View Full Version : Koryu vs Gendai

Kit LeBlanc
20th June 2000, 18:28

Ooh, it's getting bloody in the Koryu / Japan threads. I thought of a topic that might help us find some common ground in th gendai/koryu thing.

How many koryu practitioners posting here also currently practice a gendai budo? The Skoss' mention their training in jukendo, and Meik recently told me he was practicing Judo again. Mr. Lowry has written a lot on gendai budo, though I do not know if he is currently training in a modern art. My own teacher requires concurrent practice in a modern grappling system. Tony Peters said in the other threads that his teacher does not practice gendai budo, and seems to be saying there is no need to practice gendai with koryu.

I do not think there is a NEED to practice gendai along with koryu. But what BENEFITS are there? I would ask Diane and Meik if they would be willing to share what they gain from jukendo practice that they feel supplements their koryu, or that theycannot find in koryu? Is it shiai?

And what are the problems encountered in practicing both? Are some arts completely incompatible?

And let me cut short the whole "koryu is combat, gendai is sport" notion. The vast majority of koryu AND gendai practitioners do not use their art combatively. There are people that use a lot of gendai for actual combative purposes (and it works), so let's not go down that road. I mean specifically in terms of system, training methods, etc.

Kit LeBlanc

Chuck Clark
20th June 2000, 19:35
Technically speaking, I do both practices. In my mind, the practice is the pretty much the same. Supposedly Miyamoto Musashi said something like the following, and I like it. The practice I do today kills the practice I did yesterday.

Technique is the same; it's the intent that changes.

Earl Hartman
20th June 2000, 20:20

That's a good question, but I don't want to write a book. While my koryu experience is not as deep as my gendai experience, I have to second Chuck's general feeling. There are very specific differences between the technique of modern kendo and what very little I have learned of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Hyoho so far, for example. The modern kendo stance is very upright and the body is always facing straight forward with the right foot leading. Yagyu Shinkage Ryu employs much deeper stances, oblique body postures, and you can lead with either foot depending on the technique, just to cite a few examples. (Obviously, my kendo habits get in the way of doing Yagyu technique correctly.)

In general, my experience is that there is a wide spectrum of approaches to both gendai and koryu arts which seem to be expressions of the personality and character of the teacher more than a being necessarily function of the art itself, perhaps. My kendo experience wirth the police showed me an art that was extremely rough and violent, supported by a rigid social structure that could be termed militaristic. The teachers and everyone involved were very demanding and rank protocol was so strictly observed, and in such a humorless manner, that I might as well have been in a military camp. However, this was probably more a function of the fact that it was police kendo. Kendo does not necessarily have to be practiced that way, as a glance at any local gym would show. My very limited experience in Yagyu Shinkage Ryu so far is nothing like police kendo at all, primarily in the attitude of its practioners and the atmosphere in the dojo, which, while strict and dedicated, is nowhere near so militaristic.

Anyeway, examples and anecdotes are endless, which is one reason why Koryubooks.com is such a valuable resource, since they have a lot of stuff that can help you on this. In any case, I think that it is probably impossible to come up with a thumbnail description of what you're looking for. It all seems very individual to me. I am sure that it differs from art to art and from teacher to teacher.


20th June 2000, 20:36
Hi Kit.

Koryu and gendai budo are mutually supportive; seldom mutually exclusive.

I practice Toyama Ryu and Nakamura Ryu. Both are gendai budo -- and both are geared to be "combat effective." However, both are taught now (more or less) in the "do" mode. We've "gentrified" our foot movements -- at least compared to the way it originally was taught at the Rikugun Toyama Gakko.

I also studied MJER -- although my teacher is not "recognized" and his interpretation of the waza has been likened to a "bull in a china shop" (thanks, Earl :D). But, it is koryu nonetheless.

I feel that practicing a koryu has given me a broader understanding of my gendai budo -- I can see the connection between Eishin Ryu and Toyama Ryu now. Before, the connection was only a phrase in books: "...Toyama ryu is based on Omori Ryu." After learning the Okuden waza of MJER I can now "feel" the parentage of Toyama Ryu. I even go so far as to say that the Okuden waza *are* the genesis of Toyama Ryu -- not Omori Ryu [Shoden waza]. I would not have discovered that theory without studying koryu.

Likewise, I say that studying gendai budo has enhanced my koryu -- *if* you can now call MJER a koryu today. [Someone else advanced that question -- and I think it is a valid question. Is MJER a koryu amongst the mokuroku-and-higher holders, and a "gendai budo" amongst those who have "merely" dan rankings?] Since my gendai budo emphasizes actual cutting, I have a stronger (more informed) opinion as to whether or not a koryu move will not work as taught today -- in my opinion.


Tony Peters
21st June 2000, 04:25
Shesh I hate being Quoted especially when some of the initial intent of my statement may have been misinterpreted...at least in my opinion.I am fortunate enough to train under two of the Listed "Valid Koryu Teachers" currently residing Outside Japan in the US ...actually Hawaii, we're differant here when it comes to MA (of the Gendai flavor I've already seen and I have a feeling in the Koryu area as well) however as I am a rank (unranked) beginer I only discovered my sensei's last fall Take what I say with a grain of salt. I do not speak for my sensei's I have just notice that neither studies a gendai art at present. I personally don't have the Time. Don't get me wrong I loved Aikido or I wouldn't have spent the time and effort to earn my blackbelt however I find the that I have been seduced by the Koryu. My Wife has also been bitten by the Koryu bug. We spend every Sunday morning on top of a mountain swinging a stick and trying not to look too foolish as learn SMR Jodo. I couldn't be happier with my practice even though I am still having major problems with my makiotoshi and Hikotoshi needs a ton of work. This is in addition to studing two other arts so I am more than a bit over programed (elaborate traing journals is the only thing that saves me). Will I even go back to a Gendai Art? If I can't find a Koryu teacher where ever I get stationed next yes I will but ubtil then I'm happy (and busy) with what I doing now. Does this make me a Snob? E-Gads I hope not. I'm do to work out with my brother and father in their Aikido Dojo this fall for three weeks. Will I have to pay attention to what I'm doing? hell yes Koryu arts, in my opinion have left me with a decidedly more dangerous sense of ma-ai than I had in Aikido. This is not a dig at Aikido rather just an observation of my present situation. If one can't find valid instruction then I do beleive that Gendai arts are quite good. It's a lot easier to find a real Aikido/Judo/Karate/Kendo instructor than it is to find a Koryu one. IF you find a koryu teacher and it (what their teaching) appeals to you then ask for instruction. On the subjectof snobery neither has ever said anything bad about another art in my presence nor would I ever say anything negative about another Art in theirs...it would likely get me clobbered.

21st June 2000, 05:17
If your post is an example of you as a person than you most certainly not a snob.

Earl once wrote a reply concerning the insipid argument of "do" Vs jutsu," that all these terms, budo, bujutsu, koryu, gendai (please correct me if I am wrong, Earl, that thread is no longer available) are on a continuum and that all evolve to adjust for the time in which they are done.

What fascinated me during one of my two attempts at adding a ryu of jujutsu to judo (kito in this instance), was how similar the two really were. There was really nothing new compared to the judo I was doing, but there was a difference in the way the waza was applied. At that time my original reason for attempting this was to improve my shiai performance, and I feel no shame in that, but even learing to do throws simply without grasping clothing gave me much insight into what was not included in judo. It also gave me the impetus to see what else judo had to offer, and I found the similarities to be so close as to have me wondering why people cosidered judo a sport at all.

However, If one can work it out, I can see no reason not to do both, if possible. If Tony can work it out, that is just fine. The fact that someone like Meik Skoss is doing judo again, says even more concerning the closeness which koryu and gendai share. After a stint in tenjin shinyo, I also found it to be very closely related to the atemiwaza I was doing, but in this instance, I was able to add more of this technique to my curriculum as I did kito. It is admirible that Earl was able to continue in "police kendo" in Japan, even though it made him feel somewhat uncomfortable, but I have no problem in taking what I can learn (including some wrist techniques fron shodokan style aikido) and include them into what I teach today. I wish I had taken more of an interest in other ryu of jujutsu when I was young, but it was discouraged, to say the least. At one time I would argue the violence even of other gendai arts as not being "sporting," but now I realize the sport in all, and that judo is not necessarily sport. Shiai can be great in keeping one's interest level high, as it did for me, but I did finally come to realize that there must be something else if I wanted to continue to do judo, as I grew one step too slow to compete. Today, nearly all classes begin with kata of atemiwaza, goshin jutsu (even more gendai since it was not included in Kodokan judo until 1958). Surely even the most ardent of koryu practioners can see the practicality of doing a modern Japanese art, as it may open new eyes to the world at hand. Yes, the violent intent has changed forever, but the spirit of koryu, in my opinion, is greatly enhanced in doing a modern version. Someone who posts here, who has a background in judo but is now doing something quite different, says that during attack-type drills, his judo always comes out. That is not so surprising. One does what one senses when in a position of being attacked by multiple uke, and if it is your gendai experience, that is not wrong. On the contrary, it may even "save the day."

Luke Short
21st June 2000, 06:34
It depends on what motivates one to do martial arts to begin with.

Many of the koryu forms lack a "combative completeness", in terms of overall application in the modern world. How many of the koryu are sogo budo, and how many of them employee only one or two weapons?

How could studying a gendai unarmed form be anything but complimentary to the study of kenjutsu? How could the study of a sword based koryu be anything but beneficial to the study of modern jujutsu?

If one seeks to be effective as a fighter, then it should matter little if the arts that increase this effectiveness are gendai, koryu,a derived eclectic form, or a combination of two or more?

If one is training for some sort of spiritual or personality development, then it matters little.

Maybe we should look at this by seeing what others feel is the combative advantage to thier own system, and then critically examine that to see if any lacking elements could not be reinforced by studying a system that compliments the current system.

If we were to be honest about the shortcomings of our own system, maybe this would shed some light into the debate.For if there were a single perfect system, wouldn't we all be training in that one system?

Earl Hartman
21st June 2000, 17:16

It seems we have come around to the original point again, which really is: is there really such a sharp division between the koryu and the gendai arts in Japan as we are wont to think here in the West? Personally, I think the answer is no, not because there are not differences (there are, of course) but because the Japanese simply don't spend, or should I say waste, a lot of time worrying about these sorts of things like we do here on e-budo.

Most people seem to think that the real division is between "martial effectiveness" and "spiritual training", however one may define those terms. If we were to compare modern kendo vs. koryu kenjutsu with a view towards determining which would be more theoretically effective on a medieval battlefield, the answer is obvious. However, this really doesn't mean much today. In any case, the plain fact of the matter is that "martial effectiveness" is at least as much a function of spiritual and psychological factors as technical ones, and you really can't have one without the other. As Yagyu Sensei has said, the do and the jutsu are one and the same thing. I found this out (although I couldn't really articulate it the time) when I realized that I was, quite simply, scared s**tless of the cops I fenced with, since there was an element of real danger involved in attacking them, even though we were using bamboo sticks and wearing protective gear. If I didn't watch myself, I would get the point to the throat, which casued many sleepless nights and terror-filled, cold sweat-drenched days. Without putting too fine a point on it, if you can't get untracked, you can't attack (apologies to Johnny Cochran). Anyone who has ever gone up against someone better than them will know what I mean. I am not sure if there is much difference in this area between the koryu and the gendai arts. Perhaps it is a matter of degree, I don't know. It probably differs from art to art and from teacher to teacher, like I said before. Maybe the cops were doing koryu-style gendai kendo. I really can't say. People who know more than I will have to deal with that.

One must always remember that the modern arts were restructured so that they could act as the medium through which the traditional values of the warrior class could be transmitted to the people of modern Japan. Thus, the arts could not remain in their traditional, factionalized form for this to happen. This is one of the main reasons behind the standardization that they underwent. In kyudo, this process was very conscious and purposeful. In this process, the individual flavor of the different ryuha were inevitably lost. Right now, when I am fortunate enough to go to Japan, I train with a teacher who teachers traditional Heki To Ryu kyudo in her dojo. From the outside, to a novice, it would be difficult if not impossible to discern any striking differences between this kyudo and modern kyudo. However, the differences are there. There are some technical differences, but the main difference is one of feeling and philosophy. However, since this teacher does modern kyudo as well, and holds a high position of responsibility within the modern kyudo organization, her views must inevitably come to affect modern kyudo as well (and vice-versa).

This must always be kept in mind: the koryu and gendai arts do not exist separately in Japan. The exist in a symbiotic relationship and affect each other in many ways. For instance, one of the senior practitioners of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu in the Tokyo dojo just earned his 8th degree in modern kendo, which he teaches at his own private dojo. Many Shinto Muso Ryu jo practitoners practice both the modern and traditional forms of the art. The list goes on and on.

One thing is definitely true, however: in koryu, if you are training with a good senior, there is a definite element of danger in how the kata are performed, even if you know what is supposed to happen. If you are not on your toes, or if you are slacking off, you will find out about it right away, in ways that can be quite painful, humiliating, or both. (This is also true in the gendai arts if your senior is good.) One of the differences between the kind of kendo that I practiced with the police and with Yagyu Shinkage Ryu that has become obvious in my short experience with Yagyu ryu is strictly a technical one: there are no limitations to the targets in Yagyu Ryu. This is a crucial difference: no matter how tough a modern kendo man might be (and they are tough, believe me) he knows instinctively that if a strike is going to hit him, say, in the thigh, the upper arm, the elbow, the shoulder, or the side of the neck, he can just ignore it, no matter how much it might hurt, or how dead he would be if the sword were real, because it does not count as a point. This changes everything, and even really good kendo pratitioners can be sloppy in this way.

As far as shiai is concerned, Yagyu Sensei told us that when he was young they used to do shiai in Yagyu Shinkage Ryu. This is not done today, apparently.

Anyway, perhaps people feel that "koryu vs. gendai" is a matter of feeling as much as anything, as evidenced by a lot of comments on e-budo to the effect that "it is a gendai art, but we/they train in a koryu fashion". Frankly, while I defer to others with more experience in this area, I am not exactly sure what this means. I think that it might be a function of the false dichotomy some people have in their minds that says koryu arts are tough and modern arts are not. I don't think that is necessarily true at all, and if it is, it would be more of a result of how an individul teacher approaches his/her art than anything else. This also changes from student to student and depends on what the teacher sees in the student. Even within the same art or dojo, different students are taught differently depending on their level and intent. The permutations are subtle and endless, the serpent eating its tail.

That is why I think that the best and perhaps the only useful definition of koryu vs. gendai is precisely the historical one that the Skosses suggest. If it was established before an arbitrary date, then it is koryu, if not, not. This is an historical, and, therefore, neutral definiton. It does not necessarily have to be seen as a value judgement, even if some people try to make it so.


Tony Peters
21st June 2000, 18:14
Earl described some of what I have also discovered. It's the application of the various techniques that makes the difference. Since there are only so many ways to swing a stick/sword and move a body. That said the fist time a did a Kata in Jujutsu I realized both how much easier the Koryu versions are, because one isn't starting with the protective premise of Aikido and given that stiplation how much more dangerous they can be (hence the need to practice them in Kata form). Having said that I'm not sure I could have studied jujutsu first without my prior Aikido training. Mentally aikido is a bit more pleasant, Jujutsu (at least what I've learned) is MEAN... none of this protect the opponant stuff. Much more like Finish of the attacker and get the hell away from the site of conflict, which stems from the fact that Koryu arts were designed to keep their practicianers alive on the battlefield not stop a fight in Downtown LA (sorry that just came to mind because of the Basketball Riots):D I do beleive that the Ma-ai of Koryu is more martial. Mostly because the motions are more body trained than things are in the Gendai arts that I've seen. Especially when it has come to weapons Kata's with a partner. Learning to stop a strike before you shatter your partner's wrist, or when to step away before a yokomen strike brains you. I have been hit more often since I started training in Koryu and I have learned a lot more about getting off the line/out of the way, whether at high speed or in one step format. Taking this back to a gendai art will be interesting and educational; that, is a ways off...thankfully. I guess it really come down to the underlying priciples of the Art you are studying. Did I make a point here?

[Edited by Tony Peters on 06-21-2000 at 01:16 PM]

22nd June 2000, 08:10
Yes, you made a fine point, Tony. When I did Kito ryu jujutsu, the same basic presription was there: break kuzushi and finish the throw. However, how you get there is something else. Assuming I've broken my oppnents balance by striking, have his wrist/hand in a lock of sorts and jammiing my forearm up into his armpit (this can be particularly painful), you finish him the same way as one would using judo. But yes, the violent intent is different, but results are the same. By applying this to judo, I am still doing judo, but I have improved my chances of finishing. So I do think I understand your point.

There is nothing more I can really add. I read your post and I sit here nodding my head in agreement. The only thing which changes, is my interest in kyudo. I would love to see for myself the sublities of something which may at the very least, improve my focus. Thank you for another interesting post. I know we've touched on this a million times but I don't find it redundant. After all, how much does one remember if it is posted once and filed away? I really wish others could see the similarities of doing both, one, or the other. Intent is indivdual and yes, it does come first from the proveners of the koryu, distilled into the gendai, and passed down by individuals, no matter what the art. In LA, we rarely did uchikomi exercises, but in New york, and hour can be taken up by the same. I'm not saying it pertains to geographical or topographical locations, but it does change dojo to dojo.

As far as shiai goes, it was originally shi ni ai and if my slim knowledge of terminolgy serves, it means to be the harmony to being second or next to death, so in those terms, it does have differing application. I do believe this type of contest was around when koryu didn't have to be called koryu. How does on test one's self if the intent is to kill or maim? I can see the value of doing both, but I think the intent, in a very raw way is the same. Sometimes it just comes down to a difference in the way one is practiced, and the imitation of sensei's every move exist in both. I hope I haven't ruined a student's very motive for doing what I do.

23rd June 2000, 04:45
Here's my question on Koryu and Gendai. Should we even be discussing them together? I think that we have done a great disservice by lumping together a group of physical/spiritual exercises with a group of techniques of warfare, under the same word.

I don't even like to use the term "Martial Arts" anymore, and "budo" isn't much better.

I understand that karate, judo, aikido and the rest have been used in fights. Successfully. But that isn't there PURPOSE, as it is with Koryu. You can fight with a baseball bat, too, but that won't make it a sword.

Tony Peters
23rd June 2000, 06:08
At first I was going to agree with you however on further contemplation I feel that you may be looking at Koryu arts with a narrow field of view (I'm a photgrapher please excuse the analogy) Yes at one time Koryu arts were battlefield arts and no aikido has never been tested under those conditions (at least to my knowledge). However neither is the present day world accepting of folks carrying 3 feet of razor sharp steel (though I would hazard a guess that everyone would be much more polite if this was true but I digress) Both Gendai and Koryu arts are practiced today for roughly the same reasons...the pursuit of budo/bujutsu. Very few of these skills will make you more deadly in a gunfight, today's battlefield at it's most intimate level. And by the time a battle gets to that level most of the dying has already long since been done. The "Battlefield" these days is serviced by a computer. Yes right now we still have to go to a place IRL and insure that what we have done on a computer (whether that computer is in the air, on the gound, on the sea or under it) stays the way we want it but that is mop up not war. That said they (Koryu and Gendai) do have vastly differant principles even when one compares Aikido and Aikijujutsu (some of which is indeed a Koryu art). So where does that leave us? As I've said (and many others have as well) there are only so many ways to swing a stick/sword/whatever and the body has a finite number of ways that it can be moved. What seperates Koryu and Gendai is the desired end result. I used to beleive that Aikido was the only/best way...now I beleive that it is indeed "A" way however I've become intrigued with other ways who's principles are vastly divirgent from Aikido. Does this mean that that I dislike or throw away all that I've learned in Aikido? No, hell I still think interms of Aikido names for the new variations of things I'm learning. Gendai arts have taken Koryu and made it easier for the masses to reach. Koryu teaching metheds are not as easy as Gendai ones. I have spent a lot of time off in my corner of the field practicing how to swing a stick before sensei comes over to add to my palate or correct something I've done/doing wrong. Muscle memory is much more a part of Koryu than it is Gendai (at least in my exerience) however proper movement seems to be a more an integral part of Gendai arts along with the desire to "Win" in some of the more modern ones. Koryu arts are more interested in living (sometimes it could be infered at any cost but for that YMMV) though some gendai arts have this priciple as well but the core of gendai is differant. It would be hard to discuse one with out the other especially since there are so few (relativly speaking) Koryu Practicianers compared to Gendai Practicianers. And even fewer Koryu practicianers who've never practiced a Gendai Art so how can we not link the two. Martial Arts are by Drager's definition Battlefield arts Gendai need not apply, however since all fighting arts seem to be labeled Martial these days we live with the general term or get specific with exactly what (Kenjutsu, Jojutsu, Jujtsu etc) we study In today's world the skill I learn with a Jo/boken will translate directly to a broomstick/baseball bat To think otherwise is foolish.

23rd June 2000, 13:14
Having served as military police, infantry, and a marksmanship instructor for the US Marine Corps, I am very familiar with how battles are fought nowadays (and the Marines updated their hand-to-hand training JUST THIS YEAR). However, I think you missed the point of my analogy.

I know that gendai arts are useful for fighting. But they are not MADE for fighting. Aikido, for instance goes into great detail teaching the nuance of Aiki, using the movements of martial arts (which is very different from Aikijutsu, which teaches fighting techniques that make use of Aiki in their performance). But it is very limited for battlefield use--it does not teach pre-emptive attacks (!), nor does it teach techniques for defending your comrades--the energy of the attack must be directed AT THE AIKIDOKA for an Aikido defense to be mounted. A person with such limitations in a fight would not be my first choice of company in a defensive position (ground war still goes on, and people still get overrun by the enemy!).

Other gendai budo suffer similar limitations. It is their nature--they are ways of enlightenment and sport DESCENDED from the combat arts. They are SUPPOSED to be restricted to a single, narrow study, through which their practitioners reach a higher level of being (or just toss each other around on the mat).

Again--koryu are made for combat, like a sword. They can be appreciated for their craftsmanship, their artistry; but, in the end, they are a tool for killing the enemy. Gendai are like a baseball bat--certain painful, even fatal, if you are struck with one--but they are only PROPERLY employed in an arena that has nothing to do with war.

Tony Peters
23rd June 2000, 17:44
Originally posted by yamatodamashii
Having served as military police, infantry, and a marksmanship instructor for the US Marine Corps, I am very familiar with how battles are fought nowadays (and the Marines updated their hand-to-hand training JUST THIS YEAR). However, I think you missed the point of my analogy.

I know that gendai arts are useful for fighting. But they are not MADE for fighting. Aikido, for instance goes into great detail teaching the nuance of Aiki, using the movements of martial arts (which is very different from Aikijutsu, which teaches fighting techniques that make use of Aiki in their performance). But it is very limited for battlefield use--it does not teach pre-emptive attacks (!), nor does it teach techniques for defending your comrades--the energy of the attack must be directed AT THE AIKIDOKA for an Aikido defense to be mounted. A person with such limitations in a fight would not be my first choice of company in a defensive position (ground war still goes on, and people still get overrun by the enemy!).

Other gendai budo suffer similar limitations. It is their nature--they are ways of enlightenment and sport DESCENDED from the combat arts. They are SUPPOSED to be restricted to a single, narrow study, through which their practitioners reach a higher level of being (or just toss each other around on the mat).

Again--koryu are made for combat, like a sword. They can be appreciated for their craftsmanship, their artistry; but, in the end, they are a tool for killing the enemy. Gendai are like a baseball bat--certain painful, even fatal, if you are struck with one--but they are only PROPERLY employed in an arena that has nothing to do with war.

I don't think you understand what I was saying either what ever the original purpose of the Koryu was they ain't used for that now. The only real differances between Koryu and Gendai now are the training techniques and desired end result. Koryu techniques may be easier to adapt to modern combat than Aikido at the hand to hand level however I wonder if on a larger level Aikido tactics with their suprising similarity to some of Sun Tsu's priciples might work? Either way they still have to be adapted. I always hear this comment that Aikido doesn't teach pre-emptive strikes and I always wonder where ya'll practice? Since I've only been to one stateside Dojo maybe that is true however that ain't what I learned from about the 3rd kyu level on so YMMV. However that isn't the point. Every gendai art has a flaw but then the major flaw of Koryu arts is the size of their cirriculum (most times huge). Why do I need to spend ten years learning how to swing a sword? I don't "need" to, it's a skill that I will never use in the real world. Do I want to? yes I find the study of the sword to be quite interesting and suprisingly similar to swinging a baseball bat at times. I can't think of a single Army in the world that carry's a sword into combat these days so this part of the sylibus isn't really relavant to today's warmaking ablities. Fortuneatly for the USA war has progressed to the point where they/we can sit back and do everything from a distace and use troops to finish off a pre-softened enemy.

23rd June 2000, 18:04
I was going to make a lucid and thoughtful reply, but "we can sit back and use troops to finish off a pre-softened enemy" turned my stomach. I'll be back in a few days.

23rd June 2000, 18:12

I know that gendai arts are useful for fighting. But they are not MADE for fighting.

Not so. Toyama Ryu iaido, jukendo, and tankendo are gendai budo -- and they were developed specificallyfor fighting. These gendai budo have now redeveloped into a "way" vice "combative;" however, the intent to kill an enemy is still clearly evident.

[nb, for those who do not know, jukendo is bayonet fencing and tankendo is dagger (dismounted bayonet) fighting.]


23rd June 2000, 19:11
Okay, I can't stand it. I'll post now.


Thanks for your distinction. I kept meaning to make a post about CERTAIN gendai budo that do blur the line--jukendo certainly being one of those. I had also been thinking of Shorinji kenpo.

Peace be with you

Mr. Peters--

My reply to you is in several parts:

1) Once again (respectfully); I am not referring to what koryu are currently USED FOR; at least not by civilians. Rather, I am making a distinction of what they were CREATED for, and what they are MOST USEFUL AS. Along those same lines: first you state that the only difference between koryu and gendai today is training methods and desired result, then you state that the curriculum of koryu arts is too large. Please clarify?

2) I never said that gendai arts were FLAWED. I said that they were limited in combat, because they were not created for the purpose of combat.

3) On aikido. Please, give me the name of an aikido technique that counts as a legitimate "I hit him before he can hit me" technique, and what system of aikido this technique is taught in. I am genuinely interested. Also, what corrollaries have you drawn between aikido and the Sun Tzu text, who's translation did you use, and why exactly are they surprising?

4) The above points are all legitimate requests for knowledge between friendly collegues. This is one that is very touchy for me. If war breaks out, IT WILL NOT END without an actual, bullets and mortars ground battle. People--brave, talented people on both sides--will be sent out by their governments to kill or be killed. Ground war happens. Hand to hand happens. It is an ugly, cruel thing that should not be talked about as if "they" were nintendo characters that "we" can sit behind a computer and "send in against a pre-softened enemy". "They" are my friends. Beyond that, "they" deserve the most thorough, battle-tested knowledge of improvised weapons, strangulations, joint breaking techniques, stealth training... all these things that koryu teach and gendai (in general) do not.

I apologize if I come across as irate, however, as I mentioned, that particular spot struck a very sensitive nerve. I respectfully wait for any further correspondence on these points?

Peace be with you

Earl Hartman
23rd June 2000, 19:13

Really good points. From that perspective, while civilian disturbances may not be considered "war", I am absolutely certain that the riot squad police training in kendo must help them greatly when it comes time to deal with the kind of civil disobedience that, for instance, accompanied the original construction of the international airport at Narita. If you may recall, there was serious resistance on the part of the farmers whose land was taken by eminent domain, actively aided by radical student groups. Some of the clashes involved sharpened bamboo spears, as I recall, and I'm fairly certain there was at least one fatality (I think a cop took a spear in the guts, but I'm not sure). In any case, bashing each other with sticks on a daily basis has got to help people, psychologically at least, to face such a confrontation . As far as I'm concerned, regradless of the rules boxing and football may have, anyone who has the guts to stand in and take a punch, or who can face an onrushing linebacker without tossing his cookies in panic knows a lot more about fighting than someone who practices a "martial art" yet has never crossed blades or swung a fist with anything on the line.

The Duke of Wellington is reputed to have said that "the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton", that is, the sports that the British played, and the way they played them, was one of the factors that contributed directly to the success of British arms (being British, he was probably talking more about discipline than anything else). I think that any martial "art/sport", however one may want to define it, so long as victory in competition is the ultimate objective, and so long as there is an element of danger and the potential for pain and suffering involved, will be of value in teaching people how to cope with the stress of conflict. Some martial sports/arts may have more of this than others and thus be better for this purpose.

I think that this is why Donn Draeger came up with his arbitrary classifications of bujutsu vs. budo and koryu vs. gendai, simply because there is really no other way to start a conversation on the subject. There are clear differences between koryu and gendai, but they are, as with everything, "case by case". Toyama Ryu may be gendai, but it was designed for war. The same with jukendo. Can we say they are technically "gendai" but spiritually "koryu"? At this point, things get hopelessly muddled if one sticks slavishly to arbitrary definitions. When something is as varied and multi-faceted as the bugei, it is simply impossible to come up with a "one size fits all" definition.


Tony Peters
23rd June 2000, 20:18
Originally posted by yamatodamashii
Okay, I can't stand it. I'll post now.

Mr. Peters--

My reply to you is in several parts:

1) Once again (respectfully); I am not referring to what koryu are currently USED FOR; at least not by civilians. Rather, I am making a distinction of what they were CREATED for, and what they are MOST USEFUL AS. Along those same lines: first you state that the only difference between koryu and gendai today is training methods and desired result, then you state that the curriculum of koryu arts is too large. Please clarify?

2) I never said that gendai arts were FLAWED. I said that they were limited in combat, because they were not created for the purpose of combat.

3) On aikido. Please, give me the name of an aikido technique that counts as a legitimate "I hit him before he can hit me" technique, and what system of aikido this technique is taught in. I am genuinely interested. Also, what corrollaries have you drawn between aikido and the Sun Tzu text, who's translation did you use, and why exactly are they surprising?

4) The above points are all legitimate requests for knowledge between friendly collegues. This is one that is very touchy for me. If war breaks out, IT WILL NOT END without an actual, bullets and mortars ground battle. People--brave, talented people on both sides--will be sent out by their governments to kill or be killed. Ground war happens. Hand to hand happens. It is an ugly, cruel thing that should not be talked about as if "they" were nintendo characters that "we" can sit behind a computer and "send in against a pre-softened enemy". "They" are my friends. Beyond that, "they" deserve the most thorough, battle-tested knowledge of improvised weapons, strangulations, joint breaking techniques, stealth training... all these things that koryu teach and gendai (in general) do not.

I apologize if I come across as irate, however, as I mentioned, that particular spot struck a very sensitive nerve. I respectfully wait for any further correspondence on these points?

Peace be with you

1)Ok I was a bit distracted when I wrote that as I wrote it in the middle of our morning meeting (quarters for the military types). Koryu have a name and Kata for each technique whether it is related to another or not where as most Gendai arts that I have seen have one name for a group of variation of the same basic movement. Part of the ease of learning a Gendai art is that it's all related this is not always so in Koryu. At least in my experience. As you said in point #4 ""they" deserve the most thorough, battle-tested knowledge of improvised weapons, strangulations, joint breaking techniques, stealth training... all these things that koryu teach" it's all of the other stuff that make up Koryu that cause the cirrculum to be so mumuch larger than a gendai art. Maybe you are correct. Maybe I'm starting to agree with you after all I haven't totally disagreed with most of your points, though I'm more likely to study Koryu now that I've discovered them than a Gendai Art.

2) Actually Judo was created partially to preserve Koryu arts what it has degenerated into is a seperate matter. That said I'm sorry for my choice of words...I probablly should have said something Differant though right now I can't think of how to convey my thoughs.

3) As I said I learned Aikido outside CONUS (Guam to be exact) and we practiced what has been termed an older style, Much of what we did with Ikkyo, Kokyo Nage Tenchinage and Ireminage involve nage acting first to initiate specific actions in the uke. I was scolded once for doing this at another Dojo so I'm of the opinion that it isn't done that much...sad that. As to Aikido and SunTsu I've read (and own)Cleary's translation which I don't have with me right now so I'm gonna try and wing it (I want to get Griffith's at some point in the future) Most of what I remember has to do with drawing in and setting the stage for the enemies downfall. If you don't mind I would prefer to get back to you on that after I have some time to reread both my SunTsu and some Aikido Phiosophy as I haven't had to think Aikido in almost two years.

4) My point was that It hasn't happened that way. We lost an incrediblly small number of troops (I don't like to think any loss is worthwile but it is war) during the Persian Gulf War compared to what we could have if it wasn't for the Missles and bombs dropped by the Navy and Airforce as well as the tanks killed by the Army's newest wonder helo(All Computers BTW). The Ground troops were indeed at great risk however the end result was more of a mop up of a shatted army that didn't have a chance in the first place. I whole heartedly beleive in the Motto "the more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war. All of the training that Ground pounders do does indeed give them the added chance of survival but it is much more likely to come down to guns, mortars, tanks, and howitzers than hand to hand. I've got a SEAL buddy who once said if it gets down to hand to hand I'm F*#@%d. Anyway the second "War"(if you want to call it that), Kosovo, that we have been in in the last decade was almost entirely a push button war. Troops (sizeable amounts anyway PJ's and rescue troops don't count) were not used until after it was all over and then (in my opinion) poorly. Does all of this mean that we (the military) shouldn't train in Hand to Hand Combat? No but I think that more time putting Bullets/bombs/missle on target is a much more useful expenditure of time unfortuneatly that cost's money More than Congress/the president wants to give. They would rather use soldiers and marines and psuedo policemen (not what there trained for excepting a few small groups). Ground troops and/or the threat of their use is what makes it so easy for the Navy/Airforce to succeed. I've sweat a lot in my military career, doing a large number of jobs and I found that training was usually harder than what we were trained for; it was the stress of the situation not the action itself which was most difficult. Of course I worked on a Carrier flightdeck at night so all things are relative to me (yup I'm a Squid). Gendai Arts do a very good job of imitating the "stress" in a manner that is still somewhat safe where as koryu teaches deadly techniques but you are never really put into a deadly/stressful position (relativly speaking) so both are useful. I hope this is what you were looking for.

[Edited by Tony Peters on 06-23-2000 at 03:30 PM]

23rd June 2000, 20:24
Please excuse me for jumping in here.

Mr. Power,

I have heard of Jukendo, but I believe this is the first I have heard of Tankendo, and I would love to learn more about it.


The discussion of the role of technology in warfare is of interest to me. In some circumstances, it would seem that technology has been decisive in maintaining a favourable ( To American and Western European forces) balance of force in which there would appear to be a greater capability to disrupt the adversary's warmaking ability through long range disruption of logistical, Command and Control, and various other resources. The US military spends a considerable amount of money and energy to provide training and equipment for the individual soldier, as well as a support apparatus that maintains morale through the the continual resupply of parts, food, medicine, etc. This works nicely in an environment such as the Desrt Storm campaign, where there are ( politically )clear boundaries and targets, and a reasonably uncluttered terrain in which to manoevre. Where this advantage is seriously compromised is in environments such as Bosnia or Somalia, where there is less liberty in the application of long distance firepower. A gentleman named Daniel Bolger writes eloquently about this in a book called " Savage Peace" What we find to be the greatest vulnerabilty of the new technology is that it is expensive, requires very specialised training, and is often prone to Beta errors. It also does not make it any easier to pick out a gunman from a crowd of angry civillians. That sort of training and "sixth sense", as well as the ability to make apprpriate decisions is something which has been important to members of the Warrior's profession ever since the earliest days of recorded history. It will continue to be important regardless of the newest smart bomb, body armor, or stealth technology. Indeed, it will become even more important. We cannot count on our battles being set piece affairs, and to add insult to injury, we can definitely count on the news media to be present and ready to pass judgement in front of millions of readers/viewers. On my way back from a sword seminar in California, my friend Kurt showed me an article on the new prototype assault rifle that is being developed for U.S. forces. The damn thing weighs close to twenty pounds and has a minicomputer housed in the backpack. This does not seem like progress to me...does anyone remember the Pentium chip fiasco some years back? It is the development of a spirit that allows one to persevere and improvise effectively in adverse situations that will continue to be important for those who find themselves in a combat environment, regardless of the technology, or perhaps in spite of it. I believe that both Gendai and Koryu arts, if trained seriously, may provide this.

Kit LeBlanc
23rd June 2000, 20:32

Welcome to the forum. I see in your profile that you are in law enforcement, and have a military background. Apparently you also train koryu.

We have been discussing almost this exact same thing in the below thread Koryu: Tradition vs. Application. I agree with most of what you say. I train in both koryu (2 years) and gendai (well, I am starting to think that people probably wouldn't consider the "submission grappling" blend of judo ne waza, wrestling, and kickboxing as "budo," but hey...). I have found that koryu grappling methods often seem a much better fit for work in law enforcement and SWAT applications than a pure gendai sport methods. The koryu methods are weapons aware, focus on controlling an opponents ability to access a weapon, and can be graduated in terms of lethality from killing techniques to arrest/restraint methods.

I think the pure black and white distinction is not valid, however. Guy points out Toyama-ryu, Earl mentions "police" kendo, which sounds a lot more like old gekken (Earl, do they grapple?) and of course, combat/arrest methods like Taiho-jutsu are gendai. Judo used to be a lot closer to koryu jujutsu than sport grappling. All have roots in koryu, but then that is a given.

Also the majority of koryu practitioners no longer practice their arts with personal combat in mind (I think "battlefield" gives a too strict definition of where the application of koryu would lie.) Many don't even view them as combat arts, but more the practice of skills worth preserving and as a cultural tradition worth continuing.

Earl and others have mentioned how mindset is probably the most useful aspect that practice of koryu arts would bring to the modern day fighting man. This is especially clear if we are talking about, say, a naginata tradition, which would have limited usefulness in terms of techniques to a military policeman or a SWAT entry team.

Still, it is the intent you have when you practice what it is you do. Koryu, without the frame of mind that informs combative practice, are not really fighting arts as practiced by professional combatants, for the purpose of actual application. And sport methods, adapted to the realities of close quarters combat, can be very effective in real life combative encounters.

Oh, on the Sun Zi thing. I think the principles found in the Art of War and the other Chinese military classics underlay ALL of the Sino-Japanese fighting traditions.

I would like to discuss your experiences in koryu and law enforcement applications by e-mail, if you care to. I find it interesting to compare notes. I once spoke with Rory Miller, a Sosuishi-ryu practitioner /Corrections Sgt that used to post on this site, and he said something very interesting to me. He said that it was amazing how much a bushi from 400 years ago knew about surviving in a jail today.

Kit LeBlanc

Earl Hartman
23rd June 2000, 22:41

The cops regularly used tai atari (body striking, where you run into your opponent like a free safety in football, trying to knock him down or, at the least, unbalance him) and ashi barai (leg sweeps) in practice. Tai atari is an integral part of kendo, and is really important for developing proper kendo posture, balance, and strong legs and hips, but as far as I know, leg sweeps are not allowed in modern kendo competition. They did it all the time in practice, though. Close to tsuba zeriai (tsuba-to-tsuba), put your shinai against the side of his neck, and sweep the leg while pushing him over with the shinai. Works like a charm.

I doubt if this is taught in the US, but in Japan with the cops I was trained to close and grapple if I lost my shinai, the rationale being, of course, that in a fight you can't call time to retrieve your weapon. One time, a couple of guys lost their shinais and were wrestling around on the floor for a good 2-3 minutes while everybody else stopped training and gathered around, egging them on. It was inconclusive, so eventually the top guy told them to break it up. That's not allowed in tournaments, though.

I was once practicing against a guy with forearms like Popeye who had the wickedest makiotoshi I've ever come across. I simply couldn't hold on to the shinai, so I rushed him and made the mistake of grabbing him around the waist in a bear hug. He backed up, I fell face down, and he reached over my back and grabbed the bottom of my chest protector and pulled it up so that the top was jammed against my throat, cutting off my air supply. I thrashed around like a fish on a river bank for a few seconds before tapping out when I realized that I couldn't get away and I'd black out if I continued to resist. The Sensei, meanwhile, was laughing himself silly, and after I had recovered my breath (but not my dignity) he told me my grappling technique sucked (duh) and that what I was really supposed to do is put one hand on top of his head, grab the nodowa (the throat protector on a kendo mask) and twist the hands in opposite directions. Unless his neck is strong enough for him to resist, he'll go down.

Anyway, nobody does kendo like that here in the US, so far as I know. I (inadvertantly) knocked a bunch of guys down in a kendo tournament shortly after coming back home (one of my few moments of glory); none of the cops had ever even blinked at my pathetic tai atari, so I was astounded that they went down so easily. One of them even got knocked out when he hit the back of his head on the floor, and I was sternly lectured that I wasn't doing tai atari "properly" ("Huh"?, I thought, "they went down, didn't they"?). Another guy got so pissed off over being knocked down repeatedly that he tried to kick me in the nuts while he was on his back. I was really pissed and about to brain him when all of the judges, with these panic-stricken looks on their faces, started waving their flags and yelling "Stop, stop!" It was kind of funny, but the guy should never have tried to kick me.

Anyway, kendo like that forces you to keep your eyes open.


PS Actually, a slight correction. I mixed it up with a Japanese-trained Sensei here in the States once, and he took me down with a hip throw. He seemd to enjoy it.

Joseph Svinth
23rd June 2000, 23:40
Earl -- The Nisei often learned kendo like that, too, but in the US most of them gave it up during WWII. The few I've talked to who still do kendo or iaido today say that they wish that kendo would go back to allowing more bodily contact, as in their minds what is done today is (and I am quoting a US 7-dan with about 60 years experience here) "a silly game of tag."

Earl Hartman
24th June 2000, 00:05

That sounds about right. My first kendo teacher was a "Kibei" (an American-born Japanese who was sent to be educated in Japan and then later came back to the US) who got trapped in Japan with the outbreak of the war and spent the war years in Kyushu, where he trained in gekken style kendo. He loved to tell a story about how he was once being beaten up so badly by his teacher (he was just in his early 'teens, I think) that he just put his shinai on his shoulder and started to run to escape the beating. His teacher chased him around the dojo (shades of Tom and Jerry) and finally tackled him and got him into some sort of headlock with his legs wrapped around his head. He took his own men off and sank his teeth into his teacher's calf as far as they would go. So far as I know, his teacher got off of him, although I don't know what happened after that. He loved to tell that story, and even after all those years the enjoyment he derived from giving his teacher back was palpable.

After the tournament I spoke of, where I was lectured by a teacher from another dojo on the poor form I showed by knocking a few guys on their cans, he came over afterward and told me, with a twinkle in his eye, that I was doing just fine and that I didn't need to change a thing. I eventually came in second, so I brought a little glory to his dojo, which made him happy, so I guess he was just being selfish, although I think he derived some real pleasure from seeing the kind of kendo he used to practice. (The only downside of that was that since I had been in Japan with the cops, he now felt he could pull out a few stops when we practiced. Ow.)


Kit LeBlanc
24th June 2000, 00:14

Cool. I wish I could find kendo like that around here.


Earl Hartman
24th June 2000, 00:23

It may be cool, but it's damned uncomfortable. I'm a little too old for that now, I think.


24th June 2000, 08:43
Yeah, it is no fun not being cool anymore. This is what makes gendai so attractive; the stories which come with them as payment down the road. I find the occasional frustrated student who will finally lose his cool during a kata session of a new throw and he/she will say" Why aren't you falling?" "You havn't thrown me yet!" It may not be Japan, but the stories are great. If they can be found in Koryu, then I am truly missing something, but I am still holding my sides. Earl, Joe, Kit and Co. Thanks. This forum needed those stories, and if the koryu practitioner could just not take himself so seriously then fun like this can be had by all. Who said budo isn't any fun?


24th June 2000, 22:19
My e-mail address is kenshi@onebox.com, although I think you'll find me a more avid BB poster than correspondent. It's just my nature.

Since we're changing topics, I have a couple of stories for you.

My first story is about training with my ex-wife. She was a Taiwanese woman whom I had met at college. She already had black belts in Shotokan karate and Tae Kwon Do when she started training in my dojo. She like to practice her spinning kicks very slowly, the way she had seen Bruce do it in "Enter the Dragon". My sensei had shown me the defense of "following the back", or circling around a spin-kicker at the same rate that they spin, out of their field of vision.
She made it very easy to do. She placed her foot at the end of her slow-mo kick, immediately did the cartoon "where are they look"--even checking the ceiling to see if I was flying somewhere. I tapped her shoulder from behind, and she almost jumped out of her skin! (this story is better if you see the demonstration).

Another time, I was practicing under an American rokudan in Judo, on Okinawa. It was my second lesson with him, but because of my previous exposure to martial arts, he was teaching me kata (I understand that this is unusual in Judo).
Anyway, this night he was showing me "kime kata", and got to a defense against a sword draw. The defense consisted of grabbing the sword drawer's wrist and circling around behind him. The proper execution of this technique is to grab the sword-handle; I believe that it has changed in Judo because the wrist is and easier target, and your opponent is never REALLY trying to kill you.
So, I told him that the technique was wrong, and that he would get his wrist broken attempting to use it that way against someone who knew what he was doing. He argued that circling behind me would protrect him, and asked me to prove it.
Of course, my turning radius spinning is much smaller than his circling around me, so as soon as he grabbed my wrist I spun 90 degrees and dropped to my knee, using the handle of my bokken to put him in a "split-wrist" lock. He barely saved himself from falling on his face, and tapped out immediately.

Sean T. Fourkiller
6th August 2001, 17:55
Ok, is Koryu heavily traditional as opposed to Gendai, which is modern? Or is there more to the names than just that? any info would be appericiated.

Karl Friday
6th August 2001, 20:11
Originally posted by Sean T. Fourkiller
Ok, is Koryu heavily traditional as opposed to Gendai, which is modern? Or is there more to the names than just that? any info would be appericiated.

In a nutshell, "koryu" means "old school," and refers to bugei systems that developed prior to modern times--essentially samurai martial arts. It's a neologism, coined sometime during the early 20th century, to distinguish these older schools from the newer ("modernized"?) forms of martial art that were developed from them during the Meiji period and since. The latter are sometimes collectively called "gendai budo" or "gendai bugei"--again, to distinguish them from the koryu. ("Gendai" by itself, BTW, just means "modern" or "contemporary".)

The problem with the term "koryu," though (and the source of most of the rancor in discussions about it), is that it's imprecise: how old is "old"? Some people would draw the line at 1868 (the Meiji Restoration), others at 1876 (when samurai were forbidden to wear swords--essentially the end of the samurai as a class). Some even use the term to distinguish ryuha that existed before the advent of the Tokugawa period (ca. 1600). I'd draw the line at around 1850 or thereabouts, distinguishing bugei systems developed in the wake of Western influence from what had been around before.

But the fact of the matter is that none of these definitions are wrong, and which one you use doesn't really matter, so long as you stipulate the definition. Arguments about whether xyz-ryu is or isn't a koryu are meaningless, without this kind of stipulation. But once you do clarify your terms, the argument then becomes one of a) whether or not the stated definition is actually useful, and b) whether or not the school in question fits the stated definition.

You could, for instance, stipulate that by "koryu" you mean any Japanese bugei system with roots in the pre-Meiji past--in which case pretty much any form of Japanese martial art (including kendo, judo, jukedo, atarashii naginata, and the like) would be a "koryu." The problem with a definition like this, however, is that it's essentially meaningless, since it doesn't really distinguish "koryu" from "Japanese bugei".

"Koryu" has, of course, become the latest martial art fad in the West (just as "ninjutsu" was during the 80s). Everyone wants to claim membership in the koryu family, and the ethernet heats up to the point of hysteria everytime someone argues against the advisability of applying this label to some art or other. In the West, the distinction between "koryu bugei" and "gendai bugei" is starting to hold connotations of distinction between real and fraudulent martial arts.

This is just plain silly. The fact that an art isn't a koryu does not mean that it lacks a history, or even that it lacks very old roots. It simply means that it lacks a certain kind of history. "Koryu" doesn't mean "martial art with a past"; it means "old school." It's just a label for a particular phenomenon, and in order to discuss anything intelligently, you have to define it and set parameters. Koryu bugei is just one such phenomenon, but it's certainly not the whole of Japanese martial art. There was military training in Japan long before there were ryuha, and there was unquestionably lots of martial training going on after the advent of ryuha, outside the rubric of formalized ryuha systems and schools.

Please note, BTW, that I said "in the West"! Very few martial art enthusiasts in Japan think in these terms. Koryu is one kind of martial art tradition and gendai budo is another. You can find just as much argument advocating the superiority of gendai bugei over koryu bugei as the other way around.

28th December 2001, 17:01
Dear E-Budo Members:

Without a lot of preface, let me suggest to you that we come up with a more sophisticated classification of koryu and gendai arts. Why? Because the current classifications are too problematic, and too vague.

Generally speaking, as we all know, koryu arts tend to be classified as pre-Meiji arts, or pre-1868, that have maintained a strict (or conservative) adherence to the teaching and transmission of the curriculum. Gendai arts are generally classified as post-Meiji arts designed for a modern world (i.e. emphasis on mass instruction, unarmed "street combat," sport, or spiritual and philosophic instruction). Furthermore, gendai arts tend to be liberal in their approach to instruction and transmission, to varying degrees.

My contention is that while this framework provides at least a line of demarcation between gendai and koryu arts, upon further analysis the line blurs, and eventually becomes nonsensical.

For example, why is a koryu art classified as a koryu art? Is it the timeline? Well, sort of. Pre-Meiji arts that have maintained their curriculum in a fairly static fashion are anachronistic to a certain extent. Sword fighting is a rare occasion these days, but not unheard of. Naginata-duels, however. . . unfortunately, even more rare:) . But is this why the art is a koryu? Because it is an anachronism? I think not (more on this later).

Then, is it the conservative nature of the koryu arts? Not really. While koryu arts are by definition conservative, this character is by no means exclusive to them. Furthermore, to put this in terms of simple logic, while conservatism is a necessary function of koryu arts, it is not sufficient. A= quality 'x'; B= quality 'y'. If A+B=C, then if follows that A or B alone does not = C.

Well, then, is it the emphasis of koryu arts? Again, sort of. Koryu arts are conservative, and thus maintain a curriculum centered ("frozen" is too strong a word) in an older time. They are fragmentary reflections of a very different age, and thus focused on a type of warfare almost unheard of today. But this simply returns us to the paragraph above on anachronism. Do we really feel that the main difference between koryu and gendai arts is a function of combative style? Some may. Again, I think this misses the mark.

What about all the accoutremants of koryu arts? Is the main difference the fact that koryu arts generally (though not always) do not use dan/kyu rankings, that progression in the art is generally recognized by the granting of a scroll indicating a level of proficiency rather than a colored belt? Of course not. Gendai arts could just as easily switch back to this older system, but this doesn't make them koryu, right?

Right! I submit to you that the main difference between koryu and gendai arts is a state of mind, an overall philosophy that governs the instruction, the dissemination and the transmission of the relative arts.

All of the characteristics listed above that differentiate koryu from gendai arts are epiphenomena. They are not the reasons for the difference, but the visible result of the difference. We use Meiji as a baseline because that is when a radical departure in thought (not just in the martial arts, obviously) occurred in Japan.

I leave it to the Forum to argue what, precisely, defines this difference in philosophy. I don't want to suggest any one thing at this point, but what they might be are obvious, I think, from the epiphenomena listed above.

What I do want to argue is that if what I am saying is correct (and I don't presume to be), then the ultimate conclusion is that the definition of koryu must be broadened. Unless one believes that a philosophical perspective is determinatively tied to a particular time, place or culture (which I don't believe), then it is possible for a martial art, in any timeline, to be considered koryu.

Now, hold on a minute, friends! Put your fangs away for a moment. Let me say that the definition of koryu need not necessarily be broadened, but perhaps fragmented, dissassociated, split up into more refined elements. Specifically, two elements.

Here is my suggestion:
The definition of Koryu arts should be split up into:

1) Traditional arts: These would be arts strictly defined as "old-style"/koryu Japanese arts, period (period). :) As such, any pre-Meiji art that has maintained its curriculum into the modern age would be classified as a koryu art. No art, no matter how closely related or influenced by a pre-meiji art, would be included here. This definition focuses only on time, not philosophy or curriculum. Thus, its primary function is for historical analysis and classification.

2) Classical arts: This would be a broader category encompassing both koryu, gendai, and transitionary arts. The focus in these arts is precisely on philosophy, teaching and transmission. Inlcluded under this definition would be any art that adheres to whatever becomes accepted as defining the Classical philosophy of martial arts. Thus, modern arts may fall under here, but not under the Traditional category. Similarly, many Traditional arts would fall here as well, but many might not. There are a lot of good arguments for making this separation. Anyone who has studied "koryu arts" knows that not all "koryu" are the same. Now we have a rational method of delineating between them.

3) Modern arts: This category stands alone, outside the two listed above. All arts that are post-Meiji (and thus not Traditional) and not Classical (as defined above), would be considered Modern. These are arts that maintain a modern philosophy of teaching and transmission. Included here are, of course, judo, aikido, karate-do, etc.

These definitions would provide, I believe, a better method of classification, and a clearer basis for analysis and argument. For example, someone claims an art is thousands of years old but can't prove it? Well, how is it taught? What is the pedagogy, so to speak? How is the art passed on? What is the basis for determining progress and excellence? etc, etc. Perhaps you can't prove the art to be Traditional, but it may clearly be Classical.

Also, these categories would help clear out some of the confusion of words such as "traditional martial arts," "classical martial arts," "koryu martial arts." Before, they all could have been considered synonymous, or not, or sometimes. Now, they would be distinct categories with clearly different meanings.

Hopefully, we can get some thoughtful commentary on this framework. Maybe it needs to be modified, clarified, or even discarded.

Carry on, Brothers and Sisters.

Arman Partamian
Daito-ryu Study Group

Eric Baluja
28th December 2001, 17:11
The overview found here (http://koryu.com/koryu.html) works just fine for me. Your mileage may vary. :look:

28th December 2001, 20:01
I agree in prinicple with Arman and also the Skoss' (Koryu.com).

However, with Arman's suggestions, it seems to put on an even tighter lid than what we have now.

He is right that new terms are needed, but won't that come with time no matter what we do?

As stated in the Koryu.com article and what Arman proposes, it is not conservative, it appears to be somewhat narrow minded in description (this is meant only in what Arman proposes and not the man, himself, please).

Dr. Karl Friday (It's on E-budo but I couldn't find it with a quick search) has all ready stated that exact dates, no matter the societal limits only gives rise to newer bugei because even with the laws basically limiting or outlawing certain practices, we have come up (generic we) with, as an example, a distinct and unique approach to koryu technique and its symbolism. I am going to mention a couple of what are called here gendai or modern instead of classical: judo and kendo. Why?

I'm a judoka, a long time one, with little spurts into other styles, and once it was a koryu study group of sorts (being the late sixties it was difficult to say exactly what it was, but the group was under the direction of a Japanese teacher in Japan).

Kendo, I think is obvious though a kendo shiai is not close to the older schools of kenjutsu, and as I have little knowledge about it, I'll stay with Kodokan Judo, or Kodokan-ryu jujutsu, or jiudo. Whatever.

This was the first taijutsu and weapons art to be taken apart and pieced together by various people, and is unique in that it was an academic who did so, along with trusted and talented students or peers.

But the refinement of the jujutsu techniques were done, not to make something new, but to take the old an help it apply to what this is. Since Dr. Friday has stated the dates are not so precise, but that the more modern of them probably took hold, or the koryu arts stopped their developments and held what it was at the time all refinement stopped. Kano had other visions, as early as the later 1870s. He was very young, but his audience was truly international, as it included an ex-president of the US.

So what Kano really did was not to take combat applications out of the other jujutsu arts, but instead made the old wartime techniques, and added a symbolic form of victory of one over the otherm stopping just short of battle field death, and gave them the symbolic victory by judgement and/or whether the opponent could continue.

What came about was an old-style challenge not ending in bloodshed, death, or anything which would not have the shugyosha back for more training the next day. Shi-ni-ai is an apt description, but being at the verge of killing only to be stopped by a judge or by the incapacitation of one opponent.

Koryu does something very similar as no one was supposed to die at another's hand either, but it did happen because of this lack of symbilism. Koryu could make it the same, but choose to do so in another manner other than randori or shiai.

So when would it stop being a modern form of fighting and then become the "old school?" It does have the history for it, and lest you believe that the styles openness was what made it the modern form, the forms and inner, omote and ura were there for the rare student while the others fought each other in shiai matches. Kano said "one must go all out in practice just as he does in shiai."

I do believe if Kano were born ten, twenty, even thirty years earlier this wouldn't be a necessary discussion.

All that said, most couldn't care less what classification one puts judo into. Basically, one learns the jutsu, while striving for the Do, path, manner or way.

It does make me wonder how old a "classical" bugei has to be to be included, how many students must occupy it, and in what manner, other than the strictist of category some take.

Does the study of technique, so deeply that some of the kata only represent what the technique is made of, the mathematics of such, and what purpose do they serve. Would a koryu practitioner, empty handed or with weapon, dismiss this aspect of any art? Well, only the most stubborn I think would.

Judo as koryu doesn't fit because of the randori no kata, and because anyone, everyone is invited, but in every open school, only the few will remain and learn, perhaps the Kitoryu no kata, as an example, but what does this mean?

Best Wishes for the coming New Year to all.


28th December 2001, 21:22

You raise some interesting thoughts. I think Judo is an apt place to begin, for I believe it shows the clear distinction between, in the new classification proposed above, classical and modern arts.

Judo, as devised by Jigoro Kano, was a radical departure from the past. Kano utilized scientific principles to advance a new art form that didn't rely on the conservative, inflexible, and sometimes esoteric strictures of the old schools. He had a philosophy, but also a radical vision of what martial arts should stand for. Physical and moral education, mass instruction, and clear, precise methods of instruction. It was, and is, a very modern, liberal curriculum (By "liberal" I mean Western Enlightenment political and ethical liberalism, NOT as in "left-wing" politics). As such, it was anti-elitist.

The old style arts tended to be conservative not because they just thought it was fun to be stodgy, but because the old styles are very elitist (this is not a criticism, believe me, just an analytic statement). They are taught only to a few, and even among those who are taught, only an even smaller percentage receive high level instruction. And of these, maybe one or two will recieve a complete transmission of the art.

Furthermore, instruction in the old styles tends to be based on observation, intuition, and the teacher's mood. It is quite anti-rational in the sense that there is no set method of clear instruction. The better to safeguard the true techniques of the art.

That is why I would place Judo in the Modern category. In both time (non-Traditional), and philosophy (non-Classical), Judo is the essence of a Modern art. Of course, I think even under the current framework of simply "koryu" and "gendai" it is quite clear. Neverthless, I believe the Judo example demonstrates how the classification system I proposed above works nicely to clarify an otherwise murky process.

Arman Partamian
Daito-ryu Study Group

Dan Harden
28th December 2001, 22:38

The classical arts of Japan are part of that country's rich cultural heritage.
I am sure, they are as unconcerned with your opinions as I am.
They will tell YOU what they're going to do with their arts- thank you very much.

I would no sooner offer an opinion of their country's classifications or uses of a cultural heritage then I would ask them to re-classify or reorginize our constitution and separation of powers.
Nor do I see us asking them for a better way to represent the old traditional crafts shown in reinactment villages around various historical sites like Plymouth rock and Sturbridge village either.

In other words; opinion not required.
(But thanks for letting me be a part though. :wave: )

I still have trouble with American "Sokes" its just too weird to me. Refuse it or give it back to them somehow.
I don't care if we even get better at their own game than they are. It's still their culture not ours

I saw a Japanese Country music guy singing with a southern drawl once. I thought it was pathetic. Funny, but sad all the same.
Ya might as well ask Britney Spears what she thinks of the details of an economic stimulus package........That would be just as valid. Hey wait.....The idiots in the media already do.

Chris Li
28th December 2001, 23:14
Originally posted by Dan Harden
I saw a Japanese Country music guy singing with a southern drawl once. I thought it was pathetic. Funny, but sad all the same.

Japan has a long tradition of absorbing foreign culture and making it their own. Kanji, sukiyaki, even origami came from abroad. In a couple of hundred years everybody will think that country music is a part of Japanese traditional culture :) .



Cady Goldfield
28th December 2001, 23:31
Right! Look what they've done with baseball...
Go to Blockbuster this weekend and rent "Gung Ho" with Michael Keaton and Gedde Watanabe. Love that flick.

29th December 2001, 01:20
Right! Look what they've done with baseball...
Go to Blockbuster this weekend and rent "Gung Ho"

No no no!! Go to Blockbuster and rent "Mr. Baseball" with Tom Selleck. That's a better illustration of your point!! (and funnier too!)

Cady Goldfield
29th December 2001, 01:37
Dang! [SLAPS FORHEAD] Forgot all about it.
You're right -- great example, hilarious movie.

Also, get the book, "You Gotta Have Wa" (forgot author's name) because that nails it right on the money.

4th January 2002, 01:34

The people of Japan are known for thier ability to adapt. Why can this country not do the same? Is it impossible for a select few (select few, because in this dollar oriented society only a few would be motivated enough and talented enough to do it) to take the Martial Arts to new limits?

For those that scoff at this idea, remember the civil servant who advocated in ca. 1895 that the patent office should be closed as everything that could be invented, had been invented.

Any thoughts? And btw, Mr. Baseball was on the money.

Regards from down here in the 'hood.

7th January 2002, 17:42
Hmmm, this discussion has seemed to slip off point a little bit. I guess amorphous topics like style classification doesn't get the juices flowing like a good ol' fashioned flame post. Ah well. . .:)

As for the cultural comment regarding style classification: It doesn't matter from whose culture the current classification scheme came from (if it can even be considered a cultural creation, which I somewhat doubt), any scheme should be open to revision for clarity of analysis and discussion.

Also, I would hope we are not comparing the classification of martial arts schools as being to the Japanese as the U.S. Constitution is to Americans. The analogy is so completely misplaced (and just plain wrong) that I won't even get into it.

BTW, I thought Mr. Baseball was quite entertaining as well.

Arman Partamian
Daito-ryu Study Group

7th January 2002, 23:57
I would tend to agree with Mr Harden.

I dont think the thread is slipping off the point.

The very fact that it exists seems to me to be a very Western approach to things. Why even bother to seperate them.

A person with a trained eye looking at footwork, grip and many other things will soon tell you what period a certain art comes from.

I feel there is far too much emphasis are trying to seperate things rather than bring them together to examine the similarities.

This is an overall problem. If more people spent more time both in east and west examining the similarities and not the differences in all things, the gap would close somewhat.

Hyakutake Colin

8th January 2002, 15:10

You raise an interesting, and complex, philosophical point. Much has been written about Western v. Eastern approaches to intellectual and analytical classification. Some of what has been written is good, a lot is pretty bad.

In any case, I could only submit to your point by also agreeing that nearly all classification is useless. Koryu v. gendai, martial v. aesthetic arts, science v. religion. If I go too far in this direction, I will end up a Buddhist. I'm not ready for such enlightenment yet ;)

But I don't entirely disagree with you. Much of our classifications are not useful at an essential level, and in fact may be wholly illusory. I am, however, consciously classifying on a superficial level for discussion purposes.

Arman Partamian
Daito-ryu Study Group

8th January 2002, 16:59
Over the holidays I had the chance to catch up on some reading and one of the books I got through was an interesting one called “Enlightened Masters” and wile it’s not directly related it did have an interesting premise.
Basically the book has an overview of European/American participation in Eastern religious traditions and a listing of Western teachers with short biographical sections. One of the author‘s premises is that Eastern religions have been historically isolated from each other and unable to grow or spread in their countries of origins, but in the West they have a chance to both spread and also be exposed to each other and this is unprecedented, invigorating, and impossible in their native context.
I think this might be analogous to the asian martial arts and coincidentally occurs over the same time period (roughly turn of century to present).
Worth checking out at your local library.

8th January 2002, 23:25
There are very few Japanese that are Buddhists with the exception of people like myself that make a living from it. A good description of Japanese Buddhism is Curry/Rice. Mild in flavour and made to suit Japanese taste

They observe Shinto ceremony until coming of age, get married in a chapel and try to be good Buddhists as death approaches.

Muhammad Ali recently described religion as rivers, ponds, lakes and streams. All with different names but containing water. Religions have different names but all contain some truth. This just about sums up the Japanese approach to religion. I have been asked many times why Westerners wish to specify and classify one particular religion and stick to it.

Westerners religiously wash the car on Sundays now instead of going to Church. Japanese put their cars thought the carwash and just sleep the whole weekend.

As I am rather well involved in very old and rather more recent budo I feel to classify it would be trying to split up my own research over the years. What was to me in the past separate entities have been brought together through continuous practice.

The only interesting, complex thing I can think of is my wife. Japanese or Western some things never change!

Hyakutake Colin

Brently Keen
9th January 2002, 01:16
I would call most Japanese 'nominal Buddhists' as most Western Christians are also 'nominal'. They're by and large Buddhist and Christian in name only, because they don't actually follow the founders of their faith by practicing the precepts that they taught. In most cases they were simply "born" into those classifications.

An excellent little book that looks at these two faiths in particular is: "The Lotus and the Cross" by Ravi Zacharias.


I think looking at similarities can help make some sense of different traditions initially perhaps, but if they're really different then it does more damage than good over the long run. People tend to look at things through the lenses and prejudices of their previous experiences and knowledge. This is natural, but does not serve the purpose of really progressing to where you really understand or master anything at it's deeper levels.

If I continued to look only for similarities between aikido which I studied formerly and Daito-ryu, then I would never understand very much of what Daito-ryu has to offer. To master anything you have to come with an "empty cup" you have to adopt a "beginner's mind", this means letting go of, and distinguishing between one's previous knowledge and experiences and new knowledge and experiences. These are classic examples of Japanese budo and martial wisdom that are violated by continuing to look for similarities rather than distinctions. Real progress and growth comes from discovering and understanding distinctions not similarities. The whole idea of "letting go" is also very Buddhist, but even though Christianity has some similar teachings, the two are not at all similiar in faith or practice.

With regard to budo I believe that only after recognizing fundamental distinctions are adept practitioners really able to make sense of and see similarities in their proper or enlightened light.


Brently Keen

29th September 2002, 19:18
I would like to hear opinions from some of the more experienced members who train in Koryu traditions. I am currently studying Gendai Budo, in the future I would like to eventually study in some Koryu Traditions, is studying Gendai arts a good way to go or will I pick up some bad habits that will be hard to break later and prove counter productive?

my current reasoning involves my inexperience with Japanese language and culture which would prove detrimental and the wish to build a solid foundation to pursue my long term goals, any opinions on this is it the normal method and I am also curious about other peoples experience too.

Jeff Hamacher
1st October 2002, 06:37
this is the course that my training took, i.e. began with aikido and eventually shifted into Shinto Muso-ryu jo. i think the advantage with starting out as a student of a gendai school and then moving into a koryu group is that, in general, gendai schools will give you a good grounding in the traditional behaviours and etiquette without expecting you to understand those things right from the jump. naturally, every school has their own character or atmosphere which must be "internalized" or "sussed out", but there are baselines that are almost always respected.

the language issue is perhaps not as big a problem as you might imagine, but i can't discount the usefulness of strong japanese skills. having one ear open and ready to take instruction shouted from across the dojo floor helps to avoid teacher frustration! the upside is that most koryu teachers expect you to speak even less than gendai teachers do: shut up, follow their instruction closely, and most times everything should go smoothly.

i don't think that there are too many "bad habits" that one can pick up from gendai training. only if you persist in trying to maintain a habit that your new koryu teacher has told you to give up will you run into trouble. as my jo teacher often says, "strive to avoid having me repeat an instruction; if you fail to correct yourself, then the meaning of training is lost."

unlike other heavyweights here, i don't speak from a wealth of experience, but i believe that what i've written is true of my own experience with koryu training. if you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to write again. if you haven't had a chance to check out some of the articles at Koryu Books about getting a start in koryu arts, i'd highly recommend them.