form responce (no criteria or guidelines) against random, free form, continuous attacks. That's where it gets fun.....

Did any of you have a go at Ant Kendo btw?

Didn't get a chance to earlier, but just did then.... That was fun! Didn't do too bad.... found my rhythm, based it on Katori tactics, seemed to work. Cool find!
 

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A massive bloke sitting astride you trying to punch your head into the ground is pretty much closer to how a real fight will play out, than some dude in hakama moonwalking towards you with a big wobbly stick, roaring, thrusting and freezing.

...A real fight is about making sure you provide the correct response when you don't know whether they are going to show rock, paper or scissors, to feint rock and then switch to scissors, or show scissors and then get their buddy to throw a rock at you from behind, and if you get it wrong, you get hurt or killed.

It doesn't matter how good your paper [kata] is, if you use it against scissors. It might be the best paper ever, but if use inappropriately, or not tested properly, it will just be pretty paper for lay philosophers to coo over.


Could you please elaborate on your definition of "real fight" ??

Having travelled through cities such as Belfast, Derry, Glasgow and various cities throughout the Eastern Bloc (which are not entirely friendly all the time) as well as some cities in the US in which I have experienced... unpleasantries... I would tentatively offer an opinion that a "real" fight differs in nature from place to place, for starters.

In any of the rough areas I have spent time in (Crossmalgen was one of the worst at the time I was there) I have noticed that MMA style fighting would literally get you maimed or killed.
Now, to be fair, there are elements of koryu arts which could potentially also result in the same fate, however, on the level of thought patterns, intent, "philosophy" (for want of a better word here as it denigrates the concept of the philosophy behind such arts to reduce it to such a base usage) and such will definitely take you alot further than sport-fighting philosophy. Trust me, man. What good is taking one guy to ground gonna do ya when his mates have rocks to throw, firebombs and sometimes even bullets? Sweet Fanny Adams!

Of course, in saying this I do digress immensely from the key concepts behind the discussion at hand, however linking it back through the base elements of principle behind the arts I feel there is still something to be taken from my statements...

PAX.
 

jks9199

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I also think we should look more to Karate's one-step, two-step, three-step etc 'sparring' as these can give a good indicator of your ability to choose, rock, paper or scissors (I'm not letting go of this analogy!) and is not really seen in taijutsu.

But those ARE kata! They just go by a different name.

X-step sparring exercises are really just two person kata with a different name. Whether this developed because the students didn't speak Japanese or because someone wanted to separate the two concepts (longer, formal one person exercises vs. short two person drills), I don't know.

And I've seen lots of people do step drills in a way that is every bit as unrealistic as so much of the interpretation of formal kata. Attackers that never really enter range or pose after delivering the strike, defenses that rely on fantasy attacks...
 
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Yeah I think we hit a point of confusion.

The kata that we do is always paired, and identical to the 1 / 2 / 3 step sparring you mention. And in that sequence we are trying to actually hit each other for real. And from time to time we do those in semi-free form.
 

ElfTengu

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Maybe it is me that is confused but I am talking about totally free form 1, 2, 3 etc step sparring, where neither party knows what the other is going to do.

I can't see that as being kata, otherwise I would have to call normal sparring a 100 step kata, which it clearly isn't.

Or perhaps there are different version of 1, 2 and 3 step sparring in karate.

To clarify the version I am talking about, this is how I would do it:

1. Two people face one another (or start from alternative positions for 'realism')

2. From hajime they both make one 'one-step' movement of their own choosing and freeze. Each can see if their movement was likely to be an effective offensive or defensive movement, or may even have made contact if due control was not exercised or if either of them walked onto/into the other's attack.

For 2-step they would perform an initial movement and a secondary movement, and then freeze.

And so on.
 

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Yeah, 1 Step Sparring (Ippon Kumite) and so on are a specific thing in many forms of Karate. They're pretty close to what we (Ninjutsu-related) refer to as kata, in that there is a set attack and responce routine trained.

The concept of un-nominated attacks and free-form responces that you're describing does occur in some systems, such as Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu as mentioned earlier. I've also heard of it it in some Jujutsu systems, I believe Hontai Yoshin Ryu does some similar things at various parts of it's training. The most common way to begin that is to have similar kata (with the same attack) randomly trained, in other words, if a variety of kata all start with the attacker cutting straight down, then the attack stays as that, and the Tori/Shidachi performs random kata responces from the Ryu to ensure that the responce is actually ingrained in the student. So some do that, others will stay exclusively with the more formal kata form, though. In each case, it is done to preserve the teachings of the Ryu itself, so if the Ryu's teachings include such methods, then they'll stay as part of the system.
 
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Bruno@MT

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Maybe it is me that is confused but I am talking about totally free form 1, 2, 3 etc step sparring, where neither party knows what the other is going to do.

I can't see that as being kata, otherwise I would have to call normal sparring a 100 step kata, which it clearly isn't.

Or perhaps there are different version of 1, 2 and 3 step sparring in karate.

To clarify the version I am talking about, this is how I would do it:

1. Two people face one another (or start from alternative positions for 'realism')

2. From hajime they both make one 'one-step' movement of their own choosing and freeze. Each can see if their movement was likely to be an effective offensive or defensive movement, or may even have made contact if due control was not exercised or if either of them walked onto/into the other's attack.

For 2-step they would perform an initial movement and a secondary movement, and then freeze.

And so on.

Ah ok.
Yes we do that. Not often, but it does happen from time to time. It's used so that we can judge for ourselves whether our responses were correct. We don't 'freeze' at the end though. We react and make distance.

There are limitations of course, based on skill level. For example only fist strikes (left or right). Or only fist strikes or front kicks, etc. We only do this occasionally because it is not a training method (a way of improving skills), rather it is used as an assessment tool. And assessing every other practice would be pointless because you don't make measurable progress from day to day.
 

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Mr. Hurley,
I'm trying to understand where you're coming from here, so correct me if I'm wrong ... You've never been in a 'real' fight, and you've not had any extensive training in a koryu art, but you are insisting (and, in your own words, no one can convince you otherwise) that kata are useless training tools for 'real' fighting, even though all of the koryu use them. Is that what you're saying, or did I miss something?

You do realize that it is much harder to learn something when you believe you already know it.
 
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ElfTengu

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Mr. Hurley,
I'm trying to understand where you're coming from here, so correct me if I'm wrong ... You've never been in a 'real' fight, and you've not had any extensive training in a koryu art, but you are insisting (and, in your own words, no one can convince you otherwise) that kata are useless training tools for 'real' fighting, even though all of the koryu use them. Is that what you're saying, or did I miss something?

You do realize that it is much harder to learn something when you believe you already know it.

There is really no need for the formality, and I will of course correct you, not necessarily where you are wrong, but where I have erred to the extent where I have created the wrong impression of my experience and opinions to be conveyed to you.

1. I have been in several real 'fights/scuffles' and related incidents, and observed many many more, but enough to respect the possible outcomes and how often the confident individual with 'training' is annhialated by someone with little or no training but from a rough background, agressive personality, or simply due to the random nature of real violence. Even Krav Maga and other modern/combat methods do not have 'kata' or techniques for everything that might be needed for modern self defence so this should not be surprising.

2. I have not had any training in a koryu but am learning more from the few eloquent individuals such as Bruno and Chris, who perhaps are better equipped to explain things in a language common to us as we have experience of the same arts.

3. The aspects I am insisting upon are not those that you have insisted that I am insisting upon or will fail to be convinced of via the written word.

4. I have not said that kata are useless, I have already stated, and hoped to convey, that they are an important part of training, but perhaps not THE most important part for people whose primary area of concern is self defence contemporary to the early 21st century.

5. I can insist what I like. I dont actually remember using the word 'insist' but even if I did, I cannot force anyone to say "Oh alright then, you win", because what would be the fun in that. And if you 'insist' in return that I must do likewise then we will have to agree to disagree.

Can we tidy this argument up quickly, we cannot force what will only be sweeping generalisations from a biased viewpoint on one another.

p.s. I don't believe i know anything, and learning is what I am all about, so please enlighten me, especially as to how koryu kata will ensure that you prevail in a street fight against Chuck Lidell.
 

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A massive bloke sitting astride you trying to punch your head into the ground is pretty much closer to how a real fight will play out, than some dude in hakama moonwalking towards you with a big wobbly stick, roaring, thrusting and freezing
Brilliant!!I had a great laugh at this line. Karl Pilkington couldn't have said it any better!
 

pgsmith

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p.s. I don't believe i know anything, and learning is what I am all about, so please enlighten me, especially as to how koryu kata will ensure that you prevail in a street fight against Chuck Lidell.
Ah, I see. I think I understand what you are missing about the kata method of training employed in the koryu arts. You seem to be under the mistaken impression that kata are there to teach 'moves' and 'techniques', and this is not what they are for. Kata are there to teach an underlying method of movement. That is another purpose of the ryu, which is to teach the underlying core principles of the ryu through the repetition of kata. Each ryu has its own ideas on proper movement methodology and attack vectors and responses. Koryu kata have gone a very long way toward teaching me how to move from the center, and how to bring my entire body to bear against the point of attack. It has also taught me proper distance and timing, how to see and avoid incoming attacks, and how to be able to use body mechanics rather than strength or speed to overcome my opponent.

It has been my experience that the human body is quite frail. Unless this Chuck Lidell (don't know who he is) can somehow keep me from being able to touch him, them I'm pretty sure he would die as easily as anyone else in a street fight. You see, my koryu training enables me to avoid any casual fight, therefore I only fight if my life, or the lives of those around me, are in danger.
 

ElfTengu

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Ah, I see. I think I understand what you are missing about the kata method of training employed in the koryu arts. You seem to be under the mistaken impression that kata are there to teach 'moves' and 'techniques', and this is not what they are for. Kata are there to teach an underlying method of movement. That is another purpose of the ryu, which is to teach the underlying core principles of the ryu through the repetition of kata. Each ryu has its own ideas on proper movement methodology and attack vectors and responses. Koryu kata have gone a very long way toward teaching me how to move from the center, and how to bring my entire body to bear against the point of attack. It has also taught me proper distance and timing, how to see and avoid incoming attacks, and how to be able to use body mechanics rather than strength or speed to overcome my opponent..

Actually, it is the same in Bujinkan, and the Bujinkan also has people who rarely go beyond repetition of kata with the same religious fervour, and essentially rely on 'faith' that this is all they need to do. Some of us like to play in a more realistic or 'application/bunkai' more than to perform kata endlessly, but then we have a dozen top Japanese dudes who cannot agree how each kata should be performed anyway, so 100 kata becomes 1200 kata, which is an impossible syllabus to complete!

It has been my experience that the human body is quite frail. Unless this Chuck Lidell (don't know who he is) can somehow keep me from being able to touch him, them I'm pretty sure he would die as easily as anyone else in a street fight. You see, my koryu training enables me to avoid any casual fight, therefore I only fight if my life, or the lives of those around me, are in danger.

Chuck Lidell is even more deadly than Chuck Norris. There, I said it! :D
 

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Kata teach principles in a way that can be repeated until the idea is internalized, then it can be pressure tested in randori to determine if the practitioner can pull it off under chaotic circumstances.

kata is essential to building the proper fundamentals that one relies on in fighting.
 

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Ah, I see. I think I understand what you are missing about the kata method of training employed in the koryu arts. You seem to be under the mistaken impression that kata are there to teach 'moves' and 'techniques', and this is not what they are for. Kata are there to teach an underlying method of movement. That is another purpose of the ryu, which is to teach the underlying core principles of the ryu through the repetition of kata. Each ryu has its own ideas on proper movement methodology and attack vectors and responses. Koryu kata have gone a very long way toward teaching me how to move from the center, and how to bring my entire body to bear against the point of attack. It has also taught me proper distance and timing, how to see and avoid incoming attacks, and how to be able to use body mechanics rather than strength or speed to overcome my opponent.

Actually, it is the same in Bujinkan, and the Bujinkan also has people who rarely go beyond repetition of kata with the same religious fervour, and essentially rely on 'faith' that this is all they need to do. Some of us like to play in a more realistic or 'application/bunkai' more than to perform kata endlessly, but then we have a dozen top Japanese dudes who cannot agree how each kata should be performed anyway, so 100 kata becomes 1200 kata, which is an impossible syllabus to complete!

Okay, I'm going to be blunt again (admittedly, had a rather bad night, and I'm a little grumpy at present, so I apologise for that), but something has to be made clear with no mistake whatsoever.

If you are training in an X-Kan (especially Bujinkan more than the others, but including Jinenkan, Genbukan, split-off organisations, and so on), you are absolutely, unequivocably, categorically not training in Koryu. So anything you think is similar is really little more than superficial similarity. There are a number of reasons for this, first and foremost the training methodologies used in those organisations, but also in the training membership of each. The Genbukan and Jinenkan are a lot closer, but the approach is still seperated from Koryu methods.

You have mentioned a few times the idea of Koryu training to prepare you for a "real fight", talking about having someone "massive on top of you" and raining down punches, and contrasting that with a kata performed formally at an Embu, you have stated that self defence is a major part of why you are training, above you talk about "some of us like to play in a more realistic or 'application/bunkai' more than to perform kata endlessly", and so on. This is great, but completely irrelevant. If these are the way you think about things, you are not suited to Koryu (for the most part... I do think about these things a lot as well, and that makes up the "modern" sections of my classes, but it's a non-issue for Koryu training, or even the traditional side of my Ninjutsu classes).

As the thread title indicates, the concept is "the puporse of the Ryu", not "the reasons people can train in Koryu", or "what you can get out of Koryu". That's not what they're there for. You (the potential student), and what you want to get out of the training, are completely irrelevant. You don't matter. What you want doesn't matter. Whether you want to be a completely badass streetfighter or not doesn't matter. What arts you want on your resume doesn't matter. Really, "you" don't matter at all. All that matters is what you can do for the Ryu, not the other way around.

By training in the Ryu, you are being entrusted in the preservation and protection of the Ryu. Not yourself, the Ryu. You train (and eventually teach) in order to maintain the Ryu itself. If you are coming to it with the idea of even wanting to learn to fight, don't be involved. You have to come at it with the attitude of "what can I give to the Ryu", rather than "what can the Ryu do for me". That has to be understood before anything more can be understood here.

Kata teach principles in a way that can be repeated until the idea is internalized, then it can be pressure tested in randori to determine if the practitioner can pull it off under chaotic circumstances.

kata is essential to building the proper fundamentals that one relies on in fighting.

Close, but not quite correct.

Kata, within a Koryu, are a transmission method designed to instill the thought processes, movements, behaviours, approach, and so on, of the Ryu itself. Believe it or not, that may have little to nothing to do with fighting. They may teach aspects of spirit, technical skills that are preliminary work for later, more combative kata, even aspects of walking, sitting, or standing up (as in how to stand, or sit properly in that Ryu).

Pressure testing and randori are dependant on the Ryu itself. Remember that there is no universal ideal "end result" of immersing yourself in a Ryu-ha other than correct transmission of said Ryu to ensure it's preservation and continuation. But, although many are based in combative application and lessons, learning how to fight is not that high on the list.
 

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