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Thread: Definition of Koryu

  1. #16
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    Default

    Hi Earl.

    Today is my first look at e-Budo in several weeks.

    I would like to suggest that before attempting to define "koryu" it is useful, first, to distinguish modern from premodern. Otherwise, one risks comparing and contrasting apples and oranges.

    ONE: modern vs. premodern

    Historians of Western sports and games have debated this distinction at length. Allen Guttman (1978, From Ritual to Record; 1994, Games and Empires) has his critics, but most discussions use his "family-of-characteristics" definition as a starting point. According to Guttman "modern" athletic endevors are characterized by:

    1. secularism: not related to an explict transcendental realm

    2. equality of opportunity: no one is excluded from participation on the basis of race or ethnicity; rules are the same for all participants

    3. bureaucratization: not governed by priests nor by ritual adepts, but by national and transnational bureaucracies with defined institutional structures, committees, bylaws, newsletters, etc.

    4. specialization: tasks are very specific and evolved from earlier less differentiated endevors; many participants have a gamut of specialized roles or positions

    5. rationalization: rules undergo frequent revision to improve the practice; athletes train scientifically (based on emperical methods) and use technologically advanced equipment; safety and hygiene are stressed; there exist published textbooks and public training facilities

    6. quantification: statistics are recorded

    7. quest for records: best performances are recorded and there is a constant challenge for all others to strive to surpass them

    To the above, I would add: (8) when competition is involved, there are standarized proceedures for matches and trained judges who follow established methods for enforcing rules and determining success and failure.

    While Tokugawa-period kyujutsu certainly involved competition, statistics, and attempts to beat records, it did not possessed a majority of the above characteristics. Therefore, I would conclude that Tokugawa-period kyujutsu was NOT a modern martial art.

    But is non-modern (premodern) the same as Koryu? Not neccessarily. In the 1830s many Domain Academies eliminated koryu from their martial art training halls and began teaching generic martial arts.


    TWO: Koryu (old lineages)

    This is a modern word invented to distinquish traditional martial arts from modern ones. Therefore, we naturally assume that the first characteristic of koryu would be a lack of a majority of the "modern" characteristics listed above. The word itself, however, does not explicitly imply the concept of "non-modern."

    There is no deep significance to the word "koryu" (old lineages)---although, of course, practitioners of koryu can attach their own special meanings to it. "Old" basically means that the lineage existed before 1868. "Lineage" basically means that an identifiable connection united each subsequent generation with its preceeding one. Usually this connection would consist of: ryugi, mokuroku, and kata. The general assumption in Japanese martial art scholarship is that every koryu possess its own unique techniques and teachings (ryugi) which are conveyed through its own unique curriculum (mokuroku) and taught in as its own unique set of pattern practices (kata). As long as those teachings, curriculum, and patterns are taught faithfully from one generation to the next, then the lineage is maintained. In practice various documents (densho) usually are used to authenticate the transmission of the ryugi, mokuroku, and kata. Study of these documents from many different lineages (ryuha) reveals that teachings and practices always evolved over time as new elements were added and old ones eliminated. Moreover, there seems to have been a great deal of borrowing and cross-fertilization among ryuha. For this reason "lineage" is always a social construction imposed on the past. (In other words, it is something that can be debated in public forums such as this one.)

    Best wishes,
    William Bodiford
    Professor
    Dept. of Asian Languages & Cultures
    UCLA

  2. #17
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    Default Cross Fertilization

    Hello,

    I'd like to address a couple of points that caught my eye, if I may:

    Moreover, there seems to have been a great deal of borrowing and cross-fertilization among ryuha.
    In an offline discussion, you clarified for me that there were/are different types of ryu-ha structure and methods of transmission.

    Most of us are accustomed to hearing how ryu-ha were very secretive with their kyoka and associated tactics and strategy, since these were times of relatively constant conflict and concerns of enemy fiefs learning a rival fief/ryu-ha's proprietary methods and tactics would mean certain destruction on the battlefield. So would you say that this secretive attitude is more indicative of a smaller, "family" transmitted art? Was this concern for rival infiltration historically accurate, or are you perhaps referring to a situation in which ryu-ha that were on friendly relations with each other (more common than not?) borrowed methods?

    For this reason "lineage" is always a social construction imposed on the past.
    Sorry, but I'm not sure I followed this one. Does this statement mean that lineage issues tend to be a bit more abstract, complex and tradition-unique than most of us tend to understand? I know the western mind likes to organize and structure everything into nice, neat black and white packages, and perhaps you are saying that this is a modern habit that was not practiced by exponents of older ryu-ha and modern day researchers?

    Thanks,



    [Edited by Nathan Scott on 07-27-2000 at 01:36 PM]
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

  3. #18
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    Question




    I do not know if this fits in with this discussion,but:

    Aikido is considered to be a gendai Budo,but has no sportive connotation.In Okinawa there are Goju Ryu schools that practice only,kihon,kata,and yakusoku kumite and have no aspect of any form of a sport competition,only combat based on the kata's.

    My 2 cent worth.





    ken allgeier
    " The FUTURE is UNWRITTEN,KNOW YOUR RIGHTS"
    The Clash.

  4. #19
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    I live in Japan, and I see much less sumo than I would like! All the basho are televised during the day, and there is only limited coverage on the TV channels that I get here on Camp Zama during the evening.

    Takanohana II has been my favorite for the past 2 years. I saw him beat Akebono by simply sidestepping what was sure to have been a Herculean charge that would have knocked Taka off the dohyo. But his sidestep, coupled with a short tug on Akebono's mawashi sent the gargantuan champion full into the 2nd or 3rd row of spectators! AWESOME!

    It is my understanding that sumo began as legitimate martial art (perhaps either along the same lines as, or possibly influenced by Chinese Swai Chiao wrestling), and that the rikishi were not the mammoth specimens that they are today. I have read that the change in size came about as does all competition for power - the big guy beat a little guy, so a bigger guy beat the big guy, etc...

    Just my 2 yen...
    Matt Stone
    VIRTUS et HONOS
    "Strength and Honor"

  5. #20
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    Default Re: Cross Fertilization

    Originally posted by Nathan Scott regarding "borrowing and cross-fertilization"


    Most of us are accustomed to hearing how ryu-ha were very secretive with their kyoka and associated tactics and strategy, since these were times of relatively constant conflict and concerns of enemy fiefs learning a rival fief/ryu-ha's proprietary methods and tactics would mean certain destruction on the battlefield. So would you say that this secretive attitude is more indicative of a smaller, "family" transmitted art? Was this concern for rival infiltration historically accurate, or are you perhaps referring to a situation in which ryu-ha that were on friendly relations with each other (more common than not?) borrowed methods?


    I do not know if the social structure of the ryuha made any difference. All ryuha were very secretive. At the same time, however, they were quick to adopt whatever techniques they saw as being superior if they could figure how to imitate those techniques. And they also compilled information on the techniques of other ryuha so that that they could teach their students how to defeat members of those other ryuha. They practiced the principle of "know your enemy."

    Surprisingly, though, one can also find segments of text (or sets of mokuroku) that appear almost identical in densho of different ryuha from distinct historical periods and from diverse geographical areas. How that came to be is a question that remains to be investigated.

    Originally posted by Nathan Scott "regarding social construction of lineage"


    Sorry, but I'm not sure I followed this one. Does this statement mean that lineage issues tend to be a bit more abstract, complex and tradition-unique than most of us tend to understand?
    Sorry for using academic jargon. Yes. Basically I mean that lineage issues are complex because they serve social functions. People living at a later time use data from earlier times to construct lineages that they can then use as evidence to justify certain social practices or privileges to an audience of their contemporaries. For this reason, statements about lineages usually constitute assertions or arguments about the present. This sociological aspect of lineage statements is fairly consistent across cultures and historical periods.
    William Bodiford
    Professor
    Dept. of Asian Languages & Cultures
    UCLA

  6. #21
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    Default Ah yes

    Professor Bodiford,

    Thank you for clarifying these points!

    Regards,

    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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