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Charlie Kondek
24th May 2004, 14:03
and all things Ellis Amdurian. Ladies and gentlemen, please use this thread to engage Ellis Amdur in dialogue on "Araki-ryu, Buko-ryu, aikido, and what ever else."

Thank you, Ellis! Here's my first question. I am able to look up a description of Araki-ryu on Koryu.com. What's Buko-ryu?

R_Garrelts
24th May 2004, 14:40
Loving these Q&A's!

Mr. Amdur,

If you don't mind, I'd like to ask a slightly more technical question. In an earlier post (I believe on e-budo--it's been a while, though), you mentioned incorporating Muay Thai technique into your Araki-Ryu kata and stated that the two seem to "mesh" quite nicely. I was wondering what, specifically, you found to be so complementary.

Thank you.

Richard

everest
24th May 2004, 21:07
hello Ellis,
2 questions. 1)did you find it difficult training in multiple koryu? 2)does your aikido and araki ryu influence each other ?
i love your books!any plans for a third? (ok thats 3 questions!)
look forward to seeing you at Itten dojo this summer.
scott altland
Itten dojo,mechanicsburg,pa.

Ellis Amdur
24th May 2004, 21:20
If nothing else, this will give me a good chance to publicize my writing. I've written pretty extensively on Buko-ryu in Old School: Essays on Japanese Martial Traditions as well as in Skoss' Keiko Shokon: Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan V. III. The books can be secured at www.koryu.com

Anyway, that said (and that applies to the rest of you!!!!), the ryu in question is more properly called Toda-ha Buko-ryu. It centers around the use of the naginata and most specifically the Kagitsuki Naginata (with a cross-piece at the base of the blade). Opposing weapons are spear, sword, kusarigama, and there is auxiliary practice with bo, nagamaki and kusarigama in their own right. The ryu specializes in ma-ai - one always tries to be at the perfect cutting range while having one's enemy at a poor cutting range with their weapon. It is very aggressive - there are no defensive moves whatsoever - in some ways, more aggressive than Araki-ryu. One associate of mine says Araki-ryu is like a wolverine (low to the ground, capable of true nasty aggressive, smelly, devious - does whatever it takes to win) whereas Buko-ryu has a Doberman quality (very upright, almost noble postures, arrogant, slashing attacks, very big movements to cut through man, weapon and armor if necessary - altho' of course one goes for the weak spots in armor).

It's hard to describe martial arts in print - at least for me, sometimes images are the best I can do.

Best

Ellis Amdur
www.ellisamdur.com

Ellis Amdur
24th May 2004, 21:26
The generations before my instructor had let many of the grappling/kempo kata "lapse" into rather stylized technique. The kicks, for one example, were being done by short, squat farmers, (many of whom also did judo). These kicks were stiff legged, and not biomechanically sound. In my instructors examination of the kata, the densho where they were described and the context of the battles practiced for (kogusoku means "light armor" and that means shin guards), he felt that the kicks were not being "done justice" to. In our forms, we are often running towards a downed enemy to kick them away from them weapon, and their senses. Much like a soccer kick, but we use the shin instead of the instep - you hit a hard surface with the latter and you cripple yourself. So muay thai kicks are quite congruent. Not the same, but close, just as we found judo/grappling a great freestyle augmentation to our kata practice.

Best

Ellis Amdur
www.ellisamdur.com

Ellis Amdur
24th May 2004, 21:43
1. I think it is nearly impossible to practice/do justice to more than one koryu. In my experience, most people who do so are kata collectors - they learn form and technique but miss what the ryu is really about - a pervasive psychospirtual AND somatic influence of the person. To practice more than one requires a truly insane level of commitment, and I don't see most people willing to offer that level of commitment to one art, much less two. Yeah, some people can bring it off - but most, in my opinion, are manifesting a kind of greed, similar to dating two or more women at the same time and refusing to make a choice. It can be lots of fun, quite confusing, but one never achieves much depth. So the final answer question is: Can you be a successful bigamist? Without being a player or a scam artist, so to speak. Can you truly commit to two different entities without trying to make it easy on yourself by homogenizing them (the trap I see over and over among those who practice more than one ryu).

I would have to say that in my case, when I go into freestyle, I am mostly Araki-ryu, but Buko-ryu technique weaves it's way through as part of a greater whole. It is only in practice that they are completely sectored off, and that took a hellacious amount of work.

And yes, I do other things - cross-training, so to speak. I do lots of hours of xingyi, for example, daily. But I couldn't imagine doing another ryu today (and in retrospect, had I only done Araki-ryu, I possibly would be far stronger - for me, doing Buko-ryu as well provided me with a whole other layer of learning that was invaluable for me, but not really in the area of making me better in the area of effective combat . . . .with archaic weaponry in simulated archaic combat.)

2. No, my aikido and my Araki-ryu are absolutely separate. Aikido is, for me, a kind of laboratory where I get to play with how creative I can get while remaining absolutely within the aikido form. Imagine Araki-ryu as my instrument (piano) but I find it intriguing to play the hammered dulcimer just for the heck of it, and the dulcimer players, for whatever reason, find my quirky approach to the instrument interesting.

3. I've plans for some books on crisis intervention, but none for another martial arts book. I'm not a researcher, so I have no new material in that area to offer and I've sort of run the gamut as far as things I want to say (other than occasional comments on the web or blog entries in Aikido Journal).

Best

Ellis Amdur
www.ellisamdur.com

everest
24th May 2004, 22:01
hello again.do you feel training in a weapons based koryu helps your "empty hand" or "real world" combative skills?
thanks for taking the time for the replies.
scott altland
Itten dojo,mechanicsburg,pa.

M. McPherson
24th May 2004, 23:23
Mr. Amdur,

If you have the time and interest, I have a couple of questions about Araki Ryu.

I understand from your writings that there are various factions of Araki Ryu still operating in the Isesaki area. Having recently read a post by Wayne Muromoto talking about the different factions of Takeuchi Ryu having started to re-establish contact (with improved accessibility due to highways, rail lines, etc.) with each other in recent history, I was wondering what it was like for differing branches of an art that operated in the same region. Do they communicate? Cross-train, or share students? You wrote of your own instructor training in several different Araki schools, and it just made me wonder how much connection and communication there was between the different schools there. And, on the other hand, how much enmity or territorialism exists (I don't ask this out of prurient interest. The who's and why's aren't important - rather, do schools of differing factions in Araki ryu tend to play it close to the vest, and why so?)


I'm also fascinated by the idea of renovation and reconstruction in ryu-ha. I know you spoke of your own teacher doing so, quite productively. It would seem that some of the Isesaki lines operate as "koryu budo", as you describe it in Old School, and that is what your own instructor drew from to transform his line into a koryu bujutsu. I guess my second question would be: is the dynamic quality that your line re-discovered inherent in the school, the kata and forms themselves, no matter how rote they may have become? And I don't mean to imply that the schools in Isesaki have become vitiated, necessarily, but I get the sense that they are inherently more form-bound. If this is the case, does the core of the school allow the average dilligent student to transform them into something more, uh, "application-oriented"? Or was it just a matter of your line of Araki Ryu instilling its own dynamism to make it all workable?

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Arman
25th May 2004, 03:52
Dear Ellis,

As you've noted in your writings and in some online discussions, you seem to argue that koryu that do nothing other than preserve old, out-dated forms of combat are traditions that have become mere historical curiosities, interesting perhaps to historians, academics and antiqurians, but offer no real modern combative value. I was wondering if you could elaborate on this a bit.

For example, could you explain the teleological difference between TSKSR and Araki ryu? What is the respective purpose or design of a more "traditional" traditional ryu, like TSKSR, in the modern world as opposed to Araki ryu? I mean theoretically and speculatively, since obviously you are not a student of TSKSR. IOW, what exactly are you studying, when you study Araki ryu (which you have indicated puts a great deal of importance on remaining dynamic and vital and adaptive) as opposed to TSKSR, which, as far as I know, does not attempt to modify its combative forms to adapt to modernity? [Other than the obvious and rather banal reply that everybody gets something different out of their training] I am speaking more fundamentally.

Which brings me to the next point, which is the combative principles that traditional ryu teach. Do you accept the combative theory common among hoplologists, viz., that the combative principles taught in traditional warrior arts are refined expressions of biological and evolutionary combative instincts that are universally adaptable to most personal combative encounters (from empty hand to a rifle)? That the tactics and strategies employed by traditional warrior arts are built upon these biological combative responses in such a way as to maximize combative effectiveness? If you do accept this theory, to what extent is the adaptation of a traditional ryu's curriculum to modernity necessary? Would it be more appropriate to extrapolate those principles and use them outside the confines of a traditional system?

Finally, if one never bothers to extrapolate such principles, if one only studies a traditional ryu that has not adapted its forms to modernity, is all one is learning are empty forms? or do the combative principles "sink in" anyway, sub-consciously, intuitively?

Thanks for your time answering these questions, Ellis,
Best regards,
Arman Partamian

Ellis Amdur
25th May 2004, 05:07
I don't know if I could answer this, because with Araki-ryu I have a training that is very much real world based and includes some excellent primitive "empty hand" methods. For example, were an individual to only learn (and apply/expand) the happo no dan and goho no dan (a total of 13 very simple grappling/based kata, one would have a tremendous amount - if not for the ring - but for the nastiness and chaos of "real world" combat.

Had I only done Buko-ryu, I might have some insight in your question, but from a data-gathering perspective, I'm a contaminated research subject.

Best

Ellis Amdur
www.ellisamdur.com

Ellis Amdur
25th May 2004, 05:20
Mr. McPherson -

The Ise-zaki factions are led by the scions of a 16th generation shihan and a 17th generation shihan. The latter was both personal friend and student of the former. The sons of the two Ise-zaki groups, by report, do not socialize. Their kata are, by report, largely the same as one another - with only small variations.

The branch of which I am a member, although bearing some considerable relationship through the deceased fathers (and a number of other instructors of various, now-extinct lines) has nothing to do with the Ise-zaki branches. Speaking only for myself, I have no interest in what they do. I don't believe I have anything to learn from them nor anything to gain in associating with them - not out of enmity - I met the fathers and thought them wonderful - but it's sort of like having a 2nd cousin with the same name. In my case, unless there really is something to share, I never write my Amdur cousins or hang with them. For me, then, it's indifference.

As for your second question, I practice many forms exactly as passed down - with a caveat. You can make the form live or kill it. The kata themselves carry enormous potential energy - it takes the man to make critical mass, so to speak. No comment on Isezaki schools - their technique should speak for themselves.

As for Araki-ryu historically, it has a tradition of revitalization throughout it's history. Every line "innovated" tinkered added and subtracted. It didn't become kobudo (in some factions) until after WWII.

Best

Ellis Amdur
www.ellisamdur.com

Ellis Amdur
25th May 2004, 06:48
Arman -

1. Not exactly. Koryu that do nothing other than preserve old forms and phone in the waza, without understanding, without life, without heart are of antiquarian value - like a piece of music played note perfect with no music sense whatsoever.

2. A koryu using archaic weaponry done well will have a lot to offer those interested in honing their edge - psychological if not also neuromuscular.

3. Re your question re TSKSR and ARaki-ryu, remember that I also do Buko-ryu, which is maintained in much the same fashion as TSKSR. (yes, a betsuden of revived forms was added, but the hon-den is, as best we can, untouched.). I don't apply Araki-ryu values and thinking to Buko-ryu whatsoever. (Back to bigamy - see above).

4. I'd not care to comment on TSKSR's purpose. I admire it - and when I watch it, consider it carefully, looking for possible weaknesses and strengths. But rather than TSKSR, I'll consider what I do know. Araki-ryu's essence is to be as strong as possible, and live it now. If that means gaining facility in "modern" methods, so be it. Some factions would drop weapons they felt had no use in their environment (for example, there were "jujutsu" factions that only had grappling w/o weapons, knife and sword). Other's maintain the weapons and other kata (in this aspect like Buko-ryu or TSKSR), either "as is," or reconsidering and trying to hone them further. Buko-ryu's essence is to be as strong as possible incessantly practicing forms that have stood the test of time - it is a ryu that, when one learns it in its entirety is stunning in its progressive pedegogical approach - the way each step makes the next inevitable, so to speak.

It's hard to say "what I'm studying." It becomes a tautology. I'm studying Araki-ryu and/or Buko-ryu. Why? I want to get stronger, and that means, to me, the ability to effectively apply the waza/weapons I've learned - even if I never do in "real life" - go back to Aaron Field's recent post, which I paraphrase "I do do it in real life - five times a week, right here in this dojo" I think he puts it as well as it ever will be put, with far less words than me.

The combative principles that LIVING ryu teach, be they more "traditional" like TSKSR or more syncretic and innovative, like, at least, my faction of Araki-ryu is that the repetitive practice of combative moves, after incessant 1000s of repetitions in a state of relatively high arousal (what David Grossman, in his scheme, puts at "condition yellow" and sometimes "condition red") imprints these movements and the psychological attitudes that go with them so that one "automatically" applies them in analogous real-life situations. In short, one drills and drills and drills, just as fire-fighters do, using actual burning building in kata/free-style practice. I cannot extend this principle to what I do not know - I know nothing about shooting projectile weapons (my project this year is to learn) so I do not know if koryu-style practice would have such a link, but it seems likely. If one is comfortable in states of heightened arousal, it becomes far easier to learn a new skill in which analogous arousal states are encountered. Going back to a question above, then, it seems likely to me that one's weapon training COULD therefore have a direct and powerful effect on empty handed work - if the former put one on the edge, so to speak, one could acquire new edge skills in other disciplines faster, I believe.

I had this happen recently, when I was invited to take part with several long term practitioners in their bando practice - training with short staff and cane for several days. An observer on the last day stated that she couldn't tell that I hadn't been part of the group for a long time. (An insider would know, I'm sure, but the point is that although there were some radically different ways that they used weapons - mobilizing different muscles in the arm and shoulder, for example - I could pick it up quickly, - not because of innate athleticism, but because of a familiarity with the learning process and adrenaline arousal when dealing with scary things that hurt.)

You ask if it would be "more effective" to learn these skills out of a traditional venue, if one was trying to acquire them for modern application. Sure. I don't think the SAS or Seals would gain one whit were they to start practicing Araki-ryu and in fact, it would draw them away from all the drill they must do to be combat ready. In addition, they train with exponentially higher levels of intensity than I, a hobbiest, albeit a serious one, does with my martial arts practice. On the other hand, I have no doubt that the aforementioned warriors could find themselves quite at home in an intact koryu, and would find value in the training in its own right.

As for your final question - " Finally, if one never bothers to extrapolate such principles, if one only studies a traditional ryu that has not adapted its forms to modernity, is all one is learning are empty forms?" Obviously, the answer is no. Empty forms are empty when they are empty. Watching Otake Risuke in TSKSR or Kuroda Tetsuzan doing Komogawa Kaishin-ryu or Meik Skoss doing Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, or Bodiford and Friday doing Kashima Shin-ryu, there is nothing empty there. Empty is as empty does - and it occurs with all too much frequency among the banal and trivial "innovators" as well as the "stultified and boring" traditionalists. And in either group, one also sees individuals who burn out all the circuits in the building.

Best

Ellis Amdur
www.ellisamdur.com

allan
30th June 2004, 23:52
Hi Ellis,

Thanks for your attentive answers to all the questions thrown your way. I would like to bring up a tangential theme:

Would you mind taking a moment to reflect on how well, in your experience and observation, the classical Japanese bugei are taking root in the "west?" Despite all the warnings that one must do a significant tour of duty in Japan, a number of people now based outside of Japan (including yourself) have taken on students. Do you have anything to say about how this process is going?

Regards,

Shin Buke
1st July 2004, 00:40
Mr. Amdur,

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. I've read a fair amount of your work and it has been very helpful to be able to rely upon the insight of an experienced martial artist like yourself.

I have two topics that I would like to discuss with you. Some time ago I read your article on setsuninto vs. katsujinken. It was a very thought-provoking article. I'm curious though. I've read your book, "Old School" as well as your work in the "Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan" series (and please excuse me if I misinterpret from my memory here as those treasured tomes are on loan to my nephew at the moment) and from your writings I've gleaned that Araki-ryu is, indeed, a very practical and perhaps brutal ryu. My question to you is, which of these spirits does your line of Araki-ryu engender? Or does Araki-ryu teach more of a practical, utilitarian form of thinking that can be used in the pursuit of either setsuninto or katsujinken? In your perception, what would you say about Maniwa Nen-ryu in regard to this same question?

Second I would like to ask you about the state of Maniwa Nen-ryu. In "Old School" you seem to think highly of the school yet you metion that many of its esoteric teachings have been lost. However, you subsequently state that this has had little effect on the school because the spirit of the school lives on. Knowing little about esoteric teachings, could you, perhaps, expand on this for me? What, exactly is lost when a koryu loses its esoteric teachings and how has the spirit of Maniwa Nen-ryu remained steadfast in spite of this?

There's a TON more that I'd like to ask but that would likely make an article in and of itself. Thank you for you time!

Ellis Amdur
1st July 2004, 03:27
Allan -

Once again, I can refer you, in part, to my writing (thereby advertising the Skoss's books - essay is "Koryu comes to the West" in Koryu I - www.koryu.com

That said, there's been a lot of change in the past nearly decade since I wrote that. First of all, I think of the "kentoshi" - these were the Buddhist priests who went to China in the Nara and Heian periods to gather new doctrine. Given the state of shipbuilding at the time and the waters of the strait between Japan and the mainland, it was a very dangerous journey. Those who returned were heroes, and they brought back such sects as the Tendai and Kegon. These sects were radicallly changed once they got absorbed in Japan. Perhaps more in form than essence. Anyway, about 20 years ago, NHK Japan (TV) did a special researching the monks who didn't return. Instead, they stayed in China. In short, all they did was add to the population of Chinese Buddhist priests.

Thus, altho' a sprinkling of foreigners in a ryu can possibly be enlivening for the dojo in Japan, in my opinion - big deal. What is a far more interesting question is how such entities will effect culture in the countries they return to. And this being a post rather than an essay, all I can say is that it runs the gamut. Such things as koryu can get watered down really easily, and so I, at least, question seminar teaching - and certainly would look hard at the phenonmenon of "study groups." I'm not criticizing here - just saying that this is the kind of cultural change that taking a koryu to another country leads to. I'll be curious of the next decades to see if those ryu who have adopted study groups as a way of dissemination are, in fact, really strong, both as "corporate" entities, and in terms of their practitioners. The proof will be in the result - and not necessarily if it's "just like the mother country." Is it strong, valuable training that makes the ryu alive for another generation, either as strictly fundamentalist or innovative, or is it idiotic (or some shade in-between.)?

I'm not going to speak about other schools. As for me, I've got a couple of people certified in both Buko-ryu and Araki-ryu and they are responsible for taking on new students who express interest. Rather than me having formal kiekko at scheduled times, my senior guys simply call or I do, and we work out - often in street clothes, either inside or outside. Some who see this as really trespassing on tradition - I see it as really Old School. As for the next generation, I think things are, so far, going pretty well. It's an experiment in process - and I'm trying to keep a finger on the pulse about what part of form is,in fact, essence, and what is dross (I'm not talking about kata now - more things like dress, etiquette, the degree of "japanese feel" that is required.)

Certainly, my teaching style among my seniors is far more like associates - it's usually one guy at a time, one-on-one practice, with people I respect as much as they, hopefully, respect me. I've abandoned to a considerable degree, the Japanese form in which respect is expressed, though respect there is.

To sum up, - I'm happy with how my small segment of koryu is doing - and whether any one else is, outside - not my concern.

Best

Ellis Amdur
www.ellisamdur.com

Ellis Amdur
1st July 2004, 03:48
In regard to your question which spirit (killing or life-preserving, in short) is nurtured by Araki-ryu, the answer is both or either. The texts of the ryu have an essay, allegedly written by the founder (this is getting a little old - citing myself as a source, but see "The Origins of Araki-ryu" in OLD SCHOOL), in which he, Araki Mujinsai, writes about his teacher. In short he says that he got really strong, got intoxicated by his power, and embracing evil, almost lost his soul, recovering himself, sort of, at the last minute. If I'm correct that that man, Fujiwara Katsuzane was, in fact, Miyamoto Munisai, he, among other things, murdered his close friend at the behest of his daimyo.

That's one of the reasons, I believe why the "esoteric" traditions, which often are spiritual practices, are so important, because they provide a channeling - a vessel - which might contain the power to take life which one can, conceivably acquire.

Maniwa Nen-ryu? My usual caveat - I'm an outsider with opinions, not knowledge of the ryu. Nen-ryu has a history of some remarkably pugnacious indivduals enrolled in their ranks -but at the same time, its last headmaster informed me that protection is not only the ryu's purpose - (including protection of the village it resides, but the culture of the place) - but even its techniques are based on protection. They have a very distinct way of fighting in which they draw out a committed attack from the enemy and counter before it lands. NOT, you attack me and I counter, exactly. More like a counter-punch in boxing, that starts "later," but lands first.

I believe that Maniwa (at least when I last saw it a few decades ago) was able to maintain its integrity because it was so intertwined in the village culture that, on an unconscious level, one became a "Maniwa man" or "Maniwa woman" almost at birth. The esoteric training, which is, in part, to imbue one with a non-rational, 'instinctive" living out of the ryu in oneself, was occurring simply by living in Maniwa. They absorbed it.

However, in most cases - without the psychological, spiritual training which is the basis of the esoteria, you can't get under the founder's skin to grasp what he was trying to teach, and why he did it the way he did.

BTW - I've heard that Maniwa Nen-ryu has fallen on harder times. Last I heard, the high school club closed for lack of interest, and new young practitioners are few. The last soke died at a relatively young age - a fine man he was - so one worries for the future.

Best

Ellis Amdur
www.ellisamdur.com

bill jensen
1st July 2004, 13:04
Ellis,

You'll be pleased to learn that the local high school Nen ryu club is still functioning and that a number of younger people have joined in recent years. Many are from the local area while some travel from Tochigi and Tokyo. So should the right two or three continue to train diligently, and come to some understanding of the ryu's teachings, the next generation can be entrusted with the tradition.

Bill

Shin Buke
1st July 2004, 13:31
Mr. Amdur,

Thank you for your extensive response. Your thoughts on esoterica have brought a specific, if somewhat moot, question to mind. To quote your last post:

<quote>I believe that Maniwa (at least when I last saw it a few decades ago) was able to maintain its integrity because it was so intertwined in the village culture that, on an unconscious level, one became a "Maniwa man" or "Maniwa woman" almost at birth. The esoteric training, which is, in part, to imbue one with a non-rational, 'instinctive" living out of the ryu in oneself, was occurring simply by living in Maniwa. They absorbed it.</quote>

Given this, do you believe it is possible for an outsider (not necessarily a foreigner but any person raised outside of Maniwa whether it be in Kyoto, Sendai, or New York) to be imbued with the "spirit of Maniwa?" Does the survival of the Maniwa Nen-ryu, in it's purest sense, rest on the shoulders of the inhabitants of Maniwa?


Mr. Jensen,

I'd also like to hear your thoughts on this if you have the time. If I remember correctly, you practice Maniwa Nen-ryu and I would greatly appreciate the thoughts of a practitioner of this ryu.

It is good to hear that the Maniwa Nen-ryu has the chance to continue on for decades to come. It would be a shame to lose such a fine martial tradition, especially one as distinct and unique as the Maniwa Nen-ryu is.

My thanks again!

Ellis Amdur
1st July 2004, 18:48
I'll write generically, because Bill can answer more specifically as to Maniwa (and if he chooses, generally as well!!!! - because of his many decades experience with koryu).

First of all, I'm so happy to hear from you, Bill, about Maniwa's recent turn in fortune. The village and ryu has such a special character, sort of like the Chen village for t'ai chi, and it's wonderful that the future, potentially, looks good.

So, generically, can an "outsider" be imbued with the spirit of the ryu. Yes. Absolutely. BUT

1. Not if the person is a kata/ryu collector who thinks more is better and assembles a list of menkyo - or practices a little of this or that
2. Not if they train, long or short, without learning - truly learning - the gokui of the ryu. Without achieving that level, they are like an arch without the center stone.
3. Not unless they have a committment to the ryu that is passionate - that one would be willing to sacrifice quite important other aspects of one's life to continue.
4. It's also Darwinian - you can do all the right things, and be wasted air and space - you don't have the body/neuro system to get the methods, or you don't have the character.


Best

Ellis Amdur
www.ellisamdur.com

Shin Buke
2nd July 2004, 02:40
So many great answers bringing so many more questions! ^_~

Do you think that a koryu sensei has a responsibility to not bestow menkyo on a practitioner who does not properly embody the spirit of the ryu? Do you think that witholding menkyo in such a fasion would help maintain the "spiritual integrity" of the koryu bujutsu? Do you think such a practice would seriously hamper the chances of their continued survival?

Also, what is your take on many of the various ryu founders who trained in various arts only to establish systems of their own? I'm curious about this becase, as I recall, the deepest most profound elements of a koryu are reserved for higher levels of teaching. Learning omote or even more advanced forms doesn't constitute comprehensive knowledge (and certainly not mastery) of a given ryu. What sort of bearing did this have on systems that those warriors founded? I'm especially curious as to how you think this relates to O'Sensei and his founding of Aikido as he gained menkyo in Goto-ha Yagyu Shingan-ryu as well as training in a number of other ryu (I believe he had some Itto and Shinkage-ryu training and Daito-ryu was certainly a strong influence among a plethora of other arts). Keep in mind I have yet to read your book, "Dueling with O'Sensei" (to my shame ^_~).

Once again, thank you for you answers, they are very enlightening. Also, Mr. Jensen, I would love to hear your views on these questions. One can never have too much information. ^_^

Jeremy Hulley
2nd July 2004, 03:27
www.ellisamdur.com[/url] [/B]

So Ellis...I understand the ideas of psychological organizing that happen in a Koryu or at least I think I get the theory..Would you say that its the same in a Gendai ryuha. For example my own study of Shinto Ryu. We definitely have principals that organize the ryuha and esoteric teachings. It is a deep study though perhaps not the width and breadth of a koryu art.
Just wondering.
Best,
Jeremy

Ellis Amdur
2nd July 2004, 05:19
Anthony M. -

I think that any tradition should die a natural death if one doesn't have suitable successors. One of the uglier scenes in Japanese martial arts are the unfortunately not infrequent physically incompetent and/or intellectually deficient and/or morally degenerate and/or doing-it-this-generation-because-daddy-did-it last. Better it dies.

A new "ryu" stands on it's own merits. Let's say someone trains a number of years in Itto-ryu and even tho' not deep in that tradition, achieves his own gokui. He develops a set of organizing principles, and sets up shop. It stands on it's own merits, not Itto-ryu's. BTW - Daito-ryu has to be considered the main, 90+% influence on Ueshiba, at least as far as martial arts goes. All the others including Yagyu Shingan-ryu were peripheral.

Jeremy H. - if what you do is set up on classic ryu-ha principles, of course it would be the same, wouldn't it?

Best

Ellis Amdur
www.ellisamdur.com

bill jensen
3rd July 2004, 02:48
Mr. Marcarelli,

Ellis' response nailed it precisely. It is possible from someone from outside of Maniwa to "be imbued with the spirit of the ryu." The critical issues are dedication, technical mastery and a deep understanding of the ryu's teachings. But this holds true for any ryu.

Today there are a number of members from different prefectures. But not so long ago Nen ryu was limited to Maniwa if only because it was so isolated. One of the senior members once told me that when he joined, over 40 years ago, he was seen as an oddity because he came to train all the way from Takasaki, a whopping 10 miles from Maniwa village...

Bill Jensen

Shin Buke
3rd July 2004, 07:05
Thank you both for you answers, they have been very enlightening. I'm enjoying this thread very much. ^_^

Mr Jensen,

Only 10 miles?! Wow, Maniwa must be a very sheltered town. I'd love to visit it next year while I'm in Japan. I didn't think Japan housed many secluded villages since the country is so widely populated and developed. It sounds like quite a place.


Thanks again!

George Kohler
6th July 2004, 23:37
Bump

Charlie Kondek
7th July 2004, 15:52
Ellis, this is something I've always been curious about. You have trained in modern combative sport as well as koryu. Do you think koryu does a better job of preparing one for hand-to-hand combat, as good a job, or not so good? Or are your studies of modern and old combatives too intertwined for you to make a distinction? I guess what I'm getting at is koryu enthusiasts seem to feel there is a koryu difference, an extra-special something that is a cut above. Do you agree?

Ellis Amdur
7th July 2004, 17:06
First of all, what is meant by combat? I've had a few scuffles in my life, a little sparring during training - but have never been in combat - defined it as a fight for one's life or limb, be it a street fight or battle. So, personally, all my training may have contributed to me, but I don't have any first hand experience to go on. I just like to do this stuff.

Germane to your question, I have never heard one sentence among Japanese veterans which state that koryu gave soldiers any advantage over the practitioenrs of gendai arts in WWII or vice versa. Yes, I've read or heard statements such as "thanks to kendo, I had the developed the endurance to get through the battles of Burma," etc. Or, "WWII was hell, but I trained in Kasumi Shin-ryu, and thanks to that training, I got home alive." But other than Tohei Koichi's dubious claims about his service in WWII, I've never read anyone make a claim of special powers or skills endowed to them by their training. And I never heard that koryu practitioners performed better on the Burma Road or the Guadalcanal or Saipan than judoka or kendoka (or even the dreaded masters of MJER';)')

As for "koryu enthusiasts seem to feel there is a koryu difference, an extra-special something that is a cut above," depends who you talk to, why they say it, what they mean by it, and who cares anyway.

Shin Buke
8th July 2004, 14:51
Mr. Amdur,

I was browsing your site just a few minutes ago and a question came to mind. I'm curious about how your martial training has effected your life. What lead you to train in the martial arts and what has encouraged you to continue their study? How has your martial training changed who you are, how you relate to people, how you react to various situations, and how you percieve yourself and others?

I realize these are fairly personal questions so I apologize if I've pried into an area that you would rather not discuss. If you are willing to answer, however, I would be very interested to learn of your experiences in this matter.

My thanks!

Ellis Amdur
8th July 2004, 16:34
I've written as much as I want to about that in Dueling with Osensei.

Shin Buke
8th July 2004, 22:33
$20 for your personal insights on your martial training sounds like more than a fair price to me. Sold! ^_~

Charlie Kondek
9th July 2004, 14:28
I keep asking for it for my birthday but haven't gotten it yet. I keep pestering them for it and "Old Skool" though.


As for "koryu enthusiasts seem to feel there is a koryu difference, an extra-special something that is a cut above," depends who you talk to, why they say it, what they mean by it, and who cares anyway.

I'm quite satisfied with this answer!

Shin Buke
9th July 2004, 21:46
I know how you feel. My leisure purchases are oft limited by my "poor student" status so I normally have to rely on birthdays or Christmases to obtain those few, precious tomes of knowledge and information.

When you do finally get "Old School" you will most certainly enjoy it. I couldn't pull myself away from it when I got it. I'd read a section, pause, then say to myself, "Ah, just one more!" Soon "just one more" became the whole book. ^_~

coyote
12th July 2004, 04:31
Hello Mr. Amdur. You said that you've been practicing Hsing-i. I wonder what led you to resume this practice - if I'm remember well you used to practice it in the past - and how it fits into your Araki-ryu training if it does. I would also like to know your views about how different are the Chinese martial arts when compared to koryu in terms of teaching methodology and "personality" of the art for the lack of a better term.

Ellis Amdur
12th July 2004, 16:10
I don't really even think about how one training I do contributes to my Araki-ryu or Buko-ryu unless I notice that it conflicts. Otherwise, it's just another thing I like to do. I like xingyi because it trains in explosive use of power, and as a middle-aged man, I want a training method that contributes to my health. And finally, I don't have to depend on anyone else - I just go out under my trees and practice whenever I like.

In my limited experience, the Chinese martial arts I've studied have far more of an emphasis on self-cultivation. Koryu, in their original form, were activist/political entities. I'm well aware of boxing organizations in China that were associated with various revolutionary groups, but, by-and-large, the systems I've encountered cultivated individual power and facility rather than using training to create a political entity. Koryu did not, for the most part, train for long life - again, I'm aware of healing systems associated with some ryu, but the training itself emphasized "RIGHT NOW" as opposed to the meticulous break-down of reflexes and neuromuscular organization you find in Chinese arts.

As for "personality," although this may hearken back to the infamous MJER debates - something I so do not wish to do - koryu are training methods of the now extinct Japanese warrior class - and certain psychological nuances accompany this, whereas xingyi, in particular, was a training method of civilians - ordinary citizens. The closest to "war" was that some top xingyi and bagua practitioners seemed to have originally specialized as caravan guards - the manuveuring training really assisting in melee fighting against bandits with hand-held weapons. (NOTE: I'm aware of the claims of some that xingyi was derived from spear training, but the best info I've ever seen suggests that it is a derivation of a single famiy art called xinyi - "the three fists" method of the Dai clan - see articles at http://www.chinafrominside.com/ma/xyxy.html).

I would have continued xingyi through my training in Japan, but my teacher, brilliant though he was, had an unfortunate tendancy to disappear for months, or come to class drunk. I'd get ticked off and quit for a few years, and then return. Over a 13 year period, I got about 2 years total of training. I've always regretted not having put in the mileage in this art - and that's really what it requires - miles and miles of repetition of forms. I started again a few years ago simply because the opportunity was there - another person who'd trained under the same teacher as my first (Hung I Shiang) moved to my area - he was a good friend - so I jumped back in.

Best

Walker
12th July 2004, 19:27
he was a good friend - so I jumped back in.Sometimes it's the people you get to train with isn't it?

J.C. Murphy
15th July 2004, 05:04
Mr. Amdur,

When reading your books and articles and the writings of the Skoss' and Mr. Lowry, there is an aspect of koryu that is hinted at, alluded to and mentioned in passing. This aspect is one that fascinates me, perhaps because it seems shrouded in mystery. It is the mental training and psychological aspects that are woven into the fabric of a ryu.

How does a political organization like a ryu take a young man and not only teach him some martial skill in a relatively short period of time, but also prepare him mentally for the challeges of military life in fuedal Japan and the prospect of NEEDING

J.C. Murphy
15th July 2004, 05:33
(Sorry)

NEEDING to be combat effective in a very chaotic environment. Certainly growing up into a military family would help w/ the proper mindset, but the ryu is also supposed to help with the development of the individual to be effective in this situation.

My feeling is that a martial artist should do anything possible to ensure that they are able to use their hard earned skills if necessary and there are many stories of very qualified people who are unable/unwilling to use their abilities when needed. Is there a way to blend the mental/psychological training of koryu into a more modern, even a non-Japanese, art.

I think that many of us have heard things like, "Observe your opponentw/o looking at him," or "Do not become emotionally involved w/ your adversary." Are there sources in English that one can go to that would assist in the type of training that I am thinking of? I have heard people talk about Nuero-Linguistic Programing but do not know anything about it. Can you recommend any supplement to a martial art that would help in this area?

Thank you,

br_tengu
15th July 2004, 08:38
Hi Ellis,
In your book "Dueling with O-Sensei" you mention an admonition made by Hung I Hsiang: "Be careful with whom you choose to study. You will become who they are, and if you haven't chosen wisely, you'll suffer and other people will, too".
I think that a lot of people can tell the benefits that they acquire from their martial arts study, but few can tell the drawbacks. I wonder if you could elaborate this topic a little bit more and give us some hints to realize when something wrong is going on, since it's not very easy to be objective about ourselves when we're part of the process.

Thanks


reinaldo yamauchi

Ellis Amdur
15th July 2004, 14:29
This is really the subject of an essay - or even a book - which others are far more qualified to write than me. But as far as I understand it -
1) The instructor takes ukemi - among other effects, this allows the instructor to gauge the psychological strength and organization of the student, to put them in situations of relatively high stress.
2) Also, the instructor thereby embodies self-sacrifice - the students preceive that the instructor puts himself at risk for the sake of the student's learning. This models proper behavior and engenders loyalty in the student
3) Group solidarity - studies have shown that on the battlefield one fights in difficult circumstances so as not to be shamed in the eyes on one's comrades. The most important thing is the loyalty towards one's brothers-at-war, and that one is not found lacking. The ryu has lots of ways of engendering that loyalty.

In short, the ryu are analogous to basic training, but the requirements of warfare in that period were different enough that the bushi/ruling class needed to be trained differently than soldiers (NOTE: I've read that ashigaru were trained in groups, in unison). One's teacher was one's drill sergeant.


AS for things like neuro-linguistic programing, in my opinion, such things are subsidiary - like meditation to calm one's mind. One may choose to do various methods of self-hypnosis or religious training to try to steel oneself on an individual basis, but the most effective way of training hasn't really changed. Methods of intense practice, repetitively done, under the leadership of forceful men who leave the soldier with the mindset that the only way to go is under the direction of one's leaders, in company with one's comrades. Depending on the cultural set, the type of warfare, etc., the particulars of training may be different, but be it close-order drill or kata, I believe that's what's going on.


Best

Ellis Amdur

Ellis Amdur
15th July 2004, 14:51
Tough question. I think it comes down to this - does one's association with that instructor lead one to compromise one's values or integrity? And this is a question that can only be answered if one HAS a personal code of ethics. Because if one doesn't, one doesn't have the ground to evaluate whether the instructor is causing damage.

Best

Kotev
30th July 2004, 15:42
Originally posted by Ellis Amdur



{snip} but the most effective way of training hasn't really changed. Methods of intense practice, repetitively done, under the leadership of forceful men who leave the soldier with the mindset that the only way to go is under the direction of one's leaders, in company with one's comrades.

Ellis,

I was reflecting on the above comment and Toby’s recent post on Aikido Journal about Koryu and started to wonder how politics play into studying two koryu. Toby’s article [http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=234] presents high standards in selecting potential students and absolute loyalty to the ryu upon joining. How is studying two koryu viewed in light of these high standards? If you are supposed to have such strong loyalty to one ryu how do you navigate two? Is there jealousy involved? I know there is immense physiological difficulty in keeping the two ryu separate, is it the same politically? Does it matter?

Thanks,
Stephen Kotev

Ellis Amdur
30th July 2004, 16:35
I think one has to make a real distinction between several "thens" and now. In Sengoku and probably early Edo-period, one would probably only be a member of one ryu (combative that is - one might also study bajutsu - horseriding; suijutsu - swimming, etc.). As the schools were supposed to be comprehensive, there was not a need to study several complete systems. However, during musha-shugyo (travelling around and training), aside from challenge matches, one far more frequently stayed for periods of time studying with this teacher or that. Itto-ryu practitioner, Suzuki Yoshio, might have been later described as studying under Mori Masayuki of Shinkage-ryu, receiving a menkyo. In reality, the latter study was like a graduate finishing course - perhaps two, three, six months, in which one expert swordsman taught another the essential principles of the former's school - not the entire curriculum.

One shouldn't think of the ryu as an absolutely independent political entity (I've previously written around ryu as being like the Moro Liberation Front, etc., but this was, in retrospect, somewhat hyperbolic - they were political entities lending support to larger political systems).
At any rate, as the Edo period progressed, this type of study continued for some warriors, but more commonly, warriors might study several ryu associated with the han they were attached. For example, a Sakura-han warrior might study both Tatsumi-ryu kenjutsu, and Araki-ryu jujutsu, as well as an archery or gunnery school. Most warriors did not study, for example, several kenjutsu schools.
Nowadays, ryu are far less socially important, less powerful, and the training is, for most, less intense. It is far less important in most practitioners' lives. Most Japanese practitioners still only practice one ryu. Training two or more schools would be looked askance, and the politics would arise due to the person's poor performance in one or the other, or contamination of one ryu's techniques into the other. If a person could bring it off - politics might still arise if the person seemed to favor one over the other, - for example, not going to one ryu's get-together, party, or demonstration because they were participating in a function of the other.

I've only successfully taught one individual, Steve Bowman, both of the ryu that I practice. However, his difficulties have been mostly technical rather than political, because he has been able to manifest loyalty to his teacher in both ryu - me. I can imagine teaching a person who already is high-level/menkyo in another system - probably like the old days, one essential portion of the ryu to "finish" off what he already knows. I can imagine a student of mine who is menkyo level studying another system. But I cannot imagine accepting a student who is in the process of learning another system from someone else. As attenuated a role as the ryu have, compared to the past, I would find the student's divided personal and organizational loyalties got in the way of really teaching what the ryu had to offer.

Best

Ellis Amdur

Kotev
30th July 2004, 18:31
Originally posted by Ellis Amdur
However, during musha-shugyo (travelling around and training), aside from challenge matches, one far more frequently stayed for periods of time studying with this teacher or that. Itto-ryu practitioner, Suzuki Yoshio, might have been later described as studying under Mori Masayuki of Shinkage-ryu, receiving a menkyo. In reality, the latter study was like a graduate finishing course - perhaps two, three, six months, in which one expert swordsman taught another the essential principles of the former's school - not the entire curriculum.


Ellis,

Thanks for the reply. So it seems that “graduate finishing courses” were not uncommon. If you don’t mind me asking how did starting a second koryu work for you? I have read both of your books but I don’t seem to recall this information. Did you consider your study of Toda-ha Buko Ryu some sort of “graduate finishing course” to Araki-ryu? I don’t think that is the case, as you can tell I am guessing here. How did your gaijin status play into all of it? I know that joining koryu is likened to family, and not showing up to family events is frowned upon, as illustrated in the example given. Did that ever happened to you? Or did your menkyo status with Araki-ryu free you up for Toda-ha Buko Ryu?

Thanks again for all of the answers. I am looking forward to training with you in Northern Virginia next month.

Regards,
Stephen Kotev

Ellis Amdur
31st July 2004, 07:29
I was not menkyo in Araki-ryu, I was a beginner. What I learned of that is why I don't recommend others train that way.

My gaijin "status" was irrelevent, as far as the two teachers in question were concerned. I did the best I could to keep the two ryu absolutely separate - but stories about it are not really very interesting. Just mundane juggling of schedules.

Best

Ellis Amdur