Thread: Koryu in the West
04-24-2008, 18:35 #41
Confining things to Araki-ryu.
1. Very frequently, we will try things and say, regarding a certain sequence. You could do it this way or that way. Either works. Or - that way works for you and this way works for me. Kata isn't rote. We have different levels of execution of the same kata, which conform to the image of printing, writing and "grass style, the last one step before free-style, but it includes breaking kata as we do them."
2. Back to your note - Taking shooting, for an example I know nothing about. What if you were REQUIRED to train both "figure 8" and "left/right track?" Because you have kata for both in your "ryu." Take it further, let's imagine you also have to do seven other types of shooting. Nine kata in all. I'd rather have nine "kata" which used ONE type of shooting in different situations and contexts. That's our training objective. It's a matter of honing a methodology that is, we hope, seamless, and paring away kata or waza that has info either repeated elsewhere, or makes the methodology too complex.
3. Give you an example of how a kata is changed. I learned one sword form where as the person cuts down, you block his descending right elbow with your left hand, and stab him with the sword in your right. I guarantee that it will not work against a powerful man. Guarantee. My teacher and I spent far too many hours proving it on each other, resulting, among other things in some arthritis in my left thumb, which is what happens when the other person picks up what you are trying to do and changes the angle, bearing all the power onto the thumb as opposed to the properly lined up hand.
The entering move is great. That is retained. The sequence is great. That is retained. But we use another waza with the entering. One that we have road-tested for over 30 years. Yes, one could come up with a "what-if" that makes the "old" move plausible. But it's an extremely low percentage move. And I would not be surprised if we ever had a time machine and saw how the originator was doing things, it would be closer to our way than the more stylized, well-defined, good looking one-hand move.
4. The truth is I/we are really very conservative. Otherwise, we wouldn't even be practicing with these old weapons. It is far from an "anything goes" type of training, where every class is something new. Truth be told, in any larger scheme of things, it's not really very important. I'm gonna die, and so are my students, eventually, and the universe is going to spin around and I don't think the Intelligent Designer (FSM - Spaghetti, for short) gives much interest to whether Araki-ryu kata are better or changed. It's just what we like to do - as strong as we can.
Last edited by Ellis Amdur; 04-24-2008 at 18:44.
04-24-2008, 18:39 #42
Originally Posted by Toby Threadgill
Seriously, a few years ago I probably would not have the same view. It really is a more advanced understanding of how to train others versus simply training or being trained ourselves.
A key component is how we create virtual "experience" without benefit of student's having the real thing. One thing we need to keep in mind at least with the earlier koryu systems is that they were not trained in isolation from actual combative experience, as they are now. The men training in these methods were using them on a regular basis. Experience informed training, and informed how to train others. That generally isn't the case now, and even when it is the experiential database can be quite small.
I am preaching to the choir with you, but training for self defense, training for self defense after having been in a few minor scuffles, and training in self defense after someone has tried to kill you all create different contexts in how we experience future incidents, and ongoing training. What we see/understand now changes the more we see and understand. This is as true of violence as it is anything else.
04-24-2008, 18:49 #43
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Thank you for your post Mr. Amdur. Reading insights from someone of your stature is always a treat.
04-24-2008, 18:59 #44
Maybe I haven't been clear, in regards to KIT's point, so I'll expand.
Everything that is a performance based skill, combative or not, requires the same type of training mechanisms to achieve results. This is even more the case in the context of skills, which will have acute stress.
The verbage of what these drills are called may change, but the drills and simulation exercises will fill the same niche.
On a side note,
One of the things that plagues combative/combative sports is that most folks instructing don’t have a background in education. They do what was done to them.
Prior to becoming a firefighter, I was a schoolteacher. I have been involved in several sports as a coach and player at a high level. I am a firefighter and an instructor of firefighting technique and tactics for the state of Washington.
I am in the midst of slowly writing an essay dealing with the educational model employed for performance-based skills. It is likely I will be giving several lectures on my work in the coming year.
The model is of great interest to me, or more to the point the model for success, of which not all are.
04-24-2008, 19:35 #45
I don't know how much you have dove into that essay. You may or may not be aware that there are entire fields of scientific study devoted to how to teach physical skills to people. Motor learning specifically and to some extent the pedagogical side of physical education researchers deal with this issue on a regular basis. It might be a good idea for you to get into some of that to support your own work. There are several excellent texts on the subject that might help you out. No reason to reinvent the wheel if you don't have to. Plus, your own educational background will more than likely give you a leg up on that particular type of material.
As to your point about many martial arts instructors not having a background in education, I agree with you wholeheartedly. However, I would also suggest that while pedagogy and motor learning have their roots in the same field of cognative psychology, they have in the last hundred years or so taken very different paths. For example, one of my co-workers just finished his doctorate in motor learning with a minor in cognative psych and he studies how practice schedules affect learning and retention of physical skills. His work is based on some of the founding principles of educational theory but the application is far different.
Please let us know when you get something together, I will be looking forward to reading what you come up with.
This is a great thread by the way. I am really enjoying reading it.For now, more than ever before, being sincere and dedicated is not enough. We must also be right. - Walter Kroll. 1971
04-24-2008, 23:15 #46
Thanks for the expansion, Aaron. It only confirms all the more that we are on the same page.
I do believe that there is a difference in terms of psychology, which I hope your paper goes into. Teaching rote technique - even when paying lip service to "combat mindset" - can never duplicate the teaching of the same technique under stressors and dynamics which mirror the application - one of the primary advantages of combative sport training.
Combatives wise, the issue lies in the instructor/instruction system as well. Sim f/x evolutions can devolve into Paintball wars if the proper tactical context is not thoroughly enforced.
And all out MMA is not the same as a contextually based drill in which the very same techniques may be used, but so many other psycho-physiologic and environmental factors are specifically underscored during the application at hand.
MMA techniques are a great, "live," force on force way to teach people how to fight, but if the only thing that is ever practiced is "closed" competition/ring based MMA drills and sparring there will be a major gap in preparedness when transferred to the "open" environment of a serious street self defense encounter or personal combat with weapons, initiative, etc. involved.
Now, my experience has pretty much confirmed for me a certain continuum - the sport fighter (for shorthand, MMA or any of its component arts alone or in combination) will be much better prepared for uncontrolled street violence in many cases than the combative man (traditional or modern) that does not practice in a "live" manner.
To a point. As the complexity of the situation grows, with more contextual variables, weapons, etc. the pure MMA fighter will be at a disadvantage if he has not trained explicitly for those variables.
While the combative man may be prepared for the contextual variables, however, if he does not also practice one or more of the MMA elements (again see above), his physical applications/combative conditioning under dynamic circumstances will lag behind those who do practice them.
In short, to be best prepared for the worst of the worst kinds of situations, you have to train a combative element AND a competitive element and integrate them appropriately for the context in which you will be using those skills. When we do this is when some of that "unreality" sets in. But it is no more realistic than using wooden weapons or "dirty tactics" and trying NOT to hit one another, or protective gear and shooting each other with detergent filled paint bullets.
I think koryu are that sort of contextually based training systems - for what the founders and early students initially faced. Ellis has written quite a bit on how they had various kinds of sumo, other grappling methods, and contact shinai work (which also included grappling elements) to round out what they did in their contextual (kata) training.
Last edited by KIT; 04-24-2008 at 23:18.
04-25-2008, 00:02 #47
Yep I am hip with the science in the field and am using quite a few sources. The target group for my essay is in fact the fire service. (So yes Kit it does involve the combat "mindset" and the use of stress in training.) Therefore I am going "science light" with a focus on application and general usable terms. In addition I am drawing heavily on the training methods I picked up while playing in the Eastern Block. Academically I am a historian and linguist so I know how to use my sources. In addition, I as I am not a learning specialist, and a nuts and bolts kind of guy, the essay is more of a "where the rubber meets the road" style, not overly academic.
04-25-2008, 07:35 #48
Sounds interesting Aaron. I will be looking forward to reading it.For now, more than ever before, being sincere and dedicated is not enough. We must also be right. - Walter Kroll. 1971
04-25-2008, 10:46 #49
Me too, Aaron, let us know where it gets published.
I'd also be interested in your thoughts on how you feel your koryu training helps prepare you for those burning buildings, when you are facing the potential for death but must still perform under pressure.
I don't think it is an accident that military, LE, Fire service, Medics, and other professions that perform under high pressure, time critical, and especially life-saving events are all confirming that stress based training mimicking the dynamics of the real thing, is the best way to real results.
Take the stress and uncertainty out of training - even highly controlled training - and you seriously limit its effectiveness.
Last edited by KIT; 04-25-2008 at 10:50.
04-29-2008, 17:55 #50
After reading your post, it is clear we are on the same page. You use more police-esque mumbo jumbo, but hey we all can’t pass the firefighter test.
I have given some thought to your curiosity about koryu and firefighting. It started a train of thoughts that I will share. I want to start by saying I am not implying my way is “the way,” nor that I am a bad ***. I will, as usual, say stuff that folks don’t agree with etc. That is fine; this is just about koryu/gendai and me.
I will start by saying cop-violence and the civilian flavor is very different, as you all know. I am not talking about cop-stuff, of which I have no first hand knowledge.
I am who I am, partially upon my nearly twenty years of mat. I have always been a jokester who has had his tongue in his cheek. But, I have a switch.
I grew up in a bad neighborhood (considerable gang activity etc,) It was a rough crowd of which I was very much a part of. I am not proud of many things in my past, both related to life outside, but also life upon the mat. I have cowered behind bus-stop shelters to avoid drive-bys, waded through gangs of people to physically evict rival gang members from a house who were shooting at one another (in an effort to not get shot myself albeit) run from knife fights, taken bricks to folks, etc.
I have ire and a switch, when triggered I go from a laid back guy to someone that I am sometimes regretful of. I took my share of beatings as well, but after a few initial onslaughts early on, I got the point where I usually ended up on top.
I once used an analogy with Ellis during a discussion, that “most folks do budo soin order to keep their lunch money, I was the guy who took it.” I said it in jest, but afterwards realized that even though I never robbed anybody, the sentiment was close to the truth.
I am lucky in that I always had a good home-life.
One day after attacking 40 year old guy, for being rude to my girl-friend, my father and mother suggested I take up budo. The suggestion was partially because the violence that was going on was escalating due to our age, but also in hopes of giving me an outlet.
It worked, plain and simple.
I did not turn to budo in hopes of finding a challenge, or hoping to learn self-defense (my six buddies and our guns, knives, and club can trump anybody's kung-fu.). In truth, it is the other way around, my practice of combative has actually simply given me a better way to classify and vent those character traits, which in the past caused trouble. I was a successful (IE alive) combatant well before my career in budo started.
I am not someone searching for peace in anything other than my own guts. I know that violence does sometimes, in dire circumstances, offer a solution. I have no pretense about what it is or isn’t nor do I need budo to answer specific questions or what if’s.
Simply, I do budo to make myself a better member of society, for which it has given me an avenue. I don’t need to test myself, learn self-defense etc. I have been there, and done that. Practice of combative gives me a way to classify, study, vent, and finally after many years I was enjoy the practice for practice alones sake.
I have been asked why I didn’t compete more when I was younger. The reason is I didn’t trust myself. Violence is scary and ugly; the line between combative sport and violence was a grey one for me. At that point I didn’t need what competition had to offer. It was later that I became involved in competition as that line between sport and survival became bigger.
I have reached a point that I don’t always have to teach guys “lessons.” I have rolled with guys, who I like as people, but whom I was much better than. My fear was that these folks would escalate a friendly roll if I “beat” them. They were not able to get a thing, while I smiled, not realizing I never once attacked, nor really even fought. I knew what would happen if it did escalate. I considered that a personal success, that I was able to let them think what ever they want. In the past I would have and did break their bones.
So, why the long winded “about me,” simply that it gives perspective to why I approach so many things with regards to combative/combative sports the way I do.
I will not say there is not cross-over, but in truth it is simply….
Budo's effect on me is as an individual not only specifically a firefighter. A person is not simple casue and effect. We are more than the sum of our parts and nothing in regards to character etc is a one-way street.
Likley a different way than folks saw this thread going but no fancy stuff, just straight shooting.
05-03-2008, 00:56 #51
Originally Posted by Aaron T Fields
Seriously, thanks for opening up, it adds something to the discussion.
But aren't you talking about "budo" in general? What, specifically, about koryu makes it something you practice?
I read an interesting and somewhat relevant article while on vacation this past week. It was by George Tanabe, a Hawaiian Japanese American and former professor of Japanese religion at UH.
Called "Shaka Buddhism," (or something like that, I can't quite remember the title) he talks about the development of Japanese religions in Hawaii, which has the largest concentration of said religions outside Japan.
But are they really "Japanese?" He discusses temples, sects, etc. and notes how they are all "mixed up," not in a pejorative sense, but rather a more directly practical sense of how Japanese Buddhism suits the population there - the basic doctrine, etc, even the priests, are often Japanese from Japan, but what they do is distinctly "local." They note how a number of sects there have formally separated from their Japanese home temples (for example, the Shingon temple from Koyasan), and that in some cases even the authority to teach has been co-opted - instead of from the master-disciple relationship, in one case he mentions how a congregation actually may give a priest the authority to teach. (That ought to ring some not-so-legit bells in the koryu community - say a teacher "promoted" by his students?)
And of course there is a more standard approach of enlightenment "certified" by a qualified (Japanese) teacher giving the authority to go forth and teach as one sees fit - but "changing" the teaching creating a different stream or leading to a "divorce" from the "hombu."
He also interviews Robert Aitken, who describes his own Diamond Sangha's amicable divorce from its Japanese roots, but notes that what they do is not "American," yet not "Japanese," despite its retention of Japanese trappings and terminology.
So goes koryu in the West?
Is it still even koryu, then?
Is it "shin" koryu? There are already American created but Japanese derived "koryu" replete with the trappings of koryu dojo - katana, kimono, hakama, Japanese terminology, and seminar pictures with nary an Asian face in evidence, as well as actual legit koryu with direct connection to hombu in Japan, but in their American forms are closer to "kurotty" than gendai Aikido or even traditional Judo are to Japanese koryu. If you do the same kata, its koryu, right?
If combative effectiveness is the key, why not just do "combatives" and skip the nod, even cursory at times, to Japanese-ness?
Last edited by KIT; 05-03-2008 at 01:05.
05-03-2008, 04:11 #52
Kit, a quick side-note, as it is quite early and my head isn't where it could be these days concerning all things martial: Buddhism came to Japan from China, I believe. It always seems to adapt itself to the local customs and traditions of whatever culture it takes root in. How much "Chinese-ness" do we see in Japanese Buddhism? The "Japan-ness" is a useless cultural add-on - useless to the intent of Buddhism. It is certainly fun to experience that cultural flavor, though - but I don't think it adds to or takes away from Buddhism.
It is still Buddhism. Perhaps it is still koryu, too.
Aaron, I too would very much like to read your paper. Perhaps it will help me get my head back in the game, which I so desperately want.
Jeff Cook"Beware of entrance to a quarrel but being in, bear't that the opposed may beware of thee." - Polonius
De inimico non loquaris sed cogites.
Do not wish ill for your enemy....plan it.
05-03-2008, 09:55 #53
Originally Posted by Jeff C.
And exactly George Tanabe's point, Jeff, and I think exactly the issue at hand here.
Some of those Chinese priests (and lay people) would probably say that Japanese Buddhism isn't Buddhism. And some Indians would say that Chinese Buddhism isn't Buddhism, and some Theravada Buddhists would say that Mahayana Buddhism isn't Buddhism, and some Mahayana Buddhists call Theravada Buddhism a "lesser" vehicle.... as some early Western scholars considered the reverse to be the case and East Asian Mahayana Buddhism to be corrupted.
I am reading Zen at War right now, and was surprised at a statement in the book that it wasn't until the 19th century that the first Japanese Buddhist priest went to India to see the original home of his religion. Imagine that was a koryu teacher.
Wonder if there is a "Bad Buddhism" sub-forum on "E-Buddhism?"(With a proper nod to E-Budo....)
05-03-2008, 10:02 #54
Tanabe points out that the "localization" of Buddhism in Hawaii makes it more accessible to its (non-Japanese) adherents.
I think a difference here is that koryu is intentionally exclusive, while religion tried to be inclusive (until you pick one or two). In terms of the present discussion I think we would be talking specifically about ordination, who legitimizes whose "enlightenment" and how it is certified, etc. how a particular sangha is legitimized through its priest, etc. as there is exclusivity in who gets to pass the tradition on.
05-30-2008, 18:17 #55
I gave some thought to "which helped the job more, koryu or gendai." The answer I came up with is, neither.
Both are beneficial in small ways, grappling for overall physical conditioning and the ability to compete, koryu for challenging body alignment while using a tool. But, budo is so limited within context and application.
Years of playing contact sports, specifically lacrosse and Aussie-rules football have been much more a benefit towards overall mental preparation for my job. These are without question rough, chaotic, and without any other goal than victory. Both involve discomfort and both require teamwork under stress. In addition, learning to adjust and focus on the "big picture" IE situational awareness, is much more important within team-sports. Field-vision within budo is simple and sterile.
I know a lot of people will poo-poo this, as it does not fit into their "martial art dogma." Play "on-ball" and see how beat-up you get. Trying to perform a task while people are doing you physical harm to stop you.
Lacrosse is a Native-American game that was employed to prepare their warriors for war. The "little brother of war" taught me how to use a spear. Koryu spear is easy compared to lacrosse, (yes I was a d-man and long stick middie.)
I know that isn't what most folks want to hear, but like I have said before in an all out brawl, I'll take one of my teams over most budo guys. Not to mention half of us are already missing our teeth, so there is no risk.
(I have seen aussie players and ruggers with half ripped off ears and broken bones play on
Now I love budo, I think there is a lot to gain from practics. Nevertheless as to my job as a firefighter and the requirements, there are other past-times that will provide more benefit.
Aaron "don't believe the hype" Fields
05-31-2008, 12:33 #56
Originally Posted by Aaron T Fields
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Musashi, for example, allegorically touches on battle tactics in his writings, but have any group tactics survived in any koryu, Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu or otherwise (I haven't seen such in MJER)?
Last edited by Koshu; 05-31-2008 at 12:38.Mert
"...I much prefer the thought of cleaving through bone, rather than small precise cuts." -- Mandeigh Wells
05-31-2008, 12:59 #57
Mert - only in books. Group tactics was a separate field of inquiry, generally called heiho. Japanese martial artist, who used to be eminently practical, had native group tactics, but they were abandoned in the Meiji period, when Western military tactics were incorporated, those being seen as much more practical. If you read Deity and the Sword (Otake), you can see a) remnants of heiho discussed b) how primitive their tactics were, incorporating magic, Taoism, geomancy, etc. I would wager that the most accurate remnants of this study are in sophisticated computer simulation games, in which one re-enacts old battles (we have them in the West, I think).
There IS one form of battlefield archery still practiced in the Satsuma area. There's a Budokan film of it - real simple advance and fire in layered ranks of archers.
It's interesting that now the Japanese have an image of conservatism in the martial arts - koryu - whereas in the Meiji period, Westerners noted the avid creative drive to innovate. In other words, what we still see in Japanese business and manufacturing was once part of martial studies.
Finally, I believe the separation of one-on-one koryu (which had, at best, training in melee inherent, but nothing larger) from battlefield tactics illustrates that koryu were not primarily pure "battlefield" training - rather, they WERE training in fighting, but this was used to train an aristocratic officer/elite class - the bushi, who were only a small proportion of fighting men.
05-31-2008, 18:42 #58
Originally Posted by Aaron T Fields
The battle of Waterloo being won on the playing fields of Eton, and all...
Well, played, Aaron.
06-08-2008, 20:07 #59
Mr. Threadgill. I am pleased and honored that you are contributing your insight on this forum. Just two days ago I watched some clips of your demos on YouTube. I am impressed with your performance and hope someday to be as good. I have heard my Sensei speak highly of you and your skills and that peaked my curiosity when I saw your name here. When you speak here, I will LISTEN.Honor is a language universally understood, yet spoken by few.
06-12-2008, 22:36 #60
I'm really enjoying this discussion from the bleachers.----------------------------------------------------
"being the predator and not the prey is a time honored tradition" -- classic line from Dan Harden on another board.