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Thread: Another MJER question

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    Default Another MJER question

    Next year I'll be going to college, and since I've been quite keenly interested in the Japanese sword for a little while (just a couple of years, maybe 3 to 5 and getting more obsessed every second ) I've been jumping a few steps ahead and tentatively seeking out JSA in the areas I might soon call home.

    Since my interest stems mainly from the art and history of the Japanese sword and not from sports or athletics, I'd preferably want to practice as well-established, historical, combative (a "jutsu," even if the term is interchangeable with "do" in Japan lol) and technique based art as possible. I don't mean I don't expect to grow in a variety of ways while beginning a martial art, but I do mean that I would chiefly be interested in broadening my appreciation for traditional aspects of the sword.

    From this train of thought, I was especially interested in the koryu bujutsu, with kenjutsu being a main focus and hopefully other systems such as sojutsu, tantojutsu, jujutsu, etc. Learning as close to the types of skills a samurai would be expected to be proficient in, even if I couldn't hope to amass one hundredth of such skills or find a school that preserved its original forms so well.

    True to my expectations, my goal is fairly unobtainable. No problem, as I'd be very excited to "settle" for ANY of the venerated koryu. Luckily, many of my potential colleges lie very close to major cities, such as New York and Boston (yeah, I'm a northeast guy). So I found MSR in NYC and apparently an especially good MJER dojo in Boston. Neither of them a heiho or kenjutsu, but still very appealing nonetheless.

    And then I discovered that both MSR and MJER are somewhat controversial in their... "combat worthiness." Since they've had fairly non-combative foundations, gone through so many changes and revisions/evolutions, and their focus has changed somewhat, I'd like to get opinions on MJER's value as a true Japanese sword skill, effective in combat. I don't care about semantics with Iaido vs Iaijutsu and the whole history of each MJER line and the relative values of budo, etc... I've read many of the threads already here on this site regarding those topics.

    What I'd really like to know is, does MJER teach at least *some* styles and techniques that were used 400 years ago, and on the whole does the curriculum consist of effective techniques? If anybody knew specifically about the MJER dojo in Boston that was alluded to (I think the sensei's name was a Mr. Stanley, could be wrong) then that would be particularly helpful.

    Unfortunately I'm not applying to any schools near Philadelphia, otherwise Yagyu Shinkage Ryu would easily fit within my definition of an effective and real sword art. Other possible locations include New York City (btw, though I'd be more than happy practicing MSR, I get the impression that it's more of a modern iaido type art then my difficult-to-attain kenjutsu dream...), central Connecticut, central New Jersey, and Washington DC. Just in case there are any hidden dojo lurking around behind the scenes, lol.

    Ah, what the heck. I should just fly to Washington state and take the full TSKSR (hope I spelled that right) curriculum. Now THAT would fit my definition of a true samurai art, LOL...

    WOW, sorry about the long post, I'm kinda rambling now... :P

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    Oh! Almost forgot! This is my stunning debut onto e-budo ! So let me take this second post as an opportunity to say hello to everyone, and I'm sure I'll have a great time starting on my road towards JSA!

    -Gabriel L. Lebec

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    Welcome to E-Budo Gabriel,

    All the niceties, now being completed, I hope you understand you've opened up the Pandora's Box of the Japanese Sword Arts. Prepare to get a whole lot of replies and don't expect any of them to form a consensus that will help you in your search. I'll go ahead and throw in my opinion and then stand well back to avoid the fallout.

    I'm going to concentrate on your search for "combat effectiveness". I believe that you're chasing a chimera here Gabriel. If you want something combat effective, you should be learning to fly an attack helicopter or how to operate a 155 howitzer. Swords are not combat effective and have not been since the introduction of breech loading firearms and possibly before. A lot of people will talk about the combat effectiveness of this or that school or form, however keep in mind that no one who is alive and teaching today has used a sword in combat and is capable of telling you what is or is not effective in a sword fight.

    I believe that all recognized Koryu teach "authentic" form, although they may have been modified over the years from the original forms. These modifications may have been made for many reasons and considering that the heads of these schools are not frequently given to explaining themselves to their students, these reasons may only be guessed at by the rest of us.

    Ask yourself why you want to study JSA. If your answer is that you wish to be ready for your next sword fight, then I'd suggest you take the first exit out of fantasy land you see. A lot of people, me included, tend to see their own chosen school or form as best, as I think is only natural. But under it all, somewhere, I think we all agree that we have, all of us, chosen to study a demanding art that also allows us to forge a link between ourselves and history, since our work not only helps us improve ourselves, but also keeps alive an important art form that has been born of legends.

    We've become part of the chain that leads back to heroes. The school you choose, I believe is of minor importance compared to the dedication you bring to the school. Do your homework, try to find the best teacher available to you, but even if you were to be able to learn from Musashi or Eishin, they could not do anything unless you are willing to work for it.
    Dan Beaird

    The best time to be a hero is when all the other chaps are dead, God rest 'em, and you can take the credit.

    H. Flashman V.C., K.C.B., K.C.I.E.

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    On another note, I had the good fortune to meet and learn from Warren Stanley-Sensei last October during the second annual Texas Enbu in Denton. I formed an extremely high opinion of him while learning from him and watching his iai. What really struck me is that his sword work loooked exceptionally powerful, while his instruction style felt very traditional. If you are fortunate enough to be close enough to train with him then I highly suggest you go meet him and see his work first hand. I know you won't be dissapointed.
    Dan Beaird

    The best time to be a hero is when all the other chaps are dead, God rest 'em, and you can take the credit.

    H. Flashman V.C., K.C.B., K.C.I.E.

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    Thanks for all the information. Hmm, everything you said makes sense to me, all good points. Yes, I understand that "combat effectiveness" is a moot point and that in any case all of the koryu are "authentic" per se... plus, I've also come to the conclusion that unless you're willing to move to another state or country, you just can't pick and choose. So on that note, I'm happy to hear (from some other sources as well) that Mr. Warren Stanley is such a well respected teacher, and I wish to stress that if I end up going to Boston then I would be delighted to at least visit his dojo and see if authentic JSA is really right for me (lol, sounds corny, sorry).

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    Gabriel,

    I am going to back up what Dan had to say (by the way Dan, you may have single-handedly closed up that can of worms . Warren Stanley is an exceptionally talented swordsperson with a very deep understanding of budo that comes from a broad base built on years of martial arts practice. He is without a doubt one of the top iai (and not just in MJER circles) practitioners outside of Japan today. If you end up in the Boston area and decide to pursue JSA I think you will find Warren Stanley's instruction not lacking..provided he is accepting new students in iai.

    Regards,
    Scott Irey
    Just another one of those "few peanuts short of a snickers bar" MJER guys.

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    Gabriel,

    I train at Shu Do Kan dojo in Stroudsburg, PA, which isn't a terribly long car ride from NYC or Central NJ (around 90 min., and I know a student who travels from NYC, so there would even be carpool possibilities). If you have interest in Mei Shin Muso Ryu Iaido, Kendo, Danzan Ryu Jujutsu, and/or taijutsu, they are all offered in this location (as is tae kwon do, but I thought that was less where your interest lies). I personally attend the iaido and jujutsu classes, and I will hopefully take up kendo in the relatively near future. This dojo is not on the web, so you probably aren't aware of it's existence.

    If you have an interest, let me know and I'll get you some directions in a PM or email.

    -Tom
    Tom DeAngelo
    "If you fall down seven times, get up eight."

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    Default G

    I would like to contribute by saying that I stand by everything that Dan wrote. Well said, I have never read a better way of putting it.

    Can I also just add that a lot of MSR/MJER/Seitei dojo's combine Jodo as part of their training (at least they do in the UK and I'm pretty sure they do in the colonies). Within Jodo there are various other weapon systems which have arguably been "combat tested".

    Once again, nice writing Dan.

    Best regards
    Andy Watson

    Minoru hodo
    Kobe o tareru
    Inaho ka na

    http://www.simenergy.co.uk

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    Default MJER

    Hello Gabriel,

    I am a Muso Jikiden Eishen Ryu pracitioner, though I have no long history of practice. Here is my point of view as to your question:

    Most MJER dojo, to my knowledge, do not spend much time on practicing two person kata (unless perhaps one is very advanced). Maybe they will work on kendo kata.

    I BELIEVE that two person kata are very important in developing ma-ai and other skills and intuitive qualities which are essential to 'combat.'

    Solo iai forms are useful in developing many qualities, such as zanshin, which are important for 'combat.'

    Depending upon the dojo and the sensei, an iaidoka may come to appreciate a sense of lineage, history, and other intangibles by practicing Muso Jikiden Eishen Ryu. My own practice has been personally very rewarding.

    As far as 'combat' goes (which others have righty pointed out is a 'moot point' in a way in this day and age and cultural context) I must say that I have no doubt as to the potential of my own teachers (who are exceptional). I would conjecture that this may be, in part, due to the mental qualities that they have developed through diligent practice.

    As a closing note. After having visited a very traditional koryu bujutsu dojo in Japan and after watching other ryuha in demonstration I have a different feeling about these arts than I do about much of the iaido that I have seen.

    We in North America live in a different context. If one finds an excellent teacher (even if not in the art of which we MOST admire)
    then we are very lucky.

    All the best,
    Al Heinemann
    www.shofukan.ca

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    hello,
    just my two eurocents of opinion.
    i study mjer in japan and germany, the latter only occasionally, and i found it to be a very good way to improve what i understand under combat effectiveness. imho it is not about techniques but about you using techniques and weapons. a good tool doesn´t make a good craftsman. the readiness can be learned in most martial arts, the zanshin, awareness is vital in combat and has always been. combat to me seems to be a lot more than beeing able to handle a lethal weapon. there is distance, timing, the need for full control over your body and the need for beeing able to decide whether or not to fight and possibly injure or kill a human beeing. these basic things have, imho never changed and can still be achieved by learning iai.
    i know that this is not exactly what you asked, but it might be interesting aspect one might also read into your question. apart from that i think most iai/ken... styles are still effective and the evolution you mentioned is not an invention of the more peaceful times in japanese history but a vital part for the surviving of an art. take for example an assumed change in typical clothing in times when a combat situation might appear, i.e. from armour to some layers of silk-kimono. a style has to adopt this in order to maintain claims of beeing "realistic".

    hope the aspect i wanted to stress can be seen in the above...

    karsten
    _______________________
    karsten helmholz
    bujinkan shinden dojo buchholz/hamburg

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    Thank you all for your input, it's really very helpful, as well as encouraging. I'll be sure to keep this thread in mind when I look at potential martial arts more seriously next year. Hopefully I'll find that whatever's available in my area suits me... I really would like to become involved in JSA if I can. So, thanks once again.

  12. #12
    David A. Hall Guest

    Default

    I would generally support your comments here. However--and this is not to disparage "iai"--but solo practice alone, such as is the norm in schools concentrating on iai or batto, does not provide sufficient training in "distance, timing..." etc. For that, a competent partner is needed as in the various schools of kenjutsu and other weapons arts. Approach, closing, engagement, looming, etc. are necessary in addition to the actual weapon technique in order to train for combat. Without a competent partner/instructor on the other end, you end up performing an aesthetic exercise; not combat training.

    Dave Hall

    Originally posted by kabutoki
    hello,
    just my two eurocents of opinion.
    i study mjer in japan and germany, the latter only occasionally, and i found it to be a very good way to improve what i understand under combat effectiveness. imho it is not about techniques but about you using techniques and weapons. a good tool doesn´t make a good craftsman. the readiness can be learned in most martial arts, the zanshin, awareness is vital in combat and has always been. combat to me seems to be a lot more than beeing able to handle a lethal weapon. there is distance, timing, the need for full control over your body and the need for beeing able to decide whether or not to fight and possibly injure or kill a human beeing. these basic things have, imho never changed and can still be achieved by learning iai.
    i know that this is not exactly what you asked, but it might be interesting aspect one might also read into your question. apart from that i think most iai/ken... styles are still effective and the evolution you mentioned is not an invention of the more peaceful times in japanese history but a vital part for the surviving of an art. take for example an assumed change in typical clothing in times when a combat situation might appear, i.e. from armour to some layers of silk-kimono. a style has to adopt this in order to maintain claims of beeing "realistic".

    hope the aspect i wanted to stress can be seen in the above...

    karsten

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    hello david,
    when i wrote about distance and timing i thought of two things. the one is tameshigiri and the other are the two person kata, that are taught in mjer. my teacher in japan only taught them from 5th dan and above, a very long way to go, but still a place to learn distance and timing. my point was that there is more in iai than some migth think and that mental preparations for combat are at least equally important to techniques.

    karsten
    _______________________
    karsten helmholz
    bujinkan shinden dojo buchholz/hamburg

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    Default Re: MJER

    Originally posted by allan
    Hello Gabriel,
    Most MJER dojo, to my knowledge, do not spend much time on practicing two person kata (unless perhaps one is very advanced). Maybe they will work on kendo kata.

    The more I learn about sword fights the less I wish to end up in one.
    --C.Mahan
    Wow. I've been quoted in a sig. I'm hitting the big time boys watch out Down ego down. Good boy.

    As for 2 man katas, I think perhaps your view of what is very advanced is a little off. It is true that most MJER dojo in the states do not do a lot of Tachi uchi no Kurai(2 man forms), but that's because they are not generally taught until 4th dan and up, and really 4th dan is a little early as I understand it.

    That breeds a problem in the US. There aren't too many dojos in the US with a population of 4th dan + students, and not all that any instructors qualified to teach them. I was shown the Tachi Uchi no Kurai for the first time on Sunday. I've been doing this for more than 5 years as my primary, and now my exclusive, art. If that qualifies me as advanced, I'd say your vision of advanced is very much in error. Come back in another 5 years and I might feel like an intermediate student. The dojo I train in now has three 4th dans, and three more individuals have just tested for the rank. I'm kinda hoping that will give us a large enough population of 4th dans that we can start working on the 2 man forms.

    I understand that not all dojo's hold off on the Tachi Uchi no Kurai, even within the Seitokai, much less the other branches of MJER. Ours however does.

    Now as for MJER not being combat oriented, well my opinions on the subject are very well documented. I'm with Scott and Dan. Anyone who disagrees is simply unaware of what MJER is really about.
    Charles Mahan

    Iaido - Breaking down bad habits,
    and building new ones.

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    Originally posted by David A. Hall
    I would generally support your comments here. However--and this is not to disparage "iai"--but solo practice alone, such as is the norm in schools concentrating on iai or batto, does not provide sufficient training in "distance, timing..." etc. For that, a competent partner is needed as in the various schools of kenjutsu and other weapons arts. Approach, closing, engagement, looming, etc. are necessary in addition to the actual weapon technique in order to train for combat. Without a competent partner/instructor on the other end, you end up performing an aesthetic exercise; not combat training.

    Dave Hall

    I'm in complete agreement with David, at least in the part where he is correct. Partner training is essential to developing proper timing and maai. Where he is incorrect is in the thought that iai is strictly solo. MJER certainly isn't. Read the previous post. MJER is still pretty much in it's infancy in this country. There are only a handful of american trained students 4th dan and up, and that's really a matter of time. I particularly agree with the part about needing a competent partner, which is of course part of the reason tachi uchi no kurai is not taught to 1 year students.
    Charles Mahan

    Iaido - Breaking down bad habits,
    and building new ones.

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