View Full Version : Koryu and McDojo, inc.

7th November 2002, 15:23
I will apologize in advance if this has been a topic in the past. I enjoy this forum so much and value alot of the opinions I read and laugh at those I may not quite agree with, that I thought that I would ask about something that has been a peeve of mine for quite some time now.

I used to read Black Belt magazine for many years. About 8 or 9 years ago I started getting annoyed with the style vs. style articles. That being the the first straw, the articles and advertisements for koryu styles being offered for "modern combat" had to be the final straw. The camel was paralyzed and I couldn't read the magazine any longer. The commercialization has sickened me to the point I almost gave up M.A. for good. Every page would talk about the latest trend, who's hot, the "best" technique for this or that, AHHHH. It seems as though you would see traditional techniques and styles being "modernized" or packaged for the combat effective craze. Seems to me that koryu was developed from actual combat. If what you saw was not combat effective in appearrance, it wouldn't work. It had to look devestating, no subtlety allowed. Then it came to the point of everyone feeling as though they had to legitimize what they taught (koryu or not) by claiming to teach every special operations group and major law enforcement agency. I have never seen so many ex- green beret ranger seal recon sniper para rescue combat controllers (I think I listed most of them) in the world. I use that all as one long winded title to cover the wanna-be's.

Well enough of my ranting . I believe I have comprimised my principle of respect enough. I have nothing against anyone that seeks only raw technique and no philosophical or principle based learning. If you are comfortable with what you learned that's good that you found what you sought. I just felt drawn to koryu because of the total package involved. The evolution of martial arts, koryu or not, has taken such different paths that sometimes I have a hard time finding any association at all between them. I guess a punch is still a punch and a kick is still just a kick.

J. A. Crippen
7th November 2002, 15:42
All these spiffy 'combat effective' 'arts' lack the one thing that makes the koryu (and some gendai bugei as well) unique -- a human perspective.

"I practice such-and-such ass-kicking style that is totally effective in unarmed combat against fully automatic guns."

"Really. What's your lineage?"

"Well, my teacher learned it from this guy he met on a bus one day."

"Ah, I see. Do you belong to this style?"

"What do you mean belong? I practice the style. That's it."

"What sort of rituals do you practice to attain a calm and controlled mind?"

"Ritual? We kick ass. That's all that's important."

"What does this style tell you about ethics, morals, and philosophy of life?"

"What? None of that stuff matters in a fight."

"Yes, but it matters while you train. And it matters after the fight. And it matters before the fight so that the fight does not happen. And it matters when you lie awake at night thinking about someone you may have killed."

Socrates would have done a better dialog. Sorry.

But you get my point. By focusing on technique and nothing else you forget that you are practicing an art of killing (or at least injuring) people. If you lack the conscience to see things from your enemy's perspective then you will lack the ability to know your enemy, which is perhaps the most important thing in a confrontation (go ask Sun Tzu if you don't believe me).

The koryu bugei (as well as a number of established gendai bugei) provide a human perspective. They provide tradition, a philosophy of life and of mind, and a sense of belonging. You don't get this by simply working technique.

And besides, in these modern 'combat effective' styles you don't get to wear funny clothes. They all seem to work out in sweats and t-shirts. This is after all why people train in the koryu, so they can wear wafuku and get away with it.

7th November 2002, 15:54
I agree with the human perspective. Some have problems believing that learning how to avoid confrontation is as valuable as phsyical technique. I train my body and mind equally. I know when I don't have the balance that is needed to enjoy life. In my line of work I see enough violence and lives in torment, that I know that my life is better off the way I practice. I train as often as I can. Training to completely obliterate someone and the whole time training my mind how to keep myself out of a situation where I would have to do that.

You don't see that with the commericialized styles of these modern a times. You just see a neat package for the annihalation of the world. What a package deal. Learn to kill, kill, kill, with no thought of regret and no regard for human life to boot. Do you want to pay month to month, buy the video and book, or sign a contract?

7th November 2002, 19:13
The legalitis of defending one's self or others, the tools you bring to the dojo must be discussed as well. It may be you do a sword-based koryu, but as most believe correctly that few, if any, use a sword, but it happens, and in many places, just posession can be a problem.

Practice in a public park.

A friend of mine does a Meiji era jujutsu style and said, during the last NBA playoffs: "It's like I've always said, it's Shaq, MJ, Magic, etc. who have something special. We just wear funny clothes."

(A paraphrase but it has the same meaning, more or less, it just isn't as eloquent as he put it).

Other styles of koryu update and evolve out of necessity. Some do practice for the pragmatic and practical use of what they do while maintaining the old ways for multiple reasons. Others do what some consider, strictly speaking, to be be gendai while practicing it as close to the founder's way as possible using something a little more modern, IE, randori, or the equivalent to feel the technique working.

Other gendai have a more koryu manner of practice due to neccessity. The oppposite is also true.

Sometimes that line becomes so meaningless that it probably shouldn't be discussed as two different manner of doing, but instead should make sure that it is practiced for all the right reasons the many koryu or koryu-like gendai arts are practiced. There are purely gendai MA which shouldn't be cut out of the flock due to a date in time. They all have changed or are old enough to have changed. And vice-versa.


J. A. Crippen
15th November 2002, 16:16
Modern combat is divided into two spheres -- battlefield warfare and guerilla warfare. The former can be found in situations such as the Iraq war in 1992. The latter can be found in any inner city in the US, as well as in places such as Chechnya, the Balkans, various parts of Africa, etc.

The battlefield uses mostly high-tech weaponry, much of it delivered from aircraft and seacraft. The land based assault is mostly performed with armored vehicles (eg, tanks, APCs) with assistance from helicopters and low flying aircraft bombardment. So there's very little of this you could ever hope to learn outside of a professional military, particularly because of the cost of operation (jet fuel ain't cheap and neither is ammo).

The guerilla scenario is most similar to humanity's ancient experience of war. It's fairly personal, involving small groups of combatants working in concert or alone. But again, nearly all of it is ranging attacks with guns. Mostly automatic weapons, but also handguns, particularly in the US.

The point I'm trying to make here is that the 'realistic combat' that is being marketed has very little use outside of the occasional bar brawl. If faced with a real combat situation would knife fighting be useful when faced with three guys around the corner and two across the street armed with 9mm automatics or AK-47s? Probably not.

If you want genuine combat training spend lots of time at the shooting range perfecting your skills with handguns, rifles, and fully automatic weaponry. Then move to Africa. Pick your favorite country. Sign up under a local warlord. Have fun, and stay alive. There are actually a good number of westerners that have done or are doing this. The 'mercenary for hire' is still doing good business, particularly out of Eastern Europe, East Asia, and Russia. That's what real combat consists of, and the only place to learn it is either in the professional military or on the real battlefield.

Now you can learn the human element by either killing a lot of people and learning remorse from it, or by training in a koryu where you are taught the value of human life in a slightly less catastrophic but equally serious manner. You aren't going to learn it from some dude who split his TKD training because it was 'too boring' and decided to open a full contact 'realistic combat' school. From that latter guy you will learn how to be killed quickly on the battlefield, as well as maybe how to defend yourself in a bar brawl.

16th November 2002, 10:42
The battlefield uses mostly high-tech weaponry, much of it delivered from aircraft and seacraft. The land based assault is mostly performed with armored vehicles (eg, tanks, APCs) with assistance from helicopters and low flying aircraft bombardment. So there's very little of this you could ever hope to learn outside of a professional military, particularly because of the cost of operation (jet fuel ain't cheap and neither is ammo).

If you consider it, ancient battlefields operated in much the same way. I wonder how many really did die by the sword as opposed to more long-distance, and such that more was better, and more inclined to stop the enemy.

Wouldn't the battle begin with a host of bow attacks, all shot in the same basic direction to break apart the invading army, bringing down as many or as much as possible? Then, it would probably be spears and other weapons which could be hurled at those who survived the first attack, with personal arms (swords and the like) being the last weapon used and in a more personal manner. Getting by all of that, you still had to protect headquarters of the main man.

It seems to be that this way of fighting wars is changing to guerilla tactics, most land attacks are done in relatively small groups and becoming more upfront and personal. The more technically proficient ways of today must have begun some time ago, and along the same path. There are reaons for the study of ancient battlefields as they seem to mirror today's more and more personal battles which mirror those of yesterday.

The sidearm is the last resort while the sword was a few centuries ago.


Joseph Svinth
17th November 2002, 01:14
In the old days, disease was the big killer. Militaries resolved most of that problem by the 1950s, and Vietnam was the first war in which more soldiers died in hospital than on the battlefield.

Today, it's safer to be in the military in combat than it is to be a civilian in the neighborhoods in which the military is operating. (Militaries killed over a million civilians a year throughout the 1990s.)

BTW, for most soldiers, combat comes addressed "to whom it may concern," and is an adjunct of state political aims. On the other hand, comparable activities addressed toward specific individuals is generally termed "Crime."

Dan Harden
19th November 2002, 11:58
There is no commercialization of Koryu here.
USING the name does not make you a part.

I know a few people who teach- they never talk about it.
I know a lot of people who don't know- its all they seem to talk about.
The fad will pass
Koryu won't.

Dan Harden

20th November 2002, 14:47
Mr Harden, I totally agree. This forum is of the highest caliber. Most everything I read is based on researched opinions, and those that aren't, are called out poste haste

I also concur with the staement you made about those that teach you do not hear from (my summation of your comment). I teach when my instructor asks, and when not in the dojo it concerns noone else. I believe the fewer people that know what you participate in (martial arts), the less they know to prepare for. I can tell when someone has studied a traditional art from a reputable instructor. It's written on their face and in their actions wether they realize it or not.

I'm not worried about the fad passing, because remaining true to my art, school and instructor are of the utmost importance to me. If I concentrate on those, I will not have to worry about straying into commercialism. I also look at the youth being taken in by these commercialized arts and hope that they will one day find a true koryu that can teach them solid principles and the value of life. As we all know nowadays alot of parents use after school programs to teach their children what they themselves should very well be instilling on their own children.

I too agree though--as with all bad things--this fad too will pass;)

Budoka 34
21st November 2002, 11:42

I think this is pretty common. Since I've been with my current instructor(3+ years), we have had at least 5 people misrepresent themselves so that they could learn new technique.

One gentleman explained to my instructor that he had had a falling out with his instructor and that their school was on the verge of collapse. He trained with us for close to a year and then went back and began teaching for his previous instructor!

My instructor says we have to share the art, but it angers me when the local McDojo, on the verge of going under, sends people to steal what my instructor has worked so hard to build.

I know this sounds crazy, but there are over 20 schools in a small area and competition is tight.


21st November 2002, 15:14
Mr. Kite: I shutter to think you may be right. I've run into this situation more than I care to. I can't understand what it is, the pine trees, the tobacco fields, or the ACC. There must be something in the water that drives these people to make great claims about what they know and teach. Then when they run out of techniques or ideas, they leach off of genuine schools. This has happened in the dojo I have been with for 7 yrs., at least 3 times in 5 of those years. I too was told to "share the art". I find it hard to know that this person is taking what I hold dear to me and trying to teach it in their own delusional way.

I take solice in the fact that they aren't being taught anything of true value. My instructor has a "special" set of techniques that he "shares" with these type of individuals. Usually. There is one in our dojo now that has our instructor snowed. He is claiming to have had a parting of the ways with his old instructor and has found "the light". Myself and another instructor know better because we have put all of his puzzle pieces together and see the real picture. Our instructor made a comment about this indviduals old instructor 3 or 4 weeks back, needless to say we didn't see him for a couple of weeks after that. I guess we will have to be patient and let his disguise fall off so everyone can see his true intentions.