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Old 03-10-2011, 04:51 PM   #26
Fred Little
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Re: On Koryu

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
I've told the story before, but my instructor in Araki-ryu trained as the only student of a bunch of old men. Sometimes, he'd be off to the side, doing suburi, and one of the old guys would call out: "Hey, look at this." And they'd show a kata he'd never seen before, once, never show it again, and refuse to explain it. He'd go home and work on it, using his little brother as a crash test dummy. He got menkyo kaiden in eight years. (He went to their home every weekend.

Ellis Amdur
Hey Ellis

That is indeed an interesting line to walk: "No sensei, I wasn't showing Araki-ryu to outsiders, I was just using my little brother as a crash test dummy!" Glorious method, and one can hardly argue with the outcome!

FL

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Old 03-11-2011, 12:49 AM   #27
Mike Sigman
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Re: On Koryu

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Toby Threadgill wrote: View Post
Many koryu embraced some form of internal body training but the implementation of these skills was probably quite diverse. The problem is trying to define what represents a "baseline skill" if you are not intimately familiar with the school and its technical heritage. As an example, imagine someone outside Komagawa Kaishin ryu defining what a students "baseline skill" must be without being intimately familiar with the school's curriculum and tactics. I find this sort of thinking arrogant sophistry. Anyone making such a proclamation can't know what they're talking about because they don't have proper context to make an informed opinion.
The "baseline skills" were so obviously defined that there's a whole cosmology built around them. The Yin-Yang thing; the Five Elements. And so on. Even Tohei has a separate ranking system for I.S. abilities because they are so obviously easy to break out from the martial aspects of a martial-art. I assume, though, that we're talking about something quite different (talking past each other) ... I was talking about what the Asian martial-arts refer to as "internal strength", etc.

Incidentally, just to note in passing once again, the current discussion is something aside from my original observation along the lines that as a survival strategy, being secretive in a world where secrets can be helpful .... well, it's a survival strategy with some holes in it.

2 cents.

Mike Sigman
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Old 03-11-2011, 07:27 AM   #28
Fred Little
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Re: On Koryu

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Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
The "baseline skills" were so obviously defined that there's a whole cosmology built around them. The Yin-Yang thing; the Five Elements. And so on.
Mike --

Not exactly. Even if one accepts the premise that the baseline skills were widely described and explained in terms of Yin-Yang theory, the Five Elements (or in some schemes Four Elements, in others, Six Elements), the Six Directions, the Three Secrets, the Four Mandalas, the Three Kayas, or some combination of the above, that doesn't mean that the cosmology was built around the baseline skills. It only means that the cosmology was widely used as a means to catalog and explain the "baseline skills.":

Moreover, the development, organization, and ever-finer articulation of explicit relationships between principles and phenomena animating the macrocosm (the sun, the stars, the sky, the ground, in short, the entire surrounding universe) and those animating the microcosm (the body and all in it, in short, the entire surrounded universe) is, as best as anyone has been able to work out, most pronounced in systems that arose in the roughly the middle of the first millennium, but didn't really achieve their highest degree of development and expression until almost the 18th century in Tibet.

Were baseline body skills described in terms of philosophical and cosmological terms for over a thousand years? Sure. Did the cosmology arrive as a direct outgrowth of baseline body skills and then get applied to the world outside the human body? Don't be silly.

Even if I know for a fact that you have seen a really big white whale and agree that its flesh was pearly white, that doesn't mean that what everyone calls "pearly white" is built around the precise qualities of the flesh of the whale you saw.

On the broader question of koryu, last night I was reading about the Shrine at Ise. The point of the passage was that many traditional building techniques and characteristics from very early Japanese practice have been retained by the practice of tearing down the shrine and rebuilding it every 20 years. This doesn't mean that the current Shrine at Ise is exactly like each and every one of its predecessors. It does mean that the tendency toward "drift" has been counterbalanced by an institutionalized process and a (pick your word: concretized, instantiated, reified, physicalized) exemplar continually (re)constructed by that process so that as much information as possible is retained and all decisions about the incorporation of new materials and methods are in the hands of someone or someones with the fullest possible understanding of (and deepest possible obligation to) the tradition, such as it may be.

Some choices may be "assimilate new information and methods or die." Other choices may be "reject new information and methods or be assimilated to them and day." Case-by-case, system-by-system, some choices are successful, some are not. Darwin sorts it all out eventually, sometimes with an added dash of Gould's "punctuated equilibrium." No worries there.

Best,

FL

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Old 03-11-2011, 08:16 AM   #29
Cliff Judge
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Re: On Koryu

On the subject of internal skills, have we done these arguments already:

1) internal skills are internal skills,

vs

the internal skills in one art may be different than the internal skills in another art

2) ten years of external skills can lay the foundation for later development of internal skills,

vs

ten years of external skills is a "waste of time" because you could have just been working on your internal skills for those ten years.

I think this has a bearing on the discussion of koryu secrets and whether it is best for them to stay closed.

I think if you arrive at some type of internal power after a decade of training in something special, you may be forgiven for feeling that your internal power is distinct and superior to the internal power that somebody achieved by practicing some other way.

Maybe its not really possible to "patch" a system that has lost its internal skills by studying some other system?

The thing about koryu is, that they have that hinge point in history where they became antiquated. By "antiquated" I mean they no longer exist in their own time and place. Its not that modern koryu practitioners don't have the ability and actually the duty to discover the teachings of the ryu for themselves and make themselves into the type of warrior the ryu was designed to produce. Its just that events can no longer happen which fully validate or invalidate the teachings of the ryu. The information that flowed into the ryu and informed its syllabus before 1868 is irrevocably more important than information flowing into it afterwards.

This is why you hear of ryuha that basically choose to die out and why Mike's concept of a "survival strategy" is kind of a non-sequitur. For a lot of practitioners, the integrity of the teachings is more important than the survival of the organization.
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Old 03-11-2011, 08:53 AM   #30
Mike Sigman
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Re: On Koryu

Quote:
Fred Little wrote: View Post
Were baseline body skills described in terms of philosophical and cosmological terms for over a thousand years? Sure. Did the cosmology arrive as a direct outgrowth of baseline body skills and then get applied to the world outside the human body? Don't be silly.
Tsk, Fred. "Don't be silly"? That's not like you.... I hope. I don't want to extend this part of the discussion unnecessarily, but you should be aware that the idea of the human-body embodying the universe and vice versa is/was a pretty well-established idea in China. Hence some of the neat drawings depicting the human-body, the stars, etc., all as one thing. There's actually a pretty compelling argument that the 'baseline skills' are part of religious practices going back through Buddhism to Hinduism. The curiosity is not how far back the religious and cosmological associations go, but how long essential body skills maintained religious connotations. Think about Tohei's description of the time he and O-Sensei were on Hawaii, Tohei was drunk and hungover and how O-Sensei thought of Tohei's 'unliftable' trick in terms of kami and Tohei thought in terms of sinking his middle.

But no, it's not "silly" to consider that the universal cosmology was heavily tied into aspects of 'baseline skills' in the human body.

2 cents.

Mike
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Old 03-11-2011, 09:09 AM   #31
Mike Sigman
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Re: On Koryu

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Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
This is why you hear of ryuha that basically choose to die out and why Mike's concept of a "survival strategy" is kind of a non-sequitur. For a lot of practitioners, the integrity of the teachings is more important than the survival of the organization.
Given the examples I've seen of a number of martial-arts, including koryu, that have lost simple internal-strength skills, I'm reluctant to lose sleep over a few martial-arts voluntarily stopping with the implication that they had truly been able to maintain the art without loss/attenuation over time. Maybe, but probably not. In the greater scheme of things a few small systems aren't going to be determinative. There are some large, thriving systems that have some body-conditioning techniques I'd love to find out about (involving the 'baseline skillset').

The technical skillsets, as interesting as they may be, are somewhat suspect in terms of completeness in Asian martial arts that are supposed to be based on the all-encompassing internal-strength skillsets, but which don't have them anymore or in which "internal strength is just a partial add-on". As I caveated, of course, any art that was not based on internal strength is apart from what I was talking about. Arts that were based on internal strength, though, didn't do it partially... you tend to be either in the game or not in the game, sort of like pregnancy.

2 cents.

Mike Sigman

Last edited by Mike Sigman : 03-11-2011 at 09:15 AM.
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Old 03-11-2011, 09:53 AM   #32
Fred Little
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Re: On Koryu

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
Tsk, Fred. "Don't be silly"? That's not like you.... I hope. I don't want to extend this part of the discussion unnecessarily, but you should be aware that the idea of the human-body embodying the universe and vice versa is/was a pretty well-established idea in China. Hence some of the neat drawings depicting the human-body, the stars, etc., all as one thing. There's actually a pretty compelling argument that the 'baseline skills' are part of religious practices going back through Buddhism to Hinduism. The curiosity is not how far back the religious and cosmological associations go, but how long essential body skills maintained religious connotations. Think about Tohei's description of the time he and O-Sensei were on Hawaii, Tohei was drunk and hungover and how O-Sensei thought of Tohei's 'unliftable' trick in terms of kami and Tohei thought in terms of sinking his middle.

But no, it's not "silly" to consider that the universal cosmology was heavily tied into aspects of 'baseline skills' in the human body.

2 cents.

Mike
Mike,

When you phrase it as "heavily tied into" rather than "so obviously defined that there's a whole cosmology built around them" then you get around what I would characterize as "silly": privileging what you call "baseline skills" as the primary, if not sole, basis from which the cosmology is drawn.

There are other "baseline skills" applicable to other fields of endeavor that, from the perspectives of those fields, are more important than the physical applications on which you focus. For example, if you look at recent popular press on the construction of "memory houses" as a learning tool, and then you look back at Taoist and Buddhist modes of constructing a mandala (or earlier Indic modes of constructing a yantra, to expand on your brief argument above), then one such instance with regard to "baseline learning skills" is strongly suggested, if not apparent. And this is just one example of a great many differing frames of reference and application.

I would argue that the cosmology as a whole needs to be treated more as a useful metaphor than a precise mathematical description. The looseness of metaphor provides an opening for broader applicability across multiple fields, as well as more flexible basis for precise and detailed understandings within differing fields (all distinguishable, but still related cosmos) in which it has been deployed. Over time, those descriptions coexist, sometimes happily, sometimes jostling each other (or in Buddhist-speak "are mutually conditioning") and further understandings arise from those interactions. In the literature, this is also called "social learning" and "the development of social learning communities."

If I split this into an overly simple binary construct, as opposed to the collective process of "social learning," the kind of thing you're up to is developing "embodied knowledge." Leaving either side out, or privileging either side as the substantive basis (very different than treating a given field as a somewhat substantive but still incomplete basis) is where I would argue the silliness comes into play.

Go back far enough (or find a sufficiently religious society) and everything has religious connotations. In this regard, the baseline skill set in which you're interested is one of many baseline skill sets. The strength of the microcosmic-macrocosmic theories of East Asia is as much the universality as any particular specificity.

Which takes us to the very old argument about "the one and the many." As a matter of practice, we choose a way in because we have limited time and resources. As a matter of theory, we needn't over-emphasize either approach as complete.

And that's likely to be all the heavy thinking I do for the next six or seven hours. Work calls and I'm now obliged to go squeeze blood out of stones and make too few lemons into a nice batch of lemonade.

Best,

FL

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Old 03-11-2011, 09:58 AM   #33
Fred Little
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Re: On Koryu

Mike,

One important caution: if you succeed in developing the baseline skill of constructing a memory mandala and successfully deploy it while sitting at a blackjack table in Reno, don't be surprised if you're escorted from the casino in fairly short order.

FL

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Old 03-11-2011, 10:17 AM   #34
Mike Sigman
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Re: On Koryu

Quote:
Fred Little wrote: View Post
Mike,

When you phrase it as "heavily tied into" rather than "so obviously defined that there's a whole cosmology built around them" then you get around what I would characterize as "silly": privileging what you call "baseline skills" as the primary, if not sole, basis from which the cosmology is drawn.
Hi Fred:

Well, at least I phrased it as a justifiable (or arguable) debate, rather than proposing that any other view is "silly".
Quote:

There are other "baseline skills" applicable to other fields of endeavor that, from the perspectives of those fields, are more important than the physical applications on which you focus. For example, if you look at recent popular press on the construction of "memory houses" as a learning tool, and then you look back at Taoist and Buddhist modes of constructing a mandala (or earlier Indic modes of constructing a yantra, to expand on your brief argument above), then one such instance with regard to "baseline learning skills" is strongly suggested, if not apparent. And this is just one example of a great many differing frames of reference and application.
I see your point, but I'd argue that just because some people have begun to see the value of the "internal strength" discussion, all has not been laid openly and clearly to their eyes. I.e..... it's not quite as simple as a lot of people have begun to relievedly sigh and think possible.
Quote:

I would argue that the cosmology as a whole needs to be treated more as a useful metaphor than a precise mathematical description.
I think it's very important to understand that these early people were laying out, as closely as they were able, a very precise depiction of the universe as reality. In other words, the cosmology was not an understanding couched in vagueness... it was as precise a "Theory of Everything" (T.O.E.) as they were capable of.
Quote:
The looseness of metaphor provides an opening for broader applicability across multiple fields, as well as more flexible basis for precise and detailed understandings within differing fields (all distinguishable, but still related cosmos) in which it has been deployed. Over time, those descriptions coexist, sometimes happily, sometimes jostling each other (or in Buddhist-speak "are mutually conditioning") and further understandings arise from those interactions. In the literature, this is also called "social learning" and "the development of social learning communities."

If I split this into an overly simple binary construct, as opposed to the collective process of "social learning," the kind of thing you're up to is developing "embodied knowledge." Leaving either side out, or privileging either side as the substantive basis (very different than treating a given field as a somewhat substantive but still incomplete basis) is where I would argue the silliness comes into play.

Go back far enough (or find a sufficiently religious society) and everything has religious connotations. In this regard, the baseline skill set in which you're interested is one of many baseline skill sets. The strength of the microcosmic-macrocosmic theories of East Asia is as much the universality as any particular specificity.

Which takes us to the very old argument about "the one and the many." As a matter of practice, we choose a way in because we have limited time and resources. As a matter of theory, we needn't over-emphasize either approach as complete.

And that's likely to be all the heavy thinking I do for the next six or seven hours. Work calls and I'm now obliged to go squeeze blood out of stones and make too few lemons into a nice batch of lemonade.

Best,

FL
Fred, the next time we get together at a bar, remind me of this conversation and I'll try to go over the many items that support my thesis. If nothing else, let me remind you that calligraphy (see Abe Sensei's interview), Noh, traditional dancing, Tea Ceremony, and a number of other things that precede current culture, used all or portions of I.S. basics. That didn't happen as individual happenstance... that's too improbable... it was part of a broader culture in which the 'baseline skillset' was the place to go.

2 cents.

Mike Sigman
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Old 04-05-2011, 05:46 PM   #35
Rennis Buchner
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Re: On Koryu

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
Also, records indicate menkyo kaiden in 5-7 years in the Meiji period. It is my belief and experience that koryu training takes far too long, because many teachers, greedy for power and status, withhold information or drag out the teaching.
In our ryu there is an example of this as late as the 1930's with one individual joining the dojo in May of 1935 and getting menkyo kaiden from the soke in October of 1938. In our case it seemed to be the generation or two of teachers after this that, after the war, hooked up with some of the various umbrella federations and suddenly locked down and more or less stopped giving out paper work almost entirely. The few that did would only do so after decades and decades of training so now next to no one is actually licensed or knows the full mokuroku.

For what it is worth,
Rennis Buchner
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Old 04-22-2011, 07:38 PM   #36
Aikibu
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Re: On Koryu

Wow! Great Thread. Thanks Everyone.

William Hazen
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Old 06-21-2011, 12:14 PM   #37
NTT
 
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Re: On Koryu

I see that koryu licences have changed in the way they are now given. It seems titles are given much later and some regret it is so.
I wonder if the meaning of the koryu titles has not changed in such way that they are given much later or even not given at all.
Maybe now, one can see that the focus is on the deepening of the lessons and not the extensive knowledge. If one goes for the depth of the lesson, why care about knowing all the curriculum when the main teaching is in the basics.
The change in attribution of koryu titles may be for business but also maybe for deeper reasons.
I believe one can give a more subtle image of koryu titles.

Nguyen Thanh Thien
Walk the distance, keep the distance
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Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu
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Old 06-21-2011, 12:21 PM   #38
Ellis Amdur
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Re: On Koryu

Phillipe, not necessarily. Perhaps you are right. But such "deepening" presupposes some sort of spiritual path as opposed to nit-picking (your toe is one millimeter too far to the left - a quote of an iaido teacher to a high ranking koryu man who joined that particular school).

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Old 06-21-2011, 03:32 PM   #39
NTT
 
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Re: On Koryu

Indeed, millimeter practice is a good joke! and a bad time to spend in the dojo!
It only shows what such a person sees or does not see. But for those who are in martial arts, practice is about living technique. That means sweat and a good laugh from time to time.
For myself, I hate millimeter kamae although there is also millimeter positionning when the sword comes down. But that millimeter is always changing as the sword comes down.

Should one think of koryu on the basis of such misunderstanding? For me koryu is living technique. Always changing.

Nguyen Thanh Thien
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Hyoho Niten Ichi Ryu
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Old 06-21-2011, 04:08 PM   #40
Marc Abrams
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Re: On Koryu

Quote:
Philippe Nguyen wrote: View Post
Indeed, millimeter practice is a good joke! and a bad time to spend in the dojo!
It only shows what such a person sees or does not see. But for those who are in martial arts, practice is about living technique. That means sweat and a good laugh from time to time.
For myself, I hate millimeter kamae although there is also millimeter positionning when the sword comes down. But that millimeter is always changing as the sword comes down.

Should one think of koryu on the basis of such misunderstanding? For me koryu is living technique. Always changing.
Philippe:

Interesting perspective. My very limited understanding is that the oath that is taken is in regards to the tradition, so that the people are living embodiments of a traditions that have essentially remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

Marc Abrams
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Old 06-30-2011, 01:09 AM   #41
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Re: On Koryu

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Marc Abrams wrote: View Post
Philippe:

My very limited understanding is that the oath that is taken is in regards to the tradition, so that the people are living embodiments of a traditions that have essentially remained unchanged for hundreds of years.

Marc Abrams
Marc:
As you said "essentially remained unchanged". What does that mean? Essentially? Does a ryu with the character of "river" remain unchanged when one cannot go into the same river twice. Or even once?
When I meet my master, his teaching changes every time, due to my study and due to his study. But does the change in the teaching mean the art changes, I doubt it because it would mean that the art revolves around me or my master's study. I believe art changes as well as every thing in this universe. Well, art as an art should change. Dogen wrote that even the mountain flows, that mastery does move on. In other words, he considered that translation of Buddhist texts are an improvement which is not the common belief.
The soke of a koryu has to keep alive a tradition which means it has to live its own life (evolve) and respond to today's questions and keep the ability to answer next generations questions. But it should gard the experience of the founder as an entire and complete entity. This requires the abilities of a soke and is not accessible to common students. That is why I do agree to your words and take it for myself:
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Marc Abrams wrote: View Post
My very limited understanding
Marc Abrams
Millimeter practice is only a state of Shu-Ha-Ri. It helps discipline the body and mind but discipline is not all.
In the tradition of my koryu, we study seiho and not kata, "flowing of energy" and not form.
Koryu teaching lives and as such evolves without memory loss, or at least minimum. They are not dinosaur skeletons!
That may be illustrated by the saying "The Wheel of Law" or "the Wheel of the Teaching". It rolls on according to the ground it meets but stays unaltered as a weel or circle.

Nguyen Thanh Thien
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