Whereabouts to Japanese jiu jitsu and Goju Ryu in New York

Scotty Brugueras

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I am looking for the whereabouts to both of those styles taught in the New York area close to Manhattan or Long Island.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Do you live in manhattan itself, or on the island? There's potentially a lot of schools available depending on where you're actually looking.
 
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Scotty Brugueras

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Do you live in manhattan itself, or on the island? There's potentially a lot of schools available depending on where you're actually looking.
I live on the island Im looking for old school Japanese jiu jitsu not a watered down version of anything
 

Chris Parker

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I live on the island Im looking for old school Japanese jiu jitsu not a watered down version of anything

There's a couple of issues you're going to have to deal with... firstly, there's no such (single) thing as "Japanese jujutsu" (and, for that matter, there's no such thing as "Japanese Jiu-Jitsu"... that's a whole other conversation), especially if you're looking for "old school". These are what we refer to as "Koryu" (almost literally "old school"), which is a categorisation applied to schools that were founded during the time of the samurai (before the Westernisation of Japan that began with the Meiji Restoration of around 1868), and have continued in a continuous practice.

These schools are specific traditions, meaning that you would study a specific koryu (similar to your request for Goju Ryu, rather than a generic "karate"), which may contain some jujutsu methods, may be based primarily around it, or have none at all. Considering the history of the samurai, the majority of koryu are weapons-based, or, at least, weapons-centric... and, even those who have a lot of jujutsu, or are jujutsu-based, will also have commonly a pretty healthy weapons contingent to their practice.

These schools are also quite small, and often private affairs, with some being kept in one location, with one teacher only (in the world), so finding one in a convenient location to yourself is highly unlikely. Even if a school has branch dojo outside of Japan, they aren't likely to be common (say, if you want to study Takeuchi Ryu Bitchu-den, a line of the "oldest" jujutsu-centric school in Japan, you would need to be in Hawaii, Canada, the UK, or one of two locations in Japan... if you want the Honke or Sodenke lines, then there are no branch dojo outside of Japan at all! Oh, and the school teaches jujutsu, known as hade there, as well as kogusoku/dagger, kenjutsu/sword, iai/sword drawing, bo/staff, naginata/halberd, jo/short staff, kasa/umbrella, hojo/arresting cord, and items such as cooking pot lids... so referring to it as a "jujutsu school" is quite misleading). Even a more "jujutsu" school, such as Tenjin Shin'yo Ryu, is not easy to find... there's a teacher in Sydney (Australia), and a branch for Europe headed in the UK... but the current head is no longer accepting any Westerners as students, due to the lack of proper action of some prior members, unfortunately. There are a couple of other lines of the school, but they have no groups outside of Japan.

But, let's say you find something nearby (and is practical for you)... do you know what you're actually asking for? Koryu are as much cultural arts as anything else, as well as being historically political and religious entities, which tie into the way they are taught and trained, making any number of aspects of the practice being less about combative reality than some other, arguably more important, lessons (not to say they're not combatively realistic, but that needs to be tempered with an understanding of the context in the first place). Transmission of the schools teachings are primarily via kata-geiko (the practice of pre-determined actions, in koryu, typically involving two or more practitioners, taking the role of "attacker" and "defender", to give a simplified explanation). While a number of schools may include a style of free-form practice, it doesn't really resemble "sparring" as it is commonly seen and done in modern, typically sporting arts (karate, bjj, judo, tkd, etc). In fact, very little resembles modern arts... so be aware of what you are looking for.

You mention that you are after "old school" Japanese arts, rather than "a watered down version of anything"... to be honest, there's little that I can think of that would match that description, other than a kids class syllabus... however, there are a variety of different approaches that can be presented as being "Japanese jujutsu"... and most of them aren't. We've looked at koryu, which would be the most authentic form you could find, but there are also gendai (modern) jujutsu arts. Most of these aren't called jujutsu, with the most popular being Kodokan Judo and Aikido, but you also have Daito Ryu Aikijutsu, and it's off-shoots, such as Hakko Ryu. Then, you have a range of Western arts that are derived from these arts, such as Danzan Ryu, Hakkei Ryu, Hakko Denshin Ryu, and so on. These are what I would call "quasi-Japanese jujutsu" arts, and are often lacking in a number of facets to consider them actual Japanese arts. And, you have a range of modern, Western arts who have little to no basis in proper arts, and are a combination of imitation judo, aikido, and fantasy. These are "pseudo-Japanese arts" at best, and the least consistent in their practice... but gain students through their matching peoples imagination.

So, the real question is, what are you looking for in a jujutsu system? Historical authenticity? Cultural aspects? Combative reality? Competition? Have you looked into "old school Japanese jujutsu" already?
 
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Scotty Brugueras

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There's a couple of issues you're going to have to deal with... firstly, there's no such (single) thing as "Japanese jujutsu" (and, for that matter, there's no such thing as "Japanese Jiu-Jitsu"... that's a whole other conversation), especially if you're looking for "old school". These are what we refer to as "Koryu" (almost literally "old school"), which is a categorisation applied to schools that were founded during the time of the samurai (before the Westernisation of Japan that began with the Meiji Restoration of around 1868), and have continued in a continuous practice.

These schools are specific traditions, meaning that you would study a specific koryu (similar to your request for Goju Ryu, rather than a generic "karate"), which may contain some jujutsu methods, may be based primarily around it, or have none at all. Considering the history of the samurai, the majority of koryu are weapons-based, or, at least, weapons-centric... and, even those who have a lot of jujutsu, or are jujutsu-based, will also have commonly a pretty healthy weapons contingent to their practice.

These schools are also quite small, and often private affairs, with some being kept in one location, with one teacher only (in the world), so finding one in a convenient location to yourself is highly unlikely. Even if a school has branch dojo outside of Japan, they aren't likely to be common (say, if you want to study Takeuchi Ryu Bitchu-den, a line of the "oldest" jujutsu-centric school in Japan, you would need to be in Hawaii, Canada, the UK, or one of two locations in Japan... if you want the Honke or Sodenke lines, then there are no branch dojo outside of Japan at all! Oh, and the school teaches jujutsu, known as hade there, as well as kogusoku/dagger, kenjutsu/sword, iai/sword drawing, bo/staff, naginata/halberd, jo/short staff, kasa/umbrella, hojo/arresting cord, and items such as cooking pot lids... so referring to it as a "jujutsu school" is quite misleading). Even a more "jujutsu" school, such as Tenjin Shin'yo Ryu, is not easy to find... there's a teacher in Sydney (Australia), and a branch for Europe headed in the UK... but the current head is no longer accepting any Westerners as students, due to the lack of proper action of some prior members, unfortunately. There are a couple of other lines of the school, but they have no groups outside of Japan.

But, let's say you find something nearby (and is practical for you)... do you know what you're actually asking for? Koryu are as much cultural arts as anything else, as well as being historically political and religious entities, which tie into the way they are taught and trained, making any number of aspects of the practice being less about combative reality than some other, arguably more important, lessons (not to say they're not combatively realistic, but that needs to be tempered with an understanding of the context in the first place). Transmission of the schools teachings are primarily via kata-geiko (the practice of pre-determined actions, in koryu, typically involving two or more practitioners, taking the role of "attacker" and "defender", to give a simplified explanation). While a number of schools may include a style of free-form practice, it doesn't really resemble "sparring" as it is commonly seen and done in modern, typically sporting arts (karate, bjj, judo, tkd, etc). In fact, very little resembles modern arts... so be aware of what you are looking for.

You mention that you are after "old school" Japanese arts, rather than "a watered down version of anything"... to be honest, there's little that I can think of that would match that description, other than a kids class syllabus... however, there are a variety of different approaches that can be presented as being "Japanese jujutsu"... and most of them aren't. We've looked at koryu, which would be the most authentic form you could find, but there are also gendai (modern) jujutsu arts. Most of these aren't called jujutsu, with the most popular being Kodokan Judo and Aikido, but you also have Daito Ryu Aikijutsu, and it's off-shoots, such as Hakko Ryu. Then, you have a range of Western arts that are derived from these arts, such as Danzan Ryu, Hakkei Ryu, Hakko Denshin Ryu, and so on. These are what I would call "quasi-Japanese jujutsu" arts, and are often lacking in a number of facets to consider them actual Japanese arts. And, you have a range of modern, Western arts who have little to no basis in proper arts, and are a combination of imitation judo, aikido, and fantasy. These are "pseudo-Japanese arts" at best, and the least consistent in their practice... but gain students through their matching peoples imagination.

So, the real question is, what are you looking for in a jujutsu system? Historical authenticity? Cultural aspects? Combative reality? Competition? Have you looked into "old school Japanese jujutsu" already?
Ok thanks for the advice, anywhere I should start? Im looking for combative reality with some hints of cultural aspects and and historical authenticity
 

Chris Parker

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It's a bit of a journey... the first is clarifying exactly what is meant. For example, you mention "combative reality"... to be fair, that's quite a loaded phrase, especially where martial arts are concerned, Practitioners of sports arts will tell you that "combative reality" means only techniques they can test and practice in a competitive or sparring format... unfortunately, that's not reality, as it's simply a look at a single (non-realistic) context. To be clear, when I say they are non-realistic, I am commenting on the fact that the context is limited, and artificial. Now, to be fair, all safe practices of all arts are artificial to some degree, the question is always what compromises you allow, and what you don't.

To my mind, koryu are the most "combatively realistic" training forms around... mainly as their emphasis is not on "techniques that can be tested", as such tests are considered unnecessary for a range of reasons... instead, koryu emphasise combative mind-sets, principles, and habits over techniques. We focus on being aware of potential openings, when you're in danger, or not, what the distancing is, awareness of how that changes with weapons (of various forms), and so on. However, and it's a big "however", koryu are stylistically representative of a cultural expression of violence that does not exist today... and certainly doesn't exist in the West. As a result, a direct line from "this kata in this school = this move in a fight" doesn't exist for koryu.

Secondly, if you're looking for the cultural and historical authenticity, keep in mind what that means. In a real way, it will mean changing your behaviour to suit the school, and not just inside the training halls. There is a real sense of duty and propriety involved in being a member of these schools, ensuring that you behave in a way consistent with them, and certainly not doing anything that may reflect poorly on them. Remember that the Japanese culture is one of the group, or community, not the individual... so, anything you do or say that makes your teacher (the head and "face" of your group) look bad by connection is not acceptable. To get a sense of what this means, I recommend reading the following article by Dave Lowry, a koryu practitioner of the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, as well as some modern arts, which sums up the attitude of most koryu teachers quite succinctly: Join the ryu Shutokukan Dojo

If that doesn't put you off, then it's time to do some research into what you're looking for... as mentioned, there are few schools around that are purely jujutsu... up until the modern time, Japan was an armed society, and any fighting that was done in earnest was done, well, in earnest! And that means weapons. Especially for samurai, who, even when Japan was in an extended period of peace, were still professional warriors, and would train in methods appropriate to that end... which is rarely unarmed.

Once you get a sense of the type of school you're looking for, it's time to start to find out where it is... and here's where reality really sets in. Expect to travel. A fair distance. And relatively regularly. For example, I teach and train a number of koryu... for instruction in one, it's a 4 and a half hour flight away... for another, it's an 11 hour flight away (for that school, I have to go to Japan... there is simply no-one else around for me to study under). So, if you're after koryu, and are hoping it's on your doorstep, well... that's winning the budo lottery right there. And, simply, it's not likely. To that end, you need to look at what you're willing to sacrifice... are you happy to sacrifice some historical authenticity? Then you might look at Daito Ryu (which shouldn't be too far from you in New York). How about combative reality? Any modern school, say, judo. If neither of those, then it's about distance and time... in no case is this going to be simple. And, the basic fact of the matter is that, if you do end up studying as a member of a koryu, then expect to head to Japan... maybe not initially, but you will need to spend at least some time there.

All that said, here's a few examples of what koryu are like, just to give you a taste of the schools around. I'm going to focus on jujutsu-centric arts, although they won't necessarily be immediately available to you, there may be some branches (or related schools) that are within reason for you.

Takagi Ryu Jujutsu (this school has other branches, such as Hontai Yoshin Ryu, who I believe have a branch in Kentucky, or Moto-ha Yoshin Ryu)

Tenjin Shin'yo Ryu (a foundation school of Kodokan Judo)

Kukamishin Ryu (previously Kukishin Ryu - closely related to the Takagi Ryu above, but I know there's a US training group. This video is from a demonstration at the end of a training camp/weekend, and features some of the more junior members performing taijutsu kihon and first-level techniques. The school itself is best known for its weapons, though, particularly bojutsu)

Shibukawa Ichi Ryu (there are some branches outside of Japan, under the banner Kan-Ou-Kan, where this jujutsu school is taught alongside Oishi Shinkage Ryu kenjutsu and Muso Shinden Eishin Ryu Iaijutsu)

Daito Ryu (slightly controversial, this school claims a very old history, but doesn't quite match the way most koryu operate or are taught. All indications are that this is a construction of Takeda Sokaku, teacher of Ueshiba Morihei, who, in turn, used this as a technical base for his new art of Aikido. Daito Ryu is far more extensive, claiming around 3,000 techniques/kata in it's syllabus, and is a fair bit more "aggressive" [and, I would say, direct] than it's younger relation. There are Daito Ryu dojo in New York).

Note that the majority of these videos are public demonstrations, and that should not be mistaken for the way the arts actually train. For example, Daito Ryu has three different "levels" of how it teaches and applies it's techniques; jujutsu, aikijujutsu, and aikijutsu. These are obviously not all covered in a demonstration, and, unless you know what you're looking at, it might not be easy to tell if you're looking at something at a basic level, or something more advanced. In addition, timing, distancing, targeting, and more, can be altered for public demonstrations... so only take these as examples of what they are; public demonstrations to give an indication of the "feel" of the school.
 

lklawson

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(and, for that matter, there's no such thing as "Japanese Jiu-Jitsu"... that's a whole other conversation),
Well, I mean, it's a historically accurate translation for the first decades of the 20th Century. Blame the translators and the difficulty of anglicizing into english-ish phonetic spelling.


Most of these aren't called jujutsu, with the most popular being Kodokan Judo
Well, it's not Koryu but a lot of Judoka, particularly those interested in the "early versions" of it (prior to emphasis on Olympic Judo), like to talk about "Kano-ha."

But that really feels like two sets of people arguing about where to divide the baby. Is it "jujutsu?" Well, arguably, yes. the argument really becomes "is it too 'modern' for me to call it 'real jujutsu'."

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Tony Dismukes

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Chris has done an excellent job as usual in laying out the facts from an historical (sort of academic) Japanese perspective, an area in which he very knowledgeable. I'd like to chime in from a slightly different perspective, in case it helps.

First, I'd like to expand on something Chris said:
there's no such (single) thing as "Japanese jujutsu"
"Jujutsu" is a general name for a huge, somewhat inter-related, family of combative systems originating in Japan. The koryu systems which Chris refers to are members of that family which were created prior to 1868 and have been passed on in something resembling their original technical forms along with a whole batch of cultural baggage which you may not be interested in unless you are a big fan of pre-modern Japanese culture. These arts are what Chris would typically describe as "traditional."

The next generation of the Japanese-born jujutsu family, as Chris notes, largely eschewed the "jujutsu" name, even when they were directly derived from jujutsu arts. Chris mentions the most common surviving members of this generation, judo, aikido, etc. These days, most non-koryu people regard these as "traditional" Japanese arts, although at the time they were intended as innovation. (Then again, any tradition was an innovation once.)

Subsequent generations of the jujutsu family have mostly been created outside of Japan, some originally by Japanese ex-pats and many more by westerners who had a background in one or more pre-existing arts and then put their own spin on the training. Some of these systems are still considered by their practitioners to be "Japanese Jujutsu" or even "Traditional Japanese Jujutsu" based on various factors such as
  • They can trace a training lineage back to a Japanese instructor of some earlier form of jujutsu
  • They derive a significant portion of their technical curriculum and/or terminology from some earlier Japanese art in the jujutsu family
  • They retain certain cultural trappings from Japanese arts (bowing, uniforms, various dojo accoutrements) although these are likely to be much more superficial and of recent origin than what you find in koryu.
If you find a school in the U.S. (or elsewhere, really) which advertises itself as "Japanese Jujutsu", it most likely falls into this category.

Chris tends to be a linguistic prescriptivist and I tend to be a linguistic descriptivist, so we have an ongoing debate about whether these arts have any business calling themselves "Japanese" or "traditional". Chris thinks that for an art to carry that descriptor, it should be created in Japan by a Japanese person, preferably in line with certain Japanese cultural values. I use the analogy of a 3rd generation Japanese-American who was raised with certain family traditions which were handed down from their parents. If that person feels that being "Japanese" is part of their identity and heritage, I'm not going to be the one to tell them they're wrong. Chris doesn't feel that you can analogize between families of arts and families of people that way. You can decide for yourself.

Im looking for old school Japanese jiu jitsu not a watered down version of anything
If you examine the many, many members of the international jujutsu family diaspora (including those which do or do not call themselves jujutsu and/or Japanese) you will find a huge range of quality. There will usually be a significant overlap in technical curriculum, but the quality of what is taught and the actual combative ability demonstrated by practitioners can range from excellent to abysmal. However in my experience this variation does not correlate at all to how closely an art is tied to Japan, whether it was created there or if it's six generations removed. It has a lot more to do with how the art is trained and what kind of combative experience the instructors and the practitioners have.

Practitioners of sports arts will tell you that "combative reality" means only techniques they can test and practice in a competitive or sparring format... unfortunately, that's not reality, as it's simply a look at a single (non-realistic) context. To be clear, when I say they are non-realistic, I am commenting on the fact that the context is limited, and artificial. Now, to be fair, all safe practices of all arts are artificial to some degree, the question is always what compromises you allow, and what you don't.

To my mind, koryu are the most "combatively realistic" training forms around... mainly as their emphasis is not on "techniques that can be tested", as such tests are considered unnecessary for a range of reasons... instead, koryu emphasise combative mind-sets, principles, and habits over techniques. We focus on being aware of potential openings, when you're in danger, or not, what the distancing is, awareness of how that changes with weapons (of various forms), and so on.
I'm not going to derail Scotty's thread with the long-standing debate about the value of sparring and related forms of live training. Scotty, if you're interested you can find countless arguments regarding that subject on this site and elsewhere.

However I did want to address the bolded section in the quote above. I would argue that this approach is in no way limited to koryu. Emphasizing combative mind-sets, principles, and habits over techniques is what any martial art should do. I would also add the development of combatively relevant physical and mental attributes to that list. Being aware of openings, dangers, distancing ... those are all fundamental parts of training. Understanding how the presence of weapons changes things is also important, although I find most people don't teach that well unless they have a good handle on the use of said weapons.

I teach BJJ, which is probably one of the most non-koryu members of the extended jujutsu family, and my instruction focuses on all of that. I emphasize to my students that techniques and the details of how they are applied are just situational applications of the underlying principles. Or from another point of view, the techniques are just a vehicle for communicating certain concepts which you might apply differently in a different situation.
 
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