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Thread: Is Budo An Anachronism In The 21st Century?

  1. #16
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    Chris - re "back engineered," I think Ed was referring to HEMA. Some have done some pretty remarkable resurrections, but they have the problem that one "doesn't know what one doesn't know." I was crossing weapons with a HEMA teacher--we were discussing what to do when hand-guards get tied up, and I said/did, "why don't you guys do this?", Doing a move that was obvious to me. He was amazed (not by me, by the technique) because it fit so well. But it wasn't in their texts. There's a real possibility that it was part of long-sword technique in the West as well, but without a record and without a living record, they didn't know. OTOH, 95% of all the resurrected dagger work I've ever seen looks like Philipino stuff. There's an extant (unbroken lineage) stiletto system from Italy - looks nothing like East Asian stuff at all. Really fascinating, actually.

    But then again, to your point and ruffled hakama, there definitely is back engineering in koryu as well, and in addition, innovation. I'm the obvious exponent of that, but lots of folks in the field think I'm a black sheep, at bes t (and non-Japanese, so I don't count). But I'm aware of lots of unconfessed examples. Of the top of my head, Tenjin Shinyo-ryu, Yagyu Shingan-ryu, Kashima Shinto-ryu, Kiraku-ryu, Anazawa-ryu, Masaki-ryu. There are lots more. In fact, it's likely that ALL extant jujutsu schools in Japan that take falls incorporated good ukemi from Kodokan judo, far better than what they had previously.

    Ellis

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  3. #17
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    I am new to online discussions. Maybe I am used to a different kind of discourse and maybe I am a little rough, or maybe both. Therefore, I apologize if my comments seem offensive. I do not mean to insult or hurt anyone.

    To Josh:
    First, I feel your arguments are way too general to respond to. I have already suggested breaking things down. “Any tradition is perforce anachronistic”, for example, is not only overwhelmingly general, but also suggests the backwards reading of history. For what Choisai, Hisamori (and Kamiizumi too) did was new, wasn’t it? So what tradition they were following? And if they were not following any tradition (=they did something new) then they were not anachronistic. Or were they?
    And I am serious when I say that although when we look backwards we see “continuity”, but for contemporaries the establishment of each and every new ryu could be seen as radical break from tradition (see for example what the former soke of Takagi ryu thought of HYR: http://www.takagiryu.com/e_nagare.htm . I think that what he says is very meaningful). I think it would be fruitful to ask whether this new ryu was following any tradition and in what way.
    And furthermore, not kidding either, one can say that no matter how close master and disciple are they are doing something radically different. Therefore, whether this disciple formally established a new ryu or not, tradition, at least in some sense, discontinued.
    Second, and related to the first, I think we should be careful not to see history as made of long pieces of one-and-the-same. The 16th and 17th centuries, for example, were very different (See examples below and my forthcoming discussion of Yoshin ryu).
    Third, I understand your passion for YSR. This is how it should be. However, as far as my ability is concerned I feel it would take me a life time of research to begin to imagine what it would have felt like “in the time of Kamiizumi”. I think it is also worth asking what Shinkage ryu meant to him and what it meant for Yagyu Munetoshi. Therefore, I find your statement hard to relate to.
    By the way, I understand your “primary” to mean that some Sengoku samurai did prepare for war through a study of a ryu. Maybe you can give examples?

    To Ellis:
    I think that the fact that samurai had to be “coerced” to train in a ryu through stipends, shows that (at least some) samurai did see ryu as anachronistic. Or, one reason for not practicing martial arts was due to viewing them as anachronistic (irrelevant?). It is quite possible, I feel, that there were samurai (few? many?) saw no value in studying a ryu. And I suspect that it wasn’t the technical validity alone which deterred them.
    I think the commentaries on the case of the 47 ronin support this view. And as I mentioned—the case of the 47 ronin. I remember many of them saying something like “why he [Asano] didn’t stab him [Akira]?” None of them said that “if Asano had only learned Toda ryu kodachijutsu”. From this I learn that these men, samurai of the highest status, didn’t see ryu as that relevant. “Why didn’t he stab him” shows, I think, that the use of kodachi (and by extension—of all other weapons) did not require a ryu study. These samurai were not bothered by the compatibility of techniques.
    And furthermore, none of them said that “a serious study in Toda ryu kodachijutsu would have instilled the necessary courage in Asano”. This tells me that, maybe they didn’t view ryu as anachronistic, but they didn’t think much of them either. For them the martial arts were not that relevant.
    Also to Ellis, that ryu “evolved” shows that at any one time there were many ryu (maybe most?) which were considered anachronistic. In all aspects.
    I wonder if “evolution” is the most suitable concept to use here. If I understand correctly the idea of “intangible cultural asset” then ryu as martial arts do not exist. And if they do not exist they cannot evolve. In this respect one can only talk about the evolution of one specific master. Or, you might be referring to ryu as an institution. In this case you could talk, for example, about the changing social roles of that institution. But you’ll have to differentiate the art from institution and define “institution”. Maybe ryu were not always institutions?
    One last point, I am quite surprised at your argument that “The only possible sense that it is anachronistic is if one focuses on a martial arts utility for modern warfare.” I disagree. See examples.

    I have many doubts. Maybe some of the readers would find those doubts interesting, or at least worthy of mentioning. So first I’ll give some general examples. However, the second part of my discussion would be very specific.

    Samurai views

    Samurai themselves might consider ryu, even their own ryu, anachronistic (at least partly). For example, for Kamiizumi esoteric practices (or the worship of Marishiten) were central to his kenjutsu (see David Hall’s PhD dissertation). But the Yagyu discontinued it. Why? We cannot tell.
    However, such esoteric practices were central to other early ryu too. The TSKSTR is maybe the most well-known example. But Takeuchi ryu, for example, also included (and still includes) many such practices (See, Takenouchi Toichiro, Shinden no bujutsu: Takeuchi ryu, pp. 29-32. Pay attention too, to how important those practices for Takeuchi ryu). Now, although such practices were central to (at least some) early ryu Edo warriors might look upon them as “superstitions”.
    This is, for example, how Shibukawa Bangoro Jiei, the fourth head of Shibukawa ryu viewed them. He spoke about them with such contempt that we understand that for him these practices were “the customs of the ignorant ancients”. (See Takatsuka Eichoku, Shinden bujutsu, p. 95. This is, by the way, an excellent book about the anachronistic practice of kuji).
    I think that “superstitious”, i.e. “the customs of the ignorant ancients”, could qualify as “anachronistic”. This is another piece of evidence which shows that ryu were not judged as anachronistic because of “technical differences with modern warfare”. In the 16th century (at least) this was obvious (here again, see Friday’s article). And furthermore, as I argue below, the whole purpose was to show, to declare, that martial arts were different (than even contemporary warfare). If “sword-saints” didn’t do so they would be suspected as upstarts and terminated, or otherwise, “conscripted”. They had to show clearly not only what they were not doing, but what it is they were—spiritual practice.
    Is it possible then, that the Yagyu discontinued these practices, which were (originally) central to their ryu, because they saw them as superstitions, i.e. anachronism?
    Furthermore, the Yagyu themselves “revised” their ryu, moving from armored kenjutsu to regular kenjutsu. But this move had to entail a change of tactics and theory too. That they also quit the worship of Marishiten etc. shows that the very aim of practice has changed. In other words, they found no value (or little value) in practicing-maintaining the old system as a whole (not only its armored techniques). Therefore, it’s not that the “techniques” were anachronistic but the very goals of practice.
    And one more example, Shibukawa Bangoro Jiei, in his 41 Articles makes quite clear that a very important feature of jujutsu practice, maybe even its main aim, is qi cultivation. He says nothing about “techniques”. From this I learn that he saw ryu which did not include qi cultivation as anachronistic (see Osano Jun, Shibukawa ryu jujutsu, pp.104-112). For Shibukawa Bangoro Jiei it was not a technical matter. It was a matter of value. He saw no value in practicing no-qi-cultivation jujutsu.

    And let’s not forget Kano. Contrary to Josh he didn’t feel that “studying Tenjin shinyo ryu was as relevant as when Akiyama Shirobe gave the Joden menkyo to Ooe Senbe Yoshitoki”. Not at all. That the techniques of TSR’s differed from those of modern warfare was, for Kano, a matter of no consequences. It was obvious as anything could be.
    But he saw TSR’s teaching methods (which he ridiculed), goals (which he dismissed), and values (which didn’t make sense to him) as anachronistic. For Kano all this just didn’t fit.

    And I dare say that because we live in such material cultures we are more inclined to see those things which are quantifiable, i.e. physical, “techniques”. But since we mostly see these things, we do not, and cannot see others.

    And now, let us attend to Kamiizumi’s shaved head.

    The Choisai Declaration(s)

    First, by going to Katori Shrine he was declaring that he renounced the world. Implication 1: “I hold different values than most other people. While their values make the world what it is, a mess (ran), I follow another path”. Implication 2: I am not involved in warfare (=not involved in politics). I do not threat anyone. And therefore, the martial art I am about to create would not, and should not, be used for warring.

    Is training with weapons in an age of war, but not for the purpose of fighting (=a luxury), anachronistic?

    Second, by dedicating himself to spiritual practice he was saying that he was following the ancient ways. The True ways. This was his path. In other words, Choisai’s values were anachronistic, or made him anachronism, and therefore all he did (=an expression of his values) was anachronistic (and therefore, for him, the KSR was anachronistic).
    While so much have changed in Japan (and changed for the worse, well, as far as Choisai saw it) the Katori Shrine, its priests and practices, could be seen to maintain a direct, uninterrupted, link with the past. They offered direct transmission to the past, so to speak. And the past was peaceful, and peace (at least this was the Ideal). The implication: “I, Choisai, follow the ancients. These are my values. In this sense I am anachronistic, and I am proud of it”.
    Third, by proclaiming divine revelation Choisai was actually declaring that he was connected not only to the historical past but to the Ultimate Past.
    The Japanese emperor was connected to Ultimate Past, the mythical age of the gods, through Amaterasu Omikami. Choisai’s link (=the Katori kami) was different, but in essence, it connected him with the same realm—the realm of the gods. He was therefore living as in the time of the gods, and teaching not a new way of fighting or a more efficient way to prepare for war(“martial arts”) but a new way of being(a new way for discovering the most original of states—being human). Living as people lived in the time of the gods, while existing way after access to that time (=gods’ realm) ended, is another expression of anachronistic values, or of being an anachronism.
    In this sense, all those who followed Choisai, and all those who follow him today, are anachronistic. It is a matter of values, not of weapons, or “techniques”. Choisai’s followers hold to anachronistic values, or find value where other people don’t. I think that they, like Iizasa Choisai Ienao before them, should be proud of it.

    Seen in this light, Kamiizumi shaved head is a declaration of exactly the same things. And so, all his followers are anachronistic. Be proud of it.


    The Hisamori Declaration

    While war was raging all over, existence was precarious and anxiety high Hisamori decided to leave Kyoto, move to the hilly Mimaska and dedicate himself to tantojutsu.
    I previously mentioned the price we have to pay. Now, I assume most readers here are men and that they live in relatively stable and affluent countries. Your starting point is better than that of Hisamori. Could you, then, just like that, tell your honey to pack up her stuff because “we are going to Mimasaka to do tantojutsu”?
    If you do such a thing please record it and post it on YouTube. It’s going to very interesting.
    Most never do such a thing. And most never did. That is why Hisamori was so special. And he could do such a thing, while most of us can’t, because he had different values.
    His first declaration: “I renounce this world. I leave the politics of Kyoto. I leave the world that distorted Kyoto. I go to Mimasaka, away from war (=politics). I make it clear that I do not pose a threat to anyone. Therefore, what I do, and about to do, would not, and should not, used for war”.
    He then started training. But this was no ordinary training, it was spiritually oriented, it was asceticism. In other words, his impetus for training was different, it was underlined by specific intention that made it, well, anachronistic.
    His second declaration, therefore: “I follow the ancient ways. My path is the same as that of the spiritual giants of the past, past that through their practice (which was an expression their values) was peaceful and peace”. In following the ancient ways (=non contemporary values) he was also anachronistic. And therefore, everything he did, and would do, was anachronistic.
    At first Hisamori trained with a sword. But then he switched to tanto. Sword is very clearly an instrument of war. Tanto, however, can be used in fighting (naturally), but it is not considered an instrument of war. Considering Thomas Conlan’s survey of battle injuries/deaths adds additional support to this view. For although two deaths (if I remember correctly) were caused by rocks not even one was caused by tanto (See Thomas Conlan, State of War). Focusing on tanto, therefore, was another way in which Hisamori was declaring to the world that what he was doing had nothing to do with (contemporary) war (=politics).
    And there is also the case of divine revelation. I mentioned above Takeuchi ryu’s esoteric practices. The reader should not imagine that these were merely another version of Zen meditation, aimed at “pacifying the mind”. For Takeuchi Toichiro explains that these practices had not one, but several purposes. One such purpose was communication with the god Atago (he even uses the word “communication”. See Shinden no bujutsu: Takeuchi ryu, p. 27-32). This shows that like Choisai before him, Hisamori was declaring that he was not connecting to the historical past alone, but to the Ultimate Past. He was stating his values—“my highest value is to live like people lived in the time of the gods”. And the time of the gods was different because people living then held different values. And he wanted to be like them. His values were anachronistic, his way of life was, therefore, anachronistic too. He was an anachronism. By definition.
    Hisamori was, like Choisai before him, teaching a new way path for being. Not new, more efficient, way of fighting. He wasn’t teaching “techniques”.

    Choisai and Hisamori bravery was much more than plain courage. They were not afraid to be different; they were not afraid to pay the price for being different. And they declared that unlike so many swords for hire, i.e. dispensable mercenaries, they were indispensable. And they were indispensable because they were human. Their “martial arts”, therefore, an offer to guide men on the path to regaining humanity.

    Cheers for all of Choisai and Hisamori’s followers!

    Dudi

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    Dudi - You are making a lot of assumptions. Wrong ones.
    1. You misunderstand Edo training of bushi. Samurai weren’t “coerced” to train. They were rewarded for continuing education. Every five years, I must prove I’ve taken 100 hours of training to maintain my counselor’s license. Certain courses are irrelevant to my current practice. Others bore me to tears. Others I already know. I don’t want to do it. I do it because of the reward (my license). Nothing anachronistic about any of it. Many of the ryu saw a financial opportunity. More techniques, more menkyo, more money for them as teachers. Many samurai saw the same – more menkyo, larger stipend.
    2. Actually, the only document that I know of that talks about Asano stabbing Kira was one I wrote, quoting the “anachronistic” Otake Risuke. As to them not saying “Why didn’t he study Toda-ryu kodachijutsu,” that’s as silly as my responding to a home-invasion by shooting at the guy and missing, only hitting him in the arm. I doubt very much anyone would say, “Why didn’t Ellis join Jeff Cooper’s “International Practical Shooters Confederation.” Instead, someone would say, “Ellis, why didn’t you shoot him in the head.?”
    3. On the other hand, your statement, “Why didn’t he stab him” shows, I think, that the use of kodachi (and by extension—of all other weapons) did not require a ryu study” is ignorant. (I don’t mean this as an insult – rather, as a fact). I infer from your statement that you do not have any experience studying kodachijutsu, and assume that simply stabbing someone would suffice in all cases, and that study of a ryu was a waste of time. In fact, Asano hadn't studied any ryu, other than heiho (military tactics). That was the problem, per Otake. Because he hadn't studied a ryu, he didn't know how to kill.
    4. That you assume samurai didn’t think much of ryu also is an inference contrary to evidence. That there were thousands of ryu and ten thousands of dojo indicates the opposite.
    5. You write: “Also to Ellis, that ryu “evolved” shows that at any one time there were many ryu (maybe most?) which were considered anachronistic. In all aspects.” You obviously know little about “most ryu.” (again, I’m not insulting you – I’m taking you at your word). If Takenouchi-ryu, the archetypal jujutsu ryu, added a lot of kata in the Edo period, and eventually, innovated so that they had shiai techniques as well, that doesn’t indicate that the ryu is anachronistic. It merely means that they kept up with the times, the opposite of anachronism. Other kata were retained as is because they were timeless – they were still sufficient, as is.
    6. You bring up “intangible cultural asset” – this is a post WWII concept, created by bureaucrats and politicians, not budoka. That some budoka went along with it was regarded BY TRADITIONALISTS as a “kiss of death.” They stated that by accepting the appellation, they were accepting the viewpoint that they were anachronistic, which they, the teachers of ryu, disagreed.
    7. You write that Yagyu Shinkage-ryu abandoned it’s esoteric practices – Oh really? I know quite a few YSR practitioners who would disagree.
    8. When you assert that some regarded esoteria as superstitious, you claim this is proof of anachronism? I am aware of other eminent teachers who would, based on experience, disagree. Perhaps that was true for Shibukawa Bangoro, but it's also possible that in doing so, he threw out vital training procedures and didn't replace them with other versions. That was Kano Jigoro's problem. As I note in HIPS, many factions of Yoshin-ryu pared away those "superstitious practices," and ended up losing the best, most powerful aspects of their ryu, and devolved into mere judo.
    9. You write:Shibukawa Bangoro Jiei, in his 41 Articles makes quite clear that a very important feature of jujutsu practice, maybe even its main aim, is qi cultivation. He says nothing about “techniques”. From this I learn that he saw ryu which did not include qi cultivation as anachronistic (see Osano Jun, Shibukawa ryu jujutsu, pp.104-112). For Shibukawa Bangoro Jiei it was not a technical matter. It was a matter of value. He saw no value in practicing no-qi-cultivation jujutsu.” First of all, Osano Jun is not a reliable authority – he’s a ryu collector, not a budoka. Secondly, what you just said proves nothing. The essence of Shibukawa's jujutsu was ki cultivation, but this was internal power—the engine that drives technique, not some kind of spiritual attainment. All he’s saying is what training is and should be for – in his ryu.

    Before I go on to your words on Kano, let me sum things up. You have, I believe, not trained in a classical ryu. You’ve read some texts, both in English and Japanese, and made inferences based on your assumptions. Your primary assumption is that innovation calls the ryu itself into question, but that makes no sense. It is one thing to say that a ryu maintained an anachronistic practice, but that doesn't prove that the ryu was anachronistic. If it exists, it’s not anachronistic, because people find value and accumulate social capital. Why was there a renaissance in enrollment in classical ryu pre WWII? Because they saw current utility in the practice, even though it wouldn’t directly enhance one’s ability to fire an anti-aircraft weapon to down a plane.

    Now, Kano. Yes, he viewed the ryu not only as anachronistic, but as anti-social. He wanted a system of modern physical education. Not only did he pare away “anachronistic” feudal practices, he also pared away or was ignorant of the depths of technical excellence that was inherent in many of the old ryu, because they were already lost (see HIPS again). That is why the Kodokan more or less freaked out when Ueshiba Morihei appeared in Tokyo, with techniques and internal strength that seemed to come from legend. The Kodokan concocted a fiction that Saigo Shiro also had those techniques (not born out by the evidence) – the implication being that one didn’t have to go to Ueshiba. “We have it too,” even though they didn’t.

    Finally, you mention Choiisai going to Katori shrine. You miss several fundamental points. He was over 60. So am I. I’m increasingly reluctant to do freestyle grappling, for example. Aches and pains. So he retired from politics. Aches and pains. But contrary to your assertion, he didn’t retire from life. He was a nyudo, not a priest. A nyudo is someone who continues to live in the world while having the privilege of not participating when he doesn’t want to. But his art was used for war, throughout it’s history. Otake Risuke has some beautiful things to say about “Heiho wa Heiho nari.” But the truth is, that’s just “Japanese budo boilerplate.” They all say things like that, while being prepared to stab you in the gut. (Remember, it was Otake who said to me that Asano should have done just that.). Look up Kanbei and Hanbei (KSR practitioners). Kamiizumi Ise no Kami - before he made Shinkage-ryu, he was a high ranking KSR practitioner, and fought in war.

    You are romanticizing Choisai as following “the ancient ways.” That’s Chinese thinking, perhaps, but not really Japanese. (I don’t know your nationality, but I am aware from what you wrote that you study Chinese arts). He did NOT dedicate himself primarily to spiritual practice. He used "spiritual" practice to develop a remarkably innovative methodology for practicing killing in all it’s aspects. (excepting firearms, which were not yet in Japan).

    And where did you get this fantasy that Japan was peaceful in its past? After the Nara period, Japan was in continuous war for well over 800 years. The Katori deity, by the way, was a war god.

    I’m honestly trying here – but I really had to struggle reading through your fantasy of Hisamori. You are so wrong you are not even wrong. You are imagining these men like Taoist sages, and they were anything but. “Sword is very clearly an instrument of war. Tanto, however, can be used in fighting (naturally), but it is not considered an instrument of war.” Kumiuchi, kogusoku—the tanto was the close combat weapon par excellence. As a shihan of Araki-ryu (a similar school to Takenouchi-ryu), I’m actually in a position to know. Hisamori made one of the great contributions to Japanese warfare combatives in his codification of close combat techniques. What he did was codify what was happening on the battlefield since time immemorial. Brilliant. Conlan’s research —well, his conclusions of other’s research—is flawed. What were examined were skeletons. The only wounds that would show are broken bones. Tanto slide through the flesh and often leave no trace on bones. So one wouldn’t see coup de grace, or slices to the carotid or femoral artery, or stabs to the heart from the back, blade horizontal between the ribs.

    So Hisamori socially isolated himself to train. I did the same. I abandoned my country and my life for 13 years all for training. And sacrificed a lot of things, including my families well-being in many respects. And then I came back, because my teacher stated that if you train for power and don't use it, you are a waste of life. Everything in my life since has been an application of Araki-ryu principles, even though I've, fortunately, never had to wield a weapon to achieve my aims.

    That most ryu had both moral exhortations and professed to train for a higher goal was not a rejection of politics, or of war. Many KSR and YSR and Takenouchi-ryu practitioners went to war, up through modern times.

    Karl Friday is correct that the ryu were not military "basic training." They were, originally, the concern of elite, and the original ryu were derived directly from battlefield methodologies. As society changed, the ryu did to. Up to present time. There are anachronistic practices and archaic feudal styles of thinking within ryu, but interestingly, those archaic practices is what make them relevant today. There is, for example, no need for oil painting any more. We can take photographs, and then photoshop them all kinds of ways. But oil painting is still vital and alive today. The examples are endless.

    The major problem is that you have a lot of book learning (and I'm sure, physical training in other things) but you've applied your own imagination to what the ryu are, based on, I believe, a Chinese model. Were I to assert the nature of Wudang monastery arts based on my understanding of Knights Templar, I'd probably be off the mark. You are in a similar place here.

    Ellis Amdur

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    Hi Ellis

    Thank you!

    Weren't you the one who wrote about the Chinese connection? Were the Japanese themselves not following Chinese models? Maybe, and I am not insulting you either, cannot see these connections, well, because of lack of book learning.

    .
    The "book learning" argument could be an argument if I was talking about techniques. Otherwise, it's just an Eastern way to stop discussion.

    Besides that, you are again overly general, while I was specific.

    "What they always say", who said it? Maybe "they" really say things and maybe not. Maybe some said and some didn't.

    Maybe you can give some examples of how samurai thought of their ryu. Maybe it was just "soccer" for them. Was it all about fighting and techniques?


    Because you train in a ryu you know better how things were 500 years ago? I don't mind. I really don't. But of course "book learning" makes me see things, well, the way I see them.

    I didn't say Hisamori didn't codify knowledge. I just said that the weapon he chose shows that he was making a statement. A declaration. Maybe tantojutsu was the most amazing way to fight. And maybe Hisamori was just interested in it. I go for the second.

    Takeuchi elaboration-- you again go back to techniques. You again go back to "fighting". Maybe Edo people didn't understand the true purpose of the ryu, and therefore focused on "fighting"? Maybe only a person who really practiced hard those specific practices could tell. Wouldn't you agree?

    what I wanted to show, mainly was that things were not black and white. And I think you agree with me.

    I am a little romantic. Aren't you?

    I am Israeli.

    Dudi

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    Yes, there was a Chinese connection, but it had nothing to do with what you imagine was the intent of Choisai and Takeuchi Hisamori. They were not sages, nor enlightened beings, and they were not people who 'left' the world, or rejected society or its values. They were practical men, focused on codifying fighting methodology, and esoteric training contributed to this. Takenouchi-ryu, Hisamori's ryu is very proud of an awards that their founder received from both the Emperor and shogun.
    I've written an entire book myself on koryu, focused on the role of ryu-ha at various points in history. Nowhere--and I do mean nowhere--is there any ryu that was an attempt to reunited with a mythic path of peace, and nowhere was any ryu a rejection of society and its values. Such an organization would have been extinguished by daimyo or the shogun as a threat to public order.

    I do more than train in a ryu. I am a lineal successor in two of them, and I have access to the core principles that make up those ryu. My assertion is that because you do not, you are misinterpreting the historical texts you read. I do know far better than most how people thought 500 years ago, because I was taught such values in an unbroken line and I am privy to texts and other information passed down from that time, taught generation to generation.

    No, I am not romantic, and I find no pleasure in creating realities as I want them to be. You state, "I didn't say Hisamori didn't codify knowledge. I just said that the weapon he chose shows that he was making a statement. A declaration. Maybe tantojutsu was the most amazing way to fight. And maybe Hisamori was just interested in it. I go for the second." That's contradicted by records of the ryu and by general history. Do you even know how Takenouchi used a tanto (properly called a kogusoku)? That it was a method much like that of a Komodo dragon--to slash open their arteries, moving quickly out of range to bleed out and then as they weaken, kill them. That it included techniques of pinning with the knee so the enemy is helpless and then one stabs him in the throat. That it includes surprise attacks, like pretending to greet them with respect, offering them tea, and then when they trustingly accept, pulling out a concealed tanto (actually called a kogusoku) and assassinating them. And that it was assiduously passed down, father to son, all the way to modern times. And yet, members of the ryu fought top people in the Kodokan to a standstill. They never socially isolated, never withdrew from the world (although they were on the run during the third generation after losing in one of the wars of the period).

    Ellis Amdur

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    I am still not convinced. I see things differently. But, as I mentioned in my other post, I appreciate your sharing. Thank you.



    Hope to see you on my discussion of internal power.

    Dudi

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dudi Nisan View Post
    I am new to online discussions. Maybe I am used to a different kind of discourse and maybe I am a little rough, or maybe both. Therefore, I apologize if my comments seem offensive. I do not mean to insult or hurt anyone.
    I am neither offended nor insulted, but I share Ellis's bemusement.

    To Josh:
    First, I feel your arguments are way too general to respond to. I have already suggested breaking things down. “Any tradition is perforce anachronistic”, for example, is not only overwhelmingly general, but also suggests the backwards reading of history. For what Choisai, Hisamori (and Kamiizumi too) did was new, wasn’t it? So what tradition they were following? And if they were not following any tradition (=they did something new) then they were not anachronistic. Or were they?
    Of course my arguments were generalized. We were talking in generalities. As to tradition and anachronism, I think you have missed my point.

    Kamiizumi starts something new (actually, he was working within inherited traditions, but let's just go with it for a moment): What he is doing is neither a tradition, nor anachronistic.

    450 years later, I am doing what he started: What I am doing is a tradition and anachronistic.

    Or, look at Sado. In Sen Rikyu's time, what he was doing was neither traditional nor anachronistic. It was simply a highly codified way of receiving and entertaining guests. (Entertaining not meant in the sense of "entertainment".) In your daily life, you could go to someone's house, and be served tea in just such a manner.

    Nowadays, if you go to a Japanese person's house, they'll give you cold tea from a plastic bottle in the refrigerator, or alternatively, fill up a teapot with hot water from a hot water dispenser and some leaves from a cannister. If you participate in a sado session (note that the phrase "tea ceremony" is an imperfect western calque; even in it's ritualized form it's not really a ceremony), it's because people found Rikyu's teachings relevant enough to pass on, even in these days of refrigerated tea in PET bottles and hot water from an electronic dispenser. It's traditional (it only survives by people consciously preserving the practice), and anachronistic (no one makes tea for guests that way in their daily lives anymore), but also clearly relevant to its practitioners, who feel that the practice gives them tangible benefits in their everyday life.

    It's the same with bugei ryuha.

    Third, I understand your passion for YSR. This is how it should be. However, as far as my ability is concerned I feel it would take me a life time of research to begin to imagine what it would have felt like “in the time of Kamiizumi”. I think it is also worth asking what Shinkage ryu meant to him and what it meant for Yagyu Munetoshi. Therefore, I find your statement hard to relate to.
    In all honesty, as you are not a practitioner, I don't expect you to be able to relate to it. To borrow from Ellis, that's not meant to be dismissive or a put down. My intention was to explain how I feel as a practitioner. Whether you believe it or not is up to you. In my mind it's not up for argument. And if you say that my statements are then useless in an objective discussion on the relative relevancy of koryu ryuha in the modern day, that's totally fair. It was perforce a subjective statement.

    As far as we go with what Shinkage-ryu meant to Kamiizumi and Munetoshi that is not quite such a leap. The historical record is both brief and informative. For example, we have Kamiizumi's writings -- a bare few, mind you, but we have them. Interestingly enough, the battlefield isn't mentioned in any of them. Soldiery isn't mentioned in any of them. Esoteric practices aren't described in any of them (I'll get to this in a minute). He talks about heiho bringing order to a chaotic world. He doesn't talk about the utility of Shinkage-ryu in warfare, he talks about how his students should also find students and teach them. He says, "Teach the lower levels to any student who has enthusiasm, but teach the higher levels only to people of sincerity." In the middle of a war, he leaves his lord and travels to Kyoto, where he settles down teaching Shinkage-ryu to nobles -- men who will never have the opportunity to use it in battle! So I feel on pretty firm ground in saying that Kamiizumi did not see his art in terms purely of combat utility, but as something that anyone could benefit from.

    For Yagyu Munetoshi, this is even more clear. We have numerous mokuroku and inka that he wrote. We have the Yagyu Family Constitution. We have his Heiho Hyakka. Again, his concern is not combat utility, but what people can gain through the training of Shinkage-ryu. He teaches Noh master Konparu Ujikatsu -- who has absolutely no need to learn how to fight! He retires to his secluded mountain village and studies heiho until he dies, long after he's in any condition to head to the frontlines. He dispatches his son to teach the Tokugawa lords -- men who have no need to learn personal combat skills. His most famous words are, "Train not to defeat other ryu, but to defeat today yourself of yesterday."

    None of this, by the way, is contradicting or inconsistent with a training paradigm based on sound combat principles. No more than the Army's ability to "make a man out of you" is inconsistent with sound combat principles. What we're kinda dancing around here is that bugei ryuha, back in the day and today, as well as sado for that matter, are disciplines. Whether new and innovative in the 16th century, old and anachronistic in the 21st, that is their ultimate character, and why we are still talking about them now.

    By the way, I understand your “primary” to mean that some Sengoku samurai did prepare for war through a study of a ryu. Maybe you can give examples?
    Ellis addressed this way up thread. They were a finishing school, not basic training. This is great insight from "Off the Warpath", because for a while a great many people believed they were. That's what I mean by "primary."

    Samurai themselves might consider ryu, even their own ryu, anachronistic (at least partly). For example, for Kamiizumi esoteric practices (or the worship of Marishiten) were central to his kenjutsu (see David Hall’s PhD dissertation). But the Yagyu discontinued it. Why? We cannot tell.
    You are operating off false premises here. First, the lone reference to Marishiten in Kamiizumi's writings are in the Empi scroll, in which he relates that his inspiration for Shinkage-ryu came after long training and dedication to her practices. That is it, and that is all. From that all we know is that he was an adherent to Marishiten (in addition to Zen and Shinto, both of which have as much or more reference in his writings). It is David Hall's assertion that this represented the prototypical "divine revelation" story, and his conclusion that it was central to his kenjutsu. Not everyone agrees. From the very same passage, 20th soke Yagyu Toshinaga interpreted it as saying that Kamiizumi claimed that Shinkage-ryu was his inspiration, that it sprang from his own heart, with the blessing of Marishiten, and thus rejected a "divine inspiration" story. Looking at the original, and compared with a similar passage in his inka-jo to Munetoshi (where Marishiten's influence is downplayed), I'm inclined to agree with Toshinaga. There are no other references to Marishiten in any Yagyu Shinkage-ryu historical document.

    But the Yagyu discontinued the practices! you say. Why would they? They worshipped Marishiten, too. 6th soke Yagyu Renya stored a densho in a personal Marishiten shrine 100 years after Kamiizumi died.

    Or as Ellis says,
    7. You write that Yagyu Shinkage-ryu abandoned it’s esoteric practices – Oh really? I know quite a few YSR practitioners who would disagree.
    Neither esoteric Buddhist practices, nor Zen practices, nor Shinto practices are the ryu. They are personal practices. They can inform the ryu. They may be used as guideposts or hints within the ryu. The ryu can certainly be influenced by founders' and/or later masters' personal experience with those practices. But they are not the ryu. And whether they in the ryu or not has very little to do with anachronism. Relevance, maybe.


    Is it possible then, that the Yagyu discontinued these practices, which were (originally) central to their ryu, because they saw them as superstitions, i.e. anachronism?
    They didn't discontinue their practices. They continued to practice them. As individuals. For centuries after Kamiizumi died.

    Furthermore, the Yagyu themselves “revised” their ryu, moving from armored kenjutsu to regular kenjutsu. But this move had to entail a change of tactics and theory too. That they also quit the worship of Marishiten etc. shows that the very aim of practice has changed. In other words, they found no value (or little value) in practicing-maintaining the old system as a whole (not only its armored techniques). Therefore, it’s not that the “techniques” were anachronistic but the very goals of practice.
    This is one of those areas where you are so wrong you are not even wrong. They didn't move from armored kenjutsu to regular kenjutsu. They added unarmored kenjutsu to their practice, and revised the old teachings accordingly, while keeping the old teachings. They did not quit worship of Marishiten. Some people worshipped her, others did not, as it ever had been. They aim of practice did not change. This is specifically said in the historical record. As in, "Armored, we do it like this, because of helmets and such. Unarmored, we do it like this, because we're not weighed down. It's the same thing." Thus, the idea that they found little or no value in maintaining the old system is false in its premise. The goals of practice did not change.

    And now, let us attend to Kamiizumi’s shaved head.
    What does this even mean? As far as anyone knows, Kamiizumi never became a lay priest.

    Is training with weapons in an age of war, but not for the purpose of fighting (=a luxury), anachronistic?
    And we come back to my original statement. Anachronistic doesn't mean "irrelevant." Is target shooting as a hobby anachronistic? Why would it be?
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, þonne he æt guðe gengan þenceð longsumne lof, na ymb his lif cearað. - The Beowulf Poet

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    In the same way I am not a practitioner you are not a practitioner of esoteric practices. So how do you know?

    But that you too resort to this "argument" make much of what you say sound like propoganda.
    You haven't convinced me.

    Dudi

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dudi Nisan View Post
    You haven't convinced me.
    That's not a problem.
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, þonne he æt guðe gengan þenceð longsumne lof, na ymb his lif cearað. - The Beowulf Poet

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    You are a cool guy!
    Dudi

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dudi Nisan View Post
    You are a cool guy!
    Dudi
    Thank you!
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, þonne he æt guðe gengan þenceð longsumne lof, na ymb his lif cearað. - The Beowulf Poet

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ellis Amdur View Post

    But then again, to your point and ruffled hakama, there definitely is back engineering in koryu as well, and in addition, innovation. I'm the obvious exponent of that, but lots of folks in the field think I'm a black sheep.
    Yes this kind of back engineering is what I mean, not re-creation. And I don't think it is necessarily bad, nor is it necessarily not in keeping with a ryu. They ALL changed, developed, evolved, added or deleted, etc. over the years. Indeed changing, adapting with the times while maintaining the fundamental elements and organization of the ryu so that informs the here and now, would make them anything but anachronistic, and in keeping with Dr. Friday's view that they were finishing schools, "masterclass" training as it were.

    Using a matchlock today is anachronistic. Heck, WWII era handgun shooting methods are anachronistic, though they hang on in some quarters. Yet there are things to be learned from those methods, and even moreso from the experiences of the men who used them that were passed on in the teachings that could inform and improve modern practice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ellis Amdur View Post
    Chris - re "back engineered," I think Ed was referring to HEMA. Some have done some pretty remarkable resurrections, but they have the problem that one "doesn't know what one doesn't know." I was crossing weapons with a HEMA teacher--we were discussing what to do when hand-guards get tied up, and I said/did, "why don't you guys do this?", Doing a move that was obvious to me. He was amazed (not by me, by the technique) because it fit so well. But it wasn't in their texts. There's a real possibility that it was part of long-sword technique in the West as well, but without a record and without a living record, they didn't know. OTOH, 95% of all the resurrected dagger work I've ever seen looks like Philipino stuff. There's an extant (unbroken lineage) stiletto system from Italy - looks nothing like East Asian stuff at all. Really fascinating, actually.

    But then again, to your point and ruffled hakama, there definitely is back engineering in koryu as well, and in addition, innovation. I'm the obvious exponent of that, but lots of folks in the field think I'm a black sheep, at bes t (and non-Japanese, so I don't count). But I'm aware of lots of unconfessed examples. Of the top of my head, Tenjin Shinyo-ryu, Yagyu Shingan-ryu, Kashima Shinto-ryu, Kiraku-ryu, Anazawa-ryu, Masaki-ryu. There are lots more. In fact, it's likely that ALL extant jujutsu schools in Japan that take falls incorporated good ukemi from Kodokan judo, far better than what they had previously.

    Ellis
    Yes Sir. I was referring to HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts)
    Ed Boyd

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    Hi guys

    As I mentioned I still have some doubts.
    I do not know of a war painting which shows warriors fighting with tanto(kogusoku). And I do not know of description of kogusoku fighting in the war Chronicles. Maybe someone can point such evidence?

    Conlan based his research on reports too. In them warriors described how their comrades died. But I don't remember a kogusoku report.
    So I really wonder whether we can be sure that Hisamori codified battlefield experience. The current techniques, principles etc, can be said to make sense, be effective etc, according to specific standards. But this in itself is not a proof that this is how people fought.

    Some katori warriors might have gone to war. But so did some Buddhists. That doesn't mean that Buddhism allows killing.

    And finally, that Kano viewed koryu as anachronistic is no small thing. Was he the only Japanese ever to hold this view?

    Thanks

    Dudi

    K

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    Maybe this is off topic. I'm not sure but sometimes in some koryu I think the bunkai taught for some waza is a lie. It didn't make sense and I am not sure why these bunkai were attached to the waza. An Example was an okuden tachi waza from MJER called Sodome. What this and a lot of waza seemed to be to me were technique that were very difficult to do correctly. If you could master the core skills in these waza it would make everything else better.

    Given the bunkai scenario we were taught in Sodome I would never return the sword to the saya. But if you can do those successive redraws well you have developed some great core skills from the waza. I could never see these as combat moves per se but they were difficult to do right.
    Ed Boyd

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