Diane Skoss initially went to Japan in 1987 to further her study of aikido. Her path has led in some surprising (at least to her) directions, and she now trains in several classical and modern martial arts. For six years she was managing editor of Aikido Journal ; her responsibilities there also included book design and production. In 1996 she founded her own publishing company, Koryu Books. This is her first publication.
INTRODUCTION: Keiko Shokon
EXPLORE THE OLD
"By exploring the old, one becomes able to understand the new." Kato Takashi, headmaster of the Tatsumi-ryu, draws on Confucius to describe the value of the classical martial arts in today's society. In a similar vein, my own teacher's teacher, Nishioka Tsuneo, has as his motto, "Keiko shokon: Reflect deeply on the past, decide what to do now, then do it," urging us to connect our studies of ancient arts with decisive action in our daily lives. The stream of the koryu bujutsu, or classical martial traditions, flows down to us across more than four centuries, and provides a unique vehicle for both reflecting on the past and actualizing the present.
Training in the classical martial arts takes place within the context of a time-honored and very Japanese social structure that has at its center the transmission of tradition. These arts can be thought of as living history, preserving principles of combat and details of etiquette of an era long past. Yet they also serve a multitude of purposes in our modern world, ranging from "spiritual forging" to the cultivation of skills that are practical despite the archaic weapons employed. It comes as no surprise, then, that growing numbers of Westerners are becoming interested in these ancient Japanese arts.
The problem is that the secrets of these traditions are not revealed casually or quickly, and nearly all of those who are able to truly transmit koryu (classical) techniques and teachings are located in Japan. Isshin denshin, a direct communication that occurs almost "telepathically" from the spirit of the teacher to that of the student is the only way to partake of the continuing transmission of a classical tradition. A decade, or three, is required; for many people in the West this just isn't practical. Still, while it may be difficult to actually wet your feet, let alone become immersed, in the stream of the koryu, there are other ways to benefit from some of the insights to be found in these classical arts.
Watching demonstrations of the koryu, talking with and listening to experienced practitioners and instructors, and reading and reflecting on the histories and lessons handed down from the past are a few of the more readily accessible approaches. One of the best places to begin is with the work of the late Donn F. Draeger, who was the first to write in any detail about the history of Japanese martial arts. He provided definitions and descriptions that after twenty-five years are still the most reliable starting point for any inquiry into the koryu bujutsu. I hope this volume will be a natural second step.
My goal has been to assemble a collection of essays by writers with impeccable credentials, not only as researchers, but as thinkers and educators, and, most importantly, as practitioners of the Japanese classical martial traditions. The five contributors to this volume have spent long years in Japan, training and getting to know the people who know the most about the classical arts. They are all licensed in one or more authentic classical traditions. They have direct and personal contact with headmasters and head instructors of many ryu in addition to their own-with them they have trained, wandered among castle ruins, researched lineages, explored musty bookshops, pored over fragile scrolls, visited ancient battlefields, gone shopping for blades, decipher