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Thread: Q&A: Yoshida-ha bujutsu

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    Default Q&A: Yoshida-ha bujutsu

    Thanks to Richard Elias for this Q&A.

    Richard, what curriculum constitutes Yoshida-ha bujutsu? When was it founded, and can you tell us some of the history?
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    Yoshida-Ha Bujutsu is the public name we’ve given to our study of Shidare Yanagi ryu as taught to us by Don Angier. Angier sensei requested that we refrain from using the name “Yanagi ryu? so that his is the only official Yanagi ryu dojo. We have honored his request though we teach the same curriculum in the same manner as it was taught to us, there is essentially no difference.

    We chose the name Yoshida-Ha to honor the family from which the art comes, the Yoshida family of Kyushu, who later relocated to Hokkaido. Angier sensei inherited the art from Yoshida Kenji, the son of Yoshida Kotaro. Yoshida Kotaro was a renowned martial artist during his time. He had been a student of Takeda Sokaku, earning kyoju dairi, and was the man to introduce Ueshiba Morihei to Takeda in 1915. He taught at the Butokukai in Tokyo, where he had taught Mas Oyama and Richard Kim, and worked for the Asahi newspaper. He was also an early teacher of Kondo Katsuyuki and his first teacher Hosono Tsunejiro.

    Unfortunately, due to Yoshida Kotaro’s involvement with certain right-wing organizations prior to and during the WW2 we have not been able to trace the family beyond him. Although Yoshida Kotaro was known as a teacher of Daito ryu it is not known that he ever taught the family art publicly, or the other arts he had learned.

    The curriculum is very comprehensive and includes training in the following arts:

    Aikijujutsu - Empty-hand art
    Kenjutsu - Sword art
    Tantojutsu - Knife art
    Naginatajutsu - Glaive art
    Sojutsu - Spear art
    Tessenjutsu - Iron Fan art
    Jojutsu - Staff art
    Juttejutsu - Arresting-truncheon art
    Hojojutsu - Rope binding art

    All of these are not just additions to the empty hand, but complete arts in their own rights, with etiquette, basics, and kata particular to the weapon. Yet, at the same time, they are part of a cohesive whole system, complimenting each other and working off of a single “operating system?. The principles taught in the various kata and techniques cross over into the various aspects of the art and the applications overlap. That is, many of the same techniques that are applied in weapons have applications with the other weapons, offensive and defensive, and empty hand applications as well.

    One unusual aspect of the art is the inclusion of long kata, though this is not totally unheard of (TSKSR has them) it is unusual for Japanese arts. We have two long forms each for sword, jo, and empty hand, and three for naginata.

    The sword curriculum in particular is very comprehensive. It includes Iai from standing and walking, from various angles and situations, two man sets, multiple opponent techniques, ukemi while holding the katana and while in the obi, the two long kata previously mentioned, and defense against the various other weapons in the system... and an equally expansive kodachi curriculum.

    There is Iai from seiza but it does not begin with the sword in the belt. They begin by taking up the sword from sitting at your side and rolling away prior to drawing and cutting back in the direction of the attack.

    The chiburi and noto are one of the the most unusual I have seen. After chiburi the sword is wiped with paper taken from the kimono, and during the noto the sword blade is never touched by the hand... Very difficult.

    Iaito are never used. Students begin with bokken and then will start using shinken within their first month of sword training. We believe that gaining familiarity with the live weapon early on is beneficial and teaches the student respect for the weapon as they learn to overcome their fear of it.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------
    Hope that was ok
    Richard Elias
    Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin ryu
    Yanagi Ryu

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    If you use Shinken after a month you must have to vet your prospective students well?
    Mat Rous

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    I'm not sure what you mean by "vet".
    Richard Elias
    Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin ryu
    Yanagi Ryu

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    I'm not sure what you mean by "vet".
    Richard Elias
    Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin ryu
    Yanagi Ryu

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    Great post. The curriculum seems so large, and a lot to keep track of. Does that mean study of the ryu takes a long, long time? How many kata are in each of the ryu's other arts (besides the long kata you described above)?
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    vet: examine carefully

    How similar/distinct are your tessen waza vs. your tanto waza? (Yes I know one has an edge , some schools I have seen use the weapons nearly interchangeably).
    Christian Moses
    **Certified Slimy, Moronic, Deranged and Demented Soul by Saigo-ha Daito Ryu!**
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    Roger Conant Guest

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    Richard,
    The curriculum of Yoshida-ha ryu is very large. I am interested in the history of this ryu. As I understand it, there is no independent substantiation of Don Angiers Yanagi ryu, aside from the affirmations of some Daito ryu practitioners in Japan who acknowledge that it looks like what they do. Whether this is correct or not, I am more interested in the weapons part of the curriculum. What do you know of the history of these and their kata?

    Im not at all trying to be confrontational or accusing, but surely there must be some record of a ryu of this size in historical accounts? Is there some swordsman from Yanagi nee Yoshida-ha ryu who fought a duel that was recorded in some history? Is there a person in your ryus ancestry who was hired by some daimyo to teach naginata?

    As you know, these kinds of secondary references are fairly common among other ryu. Is yours an exception?

    Thanks

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    Originally posted by chrismoses
    vet: examine carefully
    And here I thought it might be making sure they have all their shots and a flea dip.

    Roger,

    What do you mean by a ryu of this size? Kondo Katsuyuki of the Daito ryu was a student of Yoshida Kotaro and has said that he only taught Daito ryu (but it was known he knew other stuff). Yoshida Kenji, his son, taught something that was not Daito ryu to Don Angier that he said was his family's art. So far no one has been able to further research Kotaro or locate family, ancestors, or descendants apart from Kenji. There is no guarantee that any independent historical record would mention the art even if you could track down ancestors or that it would even have a name. Yoshida is a very common name. How do you know if a Yoshida mentioned in a document is a part of this family? Heck, I don't think we even know Kotaro's wife's name he must have had one if he had a son, right?

    Also, does a family style need a bunch of documents? And Kenji left Japan to escape persecution by his father's political allies and had only a few photographs to pass on.
    Last edited by Walker; 19th May 2004 at 20:16.
    Doug Walker
    Completely cut off both heads,
    Let a single sword stand against the cold sky!

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    Charlie,

    …and Chris,

    There is a lot to the art, but the time needed to learn it is really dependant on your dedication, like any other art. What Chris mentioned about many of the techniques being interchangeable applies to our system as well.

    For instance, tanto, jutte and tessen, have are all used similarly, and have many correlations to the empty hand portion of the art. For these there are no real set kata. They are taught at a more advanced stage in the training, after one has become competent with the empty hand curriculum.

    With tanto for example… one learns various draws from standing and from seiza, cuts, blocks, deflections, basic handling and position changes, etc. Once these are learned then you would learn how to enter in on an attack based on the same ones that were learned in empty hand. At first he would show techniques peculiar to that particular weapons attributes. (ie. The jutte can catch a blade, tanto cuts, tessen is a striking weapon) Then sensei would demonstrate an entry and application, often showing how it correlates to an empty hand technique, and possibly one of the other weapons depending on which you’ve gotten to learn thus far. He may go through a several of these all based off of the same entry. Most of the techniques don’t have names or numbers, and no set of kata were standardized. Sensei would show something and demonstrate several variations based the first one and they were all interchangeable. The training is more about the application of the tool you are using than the memorization of a set of kata. It’s actually more like a series of drills with applied techniques. Eventually the student is expected to devise spontaneous techniques based on what he has already learned.

    Now sword is a bit different, it is more standardized with set techniques, drills, and kata. Staring with seven menuchi Iai techqniues from for directions, some of which are dependent on which foot you happen to have your weight on when you are attacked. There are several do Iai techniques standing and kneeling or going to the knees as one draws. And then ten kumitachi and numerous two-man applied techniques (I’ve never actually counted them all, and I don’t have the lists in with me.) The long kata alone can translate in to various individual techniques with numerous variations. Through the long kata you learn techniques for dealing with an ambush, multiple swordsmen, two spearmen, kusarigama wielding opponent, being grabbed from behind, strikes to the head, body, legs, and attacked while on your knees.

    There is a similar set up for naginata, and a bit less for jo. Though with jo there is more various applied techniques. For instance, sensei taught is perhaps 10-12 various techniques for disarming a jo wielding attacker and we extrapolated about 80 or so variations based on those 12 and applying what we had learned from empty hand and the other weapons. Then in many of these were learned way of being applied to jo vs jo, and jo vs sword, etc.etc.

    The way the art is taught there really is no limit to what can be done. How long it takes to learn it is totally dependant on the student.

    Roger,

    As I stated earlier, unfortunately we cannot trace the lineage of the art with any certainty beyond Yoshida Kotaro. We have tried many avenues to get more info. But the groups he was involved in were very influential, and to this day people do not wish to speak about it. It has even been suggested that we should not be asking about him. (Read into that what you will, I won’t elaborate on it further). Yoshida is such a commonly used name in Japan it’s virtually impossible to tell what this particular branch of the Yoshida was involved with historically without knowing more about the family.

    Other than that what proof we have is mostly the knowledge that is there and the pictures in the possession of Angier sensei. I have copies of many of these pictures. My particular favorite is one of young Kenji (Angier sensei’s teacher) when he was between 16-18 years old, seated in seiza, in formal montsuki. Behind him is a suit of armor with the family crest on the kabuto and a scroll on the wall reading ?Yanagi ryu Aiki Bugei?. The photo was taken in the mid 20’s.

    I honestly wish we had more to go on. I am satisfied by the content of the art that it is real and fairly old. If it’s not then Don Angier is a certifiable genius, and at one point knew more about this stuff than anyone in this country, before most of today’s authorities were ever born, and before he ever went to Japan. Angier sensei has been teaching the same art and claimed the same history since he learned the art in the 1950’s. He has not changed his story to fit the times or what’s popular, and hasn’t taken advantage of what he learned to make money off of the unsuspecting.

    I personally have found no reason to doubt him. Kondo Katsuyuki studied with Angier sensei’s teacher’s father, Yoshida Kotaro, and found that Angier sensei knew techniques that were those of his teacher, but are not included in Daito ryu. It’s not that our techniques “looked like what they do? but that they were recognized as his personal techniques that were not a part of what they do.

    Among others that accept Angier sensei and his art are:

    The late Takamura Yukiyoshi, who’s grandfather was a friend and traveling partner of Yoshida Kotaro. There are even techniques in their system attributed to Yoshida.

    Okomoto Seigo, of Daito ryu Roppokai, his teacher (Horikawa Kodo) was a friend and contemporary of Yoshida Kotaro.

    Kaminoda Tsunemori, Shindo Muso ryu menkyo kaiden

    Nawa Yumio, Masaki ryu Soke and renowned martial arts historian who commented that the techniques of our system are consistent with those of the Yoshida family.

    These guys are no slouches in their arts or their knowledge of Japanese martial history. I may be being naive, but if they all give credence to his history that’s good enough for me.
    Richard Elias
    Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin ryu
    Yanagi Ryu

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    Richard, this sounds like a fascinating and comprehensive art. I remember being intrigued when I read the article at EJMAS on Mr. Angier, and your descriptions of it have only added to it. May I ask, how long have you studied? How "far" have you gone in terms of rank (is there a menkyo-style advancement system?)? In that time, what kinds of changes have you seen in yourself and your ability?
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    I was a direct student of Don Angier for eight years. I was sort of a groupie for about six years before that, learning what I could from video, seminars and visits to his dojo. Of those six, four were waiting to be accepted as a student. Once allowed in my friend John and I trained pretty much fanatically, hardly missing any of the 5 weekly classes and training on our own time as well. We even converted the front room of our apartment into a dojo.

    Being originally a family martial art not taught to outsiders, there was no ranking or licensing system. Angier sensei instituted a ranking system to appeal to public demand but later abandoned it because he didn’t like the effect it was having on students. Some became more concerned out rank and how they were better than others, rather than just focusing on the training and getting better. At this point there is no ranking system at all, only continued training. He had mentioned adopting licensing and issuing Menkyo, but has not done so thus far. So I have been given no rank as there is none to give. But by my teacher’s own admission he had little more to teach us, “there comes a time when the bird must leave the nest?, as he put it. So we opened our own dojo and share what we have learned, and are learning in the process.

    For myself personally… Under Angier sensei’s tutelage I have reached levels I thought would seriously take me decades to achieve, if I could at all. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to learn this art, and will continue to practice it for the rest of my life.
    Richard Elias
    Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin ryu
    Yanagi Ryu

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    Just an aside to Rogers question

    I was just informed that while visiting Nawa Yumio on his most recent trip to Japan, Angier sensei was told by Nawa sensei that he had been able to trace Yanagi ryu of the Yoshida family back to the 1600s.
    Last edited by Richard Elias; 21st May 2004 at 06:15.
    Richard Elias
    Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin ryu
    Yanagi Ryu

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    Cool, I hope we can hear more about this new information. Now what will they say?
    Doug Walker
    Completely cut off both heads,
    Let a single sword stand against the cold sky!

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    Wow, Richard. Just wow. It sounds like you had an unusually clear vision of what you wanted to study. Why is that?

    And, I don't know if you can answer this, but it's something I'd like to ask as many koryu trainees as I can: do you consider the differences between your koryu training and gendai training significant (I don't know if you have any gendai training, BTW)? I guess by "significant" I mean... well, I don't know what I mean!
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