Koryu: Techniques only

Discussion in 'Koryu Bujutsu' started by Graham, Jul 8, 2012.

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  1. Graham

    Graham Valued Member

    Occasionally people have told me that they are studying such and such a koryu. Often they have no contact with the hombu etc and what they mean is that they are learning the kata, but not the culture of the ryu.

    I suspect that this way, learning koryu waza, is more common than actually being in a koryu. Is this the next best thing to learning in a koryu? Or just kata collecting? Any thoughts.
  2. ScottUK

    ScottUK More human than human...

    No contact with hombu means no contact with someone who actually understands the ryu, the techniques (waza, bunkai and riai) and the mindset.

    Therefore pointless.
  3. Sketco

    Sketco Banned Banned

    If you're talking about learning only the martial aspect and not the history then I see no problem. If learning a martial art is the goal that can be accomplished without history lessons.

    Take boxing and wrestling. Plenty of efficacy, plenty of history, but only what is useful is taught. If students want to go learn that stuff they can do it themselves.
  4. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    Not really.

    Each ryu-ha is a living tradition with its own intricacies, making the comparison with boxing is a little off IMO. I'm not knocking Boxing in any way simply saying that it's not the best comparison.

    The martial aspects are entwined with the history and the culture of the ryu-ha they are not separate areas that can be discarded.

    The way these systems are transmitted are what has allowed them to survive for such a long time, each one of these systems is a singular entity with its own traits and flavour.

    The waza are one area but to understand it you need initiation, for want of a better term, into the other areas. Being taught the techniques at one level does not mean you understand how they fit in with the rest if the school at a higher level of learning, nor does learning a kata mean that you understand its purpose.

    This is why as Scott pointed out you need that connection to the ryu-ha and those who have been authorised to transmit it.

    It may all seem odd to some but the propagation and integrity of the ryu-ha are of great importance and this includes transmitting the aspects of it which make up its core or its essence.

    You don't study Jujutsu or Kenjutsu when you study a particular ryu-ha you study a ryu-ha which contains those skills sets, if that makes sense?
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2012
  5. Sketco

    Sketco Banned Banned

    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  6. Sketco

    Sketco Banned Banned

    Many other martial arts have done so. I think boxing and wrestling are perfect examples because they have discarded the historical teachings as being necessary even though they have a rich history. I would agree that the history is only necessary insofar as it teaches you what the art can do and what it cannot do. Understanding that a ryu come from battlefield techniques and the kind of battlefield helps with that but beyond there is no point beyond it being a history lesson.

    Which is really nothing different to any other martial art.

    I will agree with the last bit about the kata, that is a failing in combative instruction. How it fits in a higer level of learning is understanding the context within which the techniques can be used.

    That's just making sure you have a good teacher. If they are qualified but not authorized I would still learn from them. It's the skill that makes the martial artist, not the paper.
    Which is the fighting techniques.

    History is only integral to martial arts as far as knowing when to use certain skills or items. That falls under military strategy.

    Martial arts is about victory in combat. All else is irrelevant. As an example knowing the context of the founding and historical use of daito-ryu would help understanding when and how techniques and weapons could be useful. Knowing the name of the man who founded it would not.

    Victory is all that matters.
  7. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool Spes mea in nihil Deus MAP 2017 Moi Award

    In koryu, propagation of the ryu is what matters, we dont fight on battlefields with archaic weaponry anymore, so for the most part change isnt needed, and in fact will dilute what you are learning.

    A great example of this is the bujinkan.
  8. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    The idea with studying a Koryu is the preservation of the tradition, keeping the essence of the ryu-ha and it's history in intact.

    Boxing and wrestling are also poor examples in so much that when dealing with koryu you have to focus on the ryu-ha and not necessarily the skill sets.

    Boxing and wrestling refer to a generic skill set when you think about it, how many schools of boxing have an unbroken line going back a few hundred years?

    With regards to the history in goes deeper than simply knowing where it came from. Terminology can indicate a lot even down to the specific kanji used for a technique, clothing worn, sword furniture and more all have a part to play.

    What is different is the connection that is there with the past and that where possible how much has been preserved. To go back to the boxing analogy how many gyms are in existence which still teach in the same manner, or as close as possible, to how boxing was taught a few hundred years ago?

    How many of them maintain the link between teacher and student so that the art can be passed on and maintained?

    I don't mean boxing generally I mean specific gyms.

    Let's imagine the head of Bob's Boxing in London decides he feels his method is important and doesn't want to adjust for the rest of the competition world or any new rules that may come in or even anything else, he wants his Boxing to remain as it is.

    He restricts his teaching so that he can vet those who come through the front door and he makes various notes on his training methods and what he feels is important. Bob gets old and realises his twilight years are upon him, no vampires please, and picks one of his students to pass on his method and keep his school intact. He passes on his notes and strict instructions on what should be maintained his student with a great feeling of obligation tries to meet this responsibility to its fullest. He then in turn does the same, finds a student to pass everything on to so as to maintain the gym, it's methods and teachings as best as possible and so on and so on.

    It's not a failing in instruction it's in many cases because the student isn't told the why of what they do until latter on, it is not a failing it is very deliberate for various reasons. This is why the connection with the ryu-ha is important.

    This is where I think you miss the idea behind a koryu. One of the main foci of a ryu-ha is the continuation and protection of that ryu-ha. Some of these systems have "paper work" and other teachings going back hundreds of years, in some you can literally look at a headmaster's written word and see what he feels is important, what the ryu-ha should do or even how many times a day a student should train in a specific technique.

    I agree it is making sure you have a good teacher but the paper in this instance is very important. If you are not part of the ryu-ha to begin with then you won't be qualified to teach.

    Not necessarily. Fighting waza can and do change depending on the time frame or what a headmaster may feel is important but each headmaster is ensuring that the essence of the ryu-ha remains intact.

    Also a ryu-ha does not teach technique per se it uses them to transmit concepts, mindset and a specific method of movement.

    I think you need to read a little on Koryu as the rest of this discussion will prove futile, we'll just be talking past each other.

    Thank you though for the chat but I do think you are missing the point slightly, it may sound elitist but I don't think you can look at koryu as you would do other arts, their focus and methods are rather different.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  9. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member


    Anyone making any change better bloody well know what they are doing so as to not stray away from what makes the ryu-ha what it is.
  10. Sketco

    Sketco Banned Banned

    What you said about boxing is not a weakness but a strength. Those that change and adapt survive and remain strong. The purpose of martial arts is winning. Passing on tradition doesn't mean a thing if you can't use it. Victory is all that matters and history is only and aid to that. You may say i am unjustly applying the same yardstick to all martial arts, I say it is the only yardstick which matters.

    We have had this discussion before Dean. Victory is all that matters. If you can win without history, without culture, and without tradtition, then none of those things matters. They are only significant insofar as they aid victory.
  11. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member


    We are discussing Koryu.

    Historical arts with an importance on maintaining the tradition and substance of the system.

    Yes in Boxing that would be a strength but in this case as the purpose of the ryu-ha today is different to that of Boxing then the conditions do not apply. So it becomes a weakness as the ryu-ha is diluted and eventually ceases to be what it is, going against one of its most integral functions.

    As Fusen said it is not very likely that we will find ourselves in mortal combat against a Naginata or in a sword fight.

    Yes you are trying to apply the same yard stick and it really doesn't matter as it's irrelevant because the purpose of a koryu is the perpetuation and maintenance of the koryu.

    You may feel that way about martial arts and great that's down to you, it applies to many systems, but it really does not apply in this case. This is why I said you can't look at Koryu in the same manner.

    It's a bit like arguing that a motorbike is faulty because it can't pull a caravan.

    Or perhaps saying the Sistine Chapel should just have a couple of coats of Dulux on it as it'll be a bit more functional in today's world.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  12. ScottUK

    ScottUK More human than human...

    Proven by:

  13. Sketco

    Sketco Banned Banned

    Except that in this case it is a caravan you're trying to pull.

    The point of martial arts is combative proficieny, nothing else. That is the only yardstick that matters.

    You may not fight with older weapons, true but they could preserve that knowledge for the time when it could be necessary to again. But even in that circumstance the history is only necessary insofar as it achieves the goal of combative victory. Knowing tactics and circumstances for using those tactics, techniques ans weapons is important history. Knowing the names of those who founded the system is not.

    Practicality Dean, practicality.
  14. Sketco

    Sketco Banned Banned

    Except that in this case it is a caravan you're trying to pull.

    The point of martial arts is combative proficieny, nothing else. That is the only yardstick that matters.

    You may not fight with older weapons, true but they could preserve that knowledge for the time when it could be necessary to again. But even in that circumstance the history is only necessary insofar as it achieves the goal of combative victory. Knowing tactics and circumstances for using those tactics, techniques ans weapons is important history. Knowing the names of those who founded the system is not.

    Practicality Dean, practicality.
  15. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member

    If that is the case then you get something suited to purpose and do not try and make something fit that doesn't.

    However this is where I said we would talk past each other. You can say all you like that MA is about Y but that really is not the case with all MA and isn't really the case as far as a koryu goes.

    Of course combative viability is important but it tends to be encapsulated within the tradition and methods of transmition.

    So at the end of the day you really shouldn't of been trying to pull that caravan to begin with because that isn't necessarily the goal of these traditions.

    Kyudo, Kendo?? A focus on combative proficiency there?

    Again it is the measure that matters in your opinion. Now combative proficiency is of course important but that will purely relate to the context it is supposed to be used in. I'm not going to use a Yari for self defence as it would not be appropriate however the same goes for actually using it on the battle field, highly unlikely I'll be doing that too.

    The ryu-ha, for the most part, formed at times when these skills were used the guys back then would of had a much better grasp I would think on what made those systems tick than many of us do know. However many of thoe systems a simple not appropriate for today.

    I'll say it again the purpose of the ryu-ha is the propagation and protection of the teachings of the ryu-ha, the purpose of the student is the same. We all have our personal reasons for study but if we are not doing our part to ensure the continuity of the school, that includes everything not just cherry picking what we think is useful, then we should not be studying and are not meeting our obligations.

    You keep saying about the founder's name which I find a little odd, do you think that is all I'm on about? With some systems the founder is unknown or a best only a rough guess but that doesn't mean that everything associated with the school is not protected and transmitted in someway.

    It's the idea of these being a living tradition that is one of the key points of this thread, now that will include everything that the various headmasters have felt is important whilst sticking to the principles of the ryu-ha.

    The flow of the ryu from the past to now.

    Some ryu-ha contain poems, written works or specific scenarios from their culture and time that are considered important. These are all transmitted to the relevant people.

    You can talk all you want about being strong and practicality but at the end of the day it is the headmasters of the ryu-ha that dictate its purpose and focus nobody else. If they say it is X then it's X, it's their ryu-ha nobody else's.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  16. Sketco

    Sketco Banned Banned

    I get your point. The koryu are not martial arts schools. Though they include martial arts they include a multitude of information truly unnecessary to martial arts.
  17. ScottUK

    ScottUK More human than human...

    Errrr. the point has been well and truly missed.
  18. Kobudo

    Kobudo Valued Member

    In relation to 'no contact with Honbu' I don't see that as an issue necessarily, providing the person you are learning from has learned from someone who knows the kata properly and the ryu, and so on, in this day and age so many people have moved from org to org or gone indi, that there are people with a large knowledge base but no longer any contact with Hombu. As long as you can trace the instruction line to someone with the relevant knowledge I think you are ok.

    Koryu can't be compared with boxing or other MA as the traditions are completely different, kata are made up of multiple components, physical and mental, many concepts are at play that aren't openly obvious, unless you have someone to guide you there is no way to tell what is important just by watching or learning the physical movements.

    This is why some people find Hatsumi difficult to follow, as he may show the same kata at different times, different places, and it looks completely different even though it's the same kata, this is because he is passing on the important element of the kata, not just a collection of techniques.

    This sounds very elitist, but kata CANNOT be learned outside of proper tuition, even when you've learned a basic kata to a good degree you will still add to your notes for years to come as you develop and learn other things later on that you can relate back to the same kata, as you gain a better understanding of the non-physical elements of Koryu you will deepen your understanding of each kata - this has to come from guided teaching.

    If you want to take only the techniques, that is fine and you will still gain benefit, the same as any other MA where you just train techniques, but you should not consider yourself to be learning Koryu as you are missing a large amount of fundemental elements by only concentrating on the physical.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  19. Kobudo

    Kobudo Valued Member

    No, Koryu are schools of martial arts.

    But, they are also living traditions, so are very different to your average western martial art school.

    Boxing, MMA, etc are very effective, and only continue with things that are usefull, efficient, etc.... You have many trainers at any one time, with many ideas, all have an influence in what is passed down to their students, their students then do the same, and you have many more ideas and opinions passed down.

    In koryu, preserving the school is important, it is everone within the school's responsibility but is guided by the current soke, it is their ryu, they may decide to drop something if it is deemed of no use they may add new ideas if they think it will benefit the school, but rather than the more modern MA mentioned above, only they can make these decisions, everyone else follows them.

    It may be that a koryu school's original main focus was something like bow and arrow, while we don't tend to use these in battle any longer, the techniques would not be discarded as no longer useful, as they are fundemental to the school's being.

    As was mentioned previously, there is also a large amount of non physical information within a school that is just as important to those learnig as the physical techniques, how to conduct yourself, your purpose in life, proverbs, etc.... A living tradition means that you must be open to learning these things and becoming a part of the history yourself.

    While a boxer could say that etiquette is not important to their art as will not help them knock out an oponent, a koryu practitioner will tell you etiquette is very important, as in the time their school comes from you could die as easlily from being rude as you could from attacking someone - it's all important, but there are different levels of importance depending what you do.

    For those who just want techniques, koryu is probably not the right place to learn them, but that's fine, everyone trains for different reasons...
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  20. afhuss

    afhuss Valued Member

    If there is no contact with honbu and the teacher has recieved menkyo kaiden there should be no problem. If the teacher does not have at least some licenses I would be concerned with legitimacy.
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