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Thread: oldest extinct koryu

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    Default oldest extinct koryu

    I know that Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu is considered to be the oldest extant koryu. Is there any agreement on what was the first school of koryu, now extinct?
    Ted Taylor

    "A martial spirit embiggens the smallest man."

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    This is a very good question but I would like to alter it a bit.

    At what point did the idea of a school (ryu) first appear?

    I can see the first hints of it when samurai families started getting power and influence but usually their training revolved around an experienced retainer. I assume the same would be true for Guards and Police units.

    So what was the first transgenerational ryu (let's say three generations)?

    I know the question is complicated by the fact that legitamacy was defined by what came before so let's try to avoid the claiming descent from famous general or emperor trap.

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    Question Oldest Ryu?...

    Hi all.
    I am not sure about precise dates but isn't it generally taken that the first 'formalised' methods of training in fighting arts started with the ideas behind the "Kashima no Tachi"(Hitotsu no Tachi/Ichi no Tachi?)?
    Although the Katori Shinto Ryu was formed later I thought that it was based in a way upon the above teaching methods...Bigger perhaps and using more weaponry but starting with this initial idea? Or is it just confined to the Kashima Shinto Ryu lines?
    Good question....
    Regards.
    Ben Sharples.
    智は知恵、仁は思いやり、勇は勇気と説いています。

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    Default Re: oldest extinct koryu

    Originally posted by cybermaai
    I know that Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu is considered to be the oldest extant koryu. Is there any agreement on what was the first school of koryu, now extinct?
    Good question, but also one that's impossible to answer. The first schools dealing with weapons training that styled themselves ---ryu were the Ki, Tomo and Sakanoue schools of archery, which appeared in the mid-Heian period. These appear, however, to have been very different institutions from the ryuha of medieval and later times. They also dealt with ceremonial, not military, archery.

    There are hints in late Heian period literature (such as the anecdote ffrom Konjaku monogatari-shu I cited in my Legacies of the Sword discussion of this subject) that suggest that Japanese may have been developing some concept of identifiable styles of martial art by the late 10th century. But bugei ryuha of the sort that survived into the modern period, were a late medieval development, the first extant references to them appearing in the 15th century.

    There's no real way to know which of the various primordial ryuha mentioned in early documents and sources was the first--or even if any of these ever actually existed at all. Some--or all--may have been mere legends. Or they may have been "ryuha" only in hindsight.

    A great many schools claim much more venerable origins--dating themselves back to the Heian period or even earlier. But there's no corroborating evidence for these claims. That is, there's no evidence in general sources that samurai trained in this sort of pattern--that ryuha of any sort existed--prior to the 15th century.

    Obviously there was military training as far back as there was a military; and samurai (bushi) training as far back as there were bushi. And obviously the guys who founded the first ryuha learned their skills from someone, who must have learned from someone else, and so on. So in that sense, you could arguably trace any ryuha back as far as you like. Eventually, though, this line of reasoning puts the origins of the first ryuha with the first cavemen to pick up sticks and thunk one another with them--which makes the whole question meaningless.

    Ben mentioned "Kashima-no-tachi" as one of the earliest formalized bugei concepts, but you need to be careful with this one. "Kashima-no-tachi" appears to have simply been a name for the martial arts ideas that were taught/practiced in and around the Kashima area. Thus Katori Shinto-ryu, Kashima-Shinto-ryu and other styles that originated in this area are almost certainly just as much the heirs of "Kashima-no-tachi" as the Kashima-Shinryu is. (Of course, we're the only ones who actually preserved the real "Kashima-no-tachi," as "ichi-no-tachi!" javascript:smilie('')
    javascript:smilie('') )
    Karl Friday
    Dept. of History
    University of Georgia
    Athens, GA 30602

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    A few more names of primordial ryu.

    1) Kyo Hachi-ryu. In Yoshikawa's Musashi novel, at least, claimed to be the ryu of the Yoshiokas. Referred to frequently in writings, associated with Kurama area
    2) Chujo-ryu. A family art. Chujo Nagahide, I believe, studied with Jion, the founder of Nen-ryu (the other competition for the "oldest extant ryu), and the revitalized Chujo-ryu became, among others, Toda-ryu, Itto-ryu, Gan-ryu (the possibly real creation of Sasaki Kojiro, a possibly real person)
    3) Kage-ryu (developed into Shinkage-ryu).

    Chikubujima-ryu bojutsu claims an origin back in the Kamakura period, I believe, (12th century), but there are no documents that establish it's existence that far back.

    Muso Jikiden-ryu jujutsu claims Isaza Choiisai as their 7th headmaster, but, their role of teachers seems to be a composite list of a number of cool people who had little or no chance to have ever met. Probably an early-to-mid-Edo creation.

    Best

    Ellis Amdur
    www.ellisamdur.com

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    How about Kukishinden Tenshin Hyoho? On their website, they claim it as an identifiable school as far back as the 11th century?
    David Kemlo

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    Mr. Kemlo -

    The question, in general, is how a ryu is historically verified. Either the ryu, itself, has documents, dating back to a certain period, or there are historical references which, at least, allude to the existence of such a ryu.

    1) X-ryu or x-family has a scroll or other record dated 1550.
    2) You have one scroll dated 1610 and another dated 1690. The first is that of a fifth generation guy, and the second of a seventh gen. guy. They are separated by geography and time. The lineage is separated at a certain point. That "meeting place" was a third headmaster in both lines, who taught two (at least) people who end up with diff. lines. We don't know that much about the 3rd gen. guy, but extrapolating backwards, we can assume he was, maybe teaching in 1570 to 1590. Depending on how creditable the claim is that he studied with #2, and that person with #1, we might assume the ryu started in the first or second third of the 1500's. There might be other records that mention such a warrior in another context - maybe even a census, which establishes a birthdate or deathdate.
    3) Other contemporary records mention something about a tradition in passing.

    Which leads directly to your question, (which applies, in general, to lots of schools that claim such an old history). If they don't possess scrolls from the period, AND the tradition is not mentioned in any historical sources, all we have is a claim - a family tradition, that goes back, who knows how far? Knowing nothing about Kukishin-ryu(s), the question would be if they have any actual evidence to back their claim.

    Best

    Ellis Amdur

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    Thank you for all the interesting replys. It seems that verification of "jurassic" ryu proves elusive, yet what about in terms of densho? Does anyone know of the oldest existing densho? (Which again proves little, considering the centuries of warfare which followed.)

    As a sort of bonus question, I am curious of attempts made to bring back dead ryu or their techniques, such as Ellis Amdur writes of in Keiko Shokon.
    Ted Taylor

    "A martial spirit embiggens the smallest man."

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    Revival? There's a lot of levels. As I noted in Keiko Shokon, the best schema is that of Liam Keeley, his terms being so apt, they should be considered the standard. So here they are again:

    1) REVIVAL - this would be when a licensed instructor, starts teaching again, a portion of the ryu which he is fully trained that, for some reason, was abandoned. And then, later, when a dedicated young individual comes along, he starts teaching again what he knows

    2) RECONSTRUCTION - somewhat controversial - There is a portion of the ryu that has been abandoned. No one alive has practiced it. Records remain describing the techniques. Legitimate lineage holders, applying the principals of other portions of the ryu, reconstruct the kata, without pretension that it has been passed down in an unbroken chain or that it is "exactly" as is done before. Some ryu consider this anathema, others do it, considering it beneficial to their ryu.

    3) Innovation - lineage holder, perhaps with the assistance of young blood with their own experience, adds to the ryu. Historically, quite frequently done. They could develop new kata with weapons already practiced, or new variations/alternatives within the kata. Or, they could add new ways of practicing or weapons systems. Controversial in modern times because most kobudoka treat their ryu as antiques, and the idea of keeping up with the times is out of the question. Some few ryu are still willing to innovate.
    - the additions should follow the same rationale of the rest of the ryu, unless there is some explicitly directed reason to do otherwise. For example, let us imagine that the only nawajutsu (rope tying) in a system uses a kaginawa (rope with a hook) which, among other things might be fixed to various body parts. The members of the ryu want something they could use, were it needed, without being arrested for barbarous behavior, and so they develop some restraint ties for modern society
    - depending on the knowledge base, the innovation may be anything from useful to silly. I have, for example, developed some kata in bojutsu in Araki-ryu, starting with a base of kata generations old, using already established waza of the ryu - the kata are definitely stronger than before. Or, the few kicks in Araki-ryu are done muay-thai style, which I trained, because the older method of several generations ago is simply not as strong, and changing in this way does not damage, in any way, the other aspects of training. But, knowing absolutely nothing about bow-and-arrow, I could, were I so inclined create my own archery system to add to my ryu, but it would be idiotic.
    - reinventing the wheel is also kinda silly. For example, why should an old koryu jujutsu school try to develop their own empty -handed competitive form, when there is such incredible research out there in so many kinds of grappling. Using all that modern research to strengthen the techniques one has, however, within the parameters of the ryu (for example, with dagger in hand on the ground) makes sense to me at least.

    4) Re-creation - Here's where it starts to get dubious. For example, let's imagine that I, certified in two ryu acquire some records of another ryu, that is extinct. I go thru the kata, and following what might be very detailed instructions, re-create the kata. (Just for the heck of it, I did this, once, with a sword school that still existed, but that I'd not seen much of. I recreated some of the forms and then later saw the real school. No - nada - resemblence.) So I'm really skeptical of this and really don't see what the point is - other than to be able to claim expertise in something no one else alive can do (the truth being that you can't do "it" either).

    Something that comes very close to re-creation is to approach some aged individual without deshi and, for the purpose of making sure it "doesn't die," ask to be shown the kata. Then you end up certified as the next shihan (But your training time is very limited, and the teacher is too old to put you thru anything real). Such individuals end up the soke or shihan of a lot of ryu, and are referred to in Japan as "kuro-meishi" - (black name-cards) - because their cards are almost black with the ink of all their certifications.

    As for me, I am rather dubious about the latter as well, tho' the line can be more fluid. It's possible that several young healthy skilled people can be verbally supervised by an elderly teacher into a semblance of the way the ryu was. (I believe that Seiwa-ryu naginata was re-created this way - several dedicated Tendo-ryu practitioners approached the elderly teachers, and with really clean intentions, were supervised in the manner of how to do the kata. At least several decades ago, they were honest that the lineage was broken. Don't know if that's so now.)
    5) "Neo-classical" development - someone makes up their own ryu - both in America, and in Japan. Such an entity should stand on it's own merits, for better or worse, but unfortunately, they often create a fake history to go along with it. So, it could be
    a. both stupid, ahistorical technique and dishonest,
    b. maybe somewhat effective technique, but corrupt because of the made-up lineage and history
    c. possibly, but very unlikely, effective and honest, as in "I invented this new kusarigama ryu, and never trained in it with anybody, but watched lots of budokan videos as well as the complete Lone Wolf with Child series." and in fact, it has integrity in the techniques, and is really strong. (Monkeys chained to typewriters write Shakespeare sonnets, so I'm told).

    Best

    Ellis Amdur
    www.ellisamdur.com

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    Originally posted by Ellis Amdur Monkeys chained to typewriters write Shakespeare sonnets, so I'm told.
    Well actually they don't. They type a lot of a's and spaces, and apparently they like j. Which I guess proves your point.

    Thank you Ellis and Karl.

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    Very interesting viewpoints. Thank you very much.

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    Ellis,

    I know from what you have written about Araki ryu that AR is one of the ryu "still willing to innovate", but your post seems to hint that there are more. Can you make any example, just for the sake of it?

    About the monkeys and Shakespeare, I thought that the point of the business was that, given enough monkeys and enough time, some, by chance, would produce Shakespeare' sonnets. Pretty sure you could hack a code to get the same random generation of poetry on an Unix box, without all the faeces hurling so typical of or simian friends...

    Regards,
    Federico Calboli

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    Originally posted by Federico Calboli
    About the monkeys and Shakespeare, I thought that the point of the business was that, given enough monkeys and enough time, some, by chance, would produce Shakespeare' sonnets. Pretty sure you could hack a code to get the same random generation of poetry on an Unix box, without all the faeces hurling so typical of or simian friends...
    We should start another thread - this one is too good the hijack. However, the whole point was that the monkeys were not random - they display preference and hence the whole analogy gets tossed.

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    Federico -

    I don't know of any other ryu innovating these day in the manner of "my" line of Araki-ryu, but I had little contact with many people in other ryu when I lived in Japan 15 years ago, and now I've got none. Certainly innovation was happening in Meiji. I am aware of some schools which claim 400/500 years of history for kata they came up with rather recently - no, I won't point fingers. Openly keeping the ryu alive as something still creative is contrary to almost everyone's concept of "ko" ryu. That's why I wrote the piece in Keiki Shokon - simply to point out that it doesn't have to be that way.

    Best

    Ellis Amdur

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