Discussion in 'Koryu Bujutsu' started by Christianson, Feb 28, 2015.

  1. Christianson

    Christianson Valued Member

    [ame=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVSONNESfyE]this video of the Jigen-ryu[/ame]

    Having just come across the above video, I thought it was worth sharing here. There's been a few discussions about that have touched on the case-by-case nature of koryu bujutsu, and the Jigen-ryu is one of the best illustrations of that.

    The ideal of the Jigen-ryu is that the first cut should kill. As an extension of this, they practice just one cut. The majority of the practice, as the video suggests, involves running up to the target, and cutting it over and over again in order to build up strength, speed, and stamina. Other elements of the school tend to be the simplest possible extensions of this: repeated cuts to suppress the opponent or target switching, for example. However, it is always the same cut.

    It might be better to say that this is the physical ideal of Jigen-ryu, however. Another way of thinking of Jigen-ryu is that it is a tool by which a general can produce an army. Even if you believe that Jigen-ryu's simplicity would make it vulnerable to more sophisticated martial schools, Jigen-ryu can produce dozens or even hundreds of trained exponents to every one of these other schools. The Jigen-ryu army is intended to be psychologically intimidating (hence the extended kiai), and the low choice burden was intended to prevent soldiers from freezing up in combat. The mass-training mentality is why the training equipment is so basic (quite literally trimmed sticks, as the video illustrates).

    My experience is that most people's perceptions of koryu bujutsu tends to be shaped by schools like (and primarily, if I'm honest) the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu, which is quite unlike Jigen-ryu. At the same time, the Jigen-ryu's role in the Meiji Restoration, producing the Satsuma soldiers, means that its historical influence arguably outweighs most other Japanese schools. And of course, in comparison to other schools it clearly illustrates that different schools existed to fill different niches.
  2. Archibald

    Archibald A little koala

    Thanks for that post, I've always wondered why the Jigen ryu do things the way they do.
  3. ludde

    ludde Valued Member

  4. Nojon

    Nojon Tha mo bhàta-foluaimein

    No one likes to go on AFTER Jigen-ryu! Lol!
  5. ScottUK

    ScottUK More human than human...

  6. Please reality

    Please reality Back to basics

    Sure, a trained group of men coming at you screaming with fire in their eyes is intimidating, that is why most militaries train their soldiers to charge like that. From the Spartans to the Gurkhas, some groups have struck fear in the minds of their enemies for just this same reason. You would probably face heavy casualties facing this kind of attack, so to defeat it you would have to find a way to take away their inertia(mobility), and the strength of their downward attack(terrain). If I recall correctly, one guy in the Ryoma assassination attempt got his sword caught in the rafters, while attempting such a cut(another rationale for attacking en masse), so it's not like they were almighty but I wouldn't want to face an opponent like that. Even on your best day it would be :eek:

    edit-I'd add that the goal isn't just to do a downward cut, which is common to most sword arts, but to actually smash into the opponent with your sword, tsuba, and spirit. Even if you couldn't cut them cleanly, that kind of clubbing kind of attack would cause damage and wreak havoc with someone's balance and defense.
  7. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    I'd say it's one of the least technically impressive Japanese sword demos I've seen. I know not everything is demo friendly but some of the stuff in that last video especially was just goofy:

    Bad posture and cuts which, even if not pulled, wouldn't have the power to do serious damage. Many of the other cuts also seem over committed with maybe 30% of what I'm seeing constituting a realistic level of force for application. I would assume there is much more to this ryu than I am seeing in the YouTube demos but thus far nothing I've seen has impressed.

    Probably not the style of kenjutsu for me :D
  8. ScottUK

    ScottUK More human than human...

    Sifu Ben, what do you know about the various kenjutsu ryuha?
  9. ludde

    ludde Valued Member


    I have tried to look for what you have said, and I must say it is interesting how two view points can differ so much from one clip(s).
    Powerful cuts and balanced stable postures. Not much technicality stuff that you might see in other schools, but considering what Christianson wrote it's not very surprising either.
  10. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    Enough to know that there are a significant number I would choose over this. There are some pretty common elements to sword work with the same and similar swords and of those elements. They seem to make up a small percentage of what's shown here.

    Fair enough. Leave what I consider gross technical issues to the side for the moment, as I said it just wouldn't be the ryu I'd choose because unless you actually are being trained for a militia this:

    seems the equivalent of going to a two year community college when there are schools offering you a PhD for the same dollar. I don't see any reason to join a school if there is no emphasis to produce technically skilled exponents.

    If those videos are what they consider technically skilled with a sword then as I said... probably not the kenjutsu school for me.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2015
  11. ludde

    ludde Valued Member

    Hey, I like a good debate.

    The thing is if we want to consider maybe what the Jigen-ryu could be useful for, it might not be the situation where you have plenty of time on your hand to prepare your men for confrontations.
    Personaly the technicality that they do have I find sound. Maybe not rich, but sound.

    In peace time I could agree with some of it, but these schools was not produced with that in mind.

    Whatever floats your bout I guess.
  12. David Harrison

    David Harrison MAPper without portfolio

    I don't know about the Spartans, but all I've heard about Gurkhas leads me to believe they prefer that their enemy never sees them.

    I'm struggling to think of a Western equivalent of these guys...
  13. David Harrison

    David Harrison MAPper without portfolio

    Is it a bad posture for what they wish to achieve?

    As for the 30% power thing, I've been cut by axes and knives with far less power than shown in that video. The blood was still a pressing concern for me! So after a dozen of those "weak" cuts, I don't know how many people would still have much fight in them.

    Edit: the sad purple face at the top of this post happened without me knowing why or how! :)
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2015
  14. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    Well that chicken necked thing the one guy was doing is not good posture for anything.

    Yes it sucks to be bleeding but given the resistive nature of cloth (especially silk) and the level of wounds the human body can endure and still be functional in a swordfight those little taps which I would be perfectly fine with on another target like the hand, are not going to be sufficient to incapacitate an opponent and keep you unharmed. And if you're at the range where you can cut to the body I see no point in tagging the opponent when you can do a much better cut.
  15. ScottUK

    ScottUK More human than human...

    I just don't understand how you can criticise a ryuha from watching a video when a) you don't understand the waza, and b) are not familiar with the mindset and mentality that they practice under.

    Along with my own school (which is also Kyushu-based), Jigen is one of the few that genuinely impresses me.
  16. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    I do find context relevant. In its time period it may have been useful for training a militia. In this case I also find the context more than expired, even more so than messing about with a sword for fun (which I do as well :D). If you're going to do something, do it the best you can.

    The really relevant context here and the thing that cinches it for me is that you're learning to use a sword to kill other people. That is what the waza are for unless I missed something here. All the arts which use a fairly similar type of sword share certain technical similarities within certain contexts (armoured, un armoured, cavalry, etc.) which I do understand. While I do see some of this presented here it is certainly less of the whole than other kenjutsu schools I have seen.

    Again it seems like learning sword from these guys and trying to apply it against a school which teaches more depth would end up in a student or students losing. If that's untrue then I have misjudged it. If that is true then they are second rate at producing skilled swordsmen.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
  17. Kurtka Jerker

    Kurtka Jerker Valued Member

    Except applying it one on one against a skilled opponent in a sword fight is pretty irrelevant since those don't really happen (and any approximations of such are purely voluntary), and it was never meant for that anyway. They don't need a rounded technical ability with the sword, they're training to preserve and understand the school itself rather than sword fighting as a whole.

    There are schools which provide a deep, technical and dynamic understanding of sword fighting. (At least as deep as you can in a time when serious fighting is done with guns and weapons of opportunity) Even those are practiced with a mind toward preservation and understanding of the school, like the care and study of a relic.

    If I had to fight with swords for a living, I don't think I'd choose this school. If I had to train a bunch of conscripts who don't have a mind for fighting, have no aspirations toward being a swordsman and probably don't want to be there anyway, Jigen ryu looks very appropriate for making them dangerous.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
  18. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    I'd agree with pretty much all of this. I still think it's technically lacking but that is understandable if what you're teaching is "newb training for peasants." Still, I can't see the purpose in wanting to train to be a worse swordsman than someone else when you clearly have the time.

    I guess the other question is how do you reasonably have any high ranks in a system which is initially meant to have such a limited training time? Surely after a few years everyone would achieve 10th dan :D
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
  19. Christianson

    Christianson Valued Member

    As someone once said to me, the aim of boot camp isn't to get the recruits to hit the target, it's to make sure they pull the trigger. As I understand it, the underlying logic of Jigen-ryu is that things like over-committed cuts, hunched over posture, and so on are things that people are going to do in their first real sword fight anyway. Training people to override those instincts takes months if not years; teaching them (or more correctly conditioning them) to fight reasonably effectively while giving in to those instincts takes weeks. If Jigen-ryu can provide enough tools to survive the first couple of fights, then the practitioner can sort out technical improvements on their own.

    Which does make Jigen-ryu as it is currently practiced a bit of a strange thing: people essentially running through boot camp for years in order to master it. On the other hand, all koryu bujutsu is an odd beast in today's world, so who's to judge?

    EDIT: Somehow I completely missed much of the later discussion, so the above is rather redundant at this point. As for grading, though, I believe (and could very well be wrong) that Jigen-ryu has exactly two grades, that boil down to "started" and "finished." ;)
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
  20. ScottUK

    ScottUK More human than human...

    I have only a basic understanding of their methodology, and with that in place, their videos make sense to me.

    I have already voiced my opinion of this particular school, perhaps other practitioners of JSA who are familiar with the different ryuha can chime in?

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