View Full Version : Seeking a book review
07-05-2001, 11:27 AM
Once again I have indulged one of my single greatest vices and impulsively snapped up yet another addition to my home library. My latest acquisition is "CLASSICAL FIGHTING ARTS OF JAPAN -a complete guide to koryu jujutsu" by Serge Mol (Kodansha, 2001) At first blush it appears a well-written, well-organized survey of Koryu jujutsu traditions. I have, however, noted a high frequency of declarative statements which are unqualified and un-annoted. I usually take this for a bad sign and wonder if anyone has comments or opinions regarding this work.
While it would probably serve the general Net population if you respond to this thread, I would likewise welcome private responses off-line if discretion is the better part of your valor. :-)
Bruce W Sims
Yes, at first look "CLASSICAL FIGHTING ARTS OF JAPAN - a complete guide to koryu jujutsu" by Serge Mol is impressive. My first unadulterated impression was...... WOW!!! (photo quality could have be better) It's a book I'll make sure and add to my library.
07-07-2001, 12:35 AM
I am about half way through. So far I am enjoying the read. He seems to have a fairly good grasp of the history and his discussion of jujutsu as if fits into the greater matrix of bujutsu is better than at least 90% of the other stuff out there. In particular his discussion of terms for head of school seem right in line with soke discussions here on e-budo. Also his discussion of how kenjutsu or sojutsu can move into jujutsu on a battlefield has application to other recent threads here. So far so good. In some ways his historical perspective may be an improvement on the jutsu vs. do artifacts from Draeger that have hampered so many of our discussions. I think it shows some real prospects. We’ll see how some practitioners react to the descriptions of their ryu.
07-07-2001, 07:20 AM
"...Also his discussion of how kenjutsu or sojutsu can move into jujutsu on a battlefield has application to other recent threads here. So far so good. In some ways his historical perspective may be an improvement on the jutsu vs. do artifacts from Draeger that have hampered so many of our discussions. I think it shows some real prospects. We’ll see how some practitioners react to the descriptions of their ryu...."
Thanks for the in-put. Your last comment I think is particularly important. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I get a bit nervous when I read one too many declarative statements that are not annotated. I would be very interested to hear how individuals who are connected to more traditional ryu view the manner in which their respective traditional are characterized by Mr. Mol.
BTW: As a side-light I have always had the greatest respect for OS Draegers' material. In the last couple of years, however, I seem to be hearing increasingly critical evaluations of his work. If anyone would care to elaborate on specific areas, content or characterizations he presented regarding asian martial traditions I would be very interested. I have referenced his Budo/Bujutsu works a number of times and it would be helpful if there are short-comings of which I should be aware.
Bruce W Sims
07-07-2001, 11:23 PM
Since I am planning to try and get a review of this book published, I will not go into much detail here. However I would like to point out a few things about this book. As a general jujutsu reference work, it is fairly good. Most of the author's source materials are what I consider the some of the best of the "popular" genre of martial arts history books available in Japanese, and his working with some of the soke of these ryu is a very nice addition as well, but it is not a academic level work by any means. One of a couple major sticking points I have with this book is the whole section on Katayama Hoki ryu jujutsu. I have a personal interest in this because I train in Hoki ryu iaijutsu and have spent the last couple years doing research into Katayama ryu (the root art), including digging through the densho that Mol's sensei used to recreate Katayama Hoki ryu Jujutsu from (for the record, there was no historical entity known as "Katayama Hoki ryu Jujutsu", just "Katayama ryu Kenjutsu"). Much of what Mol writes about contradicts my own research, the research of much more qualified people I have had the chance to work with and even some of what his own teacher, Nakashima Atsumi, has written on the subject. Again, I won't go into details here (if you REALLY need to know more, email me privately). But this whole section puts puts a serious damper on what could have been a really great work. It is my hope that the many mistakes this section contains are due to misunderstanding on his part. One thing I do applaud Nakashima sensei for (and also Mol for openingly stating) is that the art they do is a total recreation. It just strikes me as odd that Mol would even try to bother to include it as a koryu art.
07-08-2001, 05:11 AM
Originally posted by glad2bhere
BTW: As a side-light I have always had the greatest respect for OS Draegers' material. In the last couple of years, however, I seem to be hearing increasingly critical evaluations of his work
Most complaints I've heard on Draeger and his work is similar to the "unannotated" declaratives, and that simply a lot of his work reads like an encyclopedia, that one must believe its true as who would question "The walking Encyclopedia."
His statements concerning something as complex as the difference in budo and bujutsu, I've also heard.
Some of his stuff is simply boring.
But the biggest complaints I hear of late is on Donn Draeger, the man, not Donn Draeger the researcher/writer of budo. Some disapprove of what he was like or what kind of friends he kept.
For example, I could take issue with his statements that "...judo is so outside the circle of budo that...," etc. I could take issue but I don't. Disagreeing with opinionated fact is as commonplace as Japanese Budo Bulletin Boards.:)
It is also how history is written, I think, and is based on this type of fact.
There are declarative statements all over the place which people accept as fact, and it is no different with Donn.
07-09-2001, 08:09 AM
Since you area practitioner of one of the arts that M. Mol discusses I would be genuinely interested in your review when it comes out. I hope you will give me notice as pub time approaches.
RE: OS Draeger
Maybe it would help to narrow things a bit. When I was lurking on a discussion on AIKIDO JOURNAL Net the string concerned a examination of the historical lineage of Daito-Ryu AJJ. I had held Draegers' material to be pretty definitive in the matter. Essentially he characterized OS Takedas efforts as a revivification of an earlier system of the Aizu family which had fallen into obscurity. Some of the contributors took exception indicating that Draegers' resources were poor and of limited scope. Since I am not a practitioner of Japanese arts I have little frame of reference to judge these matters and wondered if my confidence in Draegers material was or was not well placed. I'm open to anyone's thoughts in the matter.
07-09-2001, 09:07 AM
I recently read Legacies of the Sword : The Kashima-Shinryu and Samurai Martial Culture by Karl F. Friday and I remember it contained some sound commentaries on the work of Mr. Draeger. Of course I don't remember the commentaries themself, just the fact that they came across as being well-researched.
Maybe he can shed some more light on this.
07-09-2001, 09:23 AM
Well, I ate the whole thing...
The second half - dealing with the individual ryu and ryu-ha - is where I think most people will have trouble with this book. I really don’t have near the expertise to comment on the accuracy of the info presented, but I suspect there will be problems both with what is presented and what is not. Some of it seems contradictory and I think his typology might be flawed. It gets a lot less interesting in the second section. He attempts to speculate how each ryu was founded and some of it is not believable and he hedges so much as to not really give you a feeling he is sure of himself either. Then he tries to give a feeling for the style practiced by each ryu. This as well is not very successful. The only ryu I have enough info on to even venture a comment is the Shindo (Shinto) Yoshin Ryu. The section is very short. He is unaware of the existence of the Takamura ha line, but I think he accurately states that the main line is about to die out as no new head has been chosen.
All in all I think it might have been improved by a more strict presentation of the known facts for the ryu presented making it more of a reference work with an introduction. The introduction was worth reading and could have been expanded.
I would read the intro and use the second half as a reference, but not take the info as gospel.
Victor Block told me about this book 3 weeks ago. He saw it in the Kinokuniya bookstore in Manhattan. I called Kodansha and they said it was not released yet. ??? Weird huh.
I'm not suprised that Mr Mol is unaware of the Takamura ha line of Shindo Yoshin ryu. Remember that the Ohbata ha effectively left Japan at the end of WW2, not returning until the 1970's under a different name, the Takamura ha. In this process the kanji was also altered to reflect the change. If he had been aware of it at all he would have probably referred to it as the Ohbata ha line by way of Shigeta Ohbata.
Much of the mis-information concerning the SYR is due to inaccurate historical details from the Wado ryu hombu which greatly dwarfs the SYR in size and recognition. This subject has been covered several times here on e-budo but basically the Wado ryu has claimed for years that Ohtsuka Hironori was the headmaster of all SYR via a menkyo kaiden issued by Nakayama Tatsusaburo even though careful examination of their own dates confirm that mainline headmaster Matsuoka Tatsuo was still alive and active as the SYR headmaster 8 years after Ohtsuka's death. There are actually 3 ryuha currently existing if you count the surviving "jujutsu kempo" curriculum of Wado ryu as one.
The future of the SYR mainline is effectively in the hands of Dr Fujiwara Ryuzo under the guise of the Shindo Yoshin ryu Domonkai. I am not aware of any dojo's currently operating in Japan that are teaching mainline SYR. A Wado ryu friend in Sweden, Ohgami Shingo, knows Dr Fujiwara personally and visits him ocassionally. He recently told me that the Domonkai seems to function more as a historical preservation society now than a living martial tradition.
If Mr Mol had mentioned the Takamura ryuha I would have been shocked by the depth of his investigation. I wouldn't therefore hold this particular omission as a very significant reflection on his book. Were it not for the well received interview with Takamura Sensei that appeared in Stan Pranin's Aikido Journal several years ago I dare say that less than 75 people worldwide would have even known of the ryuha's existence ...although I did discuss this topic with Meik Skoss in Japan in 1994, but I doubt he remembers much of it. We were all quite schnockered at the time.
Looking forward to seeing this book.
07-09-2001, 04:57 PM
Toby et al
I didn’t mean to imply that I at all expected Mr. Mol to know about Takamura ha. I only mentioned it to say that within my limited knowledge the SYR section seemed to jibe with the facts and that mainline SYR was close to disappearing (although who knows what might be lurking out there similar to Takamura’s group).
By the way although Daito Ryu is mentioned, it does not have a section devoted to it.
Another thought. We may take some things for granted here on e-budo that may not be obvious to a general practitioner out in the world much less the general public, but I would say that Mr. Mol does do a good job of bursting the self defense myth of jujutsu by covering it’s use as an offensive art, an art that is a adjunct to kenjutsu and other weapon arts, its use of “minor” weapons including tessen, tanto, sticks, and even swords, and its use as a palace bodyguard art ie. protecting a third party in the strict confines of the palace etc.
Does that make it 4 cents?
Toby - I got my copy off the shelf at Powell’s last week. Ain’t Portland great?
07-10-2001, 01:48 AM
I got my copy of this book two weeks ago at the McKenzie White bookstore in Colorado Springs. And I would have to agree with most of the comments stated so far in this thread about the book. I would like to comment specifically on it's references to Daito-ryu starting with a summary of what Mol has to say about aikijujutsu.
On page 49-50, Mol mentions Daito-ryu as a school of aikijujutsu along with Takeda-ryu Aiki no Jutsu. He quotes Kondo sensei as defining aiki as "the refined method of rendering an opponent's attack powerless in an instant."
Mol admits "...the history of aiki is still the subject of great controversy between advocates and adversaries of the art." He mentions that the histories of Daito-ryu and Takeda-ryu refer to numerous legendary and mythological figures as well as historical figures. And also that, "Both schools refer to Shinra Saburo Minamoto no Yoshimitsu (11th & 12th centuries) as the founder of the actual art. Yoshimitsu's son who according to some interpretations also contributed to the development of the art, moved to the province of Kai, and adopted the name Takeda." And, "Just before the destruction of the once powerful Takeda family at the battle of Nagashino in Tensho 3 (1575) the art was supposedly brought to the Aizu domain where its status as a secret art was maintained for several hundred years."
Then Mol says, "Critics point out that there is little evidence to support these stories, and that it was not until the Meiji period that the system became known, when the art was being promoted by Takeda Sokaku of Daito-ryu, and his followers. Another contentious issue is that there appear to be no makimono or other densho of the school predating the Meiji period; as a result it is sometimes suggested that the actual founder of the Daito-ryu was Takeda Sokaku himself."
Mol also acknowledges that, "One fact, however, that cannot be disputed is that Takeda Sokaku was a very talented martial artist, who had considerable knowledge of various martial arts schools, including such well-known schools as Onoha Itto-ryu, Jikishinkage-ryu, and Hozoin-ryu." He also mentions that Sokaku's mother was from the Kurokochi family, and that Sokaku was adopted into that family for a time.
Then he says, "It's hard to dispute the technical qualities of Daito-ryu, since in essence it is not very different from the jujutsu in other traditional martial arts schools. Aikijujutsu is not that different from the jujutsu in other traditional jujutsu schools." And he qualifies this statement by adding that "In fact some of the oldest makimono that bear Takeda Sokaku's seal mention 'Daito-ryu Jujutsu'".
One thing that had me baffled was that Daito-ryu was also listed (page 187) as an off-shoot of Sekiguchi-ryu. :confused: Huh? That was a new one for me. Here is where it would be nice to see more references to the actual sources for his info.
I will close by saying that there are a number of statements in the book regarding Daito-ryu that are, I believe, misleading and/or incorrect presumptions based on misconceptions and inadequate research. Since I am a practitioner of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, I would like to offer my own comments and perspective in a later post.
07-10-2001, 03:15 AM
There is an offshot of Sekiguchi ryu called Daito ryu, the kanji are even the same, but they are unrelated. It is listed on page 521 of my copy of the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten, which is also one of Mol's more frequently used sources.
07-10-2001, 07:50 AM
Your post addresses exactly my concern. My initial response would have been to pull Draeger off the shelf and reference his up-take on things. Of course, this is why I also mentioned my concerns for HIS authenticity and scholarship as well. Pranins' recently published work interviewing various DRAJJ leaders is helpful regarding overall attitudes and more recent lineal developments, but I think in-depth historical research was outside of the limits of that work. With so few really well-done English language materials available I want to err on the side of caution.
BTW: If anyone knows of additional resources to bump this up against please let me know. I had originally purchased a DRAJJ book concerning "hidden Aikido" but the author was panned by a number of people as having very tenuous roots in the DRAJJ community.
Thanks again for your thoughts, Brently.
07-10-2001, 08:56 AM
Just a quick note. Donn Draeger's picture still hangs at the TSKSR main dojo. He is still well thought of there, which should be some measure of the man he was.
As far as book/research he did, that's like comparing computer books of the 70s with what we have now. Martial arts researchers, Japanese and foreign, have access to so much more information now that was never readily available before. I've been in the arts for 32 years this February and have watched the historical information open up like a large rose in bloom, especially over the last 13 years or so. Its people like Donn who planted that seed and new info is still pouring out for us almost daily.
Hence you should cross reference information regardless who wrote it and when.
07-10-2001, 12:51 PM
I was not aware of another "Daito-ryu" using the same kanji. Perhaps you could share exactly what the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten says about this other unrelated school. Who was it's founder, where it was taught, when, etc... Mol should have at least noted that this was an unrelated school (IMO).
Likewise, perhaps you could tell us what the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten says about Sokaku's Daito-ryu? Does it appear that Mol's reference to Takeda-ryu Aiki no jutsu is also taken from the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten?
"Pranins' recently published work interviewing various DRAJJ leaders is helpful regarding overall attitudes and more recent lineal developments, but I think in-depth historical research was outside of the limits of that work. With so few really well-done English language materials available I want to err on the side of caution."
Right on Bruce! You hit the the nail squarely on the head. The problem I have with many so called "critics" of the history of Daito-ryu is not that they oppose our version of our history, but that they speculate primarily on the absence of pre-Meiji densho and such.
There's a huge difference of plausibility between presuming on the absence of evidence and presuming on available evidence. When speculations are raised on the absence of evidence and conclusions drawn that do not jive with the available evidence, then we're doing a great disservice to history and engaging in revisionism.
It is much more prudent as you say, "to err on the side of caution", at least until further evidence becomes available.
07-10-2001, 01:28 PM
Thanks and I think that brings me back to my original thought ala OS Draeger and the matter of authenticity and sound research.
If I can draw a simile' for a moment I would share that Hapkido has many of the same problems. Even much touted resources such as Marc Tedeschis' (Weatherhill, 2001) recent work seems like little more than amalgamations of techniques, biomechanics, commonly agreed anecdotal material and a smattering of Korean history placed and interpreted for maximum support. Whenever someone comes up with some new book I can always bang it up against Dr. Kimm, He-young's tomes on Hapkido, KukSoolWon and his own HanMuDo. These are standards organized and written by an icon in Korean history, scholarship and MA.
Moving back to Japanese culture, I have a special regard for DRAJJ as it relates intimately with my own Hapkido practices. I am, however, at a loss to identify a comparable resource(s) equivalent to Dr. Kimm in the Korean traditions. The result is that I throw an attractive title out for examination in the hopes that some kind souls will take pity on the gaijin and help me not to make to big a fool of myself. Despite all the chaos following the death of OS Takeda, do the DRAJJ traditions have resources of such standing as to keep me on the straight and narrow in terms of origins, affiliations and history? I understand that S Kondo was preparing to publish the first of a progression of DRAJJ volumes.
"Help me Obi-wan Kenobe..."
There is very little in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten about this "Daito ryu" jujutsu school. Yes, they also used the same kanji. At first I was baffled at the Daito ryu/Sekiguchi ryu connection.:confused:
The founder was the 9th generation Sekiguchi Ryu headmaster. Let's just call him Mr. Sekiguchi, his first name I can't make out. (old kanji) A few generations later a Handa Yataro, is listed with 6 disciples. One of them, Mr. Matsuda was the founder of Shinkan ryu. (Any errors in translation are mine...)
Most people think of Daito ryu Aikijujutsu, when Daito ryu is talked about. It would have been nice of Mol to distinguish between them.
Well, I've learned somthing new.
07-12-2001, 11:30 PM
Thanks for the info on the "other" Daito-ryu.
Anyone else with access to the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten care to attempt translating the 9th generation Sekiguchi-san's given name?
Sekiguchi Jushinshiin is what I'm reading with help of a kanji dictionary, family name first. The information on Sokaku's Daito ryu lists who has kyoju dari from him.
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