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Old 07-19-2017, 08:42 AM   #1
Ecosamurai
 
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Ryu, kai, and kan

I'm curious as to how people see these terms in their modern context. I'm familiar with the meaning of all three - Ryu 流 meaning school/tradition, kan 館 as in house or structure, and kai 会 as in association/club.
Within aikido you have examples of all three, with Yoshinkan, Aikikai, and Iwama ryu being the ones that spring to mind most readily. Is there some subtle linguistic underpinning I'm not aware of? Are the terms kan and kai effectively interchangeable with ryu? If so is it appropriate to view some aikido organisations in terms of a traditional Japanese ryu and some others as something else?
I'm aware that there is an association called Yoshinkai for the Yoshinkan aikido style for instance, I'm also aware that two senior Yoshinkan teachers split from it not too long ago and one used the suffix kai and the other kan for their new organisations.
Anyone with more kowledge of JApanese language and customs care to enlighten me?

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Old 07-19-2017, 09:05 AM   #2
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Re: Ryu, kai, and kan

I hope we do get a linguist commenting here, but here's one anecdote that may give some of the sense of "kan", or at least one use of it. The name "Shotokan" is taken from the pen name ("Shoto") of the style's founder, Gichin Funakoshi, and I was told that "Shotokan" has the sense of "Shoto's place", maybe a bit like "chez" in French.
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Old 07-19-2017, 07:12 PM   #3
Ellis Amdur
 
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Re: Ryu, kai, and kan

As always, with Japanese, it's nuance, not hard-and-fast.

RYU can indicate a tradition that is generational (or if one is the founder, one has that intention. For example, Itto-ryu, a martial art founded with the intention of transmission, directly, person-to-person in a descending (and spreading) lineage.
RYU can also mean 'style.' Were someone to use the former meaning in referring to Iwama-ryu, that would be a declaration of independence or a revolt, However, the nuance here is that the difference is definitive enough to be notable. For example, one might refer to Endo-ryu or Tada-ryu (and maybe some do), but use of the term indicates that there is more of a separation--socially, stylistically or structurally --than merely a different way of moving within an umbrella organization.

HA - no one asked about this term - but this indicates a branching off that is different enough that it truly has changed - yet, it retains enough of the original that it's not a clear separation - ie., Ono-ha Itto-ryu, Chuya-ha Itto-ryu, Mizoguchi-ha, Itto-ryu

KAI just means an organization - a grouping, so to speak.
KAN is much the same, but it has the nuance of an edifice. If there was an "Aikikan," one would immediately imagine an imposing building as a headquarters.

Ellis Amdur

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Old 07-19-2017, 08:34 PM   #4
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Re: Ryu, kai, and kan

To me, it all depends on what you want conveyed, hence the choice of words used. Shioda sensei named his dojo after his dad's judo dojo that was connected to his house as a kid. Hence the word kan (building) being used in Yoshinkan.

Aikikai was more concerned about the group of guys following Osensei. They all had differences in their techniques or understanding but not that far apart. They valued their association with the founder hence the word kai being used.

Ha to me means version. So Ono-ha Itto-ryu translates to Mr. Ono's version of Itto-ryu.

Ryu to me means style and that there is no deviation. Iwama-ryu is the same no matter where you learn it unlike Aikikai which will have differences amongst it's dojos.
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Old 07-19-2017, 08:41 PM   #5
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Re: Ryu, kai, and kan

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
As always, with Japanese, it's nuance, not hard-and-fast.

RYU can indicate a tradition that is generational (or if one is the founder, one has that intention. For example, Itto-ryu, a martial art founded with the intention of transmission, directly, person-to-person in a descending (and spreading) lineage.
RYU can also mean 'style.' Were someone to use the former meaning in referring to Iwama-ryu, that would be a declaration of independence or a revolt, However, the nuance here is that the difference is definitive enough to be notable. For example, one might refer to Endo-ryu or Tada-ryu (and maybe some do), but use of the term indicates that there is more of a separation--socially, stylistically or structurally --than merely a different way of moving within an umbrella organization.

HA - no one asked about this term - but this indicates a branching off that is different enough that it truly has changed - yet, it retains enough of the original that it's not a clear separation - ie., Ono-ha Itto-ryu, Chuya-ha Itto-ryu, Mizoguchi-ha, Itto-ryu

KAI just means an organization - a grouping, so to speak.
KAN is much the same, but it has the nuance of an edifice. If there was an "Aikikan," one would immediately imagine an imposing building as a headquarters.

Ellis Amdur
Took the words right out of my mouth.
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Old 07-20-2017, 04:58 AM   #6
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Re: Ryu, kai, and kan

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
As always, with Japanese, it's nuance, not hard-and-fast.

RYU can indicate a tradition that is generational (or if one is the founder, one has that intention. For example, Itto-ryu, a martial art founded with the intention of transmission, directly, person-to-person in a descending (and spreading) lineage.
RYU can also mean 'style.' Were someone to use the former meaning in referring to Iwama-ryu, that would be a declaration of independence or a revolt, However, the nuance here is that the difference is definitive enough to be notable. For example, one might refer to Endo-ryu or Tada-ryu (and maybe some do), but use of the term indicates that there is more of a separation--socially, stylistically or structurally --than merely a different way of moving within an umbrella organization.

HA - no one asked about this term - but this indicates a branching off that is different enough that it truly has changed - yet, it retains enough of the original that it's not a clear separation - ie., Ono-ha Itto-ryu, Chuya-ha Itto-ryu, Mizoguchi-ha, Itto-ryu

KAI just means an organization - a grouping, so to speak.
KAN is much the same, but it has the nuance of an edifice. If there was an "Aikikan," one would immediately imagine an imposing building as a headquarters.

Ellis Amdur
So you could have a something-kai dedicated to passing on the traditions of the same something-ryu? As an example, an Iwamakai for organising dissemination of Iwamaryu?

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Old 07-20-2017, 07:16 AM   #7
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Ryu, kai, and kan

Quote:
Mike Haft wrote: View Post
I'm curious as to how people see these terms in their modern context. I'm familiar with the meaning of all three - Ryu 流 meaning school/tradition, kan 館 as in house or structure, and kai 会 as in association/club.
Within aikido you have examples of all three, with Yoshinkan, Aikikai, and Iwama ryu being the ones that spring to mind most readily. Is there some subtle linguistic underpinning I'm not aware of? Are the terms kan and kai effectively interchangeable with ryu? If so is it appropriate to view some aikido organisations in terms of a traditional Japanese ryu and some others as something else?
I'm aware that there is an association called Yoshinkai for the Yoshinkan aikido style for instance, I'm also aware that two senior Yoshinkan teachers split from it not too long ago and one used the suffix kai and the other kan for their new organisations.
Anyone with more knowledge of Japanese language and customs care to enlighten me?
(NB. This will be a long post.)
I think that one way of approaching Japanese terms used in the martial arts is to look at the way the terms are used in a non-martial context, especially within non-martial compounds. Language is also a living thing and develops all the time, and there are limits to any attempt to categorize or regulate its use.

RYU: 流 / りゅう / リュウ. This character basically means ‘current' or ‘flow' and the Japanese kun reading of the character is nagare / nagareru: flow / to flow; or nagashi / nagasu: variations on the general sense of causing to flow or allowing to flow.
There are very many compounds, so many that it is difficult to classify them, and in many cases the original sense of flow is modified or changed by the other components of the compound word, as, for example, in 流石 [sasuga = as might be expected, [said of someone acting in character] and 流鏑馬 [yabusame: archery while mounted on horseback].
The term has its martial use only as a suffix, but even here, there are a vast number of compounds where 流 comes second, and where there is no martial aspect at all, as in 物流 [butsu-ryu: dispatch of goods] and 島流し [shimanagashi: exile].
The compound 流派 includes the term mentioned by Ellis in his post. Ryuha is a very general for school of thought or art, or arts (including martial arts), or a system (of ideas). The major Japanese dictionary of martial arts, edited by Watatani and Yamada, uses the compound 流派 in the title. The full title is 武芸流派大辞典. The entries in the dictionary are ordered according to the kana sequence and on the first page, included under あ, are the first entries: aioi-ryu, aikido, and aiki-budo, all directly involving Morihei Ueshiba.

HA: 派 / は / ハ. This character also has the water radical [氵/ 水] on the left. One meaning is group, faction, sect or school, and when combined with suru, it means to send. Consequently, all the instructors who left Japan to teach aikido overseas were called 派遣 [haken] shihan. With few exceptions, all the compounds where the character comes second, or especially third, define groups, denominations, sects, or factions of various kinds.

KAN: 館 / かん / カン. This is a large building and the other readings point to different aspects of this. A yakata is a mansion and a tate or tachi is a fort. A kancho [館長] is a director and the kan'in [館員] are staff who work in the building. All the compounds where the character comes second or third relate to buildings, aspects or buildings, or activities / personal within buildings. So, for example, a toshokan is a library, and this term also admits of various compounds, such as toshokancho [chief librarian], toshokangaku [library science], and toshokan'in [librarians or library staff].
So why does Yoshinkan denote a school, rather than a building? Well, Gozo Shioda used the term created by his father to denote his own school, and there is a famous precedent for using a term for a building to focus more on what happens inside the building than the building itself. This precedent is the Nisshinkan [會津藩校日新館], the domain school in Aizu-Wakamatsu, which played a major role during the Meiji Resoration in 1868. It warrants inclusion here for its indirection connection with Sokaku Takeda, who taught Morihei Ueshiba. This is explained in great detail in Ellis Amdur's Hidden in Plain Sight. The Nisshinkan strictly taught strictly samurai children and much of the education offered was in accordance with the samurai code, as this was understood in Aizu. I have a book in my possession, entitled, 會津藩教育孝 [Aizu Han Kyoiku Ko], which explains in great deal the subjects taught and the teachers who taught them, including some who taught Takeda.

KAI: 会 / かい / カイ. Those who have studied Japanese kanji will see that the first character in Aizu [會] is the old way of writing KAI and one meaning of the term is to meet, which has the same meaning as AI [合い], used in aikido. The compounds exhibit a vast range of meanings, from an organization like the Aikikai, to the undoukai [運動会] the gloriously amateur sports meeting that is organized by the chounaikai [町内会], the local neighborhood association of which I am a member. Read as e, it can also mean understanding, as in 一号一会, which is explained in the following quotation:

"Great attention should be given to a tea gathering, which we can speak of as "one time, one meeting" (ichigo, ichie). Even though the host and guests may see each other often socially, one day's gathering can never be repeated exactly. Viewed this way, the meeting is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. The host, accordingly, must in true sincerity take the greatest care with every aspect of the gathering and devote himself entirely to ensuring that nothing is rough. The guests, for their part, must understand that the gathering cannot occur again and, appreciating how the host has flawlessly planned it, must also participate with true sincerity. This is what is meant by "one time, one meeting."

The explanation above was made by Ii Naosuke, and is an elaboration of a remark made by the tea master, Sen no Rikyu.

The terms are not really interchangeable and I hope this long post has given some explanation as to why.

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 07-20-2017, 07:20 AM   #8
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Ryu, kai, and kan

Quote:
Mike Haft wrote: View Post
So you could have a something-kai dedicated to passing on the traditions of the same something-ryu? As an example, an Iwamakai for organising dissemination of Iwamaryu?
Though I never taught a ryu, I did have a kai named after me. I taught comparative culture for many years at Hiroshima University and some of my old students formed an informal association to hold study meetings. They called it the Golds-kai.

Best wishes,

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Old 07-20-2017, 04:57 PM   #9
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Re: Ryu, kai, and kan

Quote:
Mike Haft wrote: View Post
So you could have a something-kai dedicated to passing on the traditions of the same something-ryu? As an example, an Iwamakai for organising dissemination of Iwamaryu?
For a while, I was a member of Meiseikai, which taught Nishio-ryu. So yes.
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Old 07-22-2017, 02:29 AM   #10
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Re: Ryu, kai, and kan

It is hard to second guess Japanese, but if it were us, we might create arts with such names as:
House of X -- Or X House, and so on.
Ring of X
Clan of X
Tradition of X
Circle of X
Personal name + School etc.
Branch / Creed / Sect etc.
Or the more sensible: School / Association / Group / Club
Some might seem more normal than others depending on location/culture to personal vanity. I don't think we should read too much into names. Just look at the meaning - as well explained above - and leave it at that.
Rupert - (Degree in Japanese, if that means anything)

Last edited by Rupert Atkinson : 07-22-2017 at 02:32 AM.

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Old 07-28-2017, 05:31 AM   #11
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Re: Ryu, kai, and kan

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote: View Post
It is hard to second guess Japanese, but if it were us, we might create arts with such names as: Kai = Food

Rupert - (Degree in Japanese, if that means anything)
Us Maori love lots of Kai.

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