97. Can I play in your sandbox?

Two emails came to me regarding training in my club’s dojo, to which I replied in markedly different ways. The differences might help illuminate what I think are some of the misunderstandings among the general martial arts community about koryu budo/bujutsu.

One was from a fellow student of one of the systems I belong to, the Bitchuden Takeuchi-ryu. He was going to be in town with his parents on vacation. I’ve trained with him on numerous occasions, so getting back with him again was a treat for me. I made time in my schedule and we met once, informally, in a park in Waikiki. Dressed in t-shirt and shorts, we went over some advanced kata under the shade of some overhanging trees, only a few yards from the white sand beaches of Waikiki, with my dog watching lazily. We are also going to train formally at my dojo during its regular Friday night sessions. If he had more time in his family’s schedule, I would have been more than happy to accommodate him and work in more training times. No problem. And contrary to some stereotyped notions that koryu folk are all “stuffy” and snobby, training in shorts and t-shirts was fun. And I’ve done that several times in the past with other koryu folk with no problem when that was all we had to work with. No big deal. When you’re in a park and don’t want to draw too much attention to yourselves (as if swinging around big sticks at each other didn’t look weird enough), then we would doff the keikogi and hakama and go through the movements informally to figure things out.

Another emailed request was very problematic on a number of counts. That email came from a person unknown to me, asking if she could come train at my dojo on a Sunday, the best time for her when she was coming on vacation. She introduced herself as being a student in some system I had never heard of, and she wanted to not just observe, but practice with us. As politely as possible, I informed her that we did not train on Sundays, although she was welcome to come and observe the class on a Friday night, if she had time, but jumping in and training with us would be a pretty hairy proposition. So far, I haven’t heard back from her.

Subsequently, I did an Internet search of her style, and in my opinion, decided it was what I call a “bullshit ryu.” The founder supposedly studied some offshoot of Takeuchi-ryu that I never heard of, but the photos on the school’s web site displayed nothing related to Takeuchi-ryu. So I realized that she was probably curious to see what our system looked like, since there appeared to be a tenuous relationship to her ryu. Supposedly. The images on the website, however, looked like every other mix-and-match MMA-Brazilian “ju-jits”-kurottee-judo-ahkeedo-kempo mashup that you see plastered all over the Internet, with multi-colored keikogi, arnis fighting sticks, and dubious-looking techniques.

It’s probably not her fault that she landed up in that system. From what I can see, it’s very easy to fall into such schools and, unless you have a decent grasp of what’s going on vis a vis orthodox Shinbudo systems and koryu, you may very well think what you’re doing is some kind of traditional, legitimate martial art. Or, you may not think about it at all. Hey, any studio down by the closest mall that has “self-defense” martial arts is fine. They’re all the same, right? In any case, there was no real linkage to our system that I could ferret out.

That’s the hard part. I didn’t go into details with that person because I didn’t feel like I wanted to get involved in a lengthy diatribe of why I thought her system was suspect. And unless she had a certain character and I worded the reply correctly, she may just conclude that I was just one of those “koryu snobs” that a lot of people seem to talk about on the Internet.

On the other hand, her request illuminated a lot of basic misunderstandings rife in the general public, one of which being that koryu is just another shiny new version of martial arts, just like what they see down at the strip mall karate/kung fu/Tae Kwon Do/aikido/MMA school, a professionally run, for-profit operation open all hours of many days a week. And if we do something called koryu jujutsu, why, it’s just another variation of that there “jew-jits,” as some MMA players like to call it.  Maybe just a bit stiffer and more formalized, not as “free flowing” and “rockin’” as modern “jits.” I don’t really blame her. It’s just a matter of education.

Koryu are generally not for profit. That’s not to say you are supposed to starve if you teach it, or avoid any remuneration. Even in Japan, many koryu, mine included, have a monthly dues structure, fees for promotion and advancement, and sundry requests to help with supplies and upkeep of the dojo. Some padding of the costs is included to help with my teacher’s time and teaching.

On the other hand, as one of my koryu teachers said, “I loved doing koryu as a young man but I realized I was never going to make a decent living off of it, enough to feed a family, so I went to college to learn a trade, so that I would never have to depend on teaching budo. If I were to force budo to pay for my living expenses, I would perhaps be tempted into doing some things that compromised the ryu’s integrity.”

Mind you, this is the current headmaster of a 480-year-old tradition talking. Even the family head of one of the main branches of the Takeuchi-ryu, the sodenke Takeuchi Toichiro sensei, was by profession a schoolteacher. The former head of a koryu fencing school that once taught shoguns and warlords was an elementary school teacher. And if anyone in this school should have been capable of going “pro,” it would have been people of their caliber. So some koryu will indeed charge some kind of fee. Others won’t charge anything at all. But most of the teachers don’t depend on the fees as their sole source of income.

What such teachers realized was that the allure of koryu is relatively small, the appeal limited, and the ability to extend its franchise severely curtailed by the weight of its cultural baggage and methodology. Altering some of those factors would destroy the very nature of the ryu. Even now, although my own line of the school has branch dojo in different locations in Japan and the West, the school remains miniscule compared to an international modern budo organization like aikido, Kodokan judo or modern kendo.

If it sounds like I’m denigrating such modern budo systems, I’m not. Professionalizing the teaching of karate and aikido, in particular, has allowed for a higher level of students and competitors, a greater proliferation of excellent karate and aikido schools, and a greater public profile for both. Dojo run by those professional teachers can be open more hours for students to train, encouraging a higher level of excellence and physical abilities among the students. If anything, I envy that part of modern budo schools.

But it just won’t work in a koryu, for various reasons. Chiefly, koryu has certain inherent limitations regarding their ability for expansion. And I’ll leave it at that. Now, I could be wrong. There could be a way to make a decent profit off koryu, but I haven’t yet seen it yet.

Therefore, that was one basic difference in characteristics between most koryu and modern (shinbudo) schools that the person did not recognize. We don’t train every day. I’m not a professional martial arts teacher. I have a day job. All my students work and have their own family obligations.

On the other hand, I did make the time to train with my friend, right? But we are both in the same ryu. We know the same kata, we have even worked out with each other before so we know each other’s timing and characteristics when doing kata together. We know each other’s capabilities and how far we can move up in the kata training. As a member of the same ryu, there are literally very few secrets I would withhold from him.  That’s also koryu. As my teacher remarked, “We’re not really a business; we’re more like a brotherhood (and sisterhood); once you are a member of the ryu, it’s like a budo family. We have to take care of each other.”

But because each ryu have vastly different methodologies from another ryu, to suggest just “dropping by” to train for one session is just crazy. Leaving aside the question of the legitimacy of her system, whatever she’s doing looks nothing like what we’re doing. You can call it “ju-jits” or whatever you want, but it’s not koryu jujutsu. More, it’s not Takeuchi-ryu jujutsu. Even someone doing Yagyu Shingan-ryu, or Sosuishitsu-ryu, or Tenshin Shinyo-ryu (all koryu jujutsu systems) would be out of place doing Takeuchi-ryu. You can’t just plop in there and try your hand at it. Just learning a simple an action as grabbing someone’s lapel may be different. Then how do you approach someone, how do you take a breakfall (each ryu may have a slightly different way they throw someone, leading to slightly different ways to do a breakfall), how do you kiai, what is the zanshin, what is the conceptual framework behind the attack and defense? They are all different from ryu to ryu, and markedly different from koryu to modern Shinbudo and even disastrously different from modern mix-and-match schools.

Mind you, again this is not a qualitative judgment. It may well be that the founder of that person’s bullshit-ryu stumbled across techniques that combined judo with MMA with ballroom dancing and created something totally devastating, something that would make our own efforts look antiquated and outdated. But even if that was the case, the differences in training would be so great that it just wouldn’t work. I would be spending a whole night just working with her on how to sit, walk, move, grab, and do one or two basic throws, that I would ignore the rest of my beginning students. I can’t do that without neglecting my students, and she has offered no real reason for me to do so.

Yet, had she better creds and foreknowledge, I would not begrudge anything. That’s also koryu. Once I attended a scholarly presentation of the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu by Otake Risuke sensei, given at a prestigious private university just outside of Kyoto. Most of the audience was composed of university faculty, historians and professionals. Otake sensei discussed koryu and the ryu’s history, and then had his sons and students demonstrate some techniques. When it came time for questions and answers, Otake sensei got so excited and talkative that he doffed his suit and demonstrated some techniques, while still in formal dress and a tie. He would often say, “Well, to answer your question, this is the concept in our ryu…” and he would demonstrate a movement, then say, “Well, this part means this, and it’s really okuden (‘secret’ teachings) but the meaning is this…” I could just see his sons rolling their eyes. Oh man, Dad’s giving away the farm. But Otake sensei saw no qualms in discussing things openly with a respectful, knowledgeable audience of college professors.

By the same token, once a friend of a friend came to one of my school’s private embu (ritual demonstrations) as a guest. He was a foreigner who taught English at a prestigious Japanese private college, and also did Daito-ryu, a different jujutsu system. My teacher sat next to the guest during the demonstrations and happily explained some of the more arcane techniques to that person because he was respectful, curious and genuinely interested in understanding why Takeuchi-ryu was different from Daito-ryu. It wasn’t like he was going to take some of the techniques he saw and them make up his own style. He was from a legitimate ryuha with an honest curiosity.

I’ve also exchanged basic techniques with a friend from another koryu who I greatly respected. We each showed and taught each other basic forms from our ryu and explained the methodologies and meaning. Because I held him in the highest respect, and I had known him for decades as an honest, upright person, I knew he was never going to misuse what we showed him, and vice versa. We were simply very, very curious about the other’s ryu and concepts in an academic and respectful manner.  And, by that time, I had been given permission to teach, so I could make my own decisions about how and when to teach someone.

Another problem is that the person emailing didn’t seem to understand the nature of a request to observe a koryu school. We are more than happy to ask people to come in and quietly observe our classes when they show up at our dojo’s doorstep. Inquiries to observe a class, out of the blue, are always answered. Requests to train, however, are studied more scrupulously. I usually talk to a prospective trainee first to make sure the person seems to be of somewhat sane mind and body, so as not to imperil other students. I ask what other martial arts they might have done, and why they want to train with us. I want them to consider, before training, whether or not they are serious about training for a while, because making a commitment is important. I will be investing time and effort with them where I could be spending time with other students. If you just want one or two sessions to get “a feel” of the system, it’s really not worth my effort. Sorry, but I don’t have the time or inclination for that. I’m not getting younger and I need to parcel out my time judiciously.  So maybe after one or two months, you figure that it’s not working out, and it’s not for you. At least you made the effort. You didn’t just bop in and bop out after two or three sessions, like how some people I’ve tried to train do, wasting my time. It just didn’t work out. Too bad, end of story.

It was good of the person to note her previous training. If she had said she had done some recognized shinbudo with a reputable organization, or trained in another koryu, I would have been honored to let her watch my class. Still, maybe not train. But observing is fine, if she could make it to our Friday night session. But a scan of her ryu’s web site led me to believe that its legitimacy was suspect. The problem with people from such systems is that they fall into two general categories: One is the “loyal follower”: the student truly believes what he/she is doing is legitimate, historically speaking, and is a decent, honest practitioner simply seeking more knowledge, but is duped by the ryu’s leader(s). The other is the person who foisted such falsehoods, and the further I am away from such people, the better. Their only goal would be to get their pictures taken with me to establish a kind of photographic record to legitimize themselves, or to purloin training methodologies so they can add it to their mashups.  I’ve encountered a couple of both types online and in person. The former are often genuinely nice people who had the disadvantage of being swindled. There’s no shame in that, swindlers are good at swindling. I’ve seen and encountered my own share of swindlers. They just strike me as slime-balls, people with something missing in their moral compass.

So can you come play in my sandbox? Well, sure. But do you have cooties?

Seriously, you can, sort of. But before you can, do you really know how to play in MY sandbox, because my sandbox is not like your sandbox. And are you going to steal my toy soldiers and sand to fill up your own sandbox, or are you going to share your toys with me, i.e., your time and effort, respect and appreciation, or is it all a one-way, selfish street where you just take things away? Then why would I want you to play with me in my sandbox?


24 thoughts on “97. Can I play in your sandbox?

  1. Quick comment, totally agree, great educational writing on clearing up one of the major issues so many misunderstand about Koryus. FWIW, parallels my Koryu’s SOP, and am sure it is the same for other Koryus as well.

  2. Another excellent post. Makes me even more eager to try koryu for myself sometime soon. As for the problematic visitation request, who really knows what the person is like, maybe someone you would absolutley definitely not want coming into your dojo, but maybe she didn’t know any better. It makes perfect sense now that one watches a class before joining, but I remember my very first day going to a karate school in high school ready to get started and the teacher said I would have to watch first, then maybe train later. I also understand her wanting to come by for a day or two to get a little first hand experience of a new art, but also see the bottom line that if you don’t have the time, then you don’t have the time, and it’s the visitor who has to fit to the agreed to form. Anyway, great post.

    1. Zacky, I was really trying to help the person out and educate her in my own way, without sounding too put-offish. Yep, I don’t know what she’s like, so I didn’t try to sound snobby in my reply, but I thought I had to tell her in some way training without knowing what it entailed is really a bad idea, not just in koryu, but often in other martial arts too. Knowing karate is not going to help all that much in a judo class, after all. And vice versa.

      1. Thanks for the reply to the comment! After thinking more, probably the most important thing in budo, transcending technique and style, is reading communication. Obviously words don’t do situations justice, but knowing this, we communicate to this means … a student contacts you about something, you reply through words and feelings … the most important thing, whether they realize what you are saying or not, or like it or not, take advantage of it or not, is that they understand that something is happening and they should try to figure it out. It’s not supposed to be easy, it’s also not supposed to be impossible, this is something everyone can understand I think. By the way, I love the dialogue in your comments section, something is definitely happening, and that’s the point, right? Thanks again for the reply and look forward to more posts.

    2. Zacky Chan, I agree with you. There seems to be this assumed rule of behavior when approaching a Koryu. A rule were the uninitiated is suppose to know the rite and customary approach. But how can they, when they don’t know the hand shake? Does a Koryu who observes this manner expect the uninitiated to grain such know-how by telekinesis, or osmosis or something otherwise mystical power? For many, it seems like an unfair deal of the expectations of these snobbish, rude, among other things Koryu schools act. It puts people off. How are people not privy to this special before-hand knowledge suppose to have it? What chance does anyone have when the “Little Rascals” club house cuff port slammed closed in their face as quickly as it is opened?

      This is my experience, I am going to preface with, if you don’t know already not all Koryu schools don’t operate identically, no cookie cutter exists. But, they do operate in similar manners and have similar earmarks. I look at how Koryus operate in terms of identifiable commonality. I have been in the shoes of the woman Wayne speaks of and treated with the same philosophy as Wayne talks about not being allowed to play in HIS sandbox.

      My experience applying to my Koryu was much like the old TV show Kung Fu starring David Carradine, when the young orphaned Kwai Chang Caine sits outside the local Shaolin temple in the rain patiently waiting to go inside. Of course it is a metaphor of what happened to spare those reading this the dull details. I didn’t sit out in the rain outside my dojo waiting patiently to get it, but that is how I described how I felt trying to get in to my dojo as a young man.

      My expectations where to be hospitably welcomed with open arms as the perfect student they had been long expecting. I expected to be catered to like a million dollar shopper. I expected to write a check and I was in. Just like my other McDojo schools I went to. I cut my martial arts teeth on Happy Meal kicks and punches, and chicken soup schools (Wayne calls them BS. schools – same thing). That is all I knew. That is all I ever experienced – lo that is a problem. My expectations where wrong, I got a cold shoulder, as I didn’t know how to respectfully approach a proper Koryu.

      I understand the criticism made against a Koryu, and I understand how Koryu operate. It is a matter of two different expectations. Koryus as said in other blogs entries and comments here in this blog that Koryu have to protect themselves against exploitation of their culture, against profiteers stealing information for fraudulent purposes and creating fake Koryu that ruin the real Koryu traditions and art. And Koryu needs to protect themselves against other abuses.

      The “Sand box” behavior Koryus have can be off putting. People do develop a bad taste in their mouths for Koryu, if they are not allowed in the “Sand box.” There is a cultural and communicational issue that Koryu doesn’t address. Generally most don’t they don’t communicate their expectations and no reason is given for it. Though it is reasonable to say it is out of cultural privacy. A Koryu culture has its own culture, even if it is out dated and archaic. It is fair to say they are stuck in the past. But that is what they are about. Does this hurt them? Yes, if you look at expansion and a high number of students as a good thing. But, proper Koryus don’t. Thus, why they are small in number and not very popular.

      Koryu prefer their small “Sand Boxes.” There are numerous reasons for it and one is it provides protection. Therefore, they are not effected by the criticism you rightly make, or made by others. Koryu, a proper and good one, has very little change made to the Koryu and how it operates, and if change is made it is well thought out first. Change in a good proper Koryu isn’t going to change and fling their doors open or past out instructions telling everyone how to get it. Being selective per se is a part of Koryu tradition for better or worse as they have their expectations as well. Which is something, imo, vastly not considered. It is often selfishly over-looked by those who feel slighted when their perceived right to jump smack in the middle of the “Sand box” and start digging is not welcomed. All to often it is one sided, being conscious aware of due respect also applies to the Koryu.

      1. I want to expand on my first comment to Zacky Chan asking commenting to Wayne. In that comment I spoke of those who feel slighted. I wish to expand on that.

        Now, about those who feel slighted, they also may feel it is unfair or unjust as a result of feeling slighted. But, when they make their criticism, usually a biting disgruntled criticism, they are only considering how they perceive the situation and how it effects them. It is all about them. Verses, the more sophisticated criticism made by Zacky Chan. Which imo is asking for understanding and clarification on an unknown. I think it is important to make note of these two types of criticism and where they are coming from. those who make small minded criticisms generally don’t work well in any type of group, and it is all about them and their needs. And, their criticisms and comments should be rightly ignored. Whereas, those with genuine criticism from the lack of knowledge are more apt to be understanding and accommodating to the needs of the group, and in this case it is the Koryu. That is they are more respectful and warrant a response to their criticism.

    3. Mr. Chan,
      (I realize that may not be your real name, so I’m making the proper address to someone I don’t know, with what I’ve been given)
      I think one important thing has been lost in the conversation: the blog post was quite clear on the point that the second person inquiring was only interested in making a visit during her vacation. This is not a case of a prospective student making initial inquiries, but does sound more like someone looking for an alternative to the hotel exercise room. That creates a very different situation, and it’s appropriate to handle it differently. The koryu teachers I know are generous with prospective students, but as their primary responsibility is to the ryu, not to individuals, I would not expect them to feel obligated to entertain random vacationers.


  3. Excellent post – I’ve had both positive and negative experiences with people asking to come train with us. Sometimes it is due to simple ignorance of custom and unintentional disrespect (which can be forgiven) and sometimes it is due to ego, arrogance, and “wannabe-ism” (which I don’t waste my time with).

    Quick question: Above you loosely quoted mma guys referring to “jew-jits” which, if I understand, is a denigration of for-profit dojos by associating them with the disgusting stereotype of the “greedy jew”. Is my understanding correct? If so, it is sad to think that so many people still believe it is acceptable to spout such things. (I know you were quoting, of course. So I don’t believe you hold such notions yourself).

    1. Not answering for Wayne, allowing him to do address the situation and concern.

      Strongest Karate, I didn’t read it as a racial slur, the “jew jits” due to the context it was written. I took it as a phonetic spelling of a colloquial bastardization of regional southern dialectic slang. Such as this, “git r done.”

      1. Hey Jon,

        Even as I wrote I could see what you are referring too so I figured my interpretation was likely incorrect, or at best, fringe. I think my having grown up in the southern US has (unfortunately) primed me to occasionally see bigotry, even where none is meant (as Wayne explained below in his response).

    2. No slur intended. I was trying to write how some people pronounce modern grappling martial arts…even some people who walk into my dojo. I could perhaps have better used “joo-jits” or something like that. I’ve even heard just “jits” as in “I’m going to ‘jits practice.” Ugh. I also don’t begrudge a professional studio making a profit. They need it to pay their higher rents, equipment, and professional instructors. My secondary point was that koryu tend to operate differently.

      I also now realize that perhaps some readers may not have encountered an actual koryu system in outside of documentaries and videos. So to further explain the seeming inacessibility of “dropping in” to train: The thing is, it’s not as if you’re in Shito-ryu karate and drop in on a Shotokan karate training session, invited by your friend, and can taste their flavor of “Kusanku Dai,” for example, or try kumite as an experiment. And the basics of punching and kicking are pretty much the same, too. In comparison, if you go from one koryu jujutsu to another, the whole thing is totally different. Kata are different, rituals are different, attack points are different, sometimes even the particular keikogi and how you wear it may be slightly different. For my own ryu, we have some basic kata that are probably not at all how any other school, let alone one kind of “made up,” organizes their techniques. So it’s not like you can just jump in and it’s all familiar, only “slightly” different. It’s like saying, yeah, well it’s all noodles, right? When you know how to make spaghetti and apply for a job at a Thai restaurant that wants you to make pho. Yes, it’s all noodles. But very different kind of noodles.

  4. The Strongest Karate, Southern’s are getting allot more exposure on TV like Larry The Cable Guy and his show, Jeff Fox Worthy’s Baking Show, Duck Dynasty, Swamp people, then there was the Noodling TV show, and several other Southern TV personalities. With that much exposure to the various, yet related, Southern dialects non-Southern’s are bound to be picked it up and bastardized the Southern accent, once more. Being from the deep south, I understand that bigotry. Of course we don’t want to cede to the fact that we lost the civil, and there is still a dislike and trust of the Government, and Yankees, well anyone for the most part in some places; like many other countries in the world. Having that said, it is clear in Wayne’s writing he isn’t anti-semitic. We can clearly see his bigotry lies with what he terms as “bullshit ryu.” In all his martial arts writing I have read I don’t think he has ever expressed any anti-semetic beliefs.

    I can see your concern because imo there is a number of bigots in martial arts when it comes to other martial arts schools, or styles. So maybe, just maybe your eye caught the word “jew-jit” as a an anti-semitic remark, as a result of the combination of being from the South and a Martial artist. If so that is understandable.

    Wayne I think the spelling is fine as “jew-jits” the written English language has limitation despite its design flexibility. The “J” wasn’t capitalize. I figure, aw let the Lexicons fight it out what they think is the best spelling. But for kicks and giggles, I came up with jewe-jits, jou-jits, gee-you-jits, and redneck.

  5. Talking about noodles. I recently started training in BBJ (nothing Brazilian, it stands for Bob’s Backyard Jujitsu). All problems relating to koryu jujutsu are unknown to BBJ. There is no lineage beyond Bob and it is a highly deadly art.

    Great blog by the way.

  6. Hey Wayne,

    Thanks for this post. It cleared up a few things for me. I think I now understand better from where you are coming.

    2 things (1 question, 1 remark) though:

    There is the saying about practice: “Think about the past and let it shine now.”
    I often question myself about this relationship: What is essential to the ryu and what is part of the cirumstances and therefore a thing of the past and not relevant anymore in the modern/western context?
    Do you have any thoughts about that? To me your approach to koryu reads more like “preserve the past as it was under any circumstances.”

    “Their only goal would be to get their pictures taken with me to establish a kind of photographic record to legitimize themselves”
    OMG! I’ve not realized before how important you are.


    1. Two remarks, too, replying to your remarks:
      1. By chance, I saw the quote in a tea room just yesterday on a scroll, probably the same, interpreted differently, and I think I look at it this way: “Learning about the past enlightens the spirit.” You may think my approach is to preserve everything at all costs. My own belief is that the past has some really important things to retain, since while technology changes, the nature of conflict and resolution remain very human endeavors. On a specific point, many of our own system’s forms are based on grappling in heavy metal armor. You would think with the emphasis on stripped down fighting in a ring, this would be totally irrelevant. But when I reviewed it with a student who had, after training with me, become a member of Special Forces and toured Afghanistan three times, he said, “It works for me.” They have to hump sometimes over a hundred pounds of gear, and learning to fight encumbered with stuff on top of you made a whole lot of sense. He also saw how he could adapt short weapons work to close quarter urban combat using knives and pistols. Don’t ask me how, but he figured it out in terms of body placement, movement, concepts and grappling. It would have been lost had it not been for the ryu retaining the practice and methodologies. On the other hand, our strain of the ryu also contained fighting methods that could be easily translated to more competitive grappling of the late Edo Period, which in some ways could also be quickly transferred to any resistive, competitive grappling, too.

      As for the latter acerbic remark. I resemble that. Actually, it’s a behavior I’ve seen remarked upon by some of my teachers. Some of them have been burned by unscrupulous people who do that at tournaments and demo’s. They shake hands with a famous (certainly more famous than me, although that doesn’t stop some of them from swiping whole paragraphs of my essays and plugging them into their own web sites) and smile for the camera, and then all of a sudden, somebody puts the photo up on a web site and the person claims he had “studied” under them. I am lucky, however. Most such fakers don’t have the resources to fly to Hawaii just for a photo op. So maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about that. Or not.


      1. Wayne, thanks for the answer.

        The story about your soldier is very interesting. I like the idea that something so old is still practical. Wonderful!

        “Learning about the past enlightens the spirit.” – I also like that. Do you still remember the Japanese words?

        As far as technical part is concerned I’m d’accord, I think. We don’t have any armour anymore, should we change the techniques? Well, it would be a new system, wouldn’t it. So if you want to train the original system, you have to stay with the original setup and training assumptions.

        But what about the surrounding circumstances? We are not training under a daimyo who retains us for being his body guards or soldiers. The cultural context, the training circumstances, the technical possibilities have changed. We know now so much more about how the brain works.
        Do we try to recreate the historical circumstances as good as possible, to train exactly as they did x00 years ago. Or should we try to find out what the essence of the training is and how we can make it come to life today?

        As an example: What about videotaping a training session, analyzing and learning from the video?

        Another thing I wonder about: We want to do our art as long as possible. Where these old arts really designed for that? When someone expected to die before 30 he didn’t care so much about the long-term implications, did he? (How many koryu practitioners do you know above 50 who don’t have knee or hip problems?)

        Well, I’m moving away from the original topic – sorry.
        To come back to the sandbox: You are worried about someone legitimizing themself by displaying a picture of you and them. Well, nowadays if they really wanted to do that, they don’t have to fly to Hawaii. They just have to know how photoshop works.
        So – don’t panic! I think someone who wants to learn Takeuchi-ryu will easily find out who the legitimate teachers are. For someone who “falls into the trap” of a mesh-up-schools teacher, it doesn’t make a difference if there is a photo of you. It would be just one more side-note on this teacher’s “achievements board”.


      2. Hey Wayne,
        reading through your post 48 and 47 (and comments) I think an answer to the above isn’t necessary.


      3. Aina,

        Actually, literally the saying is: teach (or be taught) the old, brighten the spirit. (Furui (o) oshieru; kokoro (o) terasu). 古教照心

        As for updating koryu, I can’t speak for all the teachers and opinions. Some teachers prefer to keep it set the way they learned it, and the way their teachers learned it in terms of methodology. Some are willing to introduce modern teaching aids. The headmaster of one of the systems I study used to allow note taking because of the huge amount of kata we had to learn. He used a chalkboard to further diagram things in the dojo, and printed photocopied handouts. Eventually, he has even allowed videotaping of material as a way for students to retain kata that they learned, but only within the ryu. There is another acquaintance in another ryu, however, who would frown on such elements and would prefer no video capture at all. It’s pretty much a wide range of opinions. One does have to realize, however, that even the “traditional” white keikogi is a relatively “modern” innovation, created at the turn of the 20th Century, probably by Kano Jigoro. So innovations vs. tradition…that’s another blog idea.

  7. The Strongest Karate makes a good point about bigotry, and my comment relates to martial art’s bigots, both Koryu and Gendai. It would probably help if I started with the definition when using the word, bigot. After all, bigot has lots of connotative baggage. So, what do I mean by bigot, well it’s like this:

    -bigot is a person who is obstinately convinced of the superiority or correctness of one’s own opinions and prejudiced and intolerance against those who hold different opinions.

    Now that is cleared up, are Koryu bigots because they don’t just don’t let anyone in drop in unannounced? Beth Johnson, brings up a good point, should Koryus cater to those “…looking for an alternative to the hotel exercise room.” Wayne in his blog stresses people approaching a Koryu to do it mindfully and with respect. My view is, Koryu’s are more interested in a person’s genuine interest in what they do, then those window shopping. And that a Koryu must be selective and needs to protect its self. Not because Koryus are all that deadly, or special. No, they aren’t. What they are is a valuable resource to frauds, posers, and businessmen. Which in turn, thru misinformation and abuse, ruins the public’s perception, understanding and appreciation for a historic part of Japanese culture.

    Not respecting Wayne as a Koryu sensei who doesn’t want just anyone to play in his sandbox, by criticism of it being wrong or unfair, lends it’s self to bigotry. We don’t afford a Koryu sensei the same reverence if he was a chef who just didn’t let anyone in his kitchen.

    Is it bigotry when Koryu’s are not given the right to be selective who they let in through their doors, it is a long held tradition in martial arts of all types. The more openness came with the Gendai arts based on founding principles, like Judo and Aikido. But, also the strip mall dojos and McDojos had a huge part in changing the publics perception that the way Koryu’s operate makes them bigoted snobs. And at least in the US the forces that shape society create the strong opinion that Koryu has no right to be “discriminatory.”

    Maybe Wayne should have titled his blog, “Stay Out of My Kitchen-unless your properly trained.” Taking the angle not just anyone is allowed in his kitchen. How in the world is he suppose to know if you can properly prepare a Beef Wellington, or a soufflé. For the love of Ratatouille! Just because someone says they are a chef doesn’t mean they have the proper training. My god, fry cooks at Denny’s call each other chef, for that matter. If you are a true blue certified chef, you have the credentials and training to know your way around the kitchen. You know the culture and the expectations.

    How many are allow to walking, off the street, and sit in a big corporate business meeting saying they want to be part of the group meeting, and share some ideas and business techniques. You know share in the group experience?

    Not satisfy with that examples of being selective (not allowing anyone in off the street), try walking in an automotive shop, pick up a hammer and start working on a car. Or just go to a construction site, and start wiring the building. See how these professional tradesmen treat you.

    A bit more absurd, but sends the point home, try walking into an operating room from off the street and grab a bone saw head toward the patient and telling everyone you have wood working experience, and are a first responder. When they kick you out, protest with “it’s unfair” duly criticizing them for having the policy that does not just let anyone with wood working or first aid experience in the OR.

    Making demands upon a privately held Koryu to be some kind of a hostile is a form of social pressure, a type of bigotry? Isn’t protesting against the right of Koryu to be private, selective, to uphold tradition and culture, bigotry? Koryu doesn’t claim to provide Budo sanctuary, just because some Gendai traditions do.

    The image of Koryu, yes , in the past was mishandled by the wrong people and they gave the impression they were elite, and very snobbish. You have to look at a proper Koryu in the terms of any profession, you just don’t walk in off the street with expectations. If you are properly trained in any profession you display the proper decorum, and professional approach. Koryu is a tradition, it upholds and protects it historic traditions, customs, and rituals. That is its right, isn’t?

    1. Hey Jon,

      Two items:
      1. The bigotry I was referring to was of the racial/ethnic kind, rather than the martial arts kind. While I think that racial bigotry has no place in a civilized society, I can understand, to an extent, its place in the realm of martial arts – though as a Gendai martial artist, it is a bitter pill for me to swallow.

      2. Interesting analogy: “How many are allow to walking, off the street, and sit in a big corporate business meeting saying they want to be part of the group meeting, and share some ideas and business techniques.”. Anyone who would do such a thing in the business world or in a dojo would find themselves not welcome to return.


      1. I am sorry, I had replied to you but it didn’t post probably due to technical reasons before I referenced you in my comment about martial art bigotry. I hear what your saying, I am from the deep South. I completely understand your need for clarification on the spelling of “jew-jit.”
        the spelling could be, in the right context, an anti-semitic remark. But, as Wayne said it was, and hind-sight is 20/20. Btw, nice webpage.

  8. Koryu decorum – That is really at the heart of the matter here as well. Koryu isn’t perfect and has it’s faults. If you approach a proper Koryu there is expectations of decorum, as in any profession. Whether it is a business meeting or walking into a kitchen, or just wanting to play in some else’s sandbox (what a double entendre that one is), a decorum is expected. To deign a Koryu of it’s tradition and concerns, is what truly isn’t fair.

    On the other hand, yes, Koryu employes the old hiring conundrum of job seekers without experience doomed to never getting a job because the only way to be hired is to have experience. That is true and a valid criticism of Koryu. But, a proper Koryu also considers other factors not discussed here in detail in the blog or comments. That would be a person not having the common forethought and decorum to expect they can just jump right on into training in the middle of the dojo floor, absent of learning the protocol or etiquette. Knowing the protocol and etiquette is a show of respect and mind set. Not even a Gendai art tolerates that.

    It boils down to shitty instruction. When Wayne says Bullshit-ryu I take it as a place where there is allot of bullshit being flung around and perpetuated by a shitting instructor. A person for what ever reason is ignorant and disrespectful of Budo. A person who prefers to make shit up and bullshit others, for what ever reason. These instructors then train their students in their bullshit, their bullshit-ryu, creating misconceptions and lies about Budo. They foster a lack of respect for the arts. They create bigotry and bitter rivalries for other schools. They are dangerous with their lies, and the bullshit hack wazas the teach. Their students not knowing anything else shallow the bullshit, hook line and sinker, perpetuating the bullshit as budo. Bullshit ryu students never understand the real Budo traditions, wazas or culture. All they know is what has been taught to them. They have no idea how to properly approach a Koryu, and how could they? But, that doesn’t mean you allow a bull in a china shop.

    Like any other profession, it is up to the individual to know and exercise the proper decorum. It isn’t the organizations responsible to accommodate the individual lacking the proper decorum. It is odd and absurd to think otherwise.

  9. Correction. I feel it is important to correct this comment of mine.

    To: Strongest Karate
    “I am sorry, I had replied to you but it didn’t post probably due to technical reasons before I referenced you in my comment about martial art bigotry. I hear what your saying, I am from the deep South. I completely understand your need for clarification on the spelling of “jew-jit.”
    the spelling could be, in the right context, an anti-semitic remark. But, as Wayne said it WAS NOT anti-semitic, and hind-sight is 20/20. Btw, nice webpage.

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