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Thread: Zen and Koryu

  1. #16
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    Hi,

    maybe a little of topic, but I was visiting one of the largest zen monasteries in Tokyo just a couple of weeks ago. Some of the monks there were practising Shorinji Kempo in their spare time and the Zen Master had obtained "black belt in both karate and Shorinji Kempo", whatever that means.

    If you are interested in zen and come to Tokyo, paying a visit to a zen monastery is really worthwhile. Daihonzan Soji – Ji, 2-1-1 Tsurumi, Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama-shi is very welcoming to visitors and you can join the monks in zazen. I had a stay-over, including morning mass, two zen lectures and three meals. For 7000 yen, that is.. =)

    BTW, I'm looking for a good koryu dojo in southern Tokyo (I live in Den-en-chofu on Toyoku line, between Shibuya and Yokohama). Anyone feeling like helping me out?

    Thanks in advance,
    Martin

  2. #17
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    Originally posted by ben johanson
    Karl Friday wrote:

    "The connection between Kamakura warriors and Zen was political, not doctrinal."

    I know, Dr. Friday, that you have criticized some of George Sansom's interpretations of Japanese history, but in his A History of Japan, 1334-1615, he claims that the relationship between the feudal magnates of the Kamakura and early Muromachi periods and the religious establishments, namely those of Zen Buddhism, could not be reduced entirely to mere political devices enlisted to gain support and symbols of legitamacy. He cites the examples of the Hojo Regents, Tokiyori in particluar, and the Ashikaga Shoguns, especially Yoshimitsu, who were rather devout and genuinely interested in the arts and religion. Would you disagree as to the historical significance of these examples?
    In a word, yes. Yoshimitsu's interests in the arts and religion, for example, were extremely broad, and embraced a great deal that had nothing to do with Zen. He is also the paradigm of the would-be warrior monarch assembling symbols and mechanisms of power and legitimacy--which efforts made him the most powerful and the most effective of all the Ashikaga rulers.

    In any event, the personal religious beliefs of some Kamakura period regents or Muromachi period shoguns aren't the issue. The question was about Zen practice among the general warrior population. The fact that the connections between the shogunate[s] and the Zen establishment was motivated by political rather than doctrinal concerns doesn't preclude the possibility of some political leaders developing a religious interest in Zen as well. Nor does the existance of such interests undermine the conclusion that the connections were primarily political in nature. And it doesn't tell us anything about what the guys out in provinces were thinking, either.

    This isn't really my area of expertise--I'm just reporting what the experts say. For better information, see Martin Collcutt's book (cited in my earlier post) or the essays in Richard K. Payne's Re-Visioning "Kamakura" Buddhism (Hawaii/Kuroda Institute, 1998). For more on what "Zen" actually meant during the Kamakura period, see William Bodiford's Soto Zen in Medieval Japan (Hawaii/Kuroda Institute, 1993).

    And just as a side note, how would you rate Sansom's three volume series of Japanese history? It seems to me that, though some of his interpretations may be suspect, as far as the cold hard facts of Japanese history are concerned, his books are about as good a source as one could find in english. Would you agree, or am I mistaken?
    Sansom's three volume history represents the state-of-the-art for English-language studies of Japan as of fifty years ago. The research behind them was based mainly on literary, and to a lesser extent, chronicle sources, plus (mostly pre-war) Japanese secondary scholarship. Japanese historians had already moved well beyond this level of research at that time, confronting the actual primary sources of the period--letters, documents, diaries and the like. Western scholars began to do this in the late 60s. This kind of research produces a very different view of what was going on than the one Sansom was able to see.

    The result is that while Sansom's work was very good for what it was, its value today is mainly historiographical. I wouldn't recommend these books to anyone as introductions to Japanese history. You'd do far better to look at John Hall's Government and Local Power (Yale, 1966) or the volumes in the Cambridge History of Japan series for this sort of broad introduction.

    Your question, though, brings up an interesting and common misconception about history that's probably the result of the emphasis on memorizing names and dates in primary and secondary school history classes: the clear distinction between facts and interpretations. There really isn't any such thing. History is the science of reconstructing the past, on the basis of surviving evidence. It's all about interpretation. Even the selection of which names and dates (or "facts," if you prefer) to present is a function of interpretation. This becomes even more problematic in the case of historians like Sansom, who rely primarily on literature and chronicles for their base (without weighing what they find there against what they find in documentary evidence), since these are themselves compilations of selected facts--of facts chosen to reinforce particular interpretations.

    EH Carr's classic essay, "The Historian and His Facts" (in What is History? [Macmillan, 1961; Pelican, 1984, rpt. 1964], pp. 7-30), offers an outstanding, eminently lucid and readable discussion of this issue.
    Karl Friday
    Dept. of History
    University of Georgia
    Athens, GA 30602

  3. #18
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    Martin,

    It's not koryu, but Nakamura Taizaburo teaches Nakamura Ryu (and his version of Toyama Ryu) at the Tsurumi Middle School gymnasium on Saturday evenings. Sensei is now 91 and most of the teaching is done by Sato Shimeo sensei and Suzuki Kunio sensei.

    By the way, Nakamura sensei's ohaka is at Sojiji.


    Regards,
    Guy
    Guy H. Power
    Kenshinkan Dojo

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    Guy,

    thanks for the pointer! I was not looking for Iaido, but this sounds quite interesting, so I might give it a shot. At least I'll go watch the class sometime!

    BR
    Martin

  5. #20
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    Joseph Svinth wrote:

    *quote*
    The oldest contemporary illustrations of Chinese boxing that I've seen are the ones accompanying General Ch'i's book, which means 1561-1562. (The form shown is reportedly from the northern Shaolin form chi men jen.) If someone knows of earlier illustrations, please let me know.
    *end quote*

    I believe there might be an earlier example. In 1973 Chinese archaeologists opened a Han dynasty tomb at Mawang Dui in Changsha, Hunan. They discovered a large number of ancient manuscripts. One of them, dated to 168 BCE, consists of a series of painted designs of gymnastic exercises. Each of the exercises is labeled with a name, most of which pertain to animals and bird (e.g., wolf, kite, sparrow hawk, ape, crane, etc.). Originally the manuscript seems to have depicted more than 40 exercises, but only 28 can be seen today. Of course, it is not immediately obvious exactly what these exercises or postures represent. Some scholars have suggested that they demonstrate that ancient Chinese had learned the postures (asana) of yoga from India. Others suggest that the postures depict qigong exercises or even taijiquan.

    In this regard it is interesting to note that the Chinese word for "martial" (wu; Japanese bu) is etymologically related to the Chinese word for "dance" (wu). Some scholars have suggested that Chinese martial techniques have been taught as series of choreographed steps (kata) since as long as people have been speaking Chinese. They point to the Mawang Dui manuscripts as confirmation of their etymological speculation.

    Regarding Bodhidharma and Zhang Sanfeng (Chang San-feng), the most important thing to remember is that these two figures exist in binary opposition with one another. Bodhidharma is identified as a foreign (i.e., external), Buddhist (i.e., foreign) who resided at Small Forest Monastery (Shaolin si) on Mt. Song (Song shan, Henan). During the sixteenth century Shaolin became famous for the militia that the local war lords commanded. In the popular imagination these militia were "monastic soldiers" (sengbing; Japanese sohei). Thereafter the name Bodhidharma became associated with "external" martial art texts such as the "Muscle Chang Classic" (Yijin jing). Zhang Sanfeng is identified as a Chinese (i.e., internal) Daoist (i.e., Chinese) who resided at the Five Dragon Cloister (Wulong gong) on Mt. Wudang (Wudang shan, Hubei). Wudang is home to the cult of Zhenwu sheng (perfect martial spirit), one of the most powerful gods in Chinese popular religion. Novelists frequently portray his mountain as the natural home of itinerant knights of fortune. Thus, the name Zhang Sanfeng became associated with "internal" martial art texts such as the "Great Ultimate Classic" (Taiji jing).

    While Bodhidharma and Zhang Sanfeng provide a useful literary scheme for classifying various pairs of binary complementaries in Chinese martial art lore, there is absolutely no historical evidence to suggest that either of these personages ever did anything while alive that had anything to do with what we might associate with martial exercises.


    Meik Skoss wrote:

    *quote*
    Interesting question about the relationship of Zen to koryu bujutsu. Probably the best sources to examine on the subject would be the densho of different ryu. That being said, there's an almost total dearth of Zen-stuff in any of them. What one does find are references to kami (Shinto deities), devas and bosatsus (Buddhist worthies of various sorts), direct reference to mikkyo practices. If one takes these documents as reliable sources of valid information about warrior concerns, then Zen is pretty far down the list, ranking somewhere between absolute and asymptotic zero.
    *end quote*

    This conclusion is absolutely correct. I would emphasize the phrase "almost total dearth" rather than "absolute zero," though. Initiation documents passed down in traditional martial lineages predominately reference combined exoteric-esoteric (ken-mitsu) forms of tantric Buddhism and Chinese learning (especially Daoist magic). There are rare examples, though, of martial initiation documents (densho) that contain subsection titles and contents identical to the initiation documents (kirikami) that were passed down in medieval Zen lineages. Just estimating from memory, I guess I have seen these kinds of initiation documents only in about 3 of the 50 or so collections of koryu document collections that are available in publications. These documents might represent only one or two of about 30 or 40 initiations taught in those particular martial art lineage and taken together they correspond only to about three or four of the hundreds of initiation documents taught in Zen lineages. (Regarding initiation documents in medieval Japanese Zen, please read my book: Soto Zen in Medieval Japan, 1994, Univ. of Hawaii Press.) A comparative examination of these overlapping documents would result in a completely different version of "Zen and the martial arts" than commonly imagined by Western writers.
    William Bodiford
    Professor
    Dept. of Asian Languages & Cultures
    UCLA

  6. #21
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    Prof. Bodiford --

    My own take on the stuff from the earlier era is that it is related to the Wu Chin Hi, or Five Animals Play, exercises traditionally attributed to the second century CE physician Hua Tuo. According to tradition, Hua chose the bear for its strength, the crane for its ability to turn and roll, the deer for its gentleness, the monkey for its agility and alertness, and the tiger for its rooted and solid nature. Imitating their movements was supposed to lengthen and improve life by strengthening the legs and removing disease, apparently by causing perspiration.

    Although the inspiration is said to have been observations of the animals themselves, I personally believe that the dances of Turkic animists seem a more likely source, especially if those dances were done by practitioners interested in acquiring the animals’ magical (cosmological) powers.

    That said, there were definitely Chinese martial arts, but all the ones I've read about involved weapons or wrestling rather than boxing, jumping kicks, etc. An example -- ca. 220 CE, a Chinese warlord named Liu Pei was reported holding fencing tournaments. During one of these, a man armed with an iron rod knocked down a saber fencer, only to have his rod sliced in two by the fencer’s tempered blade. The maker of this magical weapon was a sword smith named Pu Yuan.

    As for their character, well, the poet Chang Hua (232-300) described such fighters as being notorious for killing people in the marketplace. Their weapons included curved knives, swords, halberds, and spears.

  7. #22
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    Thumbs down HONORARY RANK ONLY!!!!

    Andrew,

    Nakamura sensei gave him an HONORARY 7th dan. The Board of Directors and I sent him a very, VERY detailed letter of constraints. E.g., he is not to advertise the rank, he is not to charge for teaching Toyama Ryu (although he may instruct), and he MAY NOT grade or issue menjo for Toyama Ryu or Nakamura Ryu, etc.

    The gentleman in question essentially took advantage of an aged man. When I found out what was going on I immediately informed the Board of Directors. After a lengthy session they concluded they could not refuse Nakamura sensei's gift -- but what they could do is add the word "Dono" [elevated form of "san"] after his name. And stick on a series of restrictions. To which the gentleman in question agreed in a response to me.

    I saw last week that the gentleman again started advertising his 7th dan on his web site and I've e-mailed him, the man who introduced him to sensei, and the Board of Directors of the International Battodo Federation. I am awaiting responses before I take any overt action.

    Essentially, he was given the equivalent of an honorary Ph.D. If someone tries to practice law, medicine, psychology, etc., with an honorary degree, he or she will get legally slammed. Unfortunately, we can't legally slam people abusing honorary budo ranks.

    If I do not receive a satisfactory response and action from the Australian gentleman I will post a copy of the letter I sent him, as well as a copy of his agreeing to the conditions.

    Also, the Board of Directors has taken steps to ensure no other "Honorary" awards are made by sensei.

    Regards,
    Guy
    Guy H. Power
    Kenshinkan Dojo

  8. #23
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    Bump.
    John Lindsey

    Oderint, dum metuant-Let them hate, so long as they fear.

  9. #24
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    Never mind, you all have probably wanted to write as much as you want to on this topic.
    J. Nicolaysen
    -------
    "I value the opinion much more of a grand master then I do some English professor, anyways." Well really, who wouldn't?

    We're all of us just bozos on the budo bus and there's no point in looking to us for answers regarding all the deep and important issues.--M. Skoss.

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