Creation Myths – June 13, 2014, Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

All martial arts come from a point source, Japanese arts can be traced back to China and those arts can be traced back to India. Or is that buddhism?

No wait, all Japanese budo are traced back to battlefield arts, you know, you try something on the battlefield and it works so you make it a kata to teach your students.

Or you have a fight with Musashi and then go meditate on a mountain to get divine inspiration from the tengu about how to beat him next time.

Speaking of Musashi, there’s the archetypal inventor of a martial art. He just shows up one day with his two swords and beats up everyone. That’s the ticket, you get an inspiration and create a school and you’re famous for 400 years.

Or like Bruce Lee, you study a couple of arts and then “take the best and leave the rest”. I suppose that’s the real inspiration for most of the “new koryu” we see around today, Buddy studies iaido and aikido for a while and comes up with his own school for which he finds a cool name and installs himself as soke.

Shu Ha Ri right? Memorize the school, analyze it and then leave to start your own school.

It really isn’t like that… well it is for Buddy and maybe he’s got a club for a while, maybe he’s got a bunch of clubs but if you want to say he’s got a school, check back in three or four generations.

Let’s go back to Musashi and his invention of a new school. Was it actually new? Pretty much everything comes from something if you look at it, and it would seem that Musashi’s school was no different. He learned from his father, and then he worked out his own way of doing things. His ultimate work, the Gorin no Sho concerns his Niten Ichiryu and has exactly five kata, the Nito Seiho of the modern school. He doesn’t mention any other techniques. But if you look at his earlier work, the 35 articles (36?) you will find one sword stuff, so what’s going on? We look at a snapshot of the final version of his school, we don’t see what went before because we don’t look, so we assume his two-sword style just “popped into being”.

It didn’t of course, it was 50 or 60 years in the making and certainly evolved over time.

Buddy who creates a school out of bits and pieces of other schools has something that’s bits and pieces. Doubtless it works, after all the schools he took it from made it work, so why not, but it ain’t pretty. For another take on this idea look at the kendo federation seitei gata. The iaido kata are mostly taken from one lineage of koryu, with a couple kata hauled in from other schools to demonstrate other concepts, but the whole thing was a “mix tape” when it was created. Now, 30 years and a lot of hours of practice by a very large number of people has smoothed it out into a school of its own. The roots are in older arts, both the method and the theory, but it’s a new creation as much as Buddy’s art is. The difference is that Buddy isn’t hundreds of highly experienced, highly ranked sword instructors, he’s a three-year man so it’s going to be a long time before he can work his style into something that makes sense internally.

On the other hand, there’s also seitei jodo in the kendo federation. This is a set of 12 kata taken from a single school and practiced by thousands just as is seitei iai. In this case, the folks who own it can make a pretty strong argument that all you can learn in the old art, with it’s dozens of kata, can be learned in the seitei. And since the same instructors are teaching the “new” school as well as the “old” school at the same time, they might have a point. The “new” school is a representative subset of the old, rather than a new invention. Subsets of kata are hardly new, koryu add and subtract kata at the whim of each successive headmaster. Musashi’s Niten Ichiryu has been added to and subtracted from so why not Shindo Muso Ryu jodo? Well in fact it has had sets of kata added within the last couple of generations so why not “take the best” and create SMR light or seitei jo?

New sword school? In the absence of a war to test the kata? Sure, call it the Edo period. Then get to work on the creation myth.

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