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Old 06-19-2010, 08:57 AM   #28
Ellis Amdur
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Location: Seattle
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 848
Regarding Iemoto and Outliers

In some koryu, the iemoto functions similar to the Emperor of Japan - the center rather than the top. In Tendo-ryu, for example, I've observed every shihan conforming to the movements of the late soke, Mitamura Takeko in group practice, and yet, in their own dojo, hewing to their own individual interpretations. Notable among them - an outlier? or a Cassandra? was Abe Toyoko. It is unclear how the current generation will handle this.
In Toda-ha Buko-ryu, the current soke has given/accepts the shihan as having considerable latitude. In one of the wisest types of leadership, he incorporated some training methods one shihan (me)brought and made them "official." Nitta Suzuyo, the last soke, was the same way.
Katori Shinto-ryu is interresting. In the previous generation, the iemoto/soke allowed a lot of latitude, and I've been told that there were a number of independent centers of TSKSR - and more than one shihan. In the current generation, there is one non-practicing soke and one shihan. Several men have become outliers, so to speak, because they perceived themselves as having no place to shine, and "outlied" themselves. (I am not making a criticism on the politics of that ryu - and whether the current set-up is right or wrong).
The bulk of koryu, until recently, did not have an iemoto - rather, they had "dai" - generations - independent shihan, who could form independent centers. There was a natural centripital force - the curriculum and lineage of the ryu drew people inwards to maintain the essence of the school, and a cetrifugal force - (a creative energy - outlier - to go beyond the confines of the ryu, which resulted in "ha" (sub-groups with their own character) or new ryu.
In ryu with an iemoto, I think the latitude for outliers within a koryu depended, in part, on the "longitude" (the "size and height") of the spirit of the iemoto. In my opinion, Kisshomaru showed considerable size of spirit, in his ability to encompass so many big men within his aegis. This denotes a confidence and security of spirit. Straining a metaphor, as I often do, Morihei was a Patton, but Kisshomaru was an Eisenhower.
ON the one hand, then, an autocractic iemoto may be acting out of weakness - s/he extinguishes the outliers or drives them away so as never to be challenged on the throne. On the other, however, s/he may be aware that there is no one who has either learned the ryu or who can do it justice. What looks like suppression in this latter case is actually protection of the ryu.
Ellis Amdur

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