Thread: On Koryu
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Old 03-09-2011, 11:04 AM   #16
Cliff Judge
Dojo: Aikido Shobukan Dojo
Location: Columbia, MD
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 816
Re: On Koryu

Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
Hi Cliff:

Well, my comment about some of the koryu was along narrower lines than that. Take as an example Karl Friday's book on KSR, "Legacies of the Sword". The early chapters make it clear that KSR is one of the many arts, including koryu, that asserts its basis on the Yin-Yang, Five Elements, and so on, which incontrovertibly will contain the body skills of ki and kokyu development. Whatever else that koryu contains doesn't interest me, at first, until I have some idea of how well-developed or retained those basic skills are. The reason you see these cosmological pronouncemenst so early and so clearly in the literature of almost all Asian arts is that these skills are baseline skills, not some dispensable facet. My comment was along the lines that most of these arts have lost these skills (or most of them) over time, so I simply was asking whether it is a good strategy to struggle along without the actual baseline skill or whether they should try and regain it (IF they need to). If they need to regain some of the old skills, then being secretive while looking for outside information simply doesn't appear like a good strategy, at least to me. That's all I was saying. Period.

All the other things that an art may contain is interesting. But think of it like this. I studied Aikido for between 7 and 8 years, but all the things I learned were essentially wrong because my teachers didn't really have kokyu/ki/qi/jin skills.... so we were doing external (but effective to some extent) techniques. To do Aikido correctly, I would have had to go back and retrain the way I use my body, using kokyu, hara, ki, etc. My point being that if the basics are wrong, then comments about the "high level" stuff, etc., premature or off-topic.

A 'koryu' is many things that I don't understand? Fine... I don't have a problem with that. My question was only about having a secretive in-house strategy while perhaps needing to get some outside information that might change the whole art. It was just an offhand observation about a limited aspect of koryu's and other schools, not the schools in toto.

2 cents.

Mike Sigman
Okay. Well, from what I can tell, the most important, identifying characteristic of koryu is actually how training progresses. I've attended seminars with high-level instructors of at least two koryu jujutsu schools where it was explained to me that you start out as a young buck and they teach you to use your muscles to pick a man up and throw him. After years of that, they teach you to use his energy to have him land on the ground, then after many more years of that you might get shown how to use "aiki" or its native equivalent..

Now I can't tell you whether, in these systems, there is no aiki for the first fifteen years and then there is, or if the aiki is slowly being built or "soaked into" the student, or what. But they seem to be built around the concept of building a foundation of skills that are not aiki for a lot of years before introducing the concept.

Now what do you get if you take away the years of slow introduction and just start people out on aiki on the first day? Well, you get Aikido. Because it uses the jujutsu pedagogical system where the instructor stands up in front of his students and demonstrates techniques on selected ukes, everyone has to figure out on their own what they just saw and how to do it and everything seems to devolve fairly quickly.

One thing I have always thought of as characteristic about Japanese martial arts - not sure how true this is across the board - is that they don't seem too concerned with the role of the conscious brain in training. There are things you are supposed to do many times without having an idea in your brain about what you are doing or why in the koryu. Also, in Aikido one of the biggest hurdles for a beginner is that urge to go "wait what I am doing here, how do i do this" before activating the body to attempt a technique. When I briefly experimented with bagua in college and when my brother tries to show me tai chi its a very brain-first, think about where you are going to move next kind of feeling. Just my very humble opinion.

So what I have to say is that if you had been training a koryu, and you left after 7-8 years because it was all external muscular stuff, then in that paradigm you quit way before the part of the process where you may have been shown that what you were working on WAS foundational to internal skills.

With Aikido, I don't know that you are incorrect that the foundational basics have gotten too external and there is no smooth transition from that phase of training to the phase where internal power is developed and expressed. Maybe that's the truth to the meme that "O Sensei only accepted students who were already experienced martial artists" - because he wanted students he could drop aiki knowledge on from day one, but didn't want to put together a ten-year program for building external / jujutsu building blocks for beginners.

Or maybe your idea that Aikido basics should be reworked so that kokyu / aiki are "baseline," foundational skills is actually revolutionary and not obvious.
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