Saturday, 24 August 2013

Nu skool, old skool, no skool: Why study traditional martial arts? - 25 August 2013


In recent years I have developed an increasing interest in the study of the so-called Koryū bugei, the traditional martial schools and enjoy researching into them more and more. Studying Kashima Shinryū with Philippe Orban Sensei and the International Shiseikan Budō Association under Minoru Inaba Sensei has really driven this point home for me in the last few years. 
You could ask yourself why it is necessary to study another martial art on top of Aikidō's already extensive and in fact hard to define hands-free and weapons syllabus. At this stage I would say I see two strong reasons for this:

Firstly, the study of Koryū budō (jap: old style, old school, old manners - basically pre-Meiji restoration (1868-1912) martial arts) teaches us something about the heritage and origin of Aikidō. It would not have to be Kashima Shinryū, but could likewise and for good reasons be Daitō-ryū Aikijūjutsu that you could spend some study time on for this purpose. I would like to say that the Japanese martial arts all have close links to each other, so the study of any of them can serve as somewhat of a window into the past that could help you better understand and reassess the present.

Beyond that, I believe that the old school, or traditional martial arts, whether Japanese or not, offer us a number of things that are worth recovering. What I find most important amongst these (next to the actual battlefield testing/experience) are the close adherence and inseparability from foundational aspects, or principles of Budō. And it is these principles that I believe are what makes traditional martial arts training so valuable a thing to do, on and importantly also off the mat and in daily life. Without naming these principles or going into more detail here, I would at this stage like to recommend that you go out and explore on your own. There is a whole world of stuff out there that is worth exploring and actually when I talk about koryū I am not really just referring to the traditional martial arts of Japan, but also those from all kinds of other cultures around the world.Having said that, I do want to briefly say that I have a criticism in regards to the traditional schools and that is that, one could say necessarily (because how would they otherwise stay traditional) there is a danger of rigidity in their training. This I believe must be carefully avoided. What I would find more interesting would be to understand their teachings and the principles that they still carry and free them from sometimes too rigid adherence to form, because the principles themselves don't have all that much to do with form, I think.. (!?). I do have another criticism in regards to the traditional martial arts to and it has to do with my preference of Aikidō over them, but I won't go into this now.

Personally, I am more than amazed and enthused about the changes that koryū study brings to my Aikidō practice. If you are keen, you are obviously more than invited to come out and train with us any time! 

Whether you are already with us or not, this coming Friday, Toby Threadgill Sensei, Menkyo Kaiden and Kancho of Takamura Ha Shindo Yoshin Ryū is coming back to Auckland for another open session and having been there once before, I can thoroughly recommend that you go there and take in as much as you can. It is taking place at Alan Robert's Aikido Auckland Seishinkan on Friday 30 August from 6.30-8.30pm and comes at a cost of a well worth $40. Don't miss out!