View Full Version : Koryu and Nationalism

17th March 2004, 06:34
In _Runaway Horses_, Yukio Mishima describes a Kendo school, run by a shinto temple, as being the recruitment ground of a group of Nationalist terrorists.

I'm curious to know if Koryu Budo has any connection to right-wing politics in Japan.

Z. Conrad Dubnoff

Jock Armstrong
17th March 2004, 06:42
Koryu seem to have very little to do with politcs. Some of the gendai ryuha, especially the kendo had ultra nationalist leanings [back in the pre WWII days]. Funnily enough, it might be that the more reality based an art is, the less likely it is to take on nonsensical, bogoted ideals. hard to explain them in a "real" way- kinda doesn't fit with the art.
Thats not gospel, just a personal observation.:beer:

17th March 2004, 19:21

hard to explain them in a "real" way- kinda doesn't fit with the art

Not quite the case. Nationalism is related to koryu in many ways. Take Fridayīs "Legacies of the sword" and his account on the last soke Kunii. He is said to have been from the far right. I bet there are many more examples we donīt know of.

But beware: before getting too deep into a discussion you should define what exactly you consider nationalism. Itīs a really broad term and you have to consider each persons background.


14th December 2007, 21:24
Koryu and politics are not separable; before and now. I first trained in Japan 1977, last time last year, and it feels like it is growing stronger every year. Nationalism is a word; each of us gives it the meaning. I have seen both good and bad types in Budo and Bujutsu

20th December 2007, 02:54
In my humble opinion, koryu as a group has little to do with "Nationalism" itself. That said, some individuals who practise koryu arts may...That has little to do with what is being asked I feel though...Since koryu is not and never has been a "group movement" it would be impossible to define "it" as being for or against nationalism...Some practitioners may be.

Having said that, I would agree that since the basis of koryu is an effort to keep and maintain Japanese history and the martial arts of that time, and in that way it is an effort for nationalism (Or respect of ones own nation at least)...Not "nationalism" as it can be understood by many (ie; a strong belief that ones country is better than others and the need to defend that pride, although perhaps I read to much into the term), but a belief in keeping a hold on the traditions that made up your countries past..In that way alone koryu is "nationalistic"....But no more so than "The National Trust" in the UK..

But as I understand "nationalism" I would not include koryu, albeit some of it's practitioners may include themselves..


20th December 2007, 04:49
Maybe a better term would be patriotism?

10th January 2008, 11:03
I have a suspicion that most budoka in general are probably a bit right-of-centre in their political beliefs. How far right of course would vary from person to person. But for example I'm pretty sure that in Japan, to do kendo at least is not as cool for a young person as to, say, own a nossed-up Skyline and spend your evenings drifting 'round the local New Town; or have curly, brown hair and play soccer. The main career path for kendoka is the police force, and I don't know many left-leaning police officers.


Ellis Amdur
10th January 2008, 14:13
Right-wing thinking was not considered nonsensical by the majority of Japanese who did koryu a generation or so ago. In fact, one of the critiques of some of the older gentlemen within koryu groups is that the modern practitioners are not real budoka because they do not have a political ideology (right-wing) to go along with their martial arts practice. Shindo Muso-ryu, for one example, was sponsored by Toyama Mitsuru and Uchida Ryohei, the heads of the Dark Ocean and Black Dragon (Amur) societies. Shimizu Takuji was "brought" to Tokyo under their auspicies. The Kokusai Budoin, one of the largest and most influential kobudo/gendai organizations was under the sponsorship of Prince Higashikuni, the uncle of Hirohito and the member of the imperial court most responsible for liason with right-wing organizations.
Right-wing politics in Japan is the closest thing there is to the values of pre-Meiji bushi (that it's been corrupted by gangsters, etc. in modern times is another discussion apart from this).
It should also be understood that the Jiminto, until recent times, the by-far most influential political party of Japan, whom non-Japanese might have believed was the equivalent of the republicans, was the creation of the same 'right-wing' folks who ideologically drove WWII. A shift in tactics, not ideology.

Earl Hartman
11th January 2008, 19:46
Gotta agree with Ellis and Ichibyoshi here. I practiced kendo with the Kidotai (riot squad) for a year and a half. A bigger bunch of right-wing fascist militarists you are never going to meet.

Strong kendo, though.

12th January 2008, 02:19
Hmm can someone quickly give an example or summary of a left and right wing policy? I looked up the definition but its a massive read and too complex for my simple mind to understand... =/

Joseph Svinth
12th January 2008, 03:14
A lot of the teachers and administrators in Japan, both before and after WWII, were card-carrying Socialists. Some did judo, too, to include the president of the Japanese Communist party, a fellow who lived in Houston ca. 1900. Meanwhile, before WWII, Japan also had the Thought Police, whose job it was to beat thoughts of Socialism out of the popular (and especially the Korean) mind.

After the war, the Socialists got more active, and they started holding strikes. MacArthur hated unions (witness his actions against Hoovervilles), and so he let the fascists out of jail in return for their organizing goon squads to go beat up union organizers and members. Japan Karate Association, Kyokushinkai, etc., have very strong ties to the strike-breaking goons of the MacArthur era.

So, anyway, the left-wing people believed in socialism and unions, and the right-wing people believed in Imperial Japan, the Emperor, and big business.

12th January 2008, 03:28
Would it be correct to say that most of the first world countries are left wing then?

12th January 2008, 12:59
Would it be correct to say that most of the first world countries are left wing then?

Oh boy! Um, in a word, no. Very few developed countries have truly left-wing governments, mainly because most Western governments need business on their side in order to get into power and hold onto power. In the developing world you could say that the power nexus is more between government and the military (Pakistan is a case in point). Either way, the values that drive governments won't be terribly altruistic or compassionate ones, no matter what spin their media spokespeople might put on them.

Read the paper regularly and watch the news, but make sure you become aware of the inherent political bias of what you are taking in.


12th January 2008, 13:19
Sorry for the double-post but I wanted to go back to the difference between left and right wing. I have a sense that a person's political world-view can be predicted by the kind of thinking s/he tends towards.

The main difference at an individual level I believe is that people with right-wing views tend to believe that the world is pretty much a straightforward place, governed by understandable and obvious dynamics.

People with left-wing views tend to see the world as having layers, that things aren't necessarily what they seem.


13th January 2008, 19:05
There's a lot of irony in the fact that so many western ''seeker'' types chose to dive into budo, and especially, Zen. It is ironic because in my experience these seeker types tend to have fairly leftist views or lifestyles.

There's a great review of Brian Victoria's, Zen at War here. (http://www.mandala.hr/5/baran.html) The review covers a lot of interesting ground with respect to the connection between Zen and the rise of militarism in Japan.

14th January 2008, 00:20
Put it this way. It means regular visits and embu at Yasukuni Shrine. But I dont think koryu should be branded as nationalistic.

Lets just say that the whole country is very patriotic nationalistic to the extent that they consider the rest of the world to be still very much outside. sadly they have failed to bridge the international gap, have tremendous mental health and social problems, that of having to fit into anti-family, total work orientated society or suffer the consequences of being an outcast. The best or should I say worst is yet to come.