View Full Version : Koryu AND Gendai
06-20-2000, 12:28 PM
Ooh, it's getting bloody in the Koryu / Japan threads. I thought of a topic that might help us find some common ground in th gendai/koryu thing.
How many koryu practitioners posting here also currently practice a gendai budo? The Skoss' mention their training in jukendo, and Meik recently told me he was practicing Judo again. Mr. Lowry has written a lot on gendai budo, though I do not know if he is currently training in a modern art. My own teacher requires concurrent practice in a modern grappling system. Tony Peters said in the other threads that his teacher does not practice gendai budo, and seems to be saying there is no need to practice gendai with koryu.
I do not think there is a NEED to practice gendai along with koryu. But what BENEFITS are there? I would ask Diane and Meik if they would be willing to share what they gain from jukendo practice that they feel supplements their koryu, or that theycannot find in koryu? Is it shiai?
And what are the problems encountered in practicing both? Are some arts completely incompatible?
And let me cut short the whole "koryu is combat, gendai is sport" notion. The vast majority of koryu AND gendai practitioners do not use their art combatively. There are people that use a lot of gendai for actual combative purposes (and it works), so let's not go down that road. I mean specifically in terms of system, training methods, etc.
06-20-2000, 01:35 PM
Technically speaking, I do both practices. In my mind, the practice is the pretty much the same. Supposedly Miyamoto Musashi said something like the following, and I like it. The practice I do today kills the practice I did yesterday.
Technique is the same; it's the intent that changes.
06-20-2000, 02:20 PM
That's a good question, but I don't want to write a book. While my koryu experience is not as deep as my gendai experience, I have to second Chuck's general feeling. There are very specific differences between the technique of modern kendo and what very little I have learned of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Hyoho so far, for example. The modern kendo stance is very upright and the body is always facing straight forward with the right foot leading. Yagyu Shinkage Ryu employs much deeper stances, oblique body postures, and you can lead with either foot depending on the technique, just to cite a few examples. (Obviously, my kendo habits get in the way of doing Yagyu technique correctly.)
In general, my experience is that there is a wide spectrum of approaches to both gendai and koryu arts which seem to be expressions of the personality and character of the teacher more than a being necessarily function of the art itself, perhaps. My kendo experience wirth the police showed me an art that was extremely rough and violent, supported by a rigid social structure that could be termed militaristic. The teachers and everyone involved were very demanding and rank protocol was so strictly observed, and in such a humorless manner, that I might as well have been in a military camp. However, this was probably more a function of the fact that it was police kendo. Kendo does not necessarily have to be practiced that way, as a glance at any local gym would show. My very limited experience in Yagyu Shinkage Ryu so far is nothing like police kendo at all, primarily in the attitude of its practioners and the atmosphere in the dojo, which, while strict and dedicated, is nowhere near so militaristic.
Anyeway, examples and anecdotes are endless, which is one reason why Koryubooks.com is such a valuable resource, since they have a lot of stuff that can help you on this. In any case, I think that it is probably impossible to come up with a thumbnail description of what you're looking for. It all seems very individual to me. I am sure that it differs from art to art and from teacher to teacher.
Koryu and gendai budo are mutually supportive; seldom mutually exclusive.
I practice Toyama Ryu and Nakamura Ryu. Both are gendai budo -- and both are geared to be "combat effective." However, both are taught now (more or less) in the "do" mode. We've "gentrified" our foot movements -- at least compared to the way it originally was taught at the Rikugun Toyama Gakko.
I also studied MJER -- although my teacher is not "recognized" and his interpretation of the waza has been likened to a "bull in a china shop" (thanks, Earl :D). But, it is koryu nonetheless.
I feel that practicing a koryu has given me a broader understanding of my gendai budo -- I can see the connection between Eishin Ryu and Toyama Ryu now. Before, the connection was only a phrase in books: "...Toyama ryu is based on Omori Ryu." After learning the Okuden waza of MJER I can now "feel" the parentage of Toyama Ryu. I even go so far as to say that the Okuden waza *are* the genesis of Toyama Ryu -- not Omori Ryu [Shoden waza]. I would not have discovered that theory without studying koryu.
Likewise, I say that studying gendai budo has enhanced my koryu -- *if* you can now call MJER a koryu today. [Someone else advanced that question -- and I think it is a valid question. Is MJER a koryu amongst the mokuroku-and-higher holders, and a "gendai budo" amongst those who have "merely" dan rankings?] Since my gendai budo emphasizes actual cutting, I have a stronger (more informed) opinion as to whether or not a koryu move will not work as taught today -- in my opinion.
06-20-2000, 10:25 PM
Shesh I hate being Quoted especially when some of the initial intent of my statement may have been misinterpreted...at least in my opinion.I am fortunate enough to train under two of the Listed "Valid Koryu Teachers" currently residing Outside Japan in the US ...actually Hawaii, we're differant here when it comes to MA (of the Gendai flavor I've already seen and I have a feeling in the Koryu area as well) however as I am a rank (unranked) beginer I only discovered my sensei's last fall Take what I say with a grain of salt. I do not speak for my sensei's I have just notice that neither studies a gendai art at present. I personally don't have the Time. Don't get me wrong I loved Aikido or I wouldn't have spent the time and effort to earn my blackbelt however I find the that I have been seduced by the Koryu. My Wife has also been bitten by the Koryu bug. We spend every Sunday morning on top of a mountain swinging a stick and trying not to look too foolish as learn SMR Jodo. I couldn't be happier with my practice even though I am still having major problems with my makiotoshi and Hikotoshi needs a ton of work. This is in addition to studing two other arts so I am more than a bit over programed (elaborate traing journals is the only thing that saves me). Will I even go back to a Gendai Art? If I can't find a Koryu teacher where ever I get stationed next yes I will but ubtil then I'm happy (and busy) with what I doing now. Does this make me a Snob? E-Gads I hope not. I'm do to work out with my brother and father in their Aikido Dojo this fall for three weeks. Will I have to pay attention to what I'm doing? hell yes Koryu arts, in my opinion have left me with a decidedly more dangerous sense of ma-ai than I had in Aikido. This is not a dig at Aikido rather just an observation of my present situation. If one can't find valid instruction then I do beleive that Gendai arts are quite good. It's a lot easier to find a real Aikido/Judo/Karate/Kendo instructor than it is to find a Koryu one. IF you find a koryu teacher and it (what their teaching) appeals to you then ask for instruction. On the subjectof snobery neither has ever said anything bad about another art in my presence nor would I ever say anything negative about another Art in theirs...it would likely get me clobbered.
06-20-2000, 11:17 PM
If your post is an example of you as a person than you most certainly not a snob.
Earl once wrote a reply concerning the insipid argument of "do" Vs jutsu," that all these terms, budo, bujutsu, koryu, gendai (please correct me if I am wrong, Earl, that thread is no longer available) are on a continuum and that all evolve to adjust for the time in which they are done.
What fascinated me during one of my two attempts at adding a ryu of jujutsu to judo (kito in this instance), was how similar the two really were. There was really nothing new compared to the judo I was doing, but there was a difference in the way the waza was applied. At that time my original reason for attempting this was to improve my shiai performance, and I feel no shame in that, but even learing to do throws simply without grasping clothing gave me much insight into what was not included in judo. It also gave me the impetus to see what else judo had to offer, and I found the similarities to be so close as to have me wondering why people cosidered judo a sport at all.
However, If one can work it out, I can see no reason not to do both, if possible. If Tony can work it out, that is just fine. The fact that someone like Meik Skoss is doing judo again, says even more concerning the closeness which koryu and gendai share. After a stint in tenjin shinyo, I also found it to be very closely related to the atemiwaza I was doing, but in this instance, I was able to add more of this technique to my curriculum as I did kito. It is admirible that Earl was able to continue in "police kendo" in Japan, even though it made him feel somewhat uncomfortable, but I have no problem in taking what I can learn (including some wrist techniques fron shodokan style aikido) and include them into what I teach today. I wish I had taken more of an interest in other ryu of jujutsu when I was young, but it was discouraged, to say the least. At one time I would argue the violence even of other gendai arts as not being "sporting," but now I realize the sport in all, and that judo is not necessarily sport. Shiai can be great in keeping one's interest level high, as it did for me, but I did finally come to realize that there must be something else if I wanted to continue to do judo, as I grew one step too slow to compete. Today, nearly all classes begin with kata of atemiwaza, goshin jutsu (even more gendai since it was not included in Kodokan judo until 1958). Surely even the most ardent of koryu practioners can see the practicality of doing a modern Japanese art, as it may open new eyes to the world at hand. Yes, the violent intent has changed forever, but the spirit of koryu, in my opinion, is greatly enhanced in doing a modern version. Someone who posts here, who has a background in judo but is now doing something quite different, says that during attack-type drills, his judo always comes out. That is not so surprising. One does what one senses when in a position of being attacked by multiple uke, and if it is your gendai experience, that is not wrong. On the contrary, it may even "save the day."
06-21-2000, 12:34 AM
It depends on what motivates one to do martial arts to begin with.
Many of the koryu forms lack a "combative completeness", in terms of overall application in the modern world. How many of the koryu are sogo budo, and how many of them employee only one or two weapons?
How could studying a gendai unarmed form be anything but complimentary to the study of kenjutsu? How could the study of a sword based koryu be anything but beneficial to the study of modern jujutsu?
If one seeks to be effective as a fighter, then it should matter little if the arts that increase this effectiveness are gendai, koryu,a derived eclectic form, or a combination of two or more?
If one is training for some sort of spiritual or personality development, then it matters little.
Maybe we should look at this by seeing what others feel is the combative advantage to thier own system, and then critically examine that to see if any lacking elements could not be reinforced by studying a system that compliments the current system.
If we were to be honest about the shortcomings of our own system, maybe this would shed some light into the debate.For if there were a single perfect system, wouldn't we all be training in that one system?
06-21-2000, 11:16 AM
It seems we have come around to the original point again, which really is: is there really such a sharp division between the koryu and the gendai arts in Japan as we are wont to think here in the West? Personally, I think the answer is no, not because there are not differences (there are, of course) but because the Japanese simply don't spend, or should I say waste, a lot of time worrying about these sorts of things like we do here on e-budo.
Most people seem to think that the real division is between "martial effectiveness" and "spiritual training", however one may define those terms. If we were to compare modern kendo vs. koryu kenjutsu with a view towards determining which would be more theoretically effective on a medieval battlefield, the answer is obvious. However, this really doesn't mean much today. In any case, the plain fact of the matter is that "martial effectiveness" is at least as much a function of spiritual and psychological factors as technical ones, and you really can't have one without the other. As Yagyu Sensei has said, the do and the jutsu are one and the same thing. I found this out (although I couldn't really articulate it the time) when I realized that I was, quite simply, scared s**tless of the cops I fenced with, since there was an element of real danger involved in attacking them, even though we were using bamboo sticks and wearing protective gear. If I didn't watch myself, I would get the point to the throat, which casued many sleepless nights and terror-filled, cold sweat-drenched days. Without putting too fine a point on it, if you can't get untracked, you can't attack (apologies to Johnny Cochran). Anyone who has ever gone up against someone better than them will know what I mean. I am not sure if there is much difference in this area between the koryu and the gendai arts. Perhaps it is a matter of degree, I don't know. It probably differs from art to art and from teacher to teacher, like I said before. Maybe the cops were doing koryu-style gendai kendo. I really can't say. People who know more than I will have to deal with that.
One must always remember that the modern arts were restructured so that they could act as the medium through which the traditional values of the warrior class could be transmitted to the people of modern Japan. Thus, the arts could not remain in their traditional, factionalized form for this to happen. This is one of the main reasons behind the standardization that they underwent. In kyudo, this process was very conscious and purposeful. In this process, the individual flavor of the different ryuha were inevitably lost. Right now, when I am fortunate enough to go to Japan, I train with a teacher who teachers traditional Heki To Ryu kyudo in her dojo. From the outside, to a novice, it would be difficult if not impossible to discern any striking differences between this kyudo and modern kyudo. However, the differences are there. There are some technical differences, but the main difference is one of feeling and philosophy. However, since this teacher does modern kyudo as well, and holds a high position of responsibility within the modern kyudo organization, her views must inevitably come to affect modern kyudo as well (and vice-versa).
This must always be kept in mind: the koryu and gendai arts do not exist separately in Japan. The exist in a symbiotic relationship and affect each other in many ways. For instance, one of the senior practitioners of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu in the Tokyo dojo just earned his 8th degree in modern kendo, which he teaches at his own private dojo. Many Shinto Muso Ryu jo practitoners practice both the modern and traditional forms of the art. The list goes on and on.
One thing is definitely true, however: in koryu, if you are training with a good senior, there is a definite element of danger in how the kata are performed, even if you know what is supposed to happen. If you are not on your toes, or if you are slacking off, you will find out about it right away, in ways that can be quite painful, humiliating, or both. (This is also true in the gendai arts if your senior is good.) One of the differences between the kind of kendo that I practiced with the police and with Yagyu Shinkage Ryu that has become obvious in my short experience with Yagyu ryu is strictly a technical one: there are no limitations to the targets in Yagyu Ryu. This is a crucial difference: no matter how tough a modern kendo man might be (and they are tough, believe me) he knows instinctively that if a strike is going to hit him, say, in the thigh, the upper arm, the elbow, the shoulder, or the side of the neck, he can just ignore it, no matter how much it might hurt, or how dead he would be if the sword were real, because it does not count as a point. This changes everything, and even really good kendo pratitioners can be sloppy in this way.
As far as shiai is concerned, Yagyu Sensei told us that when he was young they used to do shiai in Yagyu Shinkage Ryu. This is not done today, apparently.
Anyway, perhaps people feel that "koryu vs. gendai" is a matter of feeling as much as anything, as evidenced by a lot of comments on e-budo to the effect that "it is a gendai art, but we/they train in a koryu fashion". Frankly, while I defer to others with more experience in this area, I am not exactly sure what this means. I think that it might be a function of the false dichotomy some people have in their minds that says koryu arts are tough and modern arts are not. I don't think that is necessarily true at all, and if it is, it would be more of a result of how an individul teacher approaches his/her art than anything else. This also changes from student to student and depends on what the teacher sees in the student. Even within the same art or dojo, different students are taught differently depending on their level and intent. The permutations are subtle and endless, the serpent eating its tail.
That is why I think that the best and perhaps the only useful definition of koryu vs. gendai is precisely the historical one that the Skosses suggest. If it was established before an arbitrary date, then it is koryu, if not, not. This is an historical, and, therefore, neutral definiton. It does not necessarily have to be seen as a value judgement, even if some people try to make it so.
06-21-2000, 12:14 PM
Earl described some of what I have also discovered. It's the application of the various techniques that makes the difference. Since there are only so many ways to swing a stick/sword and move a body. That said the fist time a did a Kata in Jujutsu I realized both how much easier the Koryu versions are, because one isn't starting with the protective premise of Aikido and given that stiplation how much more dangerous they can be (hence the need to practice them in Kata form). Having said that I'm not sure I could have studied jujutsu first without my prior Aikido training. Mentally aikido is a bit more pleasant, Jujutsu (at least what I've learned) is MEAN... none of this protect the opponant stuff. Much more like Finish of the attacker and get the hell away from the site of conflict, which stems from the fact that Koryu arts were designed to keep their practicianers alive on the battlefield not stop a fight in Downtown LA (sorry that just came to mind because of the Basketball Riots):D I do beleive that the Ma-ai of Koryu is more martial. Mostly because the motions are more body trained than things are in the Gendai arts that I've seen. Especially when it has come to weapons Kata's with a partner. Learning to stop a strike before you shatter your partner's wrist, or when to step away before a yokomen strike brains you. I have been hit more often since I started training in Koryu and I have learned a lot more about getting off the line/out of the way, whether at high speed or in one step format. Taking this back to a gendai art will be interesting and educational; that, is a ways off...thankfully. I guess it really come down to the underlying priciples of the Art you are studying. Did I make a point here?
[Edited by Tony Peters on 06-21-2000 at 01:16 PM]
06-22-2000, 02:10 AM
Yes, you made a fine point, Tony. When I did Kito ryu jujutsu, the same basic presription was there: break kuzushi and finish the throw. However, how you get there is something else. Assuming I've broken my oppnents balance by striking, have his wrist/hand in a lock of sorts and jammiing my forearm up into his armpit (this can be particularly painful), you finish him the same way as one would using judo. But yes, the violent intent is different, but results are the same. By applying this to judo, I am still doing judo, but I have improved my chances of finishing. So I do think I understand your point.
There is nothing more I can really add. I read your post and I sit here nodding my head in agreement. The only thing which changes, is my interest in kyudo. I would love to see for myself the sublities of something which may at the very least, improve my focus. Thank you for another interesting post. I know we've touched on this a million times but I don't find it redundant. After all, how much does one remember if it is posted once and filed away? I really wish others could see the similarities of doing both, one, or the other. Intent is indivdual and yes, it does come first from the proveners of the koryu, distilled into the gendai, and passed down by individuals, no matter what the art. In LA, we rarely did uchikomi exercises, but in New york, and hour can be taken up by the same. I'm not saying it pertains to geographical or topographical locations, but it does change dojo to dojo.
As far as shiai goes, it was originally shi ni ai and if my slim knowledge of terminolgy serves, it means to be the harmony to being second or next to death, so in those terms, it does have differing application. I do believe this type of contest was around when koryu didn't have to be called koryu. How does on test one's self if the intent is to kill or maim? I can see the value of doing both, but I think the intent, in a very raw way is the same. Sometimes it just comes down to a difference in the way one is practiced, and the imitation of sensei's every move exist in both. I hope I haven't ruined a student's very motive for doing what I do.
vBulletin® v3.6.8, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.