Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

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Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby GrahamB on Sun Jan 13, 2019 6:27 am

Wrote a little thing for Robert's Holistic Budo blog on Japanese martial arts, history, MMA, etc:

https://holisticbudo.com/2019/01/13/gue ... xJwaA_ari0

Quote:

"In contrast to the preceding Ashikaga, the Tokugawa shoguns adopted the Confucian model of leadership. Everything in society became highly regulated, including religion, government, contact with other countries and, of course, martial arts. In this way any activity that could become a threat to the Tokugawa was suppressed. It was this period that saw the development the famous Koryu schools, the supposed battlefield arts of Japan preserved as martial arts. In fact, the Koryu were developed after most of the battles had stopped, and were highly controlled by the Tokugawa rulers, which explains the stilted look that was introduced to the martial arts, and still plagues many Japanese martial arts to this day. To be fair to the practitioners of this time, they had no choice. ‘Aliveness’ (to borrow the phrase from Matt Thornton) in martial arts practice was dangerous in the eyes of the Tokugawa rulers. It was a threat, so it had to go."
Last edited by GrahamB on Sun Jan 13, 2019 8:47 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby Interloper on Sun Jan 13, 2019 7:30 pm

There were still wars and battles going on long after the founding of Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto Ryu (~1470) and Kukishin Ryu, the two oldest surviving koryu.
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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby GrahamB on Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:35 am

I don’t know individual ones, but you’re right - a couple of them are genuinely quite old. But that’s only a couple...
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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby Trick on Mon Jan 14, 2019 2:55 am

Aren’t the “younger” ones branches of branches of those old ones ? I might be wrong, This the Koryu guys knows better about
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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby GrahamB on Mon Jan 14, 2019 3:31 am

The point I'm making is that all of them would have been suppressed by the Tokugawa regime.
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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby middleway on Mon Jan 14, 2019 7:52 am

The point I'm making is that all of them would have been suppressed by the Tokugawa regime.


I am unsure how the Tokugawa would have been able to control the 'aliveness' training of specific schools. Would they have sent in Bushi or bureaucrats to watch the sessions? Has Damon looked into this?

If the local council said 'no sparring in bjj' ... i wonder how many BJJ schools would adhere to it?
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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby GrahamB on Mon Jan 14, 2019 8:03 am

Pretty much yeah, I think that's what happened. Of course, it wasn't just martial arts it was everything that was being controlled. I think that on modern terms you'd call it a "police state".

"Tokugawa Period: Economy and Society
The Neo-Confucian theory that dominated Japan during the Tokugawa Period recognized only four social classes–warriors (samurai), artisans, farmers and merchants–and mobility between the four classes was officially prohibited. With peace restored, many samurai became bureaucrats or took up a trade. At the same time, they were expected to maintain their warrior pride and military preparedness, which led to much frustration in their ranks. For their part, peasants (who made up 80 percent of the Japanese population) were forbidden from engaging in non-agricultural activities, thus ensuring consistent income for landowning authorities."
https://www.history.com/topics/japan/me ... #section_2

Just imagine the sort of structures you'd need to have in place to stop 80% of your population from engaging in "non-agricultural activities".

If the local council said 'no sparring in bjj' ... i wonder how many BJJ schools would adhere to it?


How about if they said, no sparring in BJJ or we execute you and your entire family?
Last edited by GrahamB on Mon Jan 14, 2019 8:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby Interloper on Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:39 pm

Thing is, the higher-ups of the Tokugawa Shogunate themselves -- as well as all those who provided them with intelligence, services, food and goods -- needed to be protected, and many of the retainers who served them would have been koryu practitioners with very brutal methods in order to be effective. Conversely, those operating against the shogunate would, I'd think, continue to practice their craft realistically to retain their necessary combative abilities and skills.

Koryu such as Takagi Ryu (a spin-off of Kukishin Ryu originally created as a practical method for bodyguards and similar professionals who worked with violent people), Takenouchi Ryu (dating to 1532), and many others, were not what you'd call repressed or suppressed. They served a practical purpose. Kukishin Ryu was a practical combative system used by mariners on ships and along shore. To suppress the functionality of these arts would have meant that the shogunate itself would have been left vulnerable. Samurai arts grew away from battlefield applications because they were no longer relevant. They adapted their focus and application on the domestic scene instead of the battlefield: duels, defending the daimyo or shogun from would-be assassins in his court, and such. Just as intensely trained and combative, but adapted to a different venue and set of circumstances.

From historical writings about the Tokugawa period, it seems more that because the new shogunate created a period of managed and controlled peace and prosperity to Japan, those not engaged in daily professional use of combative skills would now practice martial arts as a recreational "self-development" past-time, and for basic self-defense against ruffians, robbers and the like. This wasn't suppression, IMO, but more an adaptation of function from wartime to peacetime. During this time, some of the "lesser" koryu probably started fading away, but there still were -- and are -- plenty that continued, and continue, to be taught and handed down as they were originally meant to be practiced and applied.

If anything, it's 20th- and 21st-century lack of martial context that have led to self-suppression of the martial efficacy of some koryu lines. Today's practitioners in Japan are businessmen, professors, accountants, dentists...not samurai or mercenary soldiers. The techniques themselves still have enormous power and potential, but from watching the pedantic and passionless applications from a lot of today's students, some of these ryu's representatives look like they are just taxidermy exhibits in a stagnant museum of "what used to be." :/
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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby GrahamB on Mon Jan 14, 2019 5:04 pm

Interloper wrote:Thing is, the higher-ups of the Tokugawa Shogunate themselves -- as well as all those who provided them with intelligence, services, food and goods -- needed to be protected, and many of the retainers who served them would have been koryu practitioners with very brutal methods in order to be effective. Conversely, those operating against the shogunate would, I'd think, continue to practice their craft realistically to retain their necessary combative abilities and skills.

Koryu such as Takagi Ryu (a spin-off of Kukishin Ryu originally created as a practical method for bodyguards and similar professionals who worked with violent people), Takenouchi Ryu (dating to 1532), and many others, were not what you'd call repressed or suppressed. They served a practical purpose. Kukishin Ryu was a practical combative system used by mariners on ships and along shore. To suppress the functionality of these arts would have meant that the shogunate itself would have been left vulnerable. Samurai arts grew away from battlefield applications because they were no longer relevant. They adapted their focus and application on the domestic scene instead of the battlefield: duels, defending the daimyo or shogun from would-be assassins in his court, and such. Just as intensely trained and combative, but adapted to a different venue and set of circumstances.

From historical writings about the Tokugawa period, it seems more that because the new shogunate created a period of managed and controlled peace and prosperity to Japan, those not engaged in daily professional use of combative skills would now practice martial arts as a recreational "self-development" past-time, and for basic self-defense against ruffians, robbers and the like. This wasn't suppression, IMO, but more an adaptation of function from wartime to peacetime. During this time, some of the "lesser" koryu probably started fading away, but there still were -- and are -- plenty that continued, and continue, to be taught and handed down as they were originally meant to be practiced and applied.

If anything, it's 20th- and 21st-century lack of martial context that have led to self-suppression of the martial efficacy of some koryu lines. Today's practitioners in Japan are businessmen, professors, accountants, dentists...not samurai or mercenary soldiers. The techniques themselves still have enormous power and potential, but from watching the pedantic and passionless applications from a lot of today's students, some of these ryu's representatives look like they are just taxidermy exhibits in a stagnant museum of "what used to be." :/


Then explain Judo. Once the shackles of the Tokugawa were off these self same 20th century businessmen, professors accountants, dentists had no problem being effective by using judo, which reintroduced free sparring.

There's nothing wrong with the techniques found in Koryu at all, it's the way you train something that makes it effective or not. Judo proved that.
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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby Ian C. Kuzushi on Mon Jan 14, 2019 9:37 pm

GrahamB wrote:Wrote a little thing for Robert's Holistic Budo blog on Japanese martial arts, history, MMA, etc:

https://holisticbudo.com/2019/01/13/gue ... xJwaA_ari0

Quote:

"In contrast to the preceding Ashikaga, the Tokugawa shoguns adopted the Confucian model of leadership. Everything in society became highly regulated, including religion, government, contact with other countries and, of course, martial arts. In this way any activity that could become a threat to the Tokugawa was suppressed. It was this period that saw the development the famous Koryu schools, the supposed battlefield arts of Japan preserved as martial arts. In fact, the Koryu were developed after most of the battles had stopped, and were highly controlled by the Tokugawa rulers, which explains the stilted look that was introduced to the martial arts, and still plagues many Japanese martial arts to this day. To be fair to the practitioners of this time, they had no choice. ‘Aliveness’ (to borrow the phrase from Matt Thornton) in martial arts practice was dangerous in the eyes of the Tokugawa rulers. It was a threat, so it had to go."


Hmm...The oldest academic institution in Japan was the Ashikaga school (Ashikaga Gakkō) which primarily taught Confucianism.

Contrary to popular belief, Neo-Confucianism was not significantly supported by the Tokugawa bakufu until well after systems of control were established. The Hayashi school was not made orthodox until the Kansei reforms under Matsudaira Sadanobu in the late Eighteenth Century.

As for regulations, regional domains were almost completely autonomous, and the bakufu would not have interfered with martial arts practice in various han (assuming what we think of as martial arts practice was going on there).

The bakufu did try to suppress many cultural pursuits (art, kabuki, prostitution) but often had little success. This suppression was also limited to domains and cities directly under bakufu control (about 1/4th to 1/3 of the three islands then composing the decentralized Pax Tokugawa).

Not commenting on the historical development of koryū as that's not my bag.
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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby GrahamB on Mon Jan 14, 2019 10:29 pm

Ian, I'm not a historian, so can't get into the nitty gritty, but here are some Edo period facts:

http://factsanddetails.com/japan/cat16/ ... em502.html

In the section on "Relations Between Daimyo and the Bakufu" it's saying that while Daimyo ran their own individual areas the bakfu were still in control, and as you say, the control got stronger as the years wore on and the Confucian model was adopted more strongly.

According to “Topics in Japanese Cultural History”: Bakufu relations with the daimyo were complex. In some respects, the shogun was simply a very large and powerful daimyo. In other respects, such as when dealing with foreign countries, the shogun was the singular leader of all of Japan. The bakufu imposed numerous restrictions on daimyo, the most important of which are included in the excerpts from Laws for Warrior Households above. Daimyo were limited to a single castle and had to obtain bakufu permission to make any repairs on it. Daimyo were forbidden to act in concert with each other on any matters of policy. Their relationships, in other words, were to be with the shogun and the people of their domains, not each other. Even marriages were subject to shogunal approval. Should a daimyo appear to have accumulated a major surplus of wealth, the shogun might require him to build a bridge or do some other sort of work for the public good outside his own domain--in part as a way of draining off some of that wealth. Alternate attendance also kept daimyo expenses up. Bakufu inspectors visited each domain from time to time. [Source: “Topics in Japanese Cultural History” by Gregory Smits, Penn State University figal-sensei.org *~*]

“The bakufu clearly held more power than any daimyo. The daimyo nevertheless governed with a high degree of autonomy within their domains. Daimyo, for example, paid no regular taxes to the bakufu. As long as they fulfilled their duties to the shogun, abided by the restrictions mentioned above, and caused no major problems, daimyo were free to govern as they saw fit. Some domains issued their own currency, good only within its borders, and laws sometimes varied from one domain to the next. In the early decades of the Tokugawa period, the daimyo were a culturally diverse group. By the second and third generations, however, all daimyo spent their formative years in Edo, which resulted in a high degree of cultural homogeneity among them. *~*

“As the years went by, both the bakufu and the various daimyo domains encountered fiscal problems and accumulated ever larger debts to the leading business establishments in Osaka and Edo. Indeed, the samurai class as a whole--which depended on fixed incomes, the value of which steadily shrank owing to inflation--tended to sink into poverty throughout the eighteenth century. In the long run, it was the merchants who prospered during the Tokugawa period. Mainly for this reason, Tokugawa-era culture tended to celebrate merchant values and material wealth. We examine certain aspects of Tokugawa-period culture in the next two chapters. Here, we jump to the end of the Tokugawa period to see how it fell and to sketch the outlines of the modern state that replaced it." *~*
Last edited by GrahamB on Mon Jan 14, 2019 10:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby Ian C. Kuzushi on Mon Jan 14, 2019 10:52 pm

Thanks for the "facts." A quick perusal of the sources/resources makes it clear that they are not peer-reviewed sources. Some Wikipedia articles and authors who don't even speak or read Japanese.

The diagram showing the Neo-Confucian hierarchical class system has no bearing on "facts" or the lived reality of Edo period Japan. In other words, it's mostly just wrong.
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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby GrahamB on Mon Jan 14, 2019 11:02 pm

Ok, :)

I did put the "facts" in there as a cheeky reference to the URL, suspecting you'd say they were all wrong :)

I'll try and get Damon to respond to your post.
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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby Graculus on Tue Jan 15, 2019 12:44 am

For all those who want a bit of reading, let me recommend Peter Goldsbury's extremely thorough essay series (now up to 29 of them), all fully referenced and foot-noted, several thousand words each, complete with comments, on the Ueshiba, Takeda Sokaku and things related to the development of aikido.
The series title is Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation and is available at the aikiweb site:
http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/

Two of the essays (I forget the numbers, so you will have to do a little digging) deal with Ellis Amdur's book – a sensitive critique that is well-worth reading. I think that Ian and Graham would both enjoy reading them.

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Re: Japanese martial arts from battlefield to MMA

Postby Trick on Tue Jan 15, 2019 2:06 am

GrahamB wrote:The point I'm making is that all of them would have been suppressed by the Tokugawa regime.


Which schools of the sword(and other weapons) was practiced by the Tokugawa regime ? They themselves practiced some, didn’t they ? If they did have those schools survived to any of today’s Koryu schools ?
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