Koryu (古流 koryū) is a Japanese word that is used in association with the ancient Japanese martial arts. This word literally translates as "old school" or "old tradition". This term refers to the schools of martial arts that predate the Meiji Restoration. The Meiji Restoration was a political event that precipitated Japan's modernization.

The systems of Japanese martial arts that post date the Meiji Restoration are known as gendai budo. The most well known of these arts include: judo, kendo, iaido, and aikido. These newer systems are commonly valued as sports or arts for self-improvement. The koryu systems of martial arts, however, are commonly far more revered as they are considered the teachings of the true Japanese martial arts, due to the fact that they were formed from Japan's feudal military culture.

The koryu systems of the Japanese martial arts often contain both unarmed and armed fighting techniques. Within these ancient systems several different weapons are commonly taught to the students of the these arts.

The Koryu and the Han Edit

During the feudal period of Japanese history many Koryu schools were otome ryu’s literally "that which flows but remains at home," of the han (domain). Being a otome ryu entailed that the heads of these ryu's (schools) would get a rice stipends from the han's total koku (a unit of measurement used to calculate rice revenues and used to measure the relative wealth of a han) in exchange for training the Samurai of the han. There were exceptions however to being funded by a specific han and many ryu were never or only partially supported by a han. For examples Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu heiho was sole supported by donations from local landed bushi and was never attached to a specific domain. Likewise Maniwa Nen-ryu which was founded and supported by the peasant farmers of Maniwa Village in Gunma Prefecture, as a means of village protection. A third example is Kashima Shin-ryu which took its name from a famous Shinto shrine which would acquire funds to support itself from taxing the activities associated with lands owned or regulated by the temple, as well as serving as hereditary guardians of the Kashima shrine. These kind of arrangement therefore allowed the need for heads of schools to devote themselves full-time to the teaching of the schools, while providing assorted services to the ryu's benefactors.

It was not until the Meiji Restoration when this almost 500 year arrangement started to fall apart and various heads of schools had to seek other means of employment. Of which teaching their ryu's to the general public was only one of many options. Today no headmaster of a Koryu or kenjutsu makes a living teaching his art, yet their devotion to ensuring their arts continue to thrive for generations.

Koryu its relation to Bujutsu and Gendai Budo Edit

It is often inaccurately believed that kendo and iaido are more modern and thereby more advanced and or better systems to Kenjutsu and Koryu; nothing could be further from the truth. The aims of Bujutsu (Lit. Trans: "Martial Methods") and Budo (Lit. Trans: "Martial Way") are two distinct practices that serve distinctly different aims.

The primary objective of a student of a Koryu is to engage in the practice of bujutsu in order to develop the combative mindset of his or her ryu, through which he will come to understanding the effective utilization of a broad range of weapons in mortal combat. The objective of Budo is rather less terse, while many people enter into Budo for reasons of self defense most gendai budo (modern martial arts) also seek to develop the spiritual, ethical, and or moral aspects of the individuals in conjunction to the physical and sporting methods. Koryu has no sporting component and free sparring is rarely used due to the danger of death. While Bujutsu and Budo remain two distinct practices they are not mutually exclusive, and the terms are used almost interchangeable in the Japanese language. The distinction however while subtle between Bujutsu and Budo points to the essential difference and qualities of each approach and their relationship to Koryu.

Partial listing of Koryu traditions Edit

External links Edit

de:Koryū es:Koryū budō it:Koryu ja:武術 pl:Koryu bujutsu sv:Koryu