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Thread: Q&A: Araki-ryu, Buko-ryu

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    Default Q&A: Araki-ryu, Buko-ryu

    and all things Ellis Amdurian. Ladies and gentlemen, please use this thread to engage Ellis Amdur in dialogue on "Araki-ryu, Buko-ryu, aikido, and what ever else."

    Thank you, Ellis! Here's my first question. I am able to look up a description of Araki-ryu on Koryu.com. What's Buko-ryu?
    We are the Sherlock Holmes English Speaking Vernacular. Help save Fu Manchu, Moriarty and Dracula.

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    Loving these Q&A's!

    Mr. Amdur,

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

    Thank you.

    Richard

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    everest Guest

    Default araki ryu vs. aikido

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

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    Default To Charles Kondek - "What's Buko-ryu"

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

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

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

    Best

    Ellis Amdur
    www.ellisamdur.com

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    Default to R. Garrelts

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

    Best

    Ellis Amdur
    www.ellisamdur.com

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    Default to Scott Altland

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

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

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

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

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

    Best

    Ellis Amdur
    www.ellisamdur.com

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    everest Guest

    Default weapon based koryu influence

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

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    Mr. Amdur,

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

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


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

    Thank you for your time.

    Sincerely,
    Murray McPherson

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    Dear Ellis,

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

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

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

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

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

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    Default To Scott Altland #2

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

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

    Best

    Ellis Amdur
    www.ellisamdur.com

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    Default To M. McPherson

    Mr. McPherson -

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

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

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

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

    Best

    Ellis Amdur
    www.ellisamdur.com

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    Default To Arman

    Arman -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Best

    Ellis Amdur
    www.ellisamdur.com

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    Default koryu transition to the "west"

    Hi Ellis,

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

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

    Regards,
    Al Heinemann
    www.shofukan.ca

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    Default

    Mr. Amdur,

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

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

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

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

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    Default Koryu and the West

    Allan -

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Best

    Ellis Amdur
    www.ellisamdur.com

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