Koryu is a little bit more mean – June 29, 2016

By Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

The question last night was “what’s the difference between Seitei and Koryu?” We were talking about zenkenren jo and I mentioned the second kata isn’t strictly speaking from the koryu.

It doesn’t look any different or feel any different from number one or three, hence the question.

Common question really. What is the difference? Someone mentioned that “koryu is a little bit more mean than seitei, a little bit more nasty”. It is? How do you change the physical shape of a kata so that it is more nasty than another kata, without making it a different kata altogether? One difference between seitei and most of the koryu jo I’ve practiced is that tachi comes back to feet together in koryu and remains with the right foot forward in seitei. Is feet together a bit meaner/nastier? The instant response was no, actually it’s a bit weaker in that it’s a bit easier to be knocked off balance with your feet together. How about cutting from hasso or moving the sword above the head first to cut? Hunh? Where did the idea of a two part cut in seitei come from? Not me.

Well if it’s not the small changes in the kata itself then maybe it’s that you practice it a bit nastier? You’re a bit meaner to your partner? Is it that you are nice to your beginners in seitei but try to chase them away in koryu?

Perhaps some do.

If you do both should you do koryu meaner or should you do seitei nicer? Maybe you ought to do both the the best of your ability and pay attention to your partner. Maybe you ought not to smack beginners around because you figure one is meaner than the other.

It went around for a bit, it was suggested that those who make a big difference between seitei and koryu tend not to do seitei and want to make koryu something special, something over here against that sissy stuff over there. I don’t know anyone who does that. Do you?

It was suggested that seitei is standardized, taught by many in the same way while koryu is a single sensei, a single line. Therefore differences. Good as far as it goes, but I, like most folks in the kendo federation I suspect, have been taught koryu by more than one sensei. If there are many available you tend to get exposed to many. Look back to the lineage of the headmasters and you’ll find quite a bit of cross-sensei training going on. Anyone who has tried to put “the chart” together runs into that problem.

My answer? “Seitei” is the stuff you do in the kendo federation for gradings. Koryu is the school(s) out of which both the kata and the sensei that teach you the seitei come. Sometimes it looks a little different. Sometimes people think you ought to train differently.

Why the fuss?


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