Some impressions and personal thoughts on a Kaichô private seminar at the Chiba-Dôjô

Just two weeks after the great summer Gasshuku of the Hokushin Ittô-Ryû Hyôhô at the Chiba-Dôjô I was again going to Munich for one of the mandatory private seminars every Dôkôkai-Kaichô needs to attend twice a year over a full weekend.

With this set-up it is guaranteed that the Kaichô receives constant one-to-one instructions directly from the 7th Sôke, Ôtsuka Ryûnosuke Masatomo throughout the year. And the Kaichô in turn can share this knowledge tailor-made with the students at the Dôkôkai.

I am always impressed by the openness and willingness of Ryûnosuke-Sôke in sharing his know-how with us.

These private seminars usually consist of two parts. One part is the general knowledge transfer from which the Dôkôkai students will benefit and the other part is meant for the personal advancement of the Kaichô himself as usually they are already Mokuroku-level students and therefore receive higher teachings.

This time I studied the Ura Kodachi Gogyô no Kata and the complete set of the Kaden Battôjutsu of our school and of course we practiced Shiai-Geiko, but more of that later.

Once again I am excited to see how the different teachings of the Hokushin Ittô-Ryû Hyôhô are completely aligned between Kumitachi, Battôjutsu and Gekiken. It is indeed a well-rounded martial school!

After the Shoden and Chûden Battôjutsu sets the Kaden set is the next level the student learns.
Kaden basically means the “family tradition” set (家伝). This set was developed by Chiba Michisaburô, the 4th Sôke of the extinct Edo-Genbukan.
The techniques in this set are very direct, highly efficient and show a profound complexity. There are quite a few ansatsu waza (assassin techniques) to be found in this set.

Ryûnosuke-Sôke’s execution of the Battôjutsu-Kata is truly inspirational and something anyone in our Ryûha (and even outside…) should aspire to. It is clean, it is crisp… well it’s deadly. As some of the readers may know, I have a strong Iaidô background but still these Kaden-Kata are a real challenge!

After long hours of Kumitachi and Battôjutsu practice we switched to Gekiken. It’s always remarkable to fight against the 7th Sôke as his control over the opponent is nothing short of complete. Obviously, it was still training and not a duel therefore Ryûnosuke-Sôke was carefully balancing his actions in order for me to learn something and at the same time find it challenging to engage him. The learning effect with such an approach is superb.

Of course we had as well some valuable discussions about the general topic of Koryû and in more detail about our school, mostly focusing on the future.
My personal feeling is that our school was focused on the future from the beginning. Proof of this is the fact that the founder Chiba Shûsaku and his brother Chiba Sadakichi (the founder of the Chiba-Dôjô) developed quite progressive and forward-looking teachings in their time. Teachings which are still thought today and guarantee a steady and quick progress. Yes, the Hokushin Ittô-Ryû always did things a bit different than others.

Today, most people in the Koryû world are concerned with the past (and rightly so). But unfortunately, not so many are concerned with the future of their schools which is kind of sad to see.

At the end of the second day, Sôke asked me if I want to fight a Shinken-shôbu, a duel with real sharp swords (with Sundome). It is not something he asks lightly because in such a case he puts a lot of confidence in his opponent.
I accepted and it was a very intense and fruitful experience. A lot is changing if you are facing an opponent with a live blade. Things you took for granted are just not there anymore. Very interesting!

This made me thinking: What is the ultimate goal when studying classical Koryû Bujutsu? It’s not about performing nice-looking kata. It’s also not about doing well in Shiai-Geiko with Bogû. Finally, it’s all about to sustain in Shinken-shôbu. Period.

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