George S. Ledyard
This isn't really about politics at all...
The Koryu have been handed down for hundreds of years. Their training is based on Kata and it is progressive. Usually, a person doesn't do, and my not even see, what comes later in the progression until he has sufficiently mastered the level at which he is currently studying.
So the issue of how long one trained and with whom is vitally important. This is why the issue of teaching licenses and permissions to teach from the legitimate inheritors of a style are so crucial to proper transmission. There are levels and levels of understanding in these arts. The basic forms contain all sorts of things which will not be shown to a student until he gets to the proper level.
So these styles are justifiably protective of their lineage. They are essentially "endangered species" in the modern world. Very few do them, fewer still get to the top levels. If people are allowed to incorrectly use the name or say techniques are from a certain style, when the understanding of those techniques may not actually be true to that style, everything gets confused. Technical drift si one of the greatest concerns for the Koryu. That's why all permission to teach is closely controlled by the Soke or Headmaster of a given style.
In a style with 500 years of history, the subtleties in technique are vastly deeper than what most modern martial artists have access to in their respective styles. If you tamper with these things, the style literally becomes something else and ceases to be authentic. It would be like taking rare and endangered species and doing genetic engineering on them and letting them back in to the wild. They would start to be something "other", not what had evolved naturally.
The only way to be ensured that what you get when you train in a Koryu is the real thing is to train with someone who has permission to teach directly from the Headquarters establishment.
This isn't to say that what various people are doing in their weapons work isn't of value... Inaba Sensei's weapons instruction is invaluable for Aikido, an art which has had no systematic weapons work in much of what is taught these days. But it isn't Kashima and should not be referred to that way.
Gleason Sensei's sword work came through Inaba, I believe... It is great stuff. But I suspect that his interpretation of things is growing and developing and is no longer strictly what he was taught either. This is both fine and even desirable in Aikido which is an art purposely designed to be changing, evolving, and growing all the time. But it would be disastrous for a Koryu. In just a generation of this type of transmission, the style would cease to be what it had been. It would be extinct just as the dinosaurs are. Just as we can find DNA in modern birds that shows a relationship to the dinosaurs, one might still be able to find elements in what evolved that came from the old Koryu but they would be entirely different taken out of context. And out of context they lose their original meaning. That knowledge would be lost and could not be regained.
If you would better understand what the Koryu represent, take a look at the Koryu.com website. It is a wealth of material on the Japanese Koryu and perhaps will allow folks to see that these concerns are not about "politics" but about fundamental issues.
First of all let me start off by thanking Ledyard Sensei on behalf of everyone at Shobu Aikido of Boston for the wonderful seminar he taught this week end. He gave us all a lot to think about and work with, and we are all looking forward to the day when he'll come back to teach us again.
For the record, Gleason Sensei was instructed in swordsmanship by Noguchi Sensei at Yamaguchi Sensei's Shibuya Station dojo.
Gleason Sensei has recently released a DVD entitled "Akikido and Japanese Sword" that contains some VERY RARE vintage footage of Noguchi Sensei should anyone be interested.