Distance-learning, seminars and study groups in koryu .... good idea or bad?

Discussion in 'Koryu Bujutsu' started by hendry, Feb 16, 2008.

  1. hendry

    hendry Valued Member

    It seems to me that the koryu arts that have decided to spread outside of Japan are doing so in two ways.

    A) The first way is with a branch dojo run by a fully qualified teacher who trained in Japan for many many years ...... for example Phil Relnick of Katori Shinto Ryu. These teachers will have teaching licenses and even menkyo kaiden (or equivalent).

    IMO this kind of arrangement is the next best thing to actually being in Japan.

    B) The other way I see koryu spreading is via some kind of "distance learning" approach. These involve some learning via seminars or occasional trips to Japan. The majority of the training is in so called "study groups" where the members just practice what they have learned ...... without a qualified teacher being present.

    In most of these "study groups" everyone will be pretty much equal. There is no-one with any teaching license. Sure maybe someone will be a bit more experienced and will become the de facto "group leader" ..... but that does not change the fact that there is no teacher and no contact with a real teacher except for seminars and maybe a trip to Japan.

    Arts which I see doing this include the mainline Kukishinden and also Daito Ryu.

    Is this second approach a good idea or not? Does the absence of a teacher mean it is like the blind leading the blind?

    Can the students in such a "study group" really be doing koryu?
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 19, 2008
  2. Kogusoku

    Kogusoku 髭また伸びた! Supporter

    Last edited: Feb 19, 2008
  3. ScottUK

    ScottUK More human than human...

    Wow, this is asking for a flaming - from both koryu bods and the ninjer peeps.
  4. hendry

    hendry Valued Member

    Here's a suggestion ..... why don't we get off the ninja stuff and look at the MAIN question of the thread ..... namely can you really be doing koryu if it's long-distance or as part of a "study group"?

    Could we do that?
  5. Kogusoku

    Kogusoku 髭また伸びた! Supporter

    We're going to have a compromise here, rather than my first instinct which was to just close the thread outright. Bear in mind though, it was you who mentioned the "ninja stuff!"

    The last two paragraphs of your posts have been removed, and as you have suggested, a discourse on the viability on distance learning in koryu can now be conducted.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2008
  6. ScottUK

    ScottUK More human than human...

    Four options:

    1. Study in Japan with the top boys
    2. Find an authorised teacher outside of Japan and train with them
    3. Train with the top boys from Japan (or outside of Japan) when you have the opportunity
    4. Don't bother - stick to the local McDojo 10 minutes away

    Any of the first three is 'studying koryu', as far as I am concerned.

    Option 4 is preferred by some people - for reasons that are waaaay beyond my tiny mind.
  7. pgsmith

    pgsmith Valued dismemberer

    Here is where I think your main misconception lies. I have been a member of two different koryu study groups. While it is harder than working every week with a qualified instructor, it is possible. You can't do it with "seminars and maybe a trip to Japan." It requires pretty regular feedback on what you're doing and how you're doing it. It takes more than seminars and one trip to Japan to acquire that feedback. I think you'll find that with anyone seriously engaged in a study group, there will be regular trips to a qualified instructor for feedback, as well as regular trips to Japan, or visits by Japanese instructors. Anyone that isn't doing these things is not serious about learning a koryu, and will not be able to truly do so.

    Just my opinions on it though.

    I have to add a postscript ... I agree completely with Scott in that it isn't worth worrying about. You do it or you don't. Those that over-analyze are obviously not training enough. :)
  8. Langenschwert

    Langenschwert Molon Labe

    Sure, why not? As long as you're getting regular feedback from a qualified instructor. It's not optimal, but they wouldn't be the only swordsmen in history to be studying under less than ideal circumstances.

    In WMA, groups like ARMA have shown this approach works, and can work very well. The key is diligence. There can be excellent study groups and sloppy ones. Don't be part of a sloppy study group. ;)

    Best regards,

  9. hendry

    hendry Valued Member

    While I don't doubt that you can get good at the movements in this way, is that enough?

    I was under the impression that there was something more to koryu than the physical movements and the catalog of techniques ..... something that you can only get by being immersed in it.

    I could be wrong ..... this is just my impression from what I have read. Hence the reason for my question.
  10. pgsmith

    pgsmith Valued dismemberer

    Yes and no ...
    It's sort of hard to explain koryu to someone that has never practiced. Most non-participants tend to either see them as some cult that feeds you colorful koolaid drinks while you undergo strange mental and physical torture, or as a smorgasbord of "techniques" that you can learn for any and every situation. In actuality, they are simply a highly evolved training regimen to build a particular physical response in the body. The "techniques" that you are trained in are not supposed to be actual responses to a particular attack. They are specific movements designed to train your body to respond properly. The need for one-on-one instruction comes in to ensure that you are actually training correctly. If you do something incorrectly, you miss a vital part of what you're supposed to be learning. By only getting intermittent feedback, it means that your training has to progess more slowly, and you spend more time correcting errors.

    These are also the reasons that people always say that you can't learn properly from videos or books.
  11. Kogusoku

    Kogusoku 髭また伸びた! Supporter

    One of the biggest pitfalls of seminar & study-group (Kenkyukai et al) based koryu learning is the internalization of techniques and habits in the ryuha, the ryuha's mindset, the learning of culture and history that formed the ryuha and other factors, such as linguistics all play a vital part in studying a koryu.

    Unless direct contact with the honbu dojo of the ryuha is maintained and a committed effort is made to study, train and teach the ryuha as it is taught, exactly, then there are going to be problems in transmission of such martial traditions.

    For one of the ryuha I studied, I had to go and research into what a yagura was, how it was built and other processes since it one of the kata in the ryuha's densho includes yagura in it's name. After that was done, I could then, fully understand the kata and the image the founder had for the technique via it's name.

    These are indispensible parts of koryu learning that you have to travel to Japan for, if not live there for a good amount of time.

    If you are unable to do that, go and train with a student of the ryuha who is currently studying and training under the soke/shihan of the ryuha and train as much as possible. When you are trained up and can perform the techniques to an acceptable level and are thought of as suitable, then you may or may not be invited to accompany your teacher to learn the tradition with his/her teacher.

    However if that student is running a study group, where the ability to attend seminars on that particular ryuha are made available, you should count yourself very fortunate.

    This essay by Diane Skoss illustrates the difficulties of learning a koryu outside of Japan
  12. pgsmith

    pgsmith Valued dismemberer

    I had forgotten about that particular article. Ms. Skoss is much more articulate than I! :)

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