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Old 09-13-2008, 08:14 PM   #17
Toby Threadgill
Location: Evergreen, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 166
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Uchiden - Proprietary Teachings

Mr Rennis Buchner touches on a topic I believe its important to expand upon concerning proprietary teachings and secrecy. There are different types of proprietary knowledge and different reasons for maintaining proprietary teachings in koryu.

One reason for uchiden is obviously related to maintaining a technical advantage over other martial systems that could pose a tactical threat. I think we can all acknowledge that tactical secrecy no longer holds the compelling importance it once did. I certainly don't stay awake at night worrying that my family or friends might perish if those nasty old Maniwa Nen ryu guys figured out our tactical secrets and came looking for us.

Another and still valid reason for uchiden relates to what I call secret handshakes. We view our tradition and its teachings as a sacred trust. Generations of teachers and students before us dedicated great effort and hardship to passing forward the tradition we maintain. As a result, we protect our greater curriculum, group identity and internal hierarchy by keeping certain teachings outside the view of those not initiated into the group. These teachings can be as diverse as specific kata, a unique application of tactics or even a prayer spoken in a certain style or rhythm.

(As hard as it is to fathom, the use of our uchiden in TSYR has already demonstrated its value in this arena. A dojo in Mexico came to our attention a couple of years ago with an impressive website, pictures and all, claiming a long teaching relationship with Takamura sensei. Frankly we were stumped but open minded as to who these guys were. A couple of e-mail exchanges and one question about our uchiden exposed these guys as frauds trying to capitalize on Takamura sensei's reputation.)

Another reason for uchiden relates to maintaining a proper teaching methodology. It is human nature for a student to want to access information faster than is necessarily most productive. If you allow a beginning student access to advanced knowledge too soon he will inevitably become distracted and focus his attention on these "new" teachings before he has properly internalized his basics. By holding certain teachings back you can maintain a methodical teaching progression that insures the student learns in the most efficient and integrated way. It must be reiterated that this is very different from the controversial methods mentioned by Dan Harden and others involved in this thread.

So.....Uchiden has a very important and beneficial function in koryu, even today. It helps maintain group identity. It acts as a tool to protect the school and its reputation from compromise. Plus, it's a tool that reinforces an efficient budo pedagogy.

Uchiden in TSYR was envisioned with the best interest of the school in mind. However, if uchiden is employed in the best interest of one member, even if its the headmaster, I believe a student has legitimate reason to question whether such implementation is beneficial or detrimental to the schools overall health.

False teachings to formal initiates of a school is a totally different subject and one I can't rationalize to have any positive purpose in this day and age. Like Dan, I believe it's a betrayal of trust that cannot be beneficial to the ovarall good of any budo tradition.

Toby Threadgill / TSYR

Last edited by Toby Threadgill : 09-13-2008 at 08:22 PM.
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