Join Date: May 2003
Re: religious terminology in martial arts and implication
1. In older Toda-ha Buko-ryu densho, among other things, we have kuji: This is an incantation, where each of nine primordial syllables is associated with a deity - actually, two linked deities. These incantations are both frankly religious and simultaneously, "codings" through which one organizes one's mind in specifically predetermined and trained states.
2. The juxtoposition of the two deities is, in itself, fascinating - I'm actually still in the process of determining if these associations are individual to the ryu, derived from Kogen Itto-ryu (with which it was associated) or rather standard.
3. To give an example of the multi-layering, in Araki-ryu, there is a specific incantation to return the spirits of the dead that one had killed on the battlefield, back to the grave. On one level - this is simple folk magic - and it was surely believed. On a second, simultaneous level, it was a method, culturally specific, to modulate post-traumatic stress disorder.
4. The gokui nagamaki kata, in Toda-ha Buko-ryu names are also intriguing. The ryu is associated with the deity of Kashima shrine. One kata, for example, is named - 武御雷位 The technique of Takemikazuchi (Takemikazuchi no kurai). This is the chief deity of Kashima shrine, known as "brave-awful possessing" deity. Without going into much detail, one must imbue the kata with character of this deity. In a sense, one allows the spirit of the deity to possess oneself. I'm not religious in the slightest, and for me, it is not like "voudoun," but I very much do experience this. I can "shape-shift," so to speak. Call it making a shift in one's neurological organization, or what have you - but I learned to become something different when I choose.
5. Another kata, the first, is known as 天璦矛 The heavenly jeweled spear (ame no nuboko) - consider the psychological valence of a kata named for the divine object that created Japan.
6. Many other kata were not "spiritual," but are "poetic" - images carry more than labels. For example, a Kata named 虎龍之浮波 The floating Wave of Tiger and Dragon encases yin/yang (tiger and dragon), motivated on a dynamic, fluid mode of engagement or movement. The names of kata of old ryu often have the key to essential qualities within it.
7. Some modern people deride the poetry - therefore, a kata with a name like kotegaeshi or shihonage seems to have more validity to them than hotoke-daoshi (knocked over buddha). The pedagogical model of the old ryu, however, encoded vital information in the names. This code included hints on movement, stance, attitude, and psychological organization.
In sum, the ryu were not "religious." Remember, in the 19th century, philosophy and psychology were one and the same discipline. The only later divided, into rather "antagonistic" sectors of academia. In the ryu, there was an amalgam of psychological knowledge, frank religious sensibility, attempts to access paranormal powers ("mind reading," among other things), primitive medicine, pure tactics, pure techniques, folk magic, a technology of body training - including, in some ryu, internal training methodologies - all in one.
Phi, this is just a brief sampling of what can be contained within a ryu curriculum. There is so much more than "one thing." Returning to the word "aiki," where, I and Peter Goldsbury assert that all of Ueshiba's definitions and assertions are not, for him mutually contradictory, as incongruent as they may seem. Similarly, and actually much larger,there is one Toda-ha Buko-ryu or one Araki-ryu, each encompassing everything that the ryu is, that the ryu touches. Everything in either ryu is that ryu's substance. (By the way, truly learning two ryu is almost impossible - its an insane undertaking, really - but leave that for another discussion - I'll be happy to talk about that elsewhere).