What is a "Koryu" Dojo?
Some of the earliest and some of the best texts on Japanese martial traditions were written by Donn Draeger in the early 70's. Certainly no researcher worthy of being read has written something that hasn't also generated intense debate. So it was with Draeger Sensei's discription of "koryu" vs. modern "budo".
It didn't help that the names of many arts were amended to add or drop "jutsu" or "do" from their names. Jodo for instance was the name that Shimizu Sensei amended "jojutsu" to in order to gain wider acceptance in a post -militaristic Japan and in keeping with a wider world view. Other arts added "jutsu" to sound older and to add a sense of having a deeper tradition than actually existed. Anyone caught trying to distinquish a classical art from a modern art using Japanese language was doomed to fail. Draeger Sensei certainly knew this as well or better than Westerner studying Japanese martial systems.
Martial traditions started to emerge in the late 12th century. The various han or fiefdom sought out the best to be teachers. Lessons taught were held in the greatest secrecy to maximize advantage over a future enemy. It really wasn't until the 17th century that these traditions became codified in how they were transmitted.
Young males of the warrior class were placed in stables with other young men to receive instruction in martial arts, strategy as well as a classical education. Group loyalty was the most important aspect of building an espirit de corps needed to have the confidence to vanquish enemies when put to war.
Today, the Rembukan Dojo recognizes that the students within the dojo must now balance the demands of life, work, and family with a desire to learn a martial tradition. Still there is no way around investing time in study in order to improve skills. Training is brutally honest as dividends are directly influenced by effort. The more you invest, the more you get and there are no shortcuts.
In our practice of Jodo and Iaido the dojo culture is quite simple - everyone shares! There is no internal structure to have one person compete at the expense of another. New skills are taught based upon merit not upon arbitrary rank. There is no paper contract but students are expected to support the dojo's events, take care of the facility and train privately, the lessons offered within the dojo. In the pursuit of technical excellence each student is expected to respect the
time given them by the instructors as time is the one thing that can't be replaced. Knowlege gained within the dojo is expected to remain private and not broadcast or shared with outsiders as in keeping with these martial traditions.
We are not a sports club and we're not interested in going to tournaments to collect trophies. We will selectively do public demonstrations as a way of adding a positive pressure to our training but we are a private dojo that resists efforts to mass market a product or create "Mc-budo". This places our dojo at odds with some of the noisier more pulbic groups that exist today. In short our dojo culture is not for everyone. The membership becomes a family of sorts. Despite coming from various backgrounds we train as a team to promote the best budo possible both within ourselves and in maintaining the integrity of the arts themselves.
At the Rembukan we like to say that we try not to change the budo but hope that the training in budo changes us!
Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo
"The Way of the Stick" has a curriculum that takes the practitioner through a series of ever more complex steps of wielding the stick against the sword. Eventually a very old style of kenjutsu or sword fighting is learned. Jodo also incorporates the tanjo, a shorter stick, the jutte or truncheon, the kusarigama or sickle and chain and a rope tying art called hojojutsu. Like Iaido there are forms or kata to be learned within the Koryu as well as practice sets for when diverse groups come together to train known as seiteigata.
Kihon: This relatively new set of movements adopted into the SMRJ(Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo) was a reflection of the genius of it's principal author Shimizu Sensei. Twelve (really 13) kihon or basic movements isolate important repetitive movements found within kata for skills development. The importance of kihon can not be overstated. Typically every class at minimum starts with kihon. These movements also warm up the body and prepare the student for other exercises. Paired drills called Sotai Renshu are also practiced. The kihonare modified slightly to adjust to partnered training.
Sincere training in kihon pays big dividends as continued training reveals better or deeper understanding. Many folks like to rush to kata and on to more and more kata but I suggest that it is best to slow down and view each kihon as a "mini" kata. Kihon will not however replace the lessons learned in kata.
本手打 Honteuchi HON-Basic
逆手打 Gyakuteuchi GYAKU-Reverse
引落打 Hikiotoshi uchi HIKI-Pull
返突 Kaeshi Zuki KAESHI-Pull and draw
逆手突 Gyakutetsuki TSUKI-Thrust
巻落 Makiotoshi MAKI-Roll 繰付 Kuritsuke KURI-Coiling 繰放 Kurihanashi HANASHI-Release 体当 Taiatari TAI ATARI-Hit Body 突外打 Tsukihazushi uchi HAZUSHI-Reset
胴払打 Dobarai uchi BARAI-Sweep 体外打 右 Migi-right Taihazushi uchi migi HAZUSHI -Reset 体外打 左 Hidari-left Taihazushi uchi hidari TAI-- Body
(Partial translations are designed to help understand the basic meaning of the kanji. To avoid redundantcy we haven't carried over the translation for each conjugation. The operative kanji/tranlation is in bold font) Revised for Rembukan Dojo 20th year anniversary Aug. 6th, 2009
Kata: There is little solid academic research to identify when various kata were introduced or incorporated into the SMRJ. I would genuinely appreciate any valid information on this subject as well as the reasoning for the practice of some of the kata in which the mysteries of the lessons have yet to reveal themselves to this author. Having confessed this I would add that every kata in the order presented has an uncanny way of reinforcing movements that are less than obvious but needed as a foundation for the next kata or series of kata. This is one of the reasons why I find the study of Jodo profound. I could not imagine tiring of the study of SMRJ. One of the "gifts" that come from ongoing study is that advanced study compels the practitioner to go back and re-examine and re-learn the more basic kata that are first taught.
Today there is discussion especially in the West about Jodo being a "kata-budo" which is true enough I guess. For some the label seems slightly off or is used disparagingly as if something martial is lost in the absence of free sparing. I won't jump into that discussion here though I have some strong thoughts on the subject - other than to caution that one should be very well skilled before forming any dismissive attitude about this particular budo learned thru the practice of kata.
As written earlier, the groups of kata increase in complexity and the demands on the practitioner increase accordingly.
Kata in Kanji
太刀落 Tachi Otoshi OTOSHI-Drop
鍔割 Tsubawari WARI-Shatter
着杖 Tsukizue ZUE-Jo
引提 Hissage SAGE-Lantern holding
左貫 Sakan -SA-Left
右貫 Ukan U-Right
霞 Kasumi KASUMI-Mist
物身 Monomi MI-Body
笠の下 Kasanoshita Kasa Umbrella
一礼 Ichirei REI-Bowing
寝屋ノ内 Neyanouchi NEYA-Bedroom
細道 Hosomichi HOSOMICHI-Narrow Road
水月 Suigetsu GETSU-Moon
斜面 Shyamen SHA-Angle
一力 Ichiriki RIKI-Power
押詰 Oshizume OSHI-Push
乱留 Midaredoe DOME-Stop, Control
後杖前 Ushirozue Mae MAE-Front
後杖後 Ushirozue Ushiro USHIRO-Back
待車 Taisya, SHYA-Wheel
間込 Kengome KEN-Ma, Distance
切懸 Kirikake KIRI-Cut
真進 Shinshin SHIN-Forward move
雷打 Raiuchi RAI-Thunder
横切留 Yokogiridome YOKO-Sideways
払留i Haraidome HARAI-Sweep away
晴眼 Seigan SEI-Clear, Pure
乱合大太刀 Ranai Oodachi OO-Big RAN- Stir to action AI- To meet.
乱合小太刀 Ranai Kodachi KO-Small (kanji for midare & ran are identical)
Isshin Ryu Kusarigama:
The oral tradition states that Muso Gunnosuke, the founder of Shindo Muso Ryu Jojutsu had mastered 3 styles of kenjutsu (sword fighting) and favored the sickle and chain weapon known as the kusarigama.
From a historical perspective, the sword had to be thoroughly understood in order to devise methods to defeat it with the stick. In learning Jodo, proper training demands that the superior technician be on the sword (ken) side of training. This individual is referred to as Uchidachi or simply as tachi. The beginner (kohai) is called shidachi.
In the days of Shimizu Sensei, there was discussion of the "lost" kata. There were supposed to be 12 front (omote) and 12 back (ura) or hidden kata. Over the years this has taken on a prophesy like status and some have invented kata quite recently to fill the void. The movements are of questionable value and even more questionable bona fides. Still, the kata that have survived are wonderul. The weapon could be used at both long and short range. Used for blocking, ensnaring, locking, striking, and cutting, the Kusarigama is extremely versatile.
Training in the Isshin Ryu, like kenjutsu is supposed to come at a time when the student is already well versed in Jodo. Today some teachers use the weapon as a marketing tool to attract the uninitiated and this is a shame. Another assault on this art comes in the form of false claims about the history and mechanics of the art that has survived. There was no sokei or hereditary headmaster, though today one Senior Jodo Teacher claims to be so and as written above, some newer "made-up" kata have been added to inflate the surviving curriculum.
Iaido Muso Shinden Ryu:
The sword drawing art of Iaido has often been likened to "moving Zen." Although this may be an apt description, depending upon the goals and sustained efforts of the exponent, Iai offers us a very demanding regimen where the devil is in the details. While learning nuance, Iai compels us to project outwards. Improper training can easily reduce the movements (kata) into dance.
The student usually begins training with bokken (wooden sword) and iaito (zinc-aluminum training blade) eventually developing skill sets necessary for using a live (sharp) edged sword. Without mastery of technique, the dangers are self-evident as one mistake, one error in judgment can bring tragic consequences.
Different schools of Iai have different "heiho" (strategies). Practitioners learn the curriculum of their specific school(ryuha).
Note: Jodo and Iaido can both be found in sets of kata (seitegata) selected so that various schools can train together with common elements under the auspices of the All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF). This organization establishes technical guidelines for standarized testing and are not always promoting the same techniques as studied under a teacher of koryu.
We practice Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido as developed by the kenshi (sword saint) considered the modern founder of iai Nakayama Hakudo.
The Rembukan Dojo requires that all of the students study both Jodo and Iaido without exception. These arts compliment each other but more to the point where Jodo involves paired training Iaido constantly trains against the self. Combative arts really means that we're training against someone else. In Jodo it is apparent where your enemy is at all times. To the novice practitioner it means rushing a movement or misreading combative distance. Unable to slow down, an imperfect skill set develops. You practice against yourself. As the timing of your opponent is always identical to your own movements the best you can hope for is a draw.
Like Jodo, Iai is composed of a series of forms or Kata of increasing complexity. I like to say to my dojo mates that Iai is the art of drawing, cutting, and returning the sword to the scabbard, but it is really about absolute control, economy of motion and concentration in unconcentrated form. Whoa, did I really just write that? Yes and I meant it too. The constant practice helps make body movements more efficient, a skill that is desirable in combat. However it is very unlikely that we will confront someone with a sword today outside of training. Still the by-products of training can assist us with the demands of everyday life in how we concentrate on the details without getting tunnel vision. By slowing down and refining movements Iai helps us understand Jo and make our movements more efficient. By the same token Jodo helps us appreciate the "feeling" of having someone actually trying to close in for an attack.
The Rembukan Dojo is fortunate in that we've had some great instruction for both koryu and seitei. Indeed the husband / wife team of the Koyamas, accomplished Iaidoka and AJKF judges have been wonderful assets in the continuation of our sword study.
Mrs. Koyama is a nanadan as of this writing. She trains daily and also holds makimono in Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo. Mr. and Mrs. Koyama have been declared as the last monjin of their teacher. They travel all over Japan to study with various teachers of various styles with permission.
The Uchida Ryu Tanjojutsu:
Incorporated into the SMRJ during a period of civil unrest and political assassination, the tanjo, literally "half-Jo was named after its' creator Uchida Ryogoro. Effective, the art was also named "sutekki" (stick) jutsu (art). The series of movements again reflect very direct names to explain movements. This is usually the first of the collected arts taught to a Jodo practitioner on shidachi. Uchidachi is still reserved for the senior student or teacher to assist in the learning process. There are wonderul lessons in maai (combative distance) and basic movement. The taisabaki (side stepping movement) tend to be a bit larger than in waza using the Jutte.
We hope to discuss this incredible history and and the Uchidas in other articles on our site.
Shinto or Kasumi Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu
Back in the `70's the combative sword arts we practiced was simply known as "Shinto Ryu Kenjutsu". The name had been lost to history but was roughly analgous to the name "Smith". It was a very common catch all name. Shimizu Sensei himself when asked about the art's name and origins could not provide much additional detail.
Research in the '90's spearheaded by Mr. Kaminoda and supposedly authenticated by the Imperial Household's Historical Archives Division revealed that the original name might very well have been "Kasumi Shinto Ryu" although most Jodo exponents today still refer to our kenjutsu as Shinto Ryu. The densho or scrolls handed down from generation to generation and recently found in family archives lists 12 kata that reflect the same 12 kata previously known thru oral tradition as Shinto Ryu.
The study of the ken (sword) within Jodo was historically learned only after achieving some mastery with the stick. Appearing deceptively simple the ken or sword as practiced with a bokuto (wooden sword for contact training) is quite challenging to learn and master. Today some teachers are rushing to teach the ken to students not yet well versed in Jo. While in small groups this might not be completely avoided it should be minimized by anyone seriously trying to learn Jodo. The fact is that unless Uchidachi (sword partner) understands the movements, the kata will not become alive and the Shidachi (stick partner) will not gain proper understanding. The damage done however is that there is an illusion of sorts because the kata is performed albeit without proper heart. It is interesting to compare movements when looking at how the ken is used for both tanjo and jutte as well. Arguably I guess, this style of Kenjutsu is one of the oldest to survive history and still be practiced.
Ikkaku Ryu Juttejutsu
The Jutte, a police truncheon, hojojutsu, the rope arresting art and the tanjo were incorporated into the Shindo Muso Ryu much later on. The jutte and rope were considered police tools much like a night stick and handcuffs here in the West.
Within the Ikkaku Ryu, the jutte is used in conjunction with the tessen or fan. In training for contact a wooden block shaped like a closed fan is used for daily training. The influence of jujidome, or the "X" block is found in many movements.
Utilitarian in nature, the waza or techniques are reflected by no-nonsense names that simply describe the purpose of the movements. These techniques are not very difficult to master especially once the basic foundations of Jo are understood but the real training comes from the fact that shidachi must amend his movements for Maai or combative distance and be able to make very tight taisabaki (side-stepping motions) to successfully dodge the attack of the sword.
Enroute to Kashima, I can't remember which trip anymore, I got a call asking me to bring my camera and lots of film. Seems odd today in the time of digital zoom. I was ushered into the dojo upon arrival and told to take out my camera and start shooting. I found this odd as I've never mentioned any particular knowledge of photography and Mr. Yamaguchi has studio quality equipment all set up. Still, Kaminoda Sensei and I were co-authoring a book on the expandable baton and jutte waza and I thought maybe this had something to do with that - it didn't. However watching both Kaminoda and Osato Sensei doing all of the waza, reviewing old notes, and redoing the waza was a wonderful experience. I surprised myself with the quality of some of these wonderful photographs. Ultimately, Sensei didn't like the backdrop and wasn't comfortable with photoshop.