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Thread: Adapting Koryu

  1. #31
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    Talking

    We are treating koryu as if it is one category (ryu created before 1868 or so?) But then koryu before has been adapted back in the old days is it not so? A lot of the 'younger'jujutsu styles have lost their combative edge and geared towards the selfdefence around 1840's. The styles may have been (or are tough) but surely different from the older koryu.

    It may be so that people may be more interested in the idea of koryu than in it's actual practice. That may be because practitoners of modern arts are looking for their roots to become better at those arts and on the other side because of limited availabillity.
    The last thing is by the way improving. You can train in maybe 7 or so or maybe even 10 different styles in koryu in Europe at the moment.

    It still is a funny subject. There was a lot of argument and discussion here on e-budo - way back about people training in a style which was not considered legit back then. Katori Shinto ryu Sugino-ha. Back then it was the only thing available here in Europe. But this got a lot of people's hakama twisted all up the wrong way. And what has happended since?

    Katori Shinto ryu has become really well presented overhere. That is for a large part thanks to Sugino sensei and Mochizuki sensei who started teaching their arts overhere and to the people who got interested and kept training.

    So I guess if koryu people do not get their hakama's twisted too much there is a real chance koryu will get settled overhere.

    Oh and by the way:
    Budo in Europe in a nutshell.
    Judo is a sport, jujutsu is not jujutsu and aikido is chasing guys is skirts and jojutsu is a bunch or broomstick dude's .

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits
    Last edited by johan smits; 10th February 2012 at 07:58.

  2. #32
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    Just two more things, since the thread is about adapting koryu.
    It would seem to me that if koryu are going to spread and if koryu wants to take a place next to all the other arts that are practiced it is almost certainly it needs to be adapted (by those in the know and licensed to do so).

    Otherwise (but that is how I see it) it will be become mere playing samurai and if that happens it will become more difficult for people to give it a real place in their lives in this day and age.

    I feel koryu (as all things) should be practical and of use to people.

    I have been reminded that I have left out two important arts which are trained in Europe. Ninjitsu of which we never see a thing (obvious is it not?) and karate - the art of the empty-hand which almost surely must have originated in Greece and not in Japan.

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits

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    Very good discussion so far. As I read through the posts, I was reminded of an article that I read from time to time that sort of relates to the discussion. Enjoy: http://www.shinyokai.com/Essays_CreativityandChange.htm
    Sincerely,

    Eric Joyce
    Otake Han Doshin Ryu Jujutsu

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    About the possibility of studying Koryu in Europe:

    In Germany we have a lot: Hozoin ryu Takada-ha, Ono-ha Itto ryu, Tenjin Shinyo ryu, Katori Shinto ryu, Moto-ha yoshin ryu, Kanshin ryu, Mugai ryu, Hyoho Niten ichi ryu, Hontai Yoshin ryu, Daito ryu, Tenshinsho Jigen ryu, Shinto Muto ryu, Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin ryu and Kashima Shin ryu.

    But the community is still very small.
    Last edited by Cron; 11th February 2012 at 01:13.
    Michael Reinhardt

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    Well koryu is certainly 'on the move'. Some time ago a sort of koryu conference was held in The Netherlands. I have spoken to some people who attended. From what I understand it's participants can be categorized.
    1 / those whose lineage is proven and beyond a doubt.
    2 / those whose lineage, well is somehow, someway, in a sense maybe a bit problematic.
    3 / those who would run around with pointy ears and elveswords if the "lord of the rings"movies would have been made twenty years earlier. Since this is not the case they play koryu.

    As a happy outsider I can state that the first category is easiest. Go and train with them and you will be part of the glorious few (that is if you are found to be worthy of teaching).
    The third catogory is also easy to recognize. Let's face it when you, in this day and age, are not abel to find enough information about the background of people you are willing to train under than well ... you deserve those pointy ears. You will probably get those ears as soon as you take part in the demonstrations of said masters - for certain if they are teaching koryu sword arts.

    The second category proves difficult. Their lineage is not proven beyond reasonable doubt. They may have trained for scores of years under capable teachers in a koryu. They may be very knowledgeable and skillfull.
    But what if their teacher or their koryu is not a member of 'certain' organisations? Or are maybe not mentioned in certain books about the subject?

    We are living in interesting times.

    Happy landings.

    Johan Smits

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    Quote Originally Posted by johan smits View Post
    The second category proves difficult. Their lineage is not proven beyond reasonable doubt. They may have trained for scores of years under capable teachers in a koryu. They may be very knowledgeable and skillfull.
    But what if their teacher or their koryu is not a member of 'certain' organisations? Or are maybe not mentioned in certain books about the subject?
    Could you be more precise?

    Are you refering to some special school? I realy want to know what you mean...

    Concerning the schools I posted: As far as I know all have a very close relationship to Japan or one of the main teacher.

    Best,
    Michael Reinhardt

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    Hi Cron,

    I was not referring to a special school or style. But I feel koryu can be categorized in the three categories I mentioned.
    But even then it is not easy. Politics are always a part of it. Where do you draw the line? And even better, who draws the line?

    Suppose there is a faction of a school of which the mainline has been in existence for over 150 years. 135 years ago a faction split off from the mainline. The mainline is mentioned in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten (the book which can not be translated - I got it on good authority) but the faction is not. Does this mean that the faction (still intact en practiced today) is not koryu? Because the there is something wrong with their lineage?

    Koryu practitioners seem to me to be a clannish lot. So who do you believe apart from those you want to believe?

    But apart from this all. The subject of the thread is about adapting koryu. It would be interesting (nothing more) if people with a lot of experience in koryu would particpate and delve into things.
    But then maybe you don't discuss these things with outsiders (I would not know, I do not do koryu).

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits

    ps I was certainly not referring to you or your post. I am sorry if I gave you that impression.

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    Quote Originally Posted by johan smits View Post
    Koryu practitioners seem to me to be a clannish lot. So who do you believe apart from those you want to believe?
    Some old schools are secretive I suspect, some just don't care much (and so don't make any effort to get out there) and some wear their hearts on their sleeves. Same with new schools. We always come down to the definition of koryu and we've been getting there since before the net. Just what is a koryu?

    If it's an art that started before 1868 then your split off group works, as does any art that can prove it started before 1868. This seems a simple and easy definition to work with until we run into Kendo. Check out the wikipedia article and look at the history section... Kendo seems to have its roots firmly pre-1868 with many of the great leaders of undisputed koryu kenjutsu schools being key to the development of this adaptation of the koryu called gekkiken and then kendo.

    Is Kendo a koryu? For a lot of folks the boat of pre-1868 sinks right here. Kendo is a modern sport and so can't be a koryu or an adaptation of koryu! Or if it is an adaptation of koryu then adaptations of koryu mean it isn't koryu any more! Judo? OK then BJJ? Canadian/American/etc JuJutsu?

    Thing is, everything comes from somewhere so it's really a personal preference rather than a definable moment where you put the line between old and new. I figure every single generation of instructor is "new" and all those that came before are koryu so therefore there is no such thing as koryu at all, or rather, the koryu are dead and gone, buried with our teacher.

    Do blooded tribesmen want to believe their bunch is the only legitimate group in the forest? Absolutely, it's part of being in a group to be protective of that group. That doesn't mean that anyone gets to play koryu kop and dictate what's legitimate or not.

    But, you say, pulling a very old chestnut out of a fire, what about the fakes?

    It's always been simple to tell the fakes from the real ones. Just ask one question, "who's your granny?" It's how the old women in the village tell whether or not you belong. Do I know your people?

    If my teachers have never heard of a koryu, or if we can't make some sort of connection somewhere back a generation or two, I'm going to call "stranger" and take whatever you have to say about my village with a big grain of salt.

    I actually do this a lot, every new student I meet who has previous experience in the martial arts I ask them to name their teacher, or their teacher's teacher and if I still don't know them I ask them what their art is. I feel much more comfortable if they name someone I know.

    We are, after all, just sociable apes.

    Kim.

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    Perhaps it really will mostly boil down to the individual tradition, or even the individual teacher - as we have been warned before of painting things with too broad a brush.

    For my part in the conversation at hand, I returned to some descriptions and articles on SMR Jo, which had an overt interest in adapting to police work.

    That may be a function of how functional the ryu may in fact be for adaptation: you are going to have more direct application for modern use with things like jo and SMR's other arts, as well as torite and kogusoku, than necessarily with swords and naginata, and the overall emphasis of the ryu may color any views toward adaptation.

    There may be some other benefits, perhaps as a means of counteracting the kind of foolishness seen in examples of wholesale adoption of sport grappling to police work as I posted in CQC.
    Kit Leblanc

    In Harm's Way

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    Granny's, blooded tribesmen and sociable apes.
    Kim did you pay my dojo a visit, incognito? Just asking since I got three individuals of each brand.

    The fakes are not the major problem anymore I think. Thanks to a lot of people who have been long time residents in Japan and who have made information available on the net.
    And naturally the quality of the books published these days.
    The fakes are there and will probably always be there. The good thing about them is that the arts are getting a lot of attention. Far more then when only the hard-nosed koryu practitioners (the legit's) would make information available.
    The serious students will, in the end, come to the genuine teachers, I am sure of that.

    The next problem however is what I mentioned earlier is who is legitimit and who not. Where do you draw the line?
    The fact that a ryu or faction is not mentioned in a book is not a good enough argument to rule some people out. The perfect book has not been written and will not be written. No can do (contrary to what some people want us to believe). By the way I am not talking about the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten - that one has been written already it just cannot be translated).

    Why do I care? Well frankly because I am interested in koryu. Do I train in it? Nope. Do I want to train in it? Maybe. In case I never got to train in it do I miss something? Nope. Does a koryu, in which I do not train miss anything? Hardly.
    But enough about me and my motives.
    Being who I am and knowing the other sociable apes to be a clannish lot, grannies and blooded fellows included I see the danger that other people will start to tell who is genuine and who not.
    And I feel there is a huge responsabillity for each individual to seek things out for her/himself.
    I do not want others to tell me what to think I want them to give me information so I can draw my own conclusions.

    Back to subject.

    Koryu and adaptation. How could (or should) koryu adapt to students outside of Japan? As a teacher I find this an interesting question.

    Happy landings.

    Johan Smits

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    Quote Originally Posted by johan smits View Post
    Koryu and adaptation. How could (or should) koryu adapt to students outside of Japan? As a teacher I find this an interesting question.
    Having had all my training in the west outside Japan, a lot of it in various koryu, I don't really think about adapting the koryu to the west at all. The stuff I'm learning is the stuff that they are teaching in the westernized Japan of today.

    We have some very senior instructors visit from Japan who have called some of our long-time Japanese-Canadians "real old-time samurai" because they are more or less from the previous generation in their attitudes to practice and etc. Their Japanese is also "old time" I assume, like any other group that moves away from home and essentially freezes their culture while the folks back home move on. In other words, the koryu outside Japan might actually be more old-time than the koryu in Japan, by a generation. Put another way, being immersed in the changing Japanese culture, the koryu would change without anyone noticing. Take it out of Japan and it freezes in time until the connections are reestablished.

    The koryu adapt simply because the students are of the next generation and in order to talk to them you have to speak their language.

    On Shindo Muso-ryu and adapting to policing, that's not much of a stretch at all. Jodo was a policing art from it's beginnings in Fukuoka and Shimizu sensei took it into the Tokyo keishicho many years ago. A lot of the top instructors are still in the various keishicho dojo.

    I'm not sure we're all on the same page as to our definition of adaptation really. Do we mean teaching in English (or Dutch or German or Italian) in the west? (Shiiya sensei was just in Italy teaching jodo, when he comes to Canada it's sometimes a bit of a jolt when he gives us instruction in Italian or tells us that if we don't move our heads we'll be "kaputt")

    Or do we mean taking a kata from a koryu and teaching it to a policeman and expecting him to use it on the street? Even the old samurai would not be using that kata "on the street", but he would certainly be using the body mechanics learned within... getting out of the way of anything being swung at your head is a pretty basic and useful thing.

    Or do we mean some sort of mental training? Military basic training, the militaristic traditional western approach to Karate, the training of elite athletes, all these things can promote mental toughness and a certain "get it done" attitude that can be useful in many areas of life. I'm not sure I've ever seen anything in Koryu that cannot be found elsewhere unless we go for the magical/religious appeals to the kami. Not sure any police force anywhere is going to start believing in magical thinking though. ;-)

    Kim.

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    Hi Kim,

    I understand what you mean - I have been told that if I want to experience the Dutch and the Dutch mentality of several decennia ago I should go to the Dutch societies outside of Holland, they tend you be very conservative.

    You are probably spot on with the koryu in and out of Japan.
    Another example from personal experience. I will not mention any names but over the years I have pestered quite a lot people (koryu practitioners) with my questions. Even with very reasonable questions some of them were very secretive. And in all honesty I was not asking for ' inside information'.
    So some people were just not inclined to help.
    The info I was asking for was provided without any problem by another teacher ( litterly: ' do your best and have fun training' ).

    As a teacher myself I am intrigued in what way a koryu would provide for let's say a change in curriculum or in order of curriculum to teach.
    As an example: idori is often a very difficult posture. Suppose it is taught in the beginning section of a certain koryu. Would it be possible for us ' stiff Westerners' to alter the order of learning and first learn tachiai instead of idori? To get used to the movement/ideas, etc of said school?
    And I have got other examples, this is just one.

    The average Westerner is rather critical and asks a lot of questions. This may not be the ' right ' attitude in practising koryu. But as a teacher I think a curriculum should (for a part be made to) fit the students.
    Now there may be some slack given to foreign students but that is not exactly what I mean. Do koryu adapt (will they adapt) to the teaching and other circumstances of their students in the West.

    Training for twenty years to get graded is a very long time. This may be convenient to some teachers or organizations but is it really necessary?
    Is it smart to do when koryu has to compete with a lot of other interests/activities people are experiencing today?

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits

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    Quote Originally Posted by johan smits View Post
    As a teacher myself I am intrigued in what way a koryu would provide for let's say a change in curriculum or in order of curriculum to teach.
    As an example: idori is often a very difficult posture. Suppose it is taught in the beginning section of a certain koryu. Would it be possible for us ' stiff Westerners' to alter the order of learning and first learn tachiai instead of idori? To get used to the movement/ideas, etc of said school?
    And I have got other examples, this is just one.
    One of my teachers (Muso Jikiden) went from one end of the curriculum to the other and then started over, so he teaches that way. Another (Muso Shinden) was taught the first kata for over a year before moving on to the next. Both were taught in Japan.

    I have never thought much about changing the teaching order really, mostly because I don't have classes that start at the beginning and move through. Koryu classes are small and in my case folks start wherever I am teaching so some start at the beginning, some at the end. The basic principles are the same anywhere, and they are expected to do whatever level of kata they're doing at whatever skill they can. Yes there are things that we do in some levels of kata that we don't do in others but they pick that up if they stick around. Yes there are ideas that build from one level to the next but again, they pick that up when they can, until then they're learning how to swing the sword, how to connect the tip to their feet etc. etc. That can be taught anywhere.

    Frankly, since I've been teaching iaido since 1987 I haven't thought about whether or not I should change things for a long time. I just teach whoever is in front of me as I need to teach them. If they can't kneel, they stand. If they can't use their arm they practice one handed.

    The average Westerner is rather critical and asks a lot of questions. This may not be the ' right ' attitude in practising koryu. But as a teacher I think a curriculum should (for a part be made to) fit the students.
    Now there may be some slack given to foreign students but that is not exactly what I mean. Do koryu adapt (will they adapt) to the teaching and other circumstances of their students in the West.
    The sort of changes I've mentioned above aren't specific to the west, all teachers will adapt to their students I suspect, except those who will not of course. In the west and in Japan I suspect there are teachers who won't make allowances or change the curriculum order. That isn't a koryu thing, it's a teacher thing.

    Training for twenty years to get graded is a very long time. This may be convenient to some teachers or organizations but is it really necessary?
    Is it smart to do when koryu has to compete with a lot of other interests/activities people are experiencing today?
    I don't grade in any of my koryu and neither do my students, ever. There isn't any grading provision for any of them, I simply teach as I was taught. Actually looking back over that it's not exactly true, I suspect I could arrange for gradings in a couple of the koryu I do, but it's never come up. Soe of the koryu are tiny, I was once offered the position of shibu for North America in one, and thought the idea was unnecessary, after all there was nobody else doing what I was doing so what would be the point. As de facto head of the region I didn't need a title saying so. Most koryu are similarly not in need of grading systems.

    One dojo, one list of students on the wall, top guy and the rest of the pecking order is pretty clear. It's only when you get into a situation where there are too many students and dojo to keep it in your head that you need the paper records.

    Which brings us to Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu. There is a koryu that is too big to keep track of everyone. I can't speak for other lines or other organizations which contain MJER, but for us in the kendo federation we mostly do not have a ranking system specific to MJER. We make do with ZenKenRen iai ranks. The koryu is taught in lineage so we know who our teacher is and who his/her teacher was, and we are careful about teaching students of different lines. The old koryu rules exist, but they are within an organization that also teaches iai which is taught by multiple instructors and has rank. A bit confusing for students but they eventually catch on. Thing is, every student who joins my dojo, ranks in the kendo federation and all that modern stuff, also has to practice my line of MJER koryu. That means a relatively large number of students compared to what I would have if I was outside the federation. Your implied statement that students like grading is quite true.

    But when considering koryu, what ranks are there? Permission to teach and the right to tell others they can teach. Two ranks. Do we need koryu grading titles over here in the west? Why, so we can defend ourselves in internet chat forums from accusations of fraud? So we can put the big Japanese certificate on the wall of our dojo where nobody can read it?

    I've also got a personal problem with receiving koryu rank given that my training is not in that dojo in Japan and my name's not up on that wall. The top guy may know me but very few others in the dojo do, so I'm that weird cousin out in the countryside who really isn't, and shouldn't be, in line for running the family business in town. Permission to get on with it and regular visits to make sure I'm not too far off track from everyone else so we can all practice together when we get the chance without hurting each other is just fine.

    Do we need to adapt so we can get lots of students who want to dip their toes in the water of koryu? I don't know any koryu instructors who care about student numbers once there are enough to pay for the room rental. Four or five and you're good most of the time. You teach the old stuff the old way and then go for a beer most of the time. If you've got a student with a problem you adapt it as needed and then go for a beer.

    Teach for 20 years outside that dojo in Japan and you might find you're adapting/changing things. After 20 years your teacher may just nod when he finds stuff he never told you showing up in your students. He'll know where it came from (or maybe not if it's something he just forgot to tell you but does himself) and if he needs to he'll fix it.

    Kim.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Taylor View Post

    I'm not sure we're all on the same page as to our definition of adaptation really. ....

    Or do we mean taking a kata from a koryu and teaching it to a policeman and expecting him to use it on the street?

    Or do we mean some sort of mental training? ...I'm not sure I've ever seen anything in Koryu that cannot be found elsewhere unless we go for the magical/religious appeals to the kami. Not sure any police force anywhere is going to start believing in magical thinking though. ;-)

    Kim.

    No, a little, and yes.

    How jo was adapted to the police was not because of its kami I would offer, and not so that they could just do kata, to be sure.

    (http://www.e-budo.com/forum/showthread.php?t=42590)

    I guess one question is where did these attitudes go?

    Are there other avenues to achieve that? Yes, as was explained above.

    As a means of apprehending certain things in "real time" while training, analysis, etc. though something is left lacking. There is a tendency in modern training to simply tack "mindset" onto something and assume that deeper levels of training are being achieved, or to go wholesale with sports and human performance models and there is , I think, something missing there.

    There is a potential that other ways - even better ways - of training some of those mental and physical attitudes may be hibernating within some of the koryu that have been properly handed down. I think this underscored the approach that the IHS started with its "Hoplology Theoretics" which,while arcane, is certainly pointing to a practical performance model that had little to do with technical skills trained in kata, but a lot to do with how kata were trained.

    A recent lesson in jo that was offered to some of my training partners by Pascal Krieger sensei directly pointed to this, and it had nothing to do with technique.

    Whether a ryu has lost it, or whether a particular group can approach it, or can even conceive of it, or care to are clearly the matters that underlie this discussion.
    Last edited by Hissho; 13th February 2012 at 18:22.
    Kit Leblanc

    In Harm's Way

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    "But when considering koryu, what ranks are there? Permission to teach and the right to tell others they can teach. Two ranks. Do we need koryu grading titles over here in the west? Why, so we can defend ourselves in internet chat forums from accusations of fraud? So we can put the big Japanese certificate on the wall of our dojo where nobody can read it? "

    The idea behind grading (well at least my idea) is that the person training can more or less know where he or she stands. Has (s)he mastered a part of the curriculum, has (s)he mastered all of it? Gradings provide for a certain structure and indeed it is useful when groups are getting larger.
    It is also good for interested parties to be able to find out if someone is indeed 'genuine' or not.

    Per example, in my country a lot of people start teaching once they have reached let's say shodan in whatever art. In my book a shodan does not equal a licensed teacher. If my children are going to train in one of the arts I will make sure (my children are young) they will do so with a licensed teacher (that is one of my criteria, I've got scores of others).

    For some reason I believe (I could be wrong) that teachers of the modern arts are more prone to adapting and modernizing teaching systems.
    Another point is I don't think koryu provide for specific teaching courses, a lot of modern arts organisations provide courses to become in teacher in those arts. Maybe koryu have that built in the system but it is a bit uncertain.

    A lot of koryu teachers seem to prefer only a handful of students. This is something I do not understand. The training methods may not be suitable to cater to large classes but that does not mean that koryu could not be enjoyed by a lot of people.
    I have read about teachers of koryu - way back in the old days in Japan who had hundreds of students. I do not see any harm in that. Blatant commercialism is out of the question of course that is not good for any art.

    In my opinion, koryu did adapt long time ago when Japanese jujutsuteachers started teaching in Europe. It was their decision to 'not teach kata' but self defense techniques. Was it a good decision? Well for better or for worse jujutsu has been in Europe for well over hundred years. It evolved - not always in the right direction. It was taught to troops of warring countries during two world wars and it did good I suppose.
    It is still here and after the dubieus influences of judo, karate, aikido (to mention the least harmful to jujutsu in my opinion) the next arts from Japan are arriving to influence modern jujutsu. That is koryu. And it might just be a good influence.

    It's late and I've been teaching several hours this evening so for now
    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits

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