"You want koryu? Come to Japan" Still true or not?

Discussion in 'Koryu Bujutsu' started by hendry, Jan 5, 2008.

  1. Bronze Statue

    Bronze Statue Valued Member

    Maybe it is then. Friends of mine who lived there longer-term said the usual response was something to the extent of a confused stare and "Um, well, it's good that you've found a hobby...".

    Is this really the analogous situation, though? I don't think anyone here mentioned looking to become a samurai or ninja. Just that they did koryu budo, or that they did x-ryu y-jutsu.

    Why would this be the case, though? Are ninja movies or other forms of media-ninjitsu still big business out there? (The American ninja-boom has thankfully faded, but sometimes I'm not convinced it's gone.)

    Here's a question that got me thinking; what constitutes membership of a koryu when the ryu's gotten all worldwide-scaled to the point of fragmentation (e.g. Muso Shinden Ryu)?
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2009
  2. fifthchamber

    fifthchamber Valued Member

    I would say from personal experience, that everyone I have told about what I do has been fascinated by it, most because they never knew their own country still had such arts, and some because it seems cool that a foreigner would want to do something like that..And some of my ex's liked me in Hakama...My experience agrees with Scott's..Japanese people are interested mostly and certainly don't laugh at you if that's what you do..

    As for the "knight" image, I guess it would be close to what would be imagined if you stated that you were doing Ninjutsu...Most of the ryuha in the Bujinkan aren't well known, so if you simply stated that you do Takagi Ryu it wouldn't help clear anything up..But since some of the schools claim to be be "ninjutsu", the image would be unfavourable..In the same was as saying you wanted to be a "knight" would be in the UK..Or close enough to allow the similarity.

    And as for Ninja being big business, yeah, they still are in one form or another...Naruto is the big thing right now, but there was "Shinobi" last year, and that film with the dude from SMAP in it a couple of years back..None of it helping the image of Ninja as anything serious to most Japanese minds I should think..It's maybe a little less than in the 60's and 70's...But it's nowhere near dying out yet!

    As for Muso Shinden Ryu, well....That is a HUGE debate...And one I'm not going to handle right now, but I would agree that some could feel that schools such as that have become so huge that it is hard to keep them within strict "koryu" teaching lines...However, many of the teachers are doing so, and the school is still a koryu at heart, despite the "worldwide-ness" of it...Being big doesn't define the Koryu, but being closely linked to the head of the school does tend to..For a good reason..Muso Shinden Ryu is wide, but I would think still follows that to a large degree..Just that those links become rather more spread out...

    Muso Shinden Ryu is still rather special though, since there are many more "loosely linked" points in it..One being the connections with Iaido which makes it a little closer to that form of teaching..(Just a little)...But I still view it as being taught as "Koryu" because all the teachers I know make major efforts to stay as close to the source of the teaching as they can..Despite some other changes perhaps..

    And yeah, I understood what you were trying to say I think, I just don't believe that anyone who has learnt enough to take the art for the next generation would want to divorce it from it's roots like that...It wouldn't make sense to me..Although I could see that happening in a few generations perhaps..
    Of course, if the new head of the school is based in the US or anywhere else, that'll become the new place to go for training surely..But even then, I doubt that that man would want to say that going to Japan, training there, and absorbing that culture would be a bad thing for the art...But you're right..Who knows?
  3. ludde

    ludde Valued Member

    Who said anything about replicate the feeling in old Japan. Thats not what it is about. If you want to drain from the source of a tradition, you would have to go to its sources. Thats what it is about. If that is beer making or koryu, what ever, go to the source. Koryu is Japanese, so learning all there is to it, go to Japan. Its fine living outside of Japan training it from some legitimate sensei, no problem, but if you want it directly from the source...

    You have a twisted fantacy about the Japanese bushi. You are comparing the todays world with the old on i Japan for many hundred of years ago. Japan and the rest of the world is changed, and in another houndred years it will be different than what it is today. Ask a koryu practitioner if he feels he is a samurai and he will give you a wired ass look. It is not about beeing a samurai, cause you cant be. It is about training.

    Well how about joining a x-koryu. It is the philosophies and ways of thinking in a koryu, only that. Dont get hung up in how authentic the said koryu is. It does not replicate the philosophies and ways of thinking as it was in the 1200 exactly, or near at all, how do we konw. But it is still philosophy and way of thinking in that koryu.

    Whats wrong with that. A 30 years old plummer from Bergen in Norway could sing "its a beautiful day" as good as bono, or better.

    At the end, you seem very hung up on the fancyfull ideals that you have of koryu. That koryu is suposed to give you a samurai heart, that it will make you understad very correctly how it was in the warring period. Time change and so do koryu, its not magic. Take it for what it is do not spin it in tales of what you think koryu is. It is a bunch of normal people who drives cars, rais kids, goes to work, plays playstation, but shares an interst in classical Japanese warrior art that is more tha just a hobby.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2009
  4. beer_belly

    beer_belly Valued Member

    I have found in @ 15 years of going to Japan for different budo it definitely depends partly on what it is you are doing - I would not be suprised to see people thinking that sort of thing if you said you did ninjitsu - at the other extreme saying you do kendo is good because it gives them that common point to make compliments on that the Japanese are so fond of and most of them over @ 20 had to do it in school so they can say 'what dan are you' and the 'you must be good' even if you are only a 1st dan etc... (except occasionally from zenophobes or hard core nationalist types that are resentful of foreigners doing Japanese things things where it can get a little painful :)).

    Koryu is different again - if you say you have come up to study jodo that draws a blank with almost everyone and you have to explain it or leave them thinking you pronounce judo badly or that the weapon bag has a shinai in it - if you say you do iaido there is a lot more comprehension and it is often an identifier of the 'he is the one that does iaido' type thing and if you are lucky you can have strangers in bars invite you off to tiny rooms where consenting adults attack each other with bokken and do other un-iaido like behaviour - but even when they don't really understand it except as old fashioned sword there is more interest than otherwise....
  5. SteffenBerg

    SteffenBerg Valued Member

    But what if you are studying with a gaijin Menkyo Kaiden of say... Shinto Muso Ryu, who is based outside of Japan? Since it is not based on the soke / iemoto system, there is no "source" beyond your teacher. In essence, "the buck stops with them" (since they know everything there is to know about their art).

    Would it still be necessary to live in Japan?

    Don't you think they should be able to articulate / communicate the principles of their art in their native language (with the aid of a common language of instruction: Japanese)?

    Just my 2 yen.

    Last edited: Jan 19, 2009
  6. ScottUK

    ScottUK More human than human...

    Stef, I see what you're saying, but while Menkyo Kaiden may mean 'certificate of full transmission' it doesn't mean they know everything about their art and therefore not need 'the source' anymore.

    Why would someone who received a MK from their teacher suddenly stop training with them?
  7. SteffenBerg

    SteffenBerg Valued Member

    I see... then why is it called "full transmission"?

    Because many of the teachers (as it pertains to Shinto Muso Ryu) are getting up there in age and/or have passed away... Shimizu Sensei, Otofuji Sensei, Kuroda Sensei to name a few of the senior teachers... and there is no Shihan in Shinto Muso Ryu that oversees instruction at this time. So where would they go to keep learning?

  8. ScottUK

    ScottUK More human than human...

    While I won't speak for any particular school nor will I comment on SMR:
    ...I know a number of teachers who are still learning, despite receiving MK. My own teacher received MK some years ago and became sōke a few years later. During a number of discussions with this gentleman, he often talks about his path of learning and understanding what previous sōke taught him. As sōke he is top of the tree, but he is still learning and still evolving his understanding of the seiho he studies.

    As for teachers passing away or becoming too infirm to teach, this is a tragic fact of life but understand that a koryu is more than just one person - and when one teacher ceases to teach due to the above, another will be appointed to step up to fill his tabi and continue the tradition. Are you telling me a Western MK gets to a point where he cannot learn any more from anyone in his old teacher's line?

    The most widely known MK that I know of is Pascal Krieger (of SMR fame), and even he continues to learn from Nishioka-sensei...
  9. Kogusoku

    Kogusoku 髭また伸びた! Supporter

    You say this, yet later on you say this;

    What's wrong with this picture?

    The way you perceive things are not always the way they are. Never assume anything.

    As Ben stated in an earlier post, studying a gendai budo that conglomerates the teachings of nine ryuha is not kobudo, nor is it koryu. Why? Each ryuha has it's own particular stamp on how things are done (e.g. reiho, ukemi, atemi, nage waza) and more importantly, psychology and mindset. Each ryuha has it's own thought process and "wabi-sabi" or flavour, for lack of a better term.

    To straight faced say that you are studying nine ryuha, but in essence, it's only the technical side of things and not the wabi-sabi of the ryuha, is not really honest.

    A good soke or shihanke preserves the tradition of the ryuha. Some physical things may change, say for example, one generation's shihan preferred a certain type of reiho, yet the current shihan prefers an older one. The tradition is in the kata it's mindset contained therin, it's teaching method and training.

    Fashions come and go, weapons technology change with each era, human nature and the principles behind combative nature do not change.

    Correction; Modern Japanese people are wired up in a totally different fashion due to the Monbusho and the way Japanese culture has been influenced over the past 60-70 years. A number of people have by-passed that or have taken upon themselves to study past what was taught in the school textbooks.

    They didn't have soke 300 years ago. Soke was a term from the merchant class that was taken and used for budo in the Bakumatsu period. Yes, the technique might resemble something from a local McDojo, but the difference would be that of professionals and amateurs - One does his/her basics only a few times, while the other does them thousands of times and knows the techniques like the names of his wife & children.
  10. ScottUK

    ScottUK More human than human...

    Shame there ain't a 'rep' system on here. That was a cool post.
  11. pgsmith

    pgsmith Valued dismemberer

    I agree with Scott, that was well put Steve.

    I decided during the course of this thread that it's pretty much useless to argue against most people's firmly held beliefs. Those that have nothing to do with the koryu won't understand what you're trying to tell them since there's really no analog in the western world. Those that are familiar with the koryu know what you're saying already.

    Something that I've noticed though is that there seems to be an awful lot of ... call it jealousy? ... about the koryu. I've run across this a lot of times from people involved in various modern martial arts. They are very quick to talk down the koryu and go on about how it's ineffective and you can't possibly learn it correctly, and it had to have changed over the years, and what they're doing is much better, even though I only happened to mention koryu. Why do you think the koryu make people so insecure? Could it be because the training method and ideology are so different?

    Just a stray thought. :)
  12. benkei

    benkei Valued Member

    I think it definitely has something to do with western conceptions of samurai and particularly the word "warrior" Martial arts instructors love to preach that they teach warrior ideals and warrior combat and love to think they are warriors, and the fact that koryu actually are warrior traditions, whereas what they do is generally, to quote Draeger "an ass in tiger's skin", rankles them.

    I have seen it alot in Oz. Karate guys love to pose with katana, hell I even saw pictures of a recent 8th dan grading in which the participant wore a bright red hakama. Another organisation here gives out "bushido crosses" to black belts. All these attempts are like your typical short bald guy who buys a Ferrari to compensate for his shortcomings. These people/systems don't have the history, don't have the culture that the koryu do. Alot of it is due to ego obviously, and instructors don't like to think that someone else has the "keys" if you will to what they think is such a glamourous past.
  13. Kogusoku

    Kogusoku 髭また伸びた! Supporter

    I agree, but at the same time, we have to remember that a good number of koryu bujutsu ryuha have been watered down drastically over time. Some ryuha have been reduced to no better than a folk dance, with very little combative meaning contained whatsoever.

    We always have to look at both sides of the coin on that score.

    Good observation Benkei.

    What's worse is when people read up, do the research and then form their own fake ryuha and pass it off as koryu. The more recent, memorable examples of this have been Rod Sacharnowski and the Juko-kai and James Shortt of Ryoi Shinto-ryu fame. Both have proven to have lied. However one (Shortt) had everyone guessing for almost three decades due to him doing his homework.
  14. Bronze Statue

    Bronze Statue Valued Member

    Yeah, those guys are a good laugh. Unless the karate guy with the katana also has an iaido or kendo background, which happens but isn't really common.

    The red hakamas are also a good laugh; to my knowledge, red hakama were worn mainly by Shinto priestesses and not by samurai.

    But as far as history and ancient-weapons goes, a lot of karate guys never really got that particularly good instruction or practice in their own style's kobudo, and it shows when they bring out either their Chinatown-trinket versions or their "XMA" versions of their arts' ancient weapons; I'd have thought they'd know enough to use better training tools (this sort of thing is most visible with sai and kama, though it happens with other weapons too).
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2009
  15. pgsmith

    pgsmith Valued dismemberer

    Everyone is familiar with the "kurotty" guys trying to be samurai. What I'm talking about are more normal people. For instance, not long ago I had a conversation with a gentleman that does Muay Thai at a local high profile club, and boxes. He's a pretty fierce guy, and has no connection with Japanese arts at all. However, during the course of our conversation I happened to mention koryu. He immediately got defensive and went on for a while about how the koryu are ineffective, have changed from what they used to be, etc ... In response to my questions, he said that he has had no prior experience with the koryu, or anyone that has trained in one. All he knows about them are what he's read. A very odd sort of reaction in my eyes, but one that I've seen a number of times.

    Just wondering what it is about the koryu that triggers this sort of reaction, or is it just me? :D
  16. Kogusoku

    Kogusoku 髭また伸びた! Supporter

    Could it be something to do with being in the States? I don't get this reaction in the UK that much. Mind you, due to work, I don't get out that much these days.

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