Why didn't all koryu evolve between 1600 and 1868?

Discussion in 'Koryu Bujutsu' started by hendry, Jan 11, 2008.

  1. hendry

    hendry Valued Member

    Why didn't all individual koryu evolve between 1600 and 1868?

    ok ... this is a bit tricky for me to phrase so please bear with me.

    I'm curious how come many koryu ryuha didn't change after the start of Edo period? In other words ..... how come a lot of koryu were still practicing battlefield training and weapons that were probably obselete during the Edo period?

    I can understand why people NOW train koryu the way they were before 1868 .... there is clearly value in preserving the culture and history now that the samurai era is gone.... when these arts don't have to be used.

    But between 1600 and 1868 there WERE still samurai .... and I'm sure the koryu were still used and needed ..... but why did many of them still continue to train with long polearms and in armour for example?

    Weren't these things obselete? And if so, why did many koryu willingly train in things that were obselete even during the feudal era? How and why did those pre-Tokugawa techniques survive the 300 years?

    Were they doing it for historical or cultural reasons even then? Were they thinking forward to posterity and predicting a post-Edo Japan where arts like koryu would be valuable for historical reasons?

    Once again .... I can fully understand why people train in things that could be considered "obselete" today, when we have the luxury of doing so ..... but why did they do so back in the days when it could have been risky? How could they afford that inefficiency?
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2008
  2. pgsmith

    pgsmith Valued dismemberer

    I was trying to understand just what your question was, but I think I've figured out where you are confused by this single line. This line shows a misunderstanding of Japanese history. Here is the background you are missing in a (very small) nutshell ...
    Once the unification of Japan was accomplished in the year 1600, the Tokugawa bakufu undertook a number of steps to ensure that his rule as Shogun was uncompromised. The two major points that bear upon your question are the fact that firearms were outlawed, and every major Daimyo was required to spend half of his time in the new capital (Edo). The requirement to spend time in the capital meant that each Daimyo still needed quite a number of retainers. The outlawing of firearms meant that any fighting was done in the same manner as it had been prior to the Sengoku Jidai. This firearm ban wasn't rescinded until the United States forced the opening of Japan which touched off the Meiji era. The ban is the reason that we still have the koryu to study today.

    Hope that helps ...
  3. Toby Threadgill

    Toby Threadgill Valued Member


    To add to what Paul provided, koryu did evolve and significantly during the relative peace that ensued during the Edo Period. What have you read that makes you conclude that Nihon budo did not evolve during this era?

    As an example, compare a majority of the tactics and techniques employed in a school like Araki ryu with those of say....Yoshin or Kito ryu. Also consider the emergence if iaijutsu.

    It may have been rather slow due to the restriction of firearms and influence from outside Japan but there was plenty of evolving going on....

    Toby Threadgill / TSYR
  4. hendry

    hendry Valued Member

    Sure Nihon budo DID evolve .... but I was talking about individual ryuha .... not budo as a whole.

    Probably my fault for phrasing my post poorly.

    This is precisely my point!!!

    Yoshin Ryu and Kito Ryu were 'new' ryuha weren't they? Designed to deal with the realities of Edo era combat ...... which meant such things as no more battlefields, no armour etc.

    Same for Itto Ryu kenjutsu ..... it was a 'modern' creation also aimed at the realities of Edo period unarmoured sword fighting.

    My question is this ...... why did it require the creation of NEW ryuha to deal with the realities of Edo fighting? Why didn't the older koryu .....like Katori Shinto Ryu, Araki Ryu, Takenouchi Ryu etc .....themselves change?

    It seems puzzling to me that schools like Araki Ryu etc. didn't gradually morph THEMSELVES into arts more similar to the ones created during the Edo era. They had 300 years to transform ........

    Don't get me wrong .... I think it is wonderful that Sengoku era arts like Katori Shinto and others have been preserved ..... the world of budo is better and richer for having them today. But I still can't understand WHY they were preserved throughout the Edo era as they were.

    To put it another way ...... why would a pragmatic samurai in the Edo period want to train in a Sengoku art like Araki Ryu? Today people study koryu precisely because they are old .... but surely a samurai in the Edo era couldn't afford the luxury of doing so .......
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2008
  5. Toby Threadgill

    Toby Threadgill Valued Member



    Paul covered that pretty well. Think about it. There was no reason to evolve because what they were doing worked fine. Military tactics basically existed in a vacuum in the Edo Period. The Tokugawa Shogunate was very restrictive, even going so far as to dictate the length of sword a samurai was permitted to carry. Without the threat of technical innovation any evolution moved at a snails pace. This didn't really matter until Commodore Parry sailed into Tokyo Harbor with a modern military warship.... The results of that little reality check led to the Meiji Restoration.

    Toby Threadgill / TSYR
  6. fifthchamber

    fifthchamber Valued Member

    What makes you think that we didn't? I can't speak about the Shinto Ryu and the Araki Ryu, but Takenouchi Ryu has certainly adapted as time went on...

    The oldest sets of waza we have are trained as well as the newer sets that were created to address different things..

    Actually, I know the Shinto Ryu did the same thing as well, the Gogyo sets were created to deal with situations that were different to the foundation kata taught..(And that's only the most public stuff..).

    (P.S. While I don't disagree with Toby and Paul, I would add that even in the rather restrictive confines of the Edo period, some schools saw a great amount of change, some went from armoured fighting arts to suhada bujutsu, and others added more to the repetoire to allow the school to develop..This continues to some degree today).
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2008
  7. Toby Threadgill

    Toby Threadgill Valued Member

    Hi Hendry,

    Per Bens comments... I know Araki ryu has changed quite a bit. It's part of their tradition to adapt every generation. Every headmaster is encouraged to techincally adapt the art while maintaining the core principles and theory. Further, many koryu, especially those with a taijutsu curriculum also have a subset of within the curriculum that functions as some sort of self defense system. This obviouisly adapts to changing realities.

    But.....You are correct that within koryu there were not, say, a new set of tactics or waza on how to shoot artillery. When such technical innovation did arrive a completely new school like Nakajima ryu Yo ryu was created.

    For curiousity sake.......I have a densho in my collection from ryu created in the late Edo period that codifies how you fire cannons from a warship, and likewise outlines specific naval tactics.

    All the best,

    Toby Threadgill
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2008

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