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Thread: Adapting Koryu

  1. #61
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    Hi Kit,

    First of all: " I think I am already deeper than you have delved, so keep digging!" .

    There is no doubt in my mind at all that you have learned far more than I have concerning these arts.
    The "we" are trying to dig a little deeper does not stand for you and me but for the people who keep rummaging around about koryu. I guess I should have expressed myself more clearly.

    I have been digging for some time will and you are one of the people who has been a great help to me because of your posts. So keep em coming, makes the diggingg easier.


    "Do any ryu consider the specific movements of a kata the defining aspect of their ryu? "

    Is it not so that kata are " chains of waza " and kata as a training- and teachingmethod came in use later on and were preceded by training single techniques (waza)?
    I always thought kata to be the outcome so to speak of the defining aspects of a ryu.

    "Think situationally rather than specific techniques. People seem to be really wrapped up in kata and technique. I was taught that kata and technique are simply vehicles for the application of the principles, strategies, and tactics of the system. Araki-ryu kata changed routinely when I was practicing them, and sometimes divergent physical techniques were still seen as applications of the kata: I saw that in another ryu as well, a sword school under a single soke system: kata changing, and indeed kata where once A and B were done, the "finish" could be one of several things "depending on how the enemy reacted." Not taught as "henka" but rather just a flexible approach to the basic kata. "

    This is the same for the jujutsu I train and teach. Although there are basic forms of kata there are what I call different possibilities within these kata. A little bit further on in training these possibilies are dictated by (amongst others) the reaction of uke in that particular setting.

    We train actually very few kata because these few are enough to cover most of the ground so to speak.

    Kit,
    I think most people are interested in techniques and kata because it is their main form of training for a long time. You have facilities and possibilities to train/work/experience these subject which are very different from the John's and Joe's who are let's say officeworkers and who train koryu once or twice a week. All things considered it is probably another universe you are in.
    That could account for the difference in approach to these arts.

    Happy landing,

    Johan Smits

  2. #62
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    To be honest, Johan, I am not sure I have learned so much regarding these arts, specifically. I had a small amount of time, all in the West, albeit with good teachers. I moved on to modern stuff because it was "more practical" and more akin to what I was learning on the job, until basically, I matured in what I was doing and how I thought about them, and started seeing linkages and connections that led to this way of thinking.

    I am no expert on koryu by any stretch of the imagination. But in putting out some of my thoughts, in discussing them with people that are and their words and thinking (including two Japanese soke), and in some off-line contacts, I think I am onto something.

    Summing it up, the line of thought leading from assessing the traditional elements and the modern adaptability, let me try to organize it this way -via the traditional concept of Shin-Gi-Tai, which I actually use in teaching modern CQC stuff. I'm going to change the order up a bit to from the surface to increasingly deeper (or inner??).

    So I'll take a stab at it....

    The Big Picture:

    The big picture is that the bushi had hundreds of years as a professional warrior class where thinking about and doing and codifying this was their stock in trade. They also did not have the many distractions we have today so that those that were REALLY committed to this stuff (founders, inheritors, menkyo kaiden) probably had insights and access to mental and physical things we are only re-discovering via science. I think, for example, modern Force Science is discovering things that the bushi knew, that I believe were described in their terminology and trained in their kata, and that in modern times we have previously had to look to sport performance studies to come at, and now we have a method that is specific to the armed, tactical use of force to evaluate it.

    The Japanese tradition in particular seems to be less fanciful, more well documented and to have had at least some level continuity, and until recently were still very much closed to people who were not professionals or had some former connection to that class whereas most other traditions in the East did not. In the West this old stuff basically became interesting old books, and had to re-created from whole cloth - often by people who had experience in Eastern disciplines.

    The Adaptability:

    There are things that cops just 'know.' There are things that soldiers, that accountants, that (name your profession) KNOW that simply are not accessible to people who do not have the same experience. This is common sense.

    Well, there are things that warriors KNEW. Things that may have made perfect sense of a technique or an action that today we look at and go "That makes no sense, why would you do that?" Even little things, because when survival is on the line, little things are important!

    I think some of that knowledge may be things that professionals today can learn from. I think that a re-created tradition that has been cut off from a line of teachings may not have access to these things anymore. That these kernels of their knowledge might in fact be more accessible (and useful!) to a student today who carries weapons and has to use force with them than to somebody who does not, regardless of either person's rank within a particular school.

    The senior or the teacher, however, if given a genuine transmission of a genuine tradition, might be a vessel to pass on that kernel of knowledge that may make for an "a-ha!" moment on the part of the student that is a "use of force professional." And learning might be had by all, and the ryu continue to 'live' in way directly related to its past usage.


    Now for the brush strokes...


    Techniques/Tactics:

    This is the level everybody sees and most koryu people participate in. Yes I think individual ryu have 'signature' techniques and the signature technique may reveal deeper things about the ryu's principles or approach to combat, I think most people would argue that ALL of a ryu's techniques do that, even though a lot of the techniques in many ryu are pretty similar - if not the same ones if they share a lineage.

    Even within a particular school, we see different lines different schools, and different teachers that prefer different techniques, or do them or kata differently: I remember hearing an admonishment from a headmaster that if everyone is doing the kata the same way, and it looks the same, they are doing it wrong!

    This is just as true of modern arts. There are different "styles" of BJJ - everybody does not do an armbar the same way, each school and different teachers have different "details" that make their style recognizable, or they focus on a particular "game" or particular tactics: Carlson Gracie lineage guys have a reputation for "hurting" because they use a lot of pressure points and painful stuff in their technique, where others have different reputations.

    The Adaptability:

    Re-iterating adaptability at the technique level, and specifically from a taijutsu standpoint, here is where I think that armed close combat/clinch/entanglement in the kumi-uchi, kogusoku, torite, koshi no mawari sense has something to offer.

    The current teaching to police and military on this is almost all aikido or combat sport based, or from modern methods derived from those, just adding weapons. These can be successful, but there is a remove there that I think would not be so wide if there was instead a return to the things that the modern grappling arts came from - the armed grappling noted above. I think this is both a common sense and perhaps a rewarding path to explore.

    The Body:

    There is a quality to proper body movement in a fighting sense that is unmistakable. People who fight well move a certain way, carry their hips a certain way, have a certain physical wherewithal that has little to do with particular techniques (what they are doing) and far more to do with how they are doing them. There are levels in this as well, some people are just more naturally gifted or understand more from training than others, that is just the way of things.

    Here is where a lot of koryu and traditional arts fall down () in my opinion: they don't have this. Once again I speak specifically to grappling traditions as they are my focus and I think more fertile ground for practical adaptation.

    People may know the techniques, they may know their kata, down to a tee in terms of technical detail, they just don't know how to make them work as the resistance goes up. The same is true of modern arts - I have recently been teaching my take on arrest and control to our LE DT instructors and to a military spec ops guy that needed it for his unit. I show how all the stuff they have learned in arm bars and wristy twisties actually works....just not the way they do them, and not the way they were taught in the academy, or in conventional martial arts schools or institutionalized/organizational training.

    The best way to learn the how is to actually fight/grapple, even under limiting factors for rules or training safety - you can do all sorts of other exercises, develop "internal power," believe that you are "principle based" and NEVER develop the actual "what to do" in terms of the technical skill, or just continually train with your opponents falling down when they are supposed to; if you want practically applied skill, you have to train with the speed and dynamics of the fight.

    Witness the juxtaposition of the jujutsu (whatever brand) teacher that has deep experience in Judo, working with non-grappling students that clearly do not. The teacher will have that 'quality,' and the students will move in a stiff legged, hoppy, hips-all-over the place, nervous fashion. This kind of movement actually seems common in a lot of koryu jujutsu demos.They don't have "the body," they have kata - they have the functional equivalent of police defensive tactics.... In a very real sense this will exacerbate the stress reactions people experience under a serious threat to limb and life, rather smooth it out and help process it and maximize functionality.

    I am not the first to note this, an old article in Journal of Asian Martial Arts talked about problems inherent in koryu and police training and it was an interesting comparison.

    Adaptability:

    Here is where the adaptation might go the other way: add more force on force training: resistive work taking kata as a starting point but with updated weapons (the context will be pretty much the same....). Bring a more "live" element in and you will see kata come alive. That is why Ellis required students to be grapplers and why he opened up the kata early on to this kind of thing, it starts training the how to do the what you are doing.

    I have done so many times in CQC training venues with a group that integrates BJJ/MMA and firearms and live resistive training with blades and Simunitions guns, and I know some classical stuff works in these venues. And this is the most realistic stuff I have ever trained vis-a-vis the real world stuff that I use.


    I think I will leave it there now, since the post is already long. The last section will be the mind, and that should tie in what was talked about earlier in the thread nicely.
    Last edited by Hissho; 15th February 2012 at 19:17.

  3. #63
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    Okay, had a break, let me finish it up so it all stays together...

    Mind:

    There is likewise a certain quality of mind in the people that are good at handling crises and tactical situations. There is a certain calm intensity, a modulation of response and action, a certain control and tone of voice, and certain "aura" that you see with them. This quality of mind is even seen in their movement and comportment.

    The adversaries see this, too, and interestingly it is a common factor in situations where LEOs are assaulted and killed - the "presence" of the officer, their actions, what they were paying attention to, whether they were perceived as fear-nervous or "intense," etc.

    You see on actual incidents and how they respond and how they 'sound' when they are in the moment, and how much they are capable of paying attention to the big picture....whether its an OIS or dealing with an armed guy or what have you.

    You see it during force on force training, where some people are just "squared away,""dialed in" or other phrases we use for folks that have it.

    And I've seen it in some people doing koryu kata. I have seen some demos where one side of kata had it and the other did not.....

    The martial artist would conceive of this best probably as zanshin, but there are a whole lot of component parts that go along with that term.

    This is trained starting with having your technique down, so the emphasis on technique is not misplaced. It is very important. But a lot of technique can be developed on one's own. Partner practice, increasingly stressful, is where this quality of mind is trained.

    You won't develop it if all you ever do is rote practice, slow or moderately paced, never altering or changing, never "finishing" it when a partner forgets a move and stops, etc. Not at the beginning, but as time goes on you should be doing progressively more intense work with increasing speed, increasing pressure, narrowing margins of error - even to the point that errors start getting made and owies happen - and so on. Breaking or trunking kata so that other kata are brought in mid-stream, or countering one kata so that another one is called for.

    The way kata is supposed to be done... this is also how modern force on force training progresses.

    Now imagine it is being done by a group of professional warriors, all inured to pain and fear from actual combat experience, relatively fit, training together all the time....how much further to you think you could "open it up" and push the limits of this kind of training - without undue risk of injury?

    These aren't duels, these are in-group training. Yes there is risk of injury and pain (stress) in training with wooden weapons, but the "meeting with death" is still symbolic in that you are not trying to hurt the people who will be your partners in battle.

    You are trying to test their mettle, and make them better. I view that kind of meeting with death very much along the lines of the modern understanding that intense opposing will training,with the stress of painful consequences, creates stress reactions that have been determined to be very close to the kinds of adrenal spikes that occur in real world lethal threat encounters.

    They are a mini-meeting with death, a practice meeting with death....and coming out alive. This is why kata must be opened up, broken apart, and made intense for it to be combative training, and for it to develop zanshin. And then it is exactly like force on force training.

    This is a far cry from competition or randori - the combative goal remains albeit delimited somewhat due to training weapons, etc. However, the stress reactions can be similar if the intensity is properly driven, even with a training blade.

    Training this way will produce the kind of quality of mind described at the beginning, and in the second example I gave of the two officer encounters above......I know a number of officers that have been involved in lethal encounters that recounted that their experience was "just like training." If they are saying that, they are probably getting good training.

    Adaptability:

    The adaptability here is more a comparison. It is more looking at the entire concept of mindset and zanshin, looking at how it was discussed and codified and how it was approached in training, and determining what might be mined for information to apply to modern training.

    Why? Because what currently exists in terms of this kind of training is actually quite poor.

    As noted above, "mindset" is a kind of condiment tossed out by many modern trainers on top of the tactical training equivalent of a Happy Meal. People know about it but don't have the words or terms to explain it, let along a process to follow to achieve it.

    Those that do have some useful things come from the academic/psychological world and tend to view and couch their training more in terms of the "soft" side of mental skills development: mental focus, meditation, visualization/imagery, Cue Words: the functional equivalent of the warrior's use of Mikkyo, minus the spiritual underpinning. Obviously since it still exists in different form there is something within it that speaks to us as humans in the combative environment.

    But I think there are ways that it can be embedded in the actual training experience, "mainlining" mindset training so to speak, so that there is less remove. This is what I think kata is supposed to be getting at.

    Whether people are doing kata in a way that can get at it is probably a group by group, even person by person matter. From what I hear even from some long term people in various koryu, I don't think many are doing so.
    Last edited by Hissho; 15th February 2012 at 20:25.

  4. #64
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    Thumbs up

    Kit,
    Many thanks for two of the best posts I have ever read on the subject!
    This is the kind of information which is, I feel, very valuable and will be of great help.

    I will " dig in " and will be back soon, with undoubtly some more questions.

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits

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    Heiho Kadensho by Yagyu Munenori offers some pretty zen-influenced vocabulary for mindset as far as swordsmanship is concerned. It is dense and abstract. In order to codify portions of what he wanted to say, Munenori had to borrow language from zen - not really the easiest stuff to parse.

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    Hi Kit,
    Again many thanks for your marvelous explanation. It is not only given given from a professional’s point of view but it is one of the best descriptions of what I might call the essential elements of a koryu.
    I will use the coming weekend to digest it further but for now I have come up with the following.

    When I interpret your post correctly there is a big difference between the older koryu, weapon-based arts and between the younger koryu.
    The first being battlefield arts, the latter being non-battlefield arts (although the younger koryu may have sections for use on the battlefield in their curriculum).

    The battlefield arts are made for warriors (their modern-day counterparts, although that is not exactly correct being, soldiers, police-officers, special forces, anyway those people who are government sanctioned to carry weapons and use violence). The non-battlefield arts are those geared towards self-defense for civilians.

    Being a civilian myself, a licensed teacher of jujutsu ( some 30 years hands on experience with judo)but still a civilian, a part of the knowledge (maybe a large part) of a koryu will not be recognized by me. Even if the kernels of knowledge are offered they cannot be put to use since I am not professionally involved. Basically this would mean part of the ryu is lost (and according to you a vital part). Essentially this means I am no good to the ryu.

    As an aside I wonder if let’s say a koryu is transmitted through several generations of genuine shihan, unbroken line, etc. but all civilians . Will the knowledge stay intact within the ryu and will modern-day counterparts of warriors have ‘aha-moments’ when taught.

    Younger koryu may be a different matter. I wonder if koryu which are non-battlefield arts but more geared towards self-defense for civilians also have the same sort of knowledge you speak of but then indeed geared towards self-defense. Or would this be the same kind of knowledge or maybe they have lost it?
    The younger koryu can they be seen as adaptations of the older koryu? In a changing environment, a changing culture?

    A sideline about adaptation:
    Might Seitei iai be seen as an adaptation to changing circumstances by several koryu practicing iai?
    Higo ryu taijutsu, the same idea but then for several jujutsu ryu. On youtube there is or was a kata shown (Keishi-ryu kendo kata I believe). With the techniques coming from several different koryu. I recall being able to see a difference in character of those separate techniques. It was marvelous to see. Keishi ryu jujutsu also came from several jujutsu ryu.

    Happy landings,
    Johan Smits

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    Hi Johan,

    I can't answer your questions you asked Kit but I do have a few thoughts. First I don't think you need to carry weapons in your day to day life to be valuable to the ryu. If you properly preserve the ryu you should still be able to transmit the core of the ryu to someone, say like Kit, who does use those weapons everyday. As far as I know Kit's teacher is not LEO or military (I could be wrong) and he was able to pass on the ryu. I think this is because that person was a fully licensed teacher. This is where lineage and titles etc. do have some place. I think a good example of this is Katori Shinto-ryu. I have some very old pre-War footage of Otake sensei's teachers and sempai doing the art at an embu. It looked a lot like the often criticised (or at least it was at one time) Sugino branch. It was slow, it lacked the agressive spirit we've come to expect from the Otake/Draegger era Katori Shinto-ryu. However, once those kernels were given to someone as skilled as Otake sensei the art truely came to life. Had the art not been passed down correctly for generations who knows if Otake sensei could have worked with it the same way. I'm sure we've all seen embu on youtube of ryu that are very famous for producing strong swordsmen or grapplers look sort of weak. Other schools like Jigen-ryu or Jikishinkage-ryu not so much (I think both of these Shinkage branches force that sort of spirit and mindset onto the student from the beginning).

    I see those kernels as actual kernels sometimes, a seed. Some generations pass the actually seed down from generation to generation. They don't do much with it other than protect it and preserve it. Once in a while someone is given that seed and actually plants in the dirt it to see what grows. If the seed has truely been preserved well a plant grows and you have a new seed from that new plant to pass on. It gets passed on until the next guy says, "Maybe I should plant this and see what grows?" Sadly sometimes the seed gets planted and nothing grows because the seed is dead or close to it. Then you have to decide what to do with the dead seed. You can try to add something else to it to see if it grows or you can just leave it in the ground and move on to something else.

    Sorry to stray from the topic a little bit. I would say once you do start to carry weapons on a daily basis as a career your mentality changes and evolves more like what Kit talks about (or at least it should if you are really training correctly and are aware of your job description). It is very eye opening and once you do you see all kinds of new information that has been been there all along. Koryu are pretty cool.
    Christopher Covington

    Daito-ryu aikijujutsu
    Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu heiho

    All views expressed here are my own and don't necessarily represent the views of the arts I practice, the teachers and people I train with or any dojo I train in.

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    Seed is better, on a number of levels...

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    Kit, no doubt you are talking about esoteric knowledge…

    And thanks Christopher for helping. Maybe I should have expressed myself better. The carrying of weapons may not be necessary on a day to day base but I feel being sanctioned to use violence is.

    In that way you will be exposed to situations those not sanctioned to use violence are not. This is experience. On a very basic level, mid-seventies I was training in a dojo in which some police-officers were training also. Mind you, it was in Holland which was/is a lot different from the USA. These guys had hardly any facilities and were training jujutsu to keep in shape and do something. They were not very technically but some of them had seen a lot of action so they made things work for them.
    No bs stories or bs techniques for them, they knew better. This is a very simple example of what, I feel, this post is for a part about.

    Christopher, since you brought up Katori Shinto ryu. This might be an answer to one of my points. In case Otake sensei himself and his teachers have not been military men or police-officers (I do not know) and Draeger was a military man (which he was) it might have been Draeger’s input that has been vital to the ryu.

    Well, before I make too many friends I want to get to some other points.

    About being valuable to the ryu, I understand that koryu teachers need to pay the rent for the training-facilities so in that case it becomes rather easy to become valuable to the ryu. But why pester a lot of people worldwide with discussions if all you have to do is put up the bucks?

    I think it was Ellis who has written about degeneration in koryu. Loss of skills and knowledge can be seen as degeneration from one point of view (from inside a particular ryu). On the other hand if by changing circumstances the ryu adapts and starts to fulfill other needs it might it not be called adaptation?

    This is the specialization towards unarmed combat/ self-defense, bushi-knowledge/skills becoming available to the non-bushi. If you are not allowed to carry and use weapons, not being able to use them does not have to be lost knowledge.

    Adaptation does it occur on a conscious or sub-conscious level? (for lack of better expressing myself)
    On a conscious level I think it occurs when someone with full competence, knowledge and understanding of a ryu (say shihan) changes things.
    As an example of this Ellis has written about changing a kick in a kata since it was biomechanically not sound. This is I think an example of conscious adaption.

    What is an interesting question is ‘how did it become biomechanically not sound? ’ We have no way of knowing how the kick was executed centuries ago. But after generations of people working their whole lives in the fields, carrying heavy loads I wonder about the condition of their hip and leg-joints.
    Could this be a case of unconscious adaption and not merely degeneration? Degeneration setting in when circumstances changed?

    Koryu are indeed pretty cool.

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits

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    Default Old footage

    Quote Originally Posted by Kendoguy9 View Post
    I think a good example of this is Katori Shinto-ryu. I have some very old pre-War footage of Otake sensei's teachers and sempai doing the art at an embu. It looked a lot like the often criticised (or at least it was at one time) Sugino branch. It was slow, it lacked the agressive spirit we've come to expect from the Otake/Draegger era Katori Shinto-ryu.
    Just a footnote. It seems that this "agressive" expression of TSKSR waza existed in the generation prior to Otake Shihan, as this old film of Hayashi Shihan (Otake's teacher) demonstrates:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=XiqcmntUi-8

    No more annoying...

    (Sorry for my english)
    Last edited by Wakimono; 17th February 2012 at 13:26.
    No weapons? Not martial.

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    Your English is just fine. Thank you for that clip. I have a feeling that the video is sped up from the original speed. They are moving way too fast. Besides, moving quickly does not mean agressive. I would not say that these guys are slouches just that they don't have the intensity and agressive spirit that I see in Otake sensei and Draeger sensei. Maybe I am partial. As Johan mentioned Draeger was former military. I think Otake sensei was supposed to be a kamikaze pilot just before the war ended. This could be why they were able to do what they did with Katori. I've heard Draeger sensei could even make iaido seiteigata look deadly! This goes back to Kit's posts about training in the weapons based environment and functioning in that environment. It shapes the mind and body a certain way.
    Christopher Covington

    Daito-ryu aikijujutsu
    Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu heiho

    All views expressed here are my own and don't necessarily represent the views of the arts I practice, the teachers and people I train with or any dojo I train in.

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    I agree with Christopher. The film is wonderful and indeed Sugino looked a lot like them. I always thought the difference between Otake en Sugino was found in the fact that Sugino learned Katori Shinto ryu under the koryu section of Kano's Kodokan. And he would be influenced by Kano and maybe that accounted for the difference ( less agressive style ).

    But it appears to be another thing altogether.

    Koryu are pretty cool.

    Happy landings,

    Johan Smits

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    May be you're right, for me it's a too long shot to see the actual "intensity" of the participants; you have better eye than me...
    No weapons? Not martial.

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    No new posts for a couple of days?
    Are we out of opinions?
    Are we giving in?
    Have we gotten all the answers?
    Nobody wants to contribute to this interesting thread anymore?



    Still happy landings to all of you.

    Johan Smits

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    Quote Originally Posted by johan smits View Post
    No new posts for a couple of days?
    Are we out of opinions?
    Are we giving in?
    Have we gotten all the answers?
    Nobody wants to contribute to this interesting thread anymore?



    Still happy landings to all of you.

    Johan Smits
    http://sdksupplies.com/001blog.html look down to the Feb 20 post.

    Kim.

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