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Thread: Another MJER question

  1. #46
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    lets get back to the original question....

    What I'd really like to know is, does MJER teach at least *some* styles and techniques that were used 400 years ago,
    Yes, all the techniques were condensed from earlier versions, some of the variants you may know as kae waza.

    on the whole does the curriculum consist of effective techniques?
    If they didnt work the guy who thought of a new(uneffective) technique would be dead and not able to pass it on...
    Try running through, say, the Chuden waza with a partner and bokken (carefully.. ) and see if you can spot any weaknesses both from the attackers and enemy viewpoints. Just to make sure, check with your instructor in case you are making mistakes.
    Let us know how you get on...

    Tim Hamilton
    Tim Hamilton

    Why are you reading this instead of being out training? No excuses accepted...

  2. #47
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    Actually if you look at the kata from the perspective of the kihon embedded within them, then I suspect we do most of the kihon in much the same way as it was done in the past. I'm sure that kata have changed over the years, but the principles that they teach you are probably pretty darn similar to what was practiced in the past.

    After all, the kata are not the techniques. They are training exercises meant to impart the style to you. They aren't a playbook.
    Charles Mahan

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

  3. #48
    David A. Hall Guest

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    Dan,

    Originally posted by dbeaird


    If this is so, why do so many schools of swordsmanship persist in teaching single person forms to their students?


    Yes, a number of ryu do this and there is a place for it even in some of the more "positive" schools. (There are other Edo Period schools, however, which have reversed this and concentrate on iai/batto with little or no emphasis on two-man kata.) Many of the early koryu (warring states period) had no iai/batto at all in their early years! Nen Ryu, Shinkage Ryu, even Shinto Ryu to name a few. (Katori Shinto Ryu added batto later on.) A number of the early to mid-Edo period ryu also had no batto...and still contain no iai; I.e. Jigen Ryu, Jikishinkage Ryu, etc. Many of these ryu do train with shinken...but with a partner. Other schools, such as Tatsumi Ryu, have a good mix of both.

    As I mentioned, some battlefield-derived ryu have found a place for solo training...but usually as a supplement, not the main curriculum.


    As a final thought, since no one practicing sword arts today can truly have the intention of using a sword in combat, is it possible for a person to train with true combative intent?


    Many classical ryu in Japan (I.e. Shinto Ryu, Nen Ryu, Jigen Ryu, Araki Ryu, Shinkage Ryu, Jikishinkage Ryu, etc.) train "as if" they were preparing for battle. They feel that if you don't train with that in mind, you are wasting you time. No, they don't plan to find themselves in another Sekigahara next week, but they train to be prepared for it. That's how they train their "spirit". In many of those koryu--not all of course, but many--a member of the ryu has to be mentally and technically ready to both face and deal out death.

    That's not the end all of the training by any means, however, in many of those ryu it is the underlying theme. The first kata taught in Jikishinkage Ryu, for example, is aimed at aiuchikatsu "winning the engagement with a mutual striking down of your opponent and you"!

    During my years in Japan I both trained in batto and observed countless others in seemingly endless iai demonstrations. In the 1970s I was, along with some of my koryu colleagues, disdainful of seiteigata iai. Then, one afternoon, I observed Donn Draeger testing a sword for someone by going through the seitei iai kata. Never before or since have I seen it look so deadly....but then, Donn always trained as if he was ready to slice you up!

    Dave Hall

  4. #49
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    Originally posted by David A. Hall
    Dan,

    Many classical ryu in Japan (I.e. Shinto Ryu, Nen Ryu, Jigen Ryu, Araki Ryu, Shinkage Ryu, Jikishinkage Ryu, etc.) train "as if" they were preparing for battle. They feel that if you don't train with that in mind, you are wasting you time. No, they don't plan to find themselves in another Sekigahara next week, but they train to be prepared for it. That's how they train their "spirit". In many of those koryu--not all of course, but many--a member of the ryu has to be mentally and technically ready to both face and deal out death.

    Dave Hall
    Sounds exactly like you're describing MJER to me, and that is how Dan is instructed. I suspect this attitude is prevalent throughout most all Japanese koryu.

    Personaly Dave, I think I'm with you on this one. You can never let a single grain of doubt enter your mind while you are training or you run the risk of your Iai being tainted. You must at all times acknowledge that you are training for real. That you are always training with combative intent(or whatever you want to call it). That you are always training for the inevitability of combat.

    I think what Dan is trying to get at is that none of us ever will go into combat, and that no matter how hard we try there is a psychological disconnect between creating this intent through force of will rather than having this intent created by the inevitable circumstances of someone who lived prior to the Meiji Restoration. Wow that sentence just runs on and on.

    But like I said. I'm with Dave. The attitude of training for actual combat must be maintained firmly and with no room for doubt.

    Oh and as for battlefield derived. Think Tosa.
    Charles Mahan

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

  5. #50
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    Talking Hee hee

    Woah! I leave for a week, and come back to a much larger can of worms than I really expected. Ha ha, no problem, this has given me all the info and opinions I could have asked for, I suppose. Several things:

    "We do not, any of us, study JSA in order to become better at sword fighting." - Mr. Dan Beaird
    No? Nobody? Not even indirectly? I understand that those who truly dedicate themselves to the art for a long time will do so out of a variety of reasons, including self-improvement / exercise / historical preservation / etc, but isn't "becoming better at sword fighting" at least one of those goals? I know that (one of) my personal hopes is that learning JSA will help me to better understand and appreciate nihonto, and the functional requirements of the Japanese sword. That requires learning proper technique, which suggests that one goal for JSA should be becoming a "better swordsman" technically, no?

    Mr. Hyakutake Colin, I'm sorry, maybe I'm not reading your post closely enough, but I'd appreciate some slight clarification. Are you saying that learning kenjutsu helped some iai practitioners become much better at iaido, or that learning iaido was a great supplement to kenjutsu, or both, or neither? LOL. Either way, it sounds like both styles are pretty complementary.

    Mr. Tim Hamilton, thanks for cutting right to the question, ha ha. Those are, I suppose, the answers I was looking for anyway, which should have been logical (koryu = authentic) but I still wanted someone else to say it.

    That being said, everyone's help - and debate - has been very helpful to me in getting a generalized, outsider's sense of JSA/MJER... here's what I took from the discussion, IF you care:
    1. MJER = koryu = authentic/real. Find a good MJER dojo, and the techniques will be close to, if not identical to, what was practiced by actual samurai a couple of centuries ago.
    2. JSA is certainly not battle training, nor samurai training, nor learning to become a "sword master." But it is a cultural and historic asset, one that has been pretty well preserved, and worthy of dedicated study and practice. Who knows if modern American-taught MJER would be "effective" in ancient Japan - the point is that that isn't the point, so to speak.
    3. Iaido/jutsu vs. kenjutsu - there isn't really a "vs." They're two complementary and overlapping studies, each of which is strong enough to stand on its own, but which together help to create a more balanced martial artist.
    4. "Real" JSA, which includes MJER of course, is not "sword dancing." This is actually a very good point, since I came online with the intention of asking if some American-based JSA was just "learning how to dance with swords." Lol...

    These are just some quick points that I gleaned/interpreted from the previous posts, based on zero personal experience and almost zero knowledge. Feel free to correct/discuss. I probably just invited another 50 posts of controversy, haha. Well, bring it on!

  6. #51
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    Originally posted by David A. Hall
    Dan,

    Yes, a number of ryu do this and there is a place for it even in some of the more "positive" schools. (There are other Edo Period schools, however, which have reversed this and concentrate on iai/batto with little or no emphasis on two-man kata.) Many of the early koryu (warring states period) had no iai/batto at all in their early years! Nen Ryu, Shinkage Ryu, even Shinto Ryu to name a few. (Katori Shinto Ryu added batto later on.) A number of the early to mid-Edo period ryu also had no batto...and still contain no iai; I.e. Jigen Ryu, Jikishinkage Ryu, etc. Many of these ryu do train with shinken...but with a partner. Other schools, such as Tatsumi Ryu, have a good mix of both.
    That is interesting David, but it didn't answer the question, I asked why and you told me who instead.


    As I mentioned, some battlefield-derived ryu have found a place for solo training...but usually as a supplement, not the main curriculum.
    Many classical ryu in Japan (I.e. Shinto Ryu, Nen Ryu, Jigen Ryu, Araki Ryu, Shinkage Ryu, Jikishinkage Ryu, etc.) train "as if" they were preparing for battle. They feel that if you don't train with that in mind, you are wasting you time. No, they don't plan to find themselves in another Sekigahara next week, but they train to be prepared for it. That's how they train their "spirit". In many of those koryu--not all of course, but many--a member of the ryu has to be mentally and technically ready to both face and deal out death.

    That's not the end all of the training by any means, however, in many of those ryu it is the underlying theme. The first kata taught in Jikishinkage Ryu, for example, is aimed at aiuchikatsu "winning the engagement with a mutual striking down of your opponent and you"!

    During my years in Japan I both trained in batto and observed countless others in seemingly endless iai demonstrations. In the 1970s I was, along with some of my koryu colleagues, disdainful of seiteigata iai. Then, one afternoon, I observed Donn Draeger testing a sword for someone by going through the seitei iai kata. Never before or since have I seen it look so deadly....but then, Donn always trained as if he was ready to slice you up!

    Dave Hall
    David,

    I hope nowhere in my text I challenged your experience, or even suggested that because it was different from how I trained that your experience was somehow less "correct" than mine. I've been working with swords now for quite a long time, but only come to JSA relatively recently. In my experience, the reason that solo work is emphasized early on in most (okay, I have no basis for using the word most other than I've seen it in just about every manual I've ever read) systems of sword fighting is that before any sort of two person exercise is attempted, the student must learn to control the sword for the sake of safety if nothing else. A person who cannot put the sword where they want it is a danger to himself and his partner. Essentially I see this as the foundation for the lack of two person exercises in some systems. I still maintain that distance and timing can be learned in solo form, as a matter of fact I believe it is essential that they be learned alone before attempting to work with another.

    The term battlefield-derived leads us to another discussion that has been worked to death here. I've never suggested that Iai was something that would be used on the battlefield. Not that it doesn't make a better swordsman all around, but it's utility I think was more concerned with civilian combat than with battlefield encounters. Much like European rapier systems in fact.

    Iai traces it's history not to the battlefield but to personal combat. Hyashizaki Shigenobu developed (or was given the gift from the Gods) Iai for the purpose of revenge in personal combat, not for use on a battlefield. Considering the time and place, Iai is a valid combat system regardless of it's extremely limited utility on a battlefield. Personally I believe that swords were at best a secondary weapon on the battlefield anyway, and any system that was indeed battlefied-derived would probably concentrate on pole arms and archery instead of swordsmanship, but that's just my opinion.

    As far as facing death is concerned, well we've all read Five Rings and the Hagakure and can probably quote them to each other, so I don't think we can go into this topic in great detail from a historical aspect. Factually, people today are much more removed from death than the samurai of old, and so it is reasonable to assume that it is harder to be prepared for death, especially through what is essentially a hobby rather than techniques for personal survival that swordsmanship once was. This mindset is again something that is part of the individual student, and not, I think, something that can be said "some ryuha do, some don't".

    We kind of come to my point about here: All of these things may be taught poorly or well, there may be poor students or good students. We've all seen examples of poor schools and poor students, but when it's a good school with good students, all these things come together to make a swordsman regardless of when or if two man forms are introduced.

    As an old rapier guy and fencer, I have a tendency to make my distances too long. I'm used to working with the point not the monouchi and to use larger extensions. I believe that the techniques I'm using now which do not include two man kata yet, are sufficient for me to learn correctly but don't doubt that I will learn more when I am introduced to two man forms.
    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.

  7. #52
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    Originally posted by Charles Mahan


    Sounds exactly like you're describing MJER to me, and that is how Dan is instructed. I suspect this attitude is prevalent throughout most all Japanese koryu.

    Personaly Dave, I think I'm with you on this one. You can never let a single grain of doubt enter your mind while you are training or you run the risk of your Iai being tainted. You must at all times acknowledge that you are training for real. That you are always training with combative intent(or whatever you want to call it). That you are always training for the inevitability of combat.

    I think what Dan is trying to get at is that none of us ever will go into combat, and that no matter how hard we try there is a psychological disconnect between creating this intent through force of will rather than having this intent created by the inevitable circumstances of someone who lived prior to the Meiji Restoration. Wow that sentence just runs on and on.

    But like I said. I'm with Dave. The attitude of training for actual combat must be maintained firmly and with no room for doubt.

    Oh and as for battlefield derived. Think Tosa.
    Way back in the past Charles, as I'm sure you know, I was a professional soldier. A light weapons infantryman and not a bad one I think. When I trained, I trained with the understanding that these are the tools that I will take with me to the battlefield and use against a real enemy. I was much younger then, and probably didn't think as philosophically about it as I do now, but when I enter the dojo I try to think the same way, but there is the realistic understanding that in fact I will not be using what I'm learning against an enemy.

    We've both seen the people with camoflage ninja suits and weapons of archaic destruction who have convinced themselves that they are learning the skills they will need when the CIA calls upon them to go assassinate Osama Bin Laden with a sword and bring back his head. My years as a professional soldier have taught me nothing but disdain for people with these dreams, they are NOT preparing for combat, they do NOT live in the "real" world and they do NOT have the faintest clue about the reality of battle. I also believe that if they were transported somehow back to old Japan, the professional soldiers there would see them as clowns just like I do.

    There's a fine philosophical line to be drawn between the people who think they are training for combat and those training as if they were going into combat. I know that I fall into the latter category because I know what combat training is and I live in a time and a place that doesn't require me to carry a sword in order to insure my safety. (hmmm perhaps the line should be doesn't ALLOW me to carry a sword instead, ah well...personal defense is another issue...and my thought along those lines has been along the lines of "never take a knife to a gunfight")

    I don't believe that this adversely affects my training. I still try to train with intent (intent is actually the second part...first part is trying to train with my feet in the right place) but I don't believe that is inconsistant with the understanding that I am not learning skills for my day to day combat needs.
    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.

  8. #53
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    Default Re: Hee hee

    Originally posted by Gabriel Lebec

    ...snip...
    "We do not, any of us, study JSA in order to become better at sword fighting." - Mr. Dan Beaird
    No? Nobody? Not even indirectly? I understand that those who truly dedicate themselves to the art for a long time will do so out of a variety of reasons, including self-improvement / exercise / historical preservation / etc, but isn't "becoming better at sword fighting" at least one of those goals? I know that (one of) my personal hopes is that learning JSA will help me to better understand and appreciate nihonto, and the functional requirements of the Japanese sword. That requires learning proper technique, which suggests that one goal for JSA should be becoming a "better swordsman" technically, no?

    ...snip some more

    Nope, nobody, not even indirectly, EXCEPT people who sit around polishing their swords, hoping someone will try to break into their house so they can show their skills. Which frankly, isn't really a sword fight either since only one person has a sword. Assuming the person entering isn't one of those camoflaged ninja I spoke about earlier.

    Becoming a better swordsman is quite a different matter from training to win that next sword fight, not on the grounds of the mechanics of training, but on the mindset of the trainee. The actual effects as far as technical proficiency might be the same, yet focus on an event that will not happen (except of course in some sort of astronomical kind of odds, I hope that people who are hedging their bets here also have insurance against alien abduction and robot attacks).

    There may be as many different reasons for studying JSA as there are students, but those that have taken it up for actual combat application are living in a fantasy world. In the Army, we'd call these people Rambo, or John Wayne. They'd have tiger-stripe camoflage paint on their face, wear belts of machine gun ammo, fire guns from the hip, and try to pull grenade pins with their teeth. Such people do not last long around professional soldiers, and likewise, the JSA equivelant should not be tolerated by the serious practitioner.

    Training "as if" is not the same as training "for".

    There are aspects of what I study that go beyond physical proficiency with a sword. My swordsmanship is actually a secondary result of what I'm trying to achieve, but I can only achieve my goal if I give it first priority and try to forget the other things I'd like to gain. That's my understanding of how this all works. I'm studying JSA to be a healthier, better person, not to be able to defeat the legion of Musashi clones that fiendish Japanese scientists are preparing even now for their next attempt at world domination.

    Don't get me wrong, I wish to be a good swordsman as well. Which is why I didn't take up chado or TM instead of Iai. That's because I enjoy working with swords for all sorts of reasons, and not because I see it as a vital tool to protect democracy from the international communist conspiracy.
    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.

  9. #54
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    Cool Ha HA HA !!!

    Dan Wrote ...
    not to be able to defeat the legion of Musashi clones that fiendish Japanese scientists are preparing even now for their next attempt at world domination.
    Then you will be easy for us to defeat when we extend our domination northward!

    I think you have hit the crux of what I consider possibly just a problem of semantics. That is the difference between 'training for' as opposed to 'training as if'. It has always been my contention that since there no longer is sword combat, there can no longer be anyone training for sword combat. Training as if you were going to engage in sword combat is essential to the art, in my opinion. Anything else would be Saturday Night Fever with props.

    The problem that keeps recurring in my head is what exactly qualifies as "training as if going to combat"? Dave's breadth of experience gives him a great deal of insight into this question. I've only been at this for seven years, and can claim no such insight. Therefore I try and quantify it as much as I can, and that's where I have problems. As Dave pointed out, even the seitei kata can look deadly when performed by someone with the proper ability and spirit. This leads to my contention that it's not so much the individual methods of the school, as it is the individual spirit of the school.

    If the instructor, and thus the students, are weak in force of spirit and intent it doesn't matter how well they perform the techniques it still wouldn't be "combat effective". Likewise if the techniques of a school don't seem very sophisticated or well rounded, if those practicing them work diligently with full intent and spirit I believe that it would qualify as "combat effective".

    Of course, this does assume that the techniques being practiced make sense from a 'combat' point of view. It wouldn't matter how diligently you practiced twisting triple backflips, they still wouldn't be anything other than goofy!

    There you go, more opinions from the peanut gallery!

    Cheers,
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

  10. #55
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    Now I'm agreeing with Paul. It does seem to be mostly a question of semantics between "Training for Combat" and "Training as if for Combat". Nobody trains for combat as there is no combat anymore, but the most affective "Training as if for Combat" will be a complete acceptance on the part of the student that he is actually "Training for Combat". It is important to stick to that belief because if you don't you start down the slippery slope towards kenbu, or what Tanida-sensei referrs to as "Suicide Iaido"
    Charles Mahan

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

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    Oh, okay, I see what you're saying now. I misinterpreted your remark to mean that attaining technical proficiency wasn't anyone's highest priority, which of course didn't make sense. Yes, everything else you've said now makes sense to me, lol. Hmm, training "as if" by deliberately maintaining the belief that one is training "for..." So basically take it seriously, right?

    PS: what is "kenbu?"
    Last edited by Gabriel L; 6th March 2003 at 03:22.

  12. #57
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    Of course, if you look at this objectively, it's really rather funny, since we're all exhibiting that "western" tendency to analyze things to death. Even funnier since I'm sitting here making "observations" and generalizations about something I've never seen in my life.


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    Yeah. What it all boils down to is take it seriously.



    And yes we are all spending too much time thinking about it, and not enough time sweating on the mat.
    Charles Mahan

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

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