Showing posts with label change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label change. Show all posts

Monday, April 11, 2016

Budo Isn't About Technique




Budo is about traveling a path.  It’s not about being stuck in one place.  The road is always there, time is always moving and the world is always changing, even when we are still.  Budo is about maintaining balance and integrity (physical, mental and emotional) whether we are in movement or stillness, and having a calm, imperturbable center whatever is happening around us and however we are moving.

The world is dynamic, so attempts to remain perfectly still are doomed, rather like trying to stand perfectly still on a sailboat in a storm.  You can be stable, quiet and calm, but these must be within a dynamic world where you are constantly making adjustments, and sometimes your overall and ongoing stability is only maintained through large, dynamic movements on your part.

Budo is not static. A lot of people seem to think that great budo has already achieved perfection in some previous age. Whether it’s classical judo, or Ueshiba’s aikido, a great koryu like Takenouchi Ryu or Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, or one of the famous iai styles like Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu or Muso Shinden Ryu, people craft an image of a budo that was perfect when the founder or great teacher lived, and that they are trying to recreate the perfection that is contained in the kata and teachings.

I’ve run into aikido practitioners who look back on Ueshiba or Shioda or Tomiki as having achieved budo perfection. For many years of my judo practice I felt that way about Mifune’s judo.  Among koryu budo people, the idea that the founder of their ryuha was the paragon of ideal budo is common.  The thought that there was one, perfect budo that we are trying to emulate or recreate is an attractive one.

It’s also a trap. Budo is a way, a path. In Japanese, the styles are called “ryu” 流. It comes from the word 流れる meaning “to flow, to stream, to run (as a river)”. The road we travel is always changing. Every step we take along the way takes us to a different place. Rivers and streams flow through space and time and are even more dynamic, transforming the world as they move through it.  Even if Ueshiba or Shioda or Tomiki or Mifune or Yagyu or Hayashizaki achieved budo perfection, it was perfect for that point in time and space.

Budo isn’t a technique or even a collection of techniques.  It’s a Way. As we travel the path, as the world moves through the ages, budo has to adapt to new times and places in which it is practiced.  What was great budo in one situation may be completely unsuited to another. The thing about any great budoka is that their budo is always fresh.  They don’t try to force the same response, the same solution, onto different situations. They apply the principles of their budo afresh to each situation.

Budo can only ever be perfect for the moment it’s expressed in. What made the great founders and teachers of budo truly great was not only their ability to manifest budo that perfectly suited the situations they found themselves in.  What made them great was that they could also pass along a way to learn the same principles that they applied.

Budo is something that is practiced without end. It’s a path that doesn’t stop. If we’re doing it right, we’re not really learning techniques. We’re learning the fundamental principles that make the myriad techniques work.  Great budoka reach up and find a way to manifest those principles in training, in conflict, and in life. The greatest figure out a way for others to learn to manifest those principles.

The ideal is that anyone can reach up and touch perfect budo. With practice, I’m convinced we can. That thing about budo being a path and a stream is important though. I think I may have touched perfect budo a few times over the decades I’ve been training. These are times when I somehow manage to perfectly express the principles of budo that I study and practice spontaneously in life.

It happens and then it’s past. It never lasts. For a moment you manage to express your budo perfectly. It’s not a continuous condition though. We reach that peak moment, and it passes. As we get better, so does the chance that we will touch that perfect budo. For judoka, the first time we come close to perfect judo is that day we’re standing there, staring down at some poor uke as we demand “Why did you jump! Don’t jump for me! I want to earn my throws!” The poor uke looks up at us and says something along the lines of “Jump? You buried me with that throw. There was no way I was stopping it!”  When we did that throw, the universe aligned in our favor. The timing and kuzushi were perfect. Uke had no choice and no chance to do anything but fly, and because the timing and kuzushi were perfect, it felt like we didn’t do anything. For a moment we touched perfect judo.

Unfortunately, those moments don’t last. As soon as the moment happens it’s over. Uke stands up, randori continues and uke feels like a boulder every time we try a technique. Nothing seems to work. Touching perfection is momentary, but those moments are wonderful and inspire everything else we do. Once we’ve touched perfection we want it again. Then we try to force it, and the more we try to force the further away perfection becomes.

Those moments of perfection feel incredible, but they are moments. We’re not perfect. We can’t maintain a state of perfection. Any time we touch perfection it’s wonderful and incredible and momentary. It doesn’t last. It can’t.

It is perfect in that instant, under those precise conditions. We express the principles of our art in a way that suits that moment. If we try to cling to it, whatever it was we were doing will cease to be appropriate as the moment passes and the situation changes. The goal of training is to become better and better at expressing the principles of what we study in a way that suits the moment.

The journey of life never ceases. Every step is new. The real lessons in budo are not static techniques, but the principles that animate the techniques. It’s ironic that the main way we learn budo is through repetition of prescribed exercises when the goal is to be able to spontaneously express the principles in any situation.

We practice a limited set of techniques and kata that are like the finger pointing at the moon in the story from Chuang Tzu. The finger points to the moon, but if you remain fixed upon the finger you’ll never see the moon. The techniques and kata are the finger pointing to the fundamental principles. If you cling tightly to exactly the way a past teacher did the kata, you’ll never get to the principles beyond the kata. If you insist there there is only one way to do a technique, you’ll miss the million other ways and situations that technique can be used to express the principle.  I have books of judo technique in which the entire book examines just one technique, but looks for as many ways to express that technique as possible. Each technique is animated by underlying principles. Our job is to figure out what the principles are and learn to apply them.


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If we only study the technique, it becomes a matter of chance that we will pick a technique that is perfectly appropriate for the moment. If we follow the direction of the techniques we study, we begin to understand principles, and when we follow the principles, the technique will develop naturally out of the action of the principles. No two techniques will ever be exactly the same when they flow from the principles, but they will be appropriate to the moment. It’s like the judoka in randori who does a beautiful throw, then comes off the mat and asks the spectators “What technique did I do?” The judoka was working with the flow of energy from her partner and worked something that smoothly flowed with that energy. Working with their partner’s energy and letting the principles guide her, she ends up with a technique based on the principle.

That’s the ideal. It doesn’t happen as often as any of us would like. If we cling to techniques it will never happen. Go into a situation with the intent to do a particular technique and you have to force the moment to fit the technique. Go in with principles of movement, balance and flow, and the moment will guide you to the appropriate technique.

The more we practice, the more we internalize the principles, the easier it is to touch perfection. We can never hold on to it, but we can learn to get out of our own way and let perfect budo happen more and more often. We progress along the Way one step at a time. We learn to breath and to walk. Then we start learning some techniques. It’s only when we begin to understand what animates the techniques and makes them effective that we get close enough to touch perfection from time to time.

Perfect budo is a constantly moving target though. What worked yesterday won’t work at all tomorrow. Each step along the Way takes us to a different place. Each morning we awake and the world has changed a little. We can’t force the world to stay still any more than we can force the sun to stop in the sky. If we cling to things as they were our budo cannot advance.

Each day we have to find new ways to apply the lessons of the Way that we learn from studying the kata. The better we get at it, the easier it is to adapt to the whirling of the world around us. A novice sailor leaps and tumbles and is thrown around the deck of the boat by the gyrations of the waves. A seasoned sailor calmly walks the same deck, adjusting to each shift and jump of the boat calmly and smoothly. A master can sit calmly meditating on the deck while the ship pitches wildly, adjusting with muscle changes so small no can see them. The master is calm when the seas are calm, and when the seas seem to be enraged.

The world keeps changing, but the principles don’t. Budo gives us a Way to continually adapt. Classical iaido ryuha would be worthless relics if their techniques were what they are really teaching. No one has carried swords like that in 150 years. The principles that classical ryuha teach haven’t changed though, and learning to express those principles in life is what gives classical ryuha their value.


Photo Copyright 2013 Peter Boylan


We don’t study techniques and kata in order to learn techniques and kata. We study techniques and kata to learn the principles that animate them. The conditions under which a judoka can do uchimata are limited. The conditions under which they can apply the principles of kuzushi, timing and movement that they learn from studying uchimata are endless.

When teachers talk about forgetting technique, this what they are getting at. The Way is infinite and no one can learn a separate technique for every set of conditions. Each place along the way, every new morning, presents new conditions. We have to learn to see beyond the techniques we study to the principles. Then we can apply the principles in ways that work with the conditions we have rather than try to find conditions that suit the technique we want to do.

Through great effort you might be able to hold your place in the world still and unchanging, but that won’t help. The world will continue changing around you. Even to stay still takes continuous adjustment, just like the master meditating on the deck of the ship. Walk the path. Learn the techniques. Transcend the techniques and learn the principles. Apply the principles and let the principles create new techniques to suit moment.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Change in Classical and Modern Martial Arts

The classical arts of Japan (pre-1868) have a very different structure from the modern arts. The classical arts are entirely defined by their kata. If you take something like Suio Ryu or Shinto Muso Ryu, they have a clearly defined set of kata. Changing the kata is frowned upon, not because innovation is bad, but because it's really difficult to find anything in the kata that has not been boiled down to the essence of effectiveness.

Most koryu (again, pre-1868 traditions) kata are paired kata, always practiced with a partner. The reasons for doing the kata a particular way become vividly clear in a bright black and blue manner if you try to change things. The attacking partner is an immediate check to see if what you are doing is effective or not. And when it's not, you may well end up with a beautiful bruise as proof. Recently a friend and I spent a morning working through some kata slowly. Each time we tried to change the kata, we discovered that the kata form was the strongest way of responding for both the shitachi and the uchitachi. Each time we tried something different the openings and weaknesses of the new positions were clear. After hundreds of year of practice and examination, our forebears in the system had worked out the most effective way for things to be done. Our lesson was to understand why they designed the kata as they did.

The practice of the kata define the koryu traditions. Nearly all of the lore and wisdom that generations of teachers have accumulated is in embedded in the kata. It's up to students to tease this knowledge out. One way to do that is with what my friend and I were doing. You deconstruct the kata, try different reactions and attacks at each juncture and see if they work, or as we discovered, why they don't work.

Traditional Japanese systems, koryu budo, generally have very specific and clear pedagogy. Shinto Muso Ryu has a clear set of 40+ jo kata, as well as 12 sword kata, 12 walking stick kata, 24 kusarigama kata, 30 jutte kata, and I've forgotten how many hojo kata. These are very clearly defined. It's extremely difficult for teacher who hasn't been training for decades to make changes, and the kata themselves make it difficult. As I discussed above, we couldn't find any weaknesses in the kata we were exploring. We just learned a lot of options that don't work as well those taught in the system already. With this kind of situation, there just aren't many opportunities for innovation.

The most common way koryu arts change is that someone develops a new kata to address some situation or condition that is not considered by the existing kata. In Shinto Muso Ryu for example, they developed some new kata at the end of the 19th century to make use of the walking sticks that had become popular at the time. This is a logical extension of the principles of the stick that is the main weapon in Shinto Muso Ryu to a shorter stick. They didn't change old kata, or get rid of anything. They developed a few new kata to teach an understanding of the ranges and uses of the shorter stick. Systems do change, but they do so very slowly. With koryu, those changes are usually minor additions to the system rather than revolutions in the way things are done.

People sometimes wonder why koryu systems don't have lots of sparring and tournaments like the modern arts of kendo, karatedo and judo. Surprisingly, this is not a new question. Groups have been arguing about the value of sparring type practice in Japan for over four hundred years. When Japan was at war with itself, which was most of the time from about 1300 through 1600, there were more than enough opportunities for people to test their ideas, techniques and skills, so the question didn’t come up. Once Tokugawa Ieyasu unified the country and removed the last possible source of revolution in 1615, those opportunities disappeared. Soon after that sparring and challenge matches started to appear. Arguments over the value of sparring compared with kata training began almost immediately, and have continued unabated to this day. Over the centuries though, the styles that emphasize sparring as a part of their training never demonstrated significantly better records in the many challenge matches. If the sparring faction had shown consistent success the other systems would have changed rather than lose.  The systems that emphasized kata weren’t losing, so there was no need to change. Kata remained the core of training because when done properly, it works.

Tournaments are a relatively recent phenomenon. Tournaments first showed up late in the 19th century once the Japan had reformed its government and sword teachers had no way to make a living. Some people started doing matches to entertain the public and try to support themselves as professional martial artists after traditional positions working for daimyo disappeared.. These didn't last long, but they contributed to the development of modern kendo. Modern kendo equipment dates back to that used for sparring and some challenges as early as the 17th century.

Sword demonstrations and prize matches during the Meiji Era (1868-1912) popularized and contributed to the creation of a sport form of kenjutsu done with shinai (bamboo swords). Similar matches for jujutsu schools contributed to the rise of Kodokan Judo. Kano's students won a number of noted victories and the Kodokan was invited to participate in inter-style matches by the Tokyo Police. The Kodokan did exceptionally well in most of these matches and earned an impressive reputation. These matches though also drove some significant changes in the Kodokan's curriculum.

Fusen Ryu is reported to have defeated a number of Judo representatives with strong ground techniques. At the time, Kano was not in favor of focusing on ground fighting because he felt it was a dangerous place to be in a street fight. However, these losses on the ground in public matches pushed him to develop a groundwork curriculum for Judo. One of the big surprises about this is the way he went about it. Contrary to the idea of martial schools jealously guarding their secrets, at this time at the end of the 19th century, people were much more open. Kano invited the head of Fusen Ryu to teach groundwork at the Kodokan Dojo, and he did. With the help of the head of a rival system, Kano significantly strengthened the Kodokan curriculum. Kano never became a huge fan of groundwork, always believing that staying on your feet was optimal in a fight, but the pressure of doing well in competitive matches drove him to adapt his art.

In addition, Kano changed from the classic menkyo, or licensing, system, and created the modern dan rank system based on competitive ability.  The koryu systems award licenses based on a persons level of understanding and mastery of the system, up to and including full mastery of the system.  Kano abandoned this system for one in which students were ranked according to competitive ability in matches.  If a student could defeat four other students of 1st dan level (commonly known as black belt) , then he was promoted to 2nd dan (black belt).  This resulted in tremendous changes in what is taught and how students train.  Anything that is not allowed in competitive matches is marginalized in training, even if it is effective in combative situations outside of training.  The focus narrowed to those techniques which are most effective in competition.  The up side of this focus is that it drives innovation and experimentation.  Judoka are constantly looking for innovative ways to win in competition and refining their techniques to make them more effective.  The down side is, as I describe above, that anything not useful in competition is largely ignored, even if it is highly effective in situations outside of competition.

Various pressures on competitive martial systems are still visible today. For the larger systems such as Judo and various Karate styles, two of the big pressures are popularity and money. In the last 15 years the International Judo Federation has been busy making numerous changes to the rules for competitive Judo matches in order to make Judo more television friendly to maintain popularity and keep it's place in the Olympics. The matches are seen as being too slow and difficult to follow, so changes were made to speed things up. In addition, there seems to be some reservations about how well people from other systems, such as wrestling and BJJ, do when they enter Judo tournaments. I have heard complaints that wrestlers and BJJ players use a lot of leg grabs and take downs that aren't classical Judo. The techniques work though. My feeling is that in Judo, we are reacting in the worst way possible to these challenges from wrestlers and BJJ players. Instead of inviting them into our dojo to learn from them, as Kano did, the IJF has chosen to ban the leg grabs and take downs from Judo competition. To me this only makes Judo weaker and less worthy of study.

In the Karate world, I see a lot of things in tournaments where combative functionality is not even considered. People invent kata that are flashy and athletic, but have nothing to do with the rich history and combative effectiveness of the Okinawan traditions. I have seen rules for weapons kata that require a certain number of weapons releases. This means that people are required to throw their weapon into the air! From a standpoint of combative functionality, this is ridiculous. However, to people who don't know better, this looks impressive. These Karate tournaments seem to be responding to a desire to be as popular as possible, rather than as effective as possible. It is a similar to what the IJF is doing make Judo more television friendly so the International Olympic Committee won't drop Judo from the Olympics like it tried to do with Wrestling a few years back. I won't even get into the silliness that is Olympic Tae Kwon Do.

Many of the modern arts are relatively easy to change because they are competition focused and committee governed, so changes in the rules will drive major changes in training. The koryu arts are deeply seated in kata that have been refined over centuries, and I can't really imagine any pressure big enough for them to make significant changes to their curriculums. Since the classical systems are not looking for rapid growth or tv money, they are under no pressure to change except that which they have always had; to adjust their systems to they remain relevant to the world around them. Judo and Karate both have strong depths of kata, well thought out and highly refined, but these traditional, effective and functional kata are often ignored in the race to perform well in competitions. The desire to do well in competition and to be visible on the world stage will continue to drive changes in these arts. I would love to see the pressure and focus of modern arts return to combative functionality, but I doubt that will happen when it is so easy to get caught up in the ego trap of popularity.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Budo Then and Now

I was reading where someone was saying  they are working to preserve the spirit of budo as it had been 500 years ago.  That sounds nice on the surface, but when I think about it, I’m not so sure this is really a desirable thing.  Budo is a way, a path, a journey.  If we try to keep it exactly as it was, it is no longer a journey, and it loses its relevance to the present.

I can understand the urge to preserve a martial art without allowing anything to change the art and the tradition.  The people who created these arts were geniuses, and what they created has great value.  That value can be destroyed when people who lack sufficient depth of experience and understanding start playing around with the techniques and kata which make up the art.  It would be too easy to lose the core of a martial art by trying to constantly update it and make it attractive so as to compete with every new fad that comes along.  One look at what modern competitive judo has become will show what a mistake this path can be.

Kodokan Judo includes everything that can be included under these two fundamental principles: “Maximum efficiency, minimum effort” and “Mutual benefit and welfare”.   Competitive judo no longer has guiding principles.  It is about being popular, easy to understand and putting on a good show.  To these ends, the rules get rewritten based on whatever seems likely to increase the sport’s popularity this year.  In order to make competitive judo more popular, the International Judo Federation recently banned an entire range of throwing techniques.  No good explanation has been given by the International Judo Federation (IJF) for why they did this, but the strongest speculation seems to be that this will remove wrestling and modern BJJ elements from the sport.  Judo grew strong accepting challenges from other jujutsu styles and learning from defeats.  Modern judo is just running away from the challenges posed by other grappling systems, becoming weaker and less worthy of respect in the process.

Worse than this, in a recent press release, the IJF said that the new rules are “to promote beautiful and spectacular judo, where ippon becomes the ultimate goal again”.  Except that the aim of Judo is not scoring ippon (full point win) in a competition.  The aim of Judo is to develop an understanding of the principles of “mutual benefit and welfare” and “maximum efficiency with minimum effort”.  Those are the principles of Judo.  Modifying rules to make Judo more exciting for spectators but less effective in teaching the essential, foundational principles of Judo and making it a less effective martial art is a betrayal of the spirit of Judo.  This is chasing popularity for the sake of being popular.  It is also the destruction of Judo.  I predict that if Judo continues down this path, it will disappear in just a few generations as people switch to arts that remain effective and based on good principles.

If we only preserve budo as it was, without ever letting it change though, it becomes a museum piece.  Nice to look at, but not really something that belongs in our day to day lives.  In the past, budo systems were referred to as “ryu” .  This is a character that tells a lot about the nature of budo traditions.  Read “nagare” when it stands alone, means “stream, current, flow”.   This gives the idea that these teachings are flowing  through time.  Not static like a fossil, but alive, moving, changing, growing, as they pass through the years.  A great ryuha should not be weathered down and worn away by time like a rock, but it should grow mighty as water flows from a narrow stream in the highlands and gathers other streams into it and becomes a river.

Budo is a living way.  If we try to preserve it unchanged forever, it loses its value and relevance to the world around it.  Just as one’s individual understanding of Budo and its principles evolves as one grows in the art and deepens their understanding, Budo schools have to evolve and grow as the world they exist in changes.  This change can happen in variety of ways.  One of the most common is for a teacher to become dissatisfied with the art they are practicing to found a new art, which we can see around us abundantly in recent years.

Another possibility is for an art to actively grow and evolve, to remain suited to the world around it by making changes or additions that keep it up-to-date with the world.   An example of this is happening can be seen in the art of Shinto Muso Ryu.  Shinto Muso Ryu was founded on the use of a 128 cm staff, called a “jo”.  When the art was founded early in the 1600s, it was just the art of the staff versus the sword, with  some sword vs.  sword  techniques taught alongside,  so students could become proficient in the sword, both to better understand the art of the staff, and to understand the most common weapon in the world of Japan at that time, the sword.

As decades and centuries went by, the kata for jo were expanded to include more and more scenarios against the sword.  Over the decades, other weapons were added to the curriculum as well.  Jutte, a common police weapon in Tokugawa Japan, and the tying and binding art of hojojutsu  were added late in the 17th century as Shinto Muso Ryu became associated with the police force of the Kuroda-Han in southern Japan.  In the 19th century, a school of kusarigama (a short sickle with a ball and chain attached) was added to the curriculum, expanding the practitioners understanding of weapons and of longer spaces.  At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a period when walking sticks became quite fashionable, and since they were readily available, and similar to the core weapon of Shinto Muso Ryu, one of the senior practitioners developed a curriculum for the walking stick.  

Shinto Muso Ryu now offers a student the opportunity to learn weapons that function at a variety of ranges and that operate on principles of striking, cutting and flexibility.  The art has not stopped growing and adapting.  During the second half of the 20th century, a group of techniques for dealing with unarmed attackers who grab the jo were developed.  These have not been included in the official curriculum yet, but they are taught to students as kuden, or verbal tradition of the art.  I know that leaders of some lines of Shinto Muso Ryu are also developing additions to the art that they see as beneficial to their students.  The most common of these are iai forms, but it is perfectly reasonable to imagine a senior teacher deciding that Shinto Muso Ryu should also offer a set of empty hand techniques to go with the art’s weapons training.  It hasn’t happened yet, but Shinto Muso Ryu is only 400 years old.  There is lots of time for the art to continue to grow and adapt.

Living arts change, grow and adapt.  Dying arts have pieces of themselves worn away by time and are eventually forgotten.   This phenomena can be seen as well.  Some styles of iaido that once encompassed not only solo kata but also paired weapons work with multiple weapons have lost all or nearly all of their paired kata and they are down to just 1 weapon.  These are fading arts, because in losing their paired kata and many of their weapons, they don’t get just a smaller curriculum, they also lose a huge amount of knowledge about timing, spacing and combative distances.  You can’t learn how to judge spacing and timing from solo practice.  You also cannot learn to read a person’s body cues to understand what they will do next, or what lines of movement they have committed themselves to.  Without a variety of weapons, they are limited in understanding the distances necessary for a variety of weapons lengths and types.  It is possible that by letting these paired practices fade, they arts in question have lost the majority of their knowledge, utility and applicability to the world.  This can be seen in Judo as well.  The rule changes mentioned are the elimination of attacks and defenses.  The art is shrinking and losing some of its strength.  It is fading, and if this continues, it will die.

It’s possible for an art to revive, especially if there are multiple lines of transmission.  Then lines that have lost aspects can learn them anew from lines that have maintained their tradition.  This is tough though, and takes some brutal honesty on the part of the line looking to recover it’s full breadth and depth.  The leaders of such an art have to be willing to admit that their art is less than what it was, and could be, and go to someone else and humbly beg to be taught what has been forgotten.  That takes true humility, which is often especially difficult for someone who has become senior in an art.  

It has happened though.  Members of Kashima Shinto Ryu recognized that a part of their art had slipped away at some point and was no longer known.  However, they also knew of related arts that still taught similar practices to those they had lost.  Being more loyal to their art than to their own ego and status, the leaders of Kashima Shinto Ryu went humbly to one of these other arts and asked to learn what had been lost by previous leaders of their own art.  For all that you hear of jealously guarded secrets in the martial arts, there is a lot of openness also, and the leaders of the art approached by Kashima Shinto Ryu agreed to teach what had been lost.  By doing this, the leaders of Kashima Shinto Ryu strengthened their art and gave it new vitality.

There is no reason to assume that once an art has been around for a couple of generations in one form, that it can never change.  In truth, the opposite assumption should probably rule.  That once an art has been around for awhile, it will change.  The question then becomes “How much change is a good thing.”  I have to admit that I tend to think that less change is more successful.  Changes need time to be tried out and examined for robustness.  Those changes that aren’t robust enough should never be formally included in the art. If they do prove worthy over time, then they should certainly be included in the formal curriculum.  These changes and adaptations take time, decades rather than years, to become fully embedded into a living art.   

Most of the senior teachers in classical ryuha that I have met are extremely conservative about their art.  I used to suspect that they were ignoring the world around them striving to keep their art in the past.  As a spend more and more time training with them, my understanding and appreciation of their decisions grows.  They aren’t trying to make their arts wildly popular. They don’t want to be the next big thing.  The next big thing is always quickly replaced some other big thing.  They value their art and want it to be strong, with solid enough foundations that it will survive the changes around it and be able to absorb them instead of being broken by the changing world.  They do make changes.  As I look at classical ryuha, I see that they are adapting to the world.  They have changed the way they take on students and how they share their arts.  Many things are no longer hidden away in scrolls.  In some arts that have grown large enough, the art is presented in books and on professional videos!

It is the student’s responsibility for discovering how their art relates to the world they live in.  I once thought the teacher should show the student how it relates, but I’m realizing that I don’t live in quite the same world my students do, and I can’t make all the connections for them.  Each generation of students is responsible for understanding how their art is relevant to the world around them.  The world changes, but a koryu budo with solid principles will continue to be relevant without frequent changes, because what the ryuha is really teaching are the principles.  The techniques are just a means to that end.  Each generation has to do the work of learning the principles and applying them.  

I practice koryu budo.  I practice living arts.  I hope the arts my students practice will be subtly different than the arts I practice, as the art flows down through time, adds new knowledge and understanding, and adapts to new circumstances and challenges.