Sunday, May 29, 2011

Iwasaki Soke

Iwasaki Hisashi Sensei, SMAA Senior Advisor, is the Soke (Hereditary Headmaster) of Kobori Ryu suiei-jutsu. One of the highest ranking martial artists in Japan, he teaches and preserves a very rare and esteemed form of ancient bujutsu.

Suiei-jutsu is the age-old Japanese martial art of combative swimming. Unlike modern budo, such as judo, karate-do, or iaido, the old martial systems (koryu) were often sogo bujutsu. A sogo bujutsu incorporates a number of martial disciplines that are linked by a set of unifying principles as espoused by the art's founder. While not all bushi, or "warriors," studied every one of them, generally speaking there are 18 classical martial arts that often comprise bujutsu. Although the exact arts that made up the bugei juhappan, or "18 martial arts," varied according to martial system, and sometimes according to historical period as well, suiei-jutsu is often described as being one of them.

While not as widely practiced as swordsmanship, samurai swimming was often a part of the bushi's training. It was natural for the Japanese warrior to develop swimming skills in that the sea surrounds Japan, and combat could therefore potentially take place in water. Eventually, swimming and engaging an opponent in water reached a high level in certain clans of warriors. Depending on the speed, size, and depth of the water that was near a particular clan, different skills were developed. For example, some ryu of suiei-jutsu featured methods for swimming under water, while others focused on swimming in fast moving rapids.

Suiei-jutsu served various purposes, ranging from allowing the bushi to silently sneak up on an enemy, to floating for long periods, to fording strong rivers. Bushi needed to be able to swim while wearing armor, carrying flags, weapons, and banners; and they needed to be able to use a bow and arrow while almost submerged. Some ryu also featured grappling while in the water.

At present, suiei-jutsu is seldom taught in Japan. Most of its contemporary practitioners are studying it as a means of recreation, as a way of maintaining their health, and as a method of disciplining their minds and bodies. But make no mistake, the small number of suiei-jutsu teachers that are still extant have not forgotten the martial origins of this rare art form, and they are also preserving it as an important cultural property of Japan.

Iwasaki Soke is one of the people responsible for preserving suiei-jutsu, and he lives in Kyoto.

Ohsaki Sensei

Ohsaki Jun Sensei
Ohsaki Jun Sensei offers a knowledge of traditional budo and Japanese cultural arts that is of great value to the SMAA. He brings over 50 years of martial arts experience to our association.

Ohsaki Sensei was born in 1948 in the Shibuya section of Tokyo. He was interested in budo as a child, and at the age of seven he started to study Kodokan judo. His instruction began at the Hatagaya Keisatsu Dojo, one of the numerous dojo sponsored by the Tokyo police department. These keisatsu dojo, or police dojo, are infamous throughout Japan for the severity of their training. His initial training began with soji, the ritualistic cleaning of the dojo. For some time, he was only allowed to clean and watch his sempai ("seniors") practice. Eventually, having proven his sincerity, he began learning safe falling techniques (ukemi) and later throwing and grappling methods.

In time, he completed college, became an automotive technician, married, and had two sons, one of whom has trained for many years in kyudo (the martial art of Japanese archery). He is presently the owner of an automobile repair facility. His judo training continued successfully throughout most of his life.

Eventually, Ohsaki Sensei also began a comprehensive study of traditional jujutsu and classical Japanese weaponry, which he has excelled in for many years. A member of the Kokusai Budoin's prestigious kobudo, or ancient martial arts, division, he has demonstrated Nippon jujutsu at the Kokusai Budoin Sogo Budo Taikai. This important budo exhibition takes place early each spring in Tokyo. (Japan's Kokusai Budoin promotes all traditional Japanese forms of budo and bujutsu, and it is active in a large number of countries throughout the world.) Besides budo, Ohsaki Sensei has extensive training in Japanese forms of meditation and healing arts, along with a comprehensive background in shodo, the art of Japanese calligraphy.

Otsuka Soke

Otsuka Yasuyuki Soke

Otsuka Yasuyuki Sensei, the current Soke (Headmaster) of Meifu-Shinkage Ryu, is a member of the SMAA Board of Advisors. Meifu-Shinkage Ryu is based on Katori Shinto Ryu, one of Japan's oldest forms of koryu bujutsu. Meifu-Shinkage Ryu specializes in the use of shuriken (throwing stars and darts) and the fundo kusari, a weighted chain. Otsuka Sensei, a published author of budo books, is one of the highest ranking martial artists in Japan and one of very few people in the world teaching an authentic system of shuriken-jutsu. His desire to join the SMAA points to the value of the work our group is doing internationally to promote and preserve genuine Japanese budo and koryu bujutsu. He lives in Ichikawa-Shi, Chiba, Japan and teaches throughout Japan, Europe, and the USA.

The SMAA is active around the world and lead by both Western and Japanese martial arts experts. Otsuka Sensei joins a number of prominent martial arts teachers in Japan, who actively support our association and validate the ranks issued by the SMAA. Their presence in the SMAA speaks volumes about the importance of our group and the degree to which it is respected in Japan, the birthplace of budo and koryu bujutsu.

Suzuki Sensei

Suzuki Kunio Sensei
Suzuki Kunio Sensei, Nakamura Ryu swordsmanship Hanshi, eighth dan, and SMAA Senior Advisor is one of the highest ranking teachers of traditional martial arts in Japan, if not the world. He is a direct student of the late Nakamura Taizaburo Sensei, founder of Nakamura Ryu, tenth dan, and a former Living National Treasure of Japan.

Suzuki Sensei lives in Yokohama, and we are honored to have him on our board of advisors. He joins many other prominent martial artists in Japan, Europe, and the USA, who serve the SMAA without pay. Their devotion to budo and koryu bujutsu is the hallmark of the Shudokan Martial Arts Association.

Suzuki Sensei first started in budo with the study of Wado Ryu karate-do, training under legendary experts in Japan. He rose through the kyu ranks, eventually earning black belt degrees in Wado Ryu before deciding to devote all his efforts to Japanese swordsmanship. He has become one of the highest ranking teachers of iaido (battodo) in the world.

In addition to his training in budo, Suzuki Sensei has received high-level teaching certification in the ancient art of the shakuhachi flute. Long associated with Zen meditation, the shakuhachi is one of Japan's most important cultural arts. Suzuki Sensei feels that the study of such arts can aid martial artists in having a deeper understanding of budo. This viewpoint is shared by many of the leaders of the SMAA, which is why experts in Japanese yoga and meditation, flower arrangement, tea ceremony, brush calligraphy, and other disciplines can be found among members of the SMAA Board of Directors and Board of Advisors.

Suzuki Sensei's desire to join the SMAA validates the unique and important work our association is doing to promote and preserve genuinely traditional Japanese martial arts and ways. The presence of people like Suzuki Sensei and Omi Koji Sensei (former Japanese Finance Minster and member of Japan's House of Representatives) among our leaders gives added weight to the ranks that our members can receive from the various SMAA divisions. They also serve to further emphasize the international nature of the SMAA and our group's close ties to Japan and the classical Japanese martial arts community.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SMAA Journal

We hope everyone is enjoying the latest issue of the SMAA Journal. However, some of the e-mailed journals bounced back to us. Please make sure we have your current e-mail address. If you have a new e-mail address, send it to We want all of our members to receive every issue of the journal.

What is the SMAA?

About the Shudokan Martial Arts Association

The Shudokan Martial Arts Association (SMAA, Shudokan Budo-Kai) was founded in January 1994 by a group of martial artists who were concerned with promoting and safeguarding Nihon budo and koryu bujutsu--the traditional martial arts and ways of Japan. The original members of the SMAA were Karl Scott Sensei (karate-do seventh dan, aikido sixth dan), Nicklaus Suino Sensei (judo sixth dan, iaido seventh dan), H. E. Davey Sensei (jujutsu seventh dan), and the late Walter Todd Sensei (judo eighth dan, aikido sixth dan). From the original core group, the association has grown to include many of the preeminent practitioners of martial arts in and outside of Japan such as:

Otsuka Yasuyuki Soke (Headmaster of Meifu-Shinkage Ryu shuriken-jutsu)

Iwasaki Hisashi Soke (Headmaster of Kobori Ryu suiei-jutsu)

Sawai Atsuhiro Sensei (Kobori Ryu suiei-jutsu)

Suzuki Kunio Sensei, (Nakamura Ryu and Toyama Ryu iaido, Wado Ryu karate-do)

Ohsaki Jun Sensei (Kodokan judo and Saigo Ryu aiki-jujutsu)

Cynthia Hayashi Sensei (Aikikai aikido)

Stephen Fabian Sensei (Hontai Yoshin Ryu jujutsu, Toyama Ryu iaido)

Hunter Armstrong Sensei (Owari Kan Ryu sojutsu, Yagyu Shinkage Ryu kenjutsu, Shindo Muso Ryu jojutsu)

Guy Power Sensei (Nakamura Ryu battodo)

Herb Wong Sensei (Shorin Ryu karate-do)

Mr. Dave Lowry (Shindo Muso Ryu jojutsu, Yagyu Shinkage Ryu kenjutsu)

Mr. Wayne Muromoto (Takeuchi Ryu jujutsu, Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu iaido)

And many others.

The SMAA is a small, fraternal organization with a decidedly noncommercial outlook on modern budo and koryu bujutsu. It includes separate divisions for karate-do, aikido, judo, traditional jujutsu, iaido, and goshin-jutsu (modern self-defense systems stemming from budo or bujutsu). Both associate membership (without rank) and regular membership (with rank) are available to individuals sincerely interested in researching and training in the classical martial systems of Japan. Regular international seminars, e-mail newsletters, a quarterly journal, a blog, access to this website, and examinations for dan/kyu ranking are benefits of membership. All members are bound by the SMAA Code of Ethics.

The leaders of the SMAA all have close ties to the martial community in Japan, or they live in Japan. Although they are reimbursed for their expenses, they receive no salaries. Their rewards lie in the friendships that are born within the SMAA and the exchange of knowledge that takes place as the result of SMAA membership.


What's in a Name?

Shudokan means "an Institution for Cultivating the Way." (Do, or "the way," refers philosophically to discovering the right and natural way to live. It is the same character found in budo--the "martial way;" sado--the ""way of tea," i.e. the tea ceremony; shodo--the "way of Japanese calligraphy;" as well as the names of various Japanese fine arts.)

It is interesting to note that no martial connotation is found in the appellation Shudokan, no reference to karate-do is contained in the name, and the name is used on occasion by schools of Japanese cultural arts that have no connection to budo. Actually, any "do" form, ranging from judo to karate-do to iaido, or even fine arts such as shodo, could be considered a vehicle for cultivating the way.


The SMAA Mon

SMAA MonThe emblem on this web site is inspired by the mon, or Japanese family crest. This general design was a collaboration between Michael Donnelly Sensei, H. E. Davey Sensei, and Kevin Heard Sensei. It was eventually incorporated into an official SMAA insignia, complete with English and Japanese lettering, that is used on SMAA uniform patches and other SMAA merchandise that members can purchase at our online store or via the online payments section of this website.

The SMAA mon has symbolic significance. The circle motif represents the martial artist's never-ending progress toward perfection, as once we start to travel on this circle, our path never stops. Notice as well the eight rings surrounding the central circle. Eight in Japanese martial culture has connotations of infinity, while the center circle symbolizes the individual martial artist, who resides in sea of limitless possibilities. He or she can only move in eight fundamental directions, whether attacking or defending (happo sabaki). Attacks can only be launched against the budoka from eight basic directions as well. And one's opponent can also be unbalanced at eight essential angles (happo kuzushi). Moreover, when wielding a sword or other weapon, the path of the sword will travel in one of eight primary directions (happo giri).

From judo to aikido to kenjutsu, the eight-way concept is a common and important idea. Yet, the eight circles are linked, thus indicating possible angles of movement that fall between the eight basic angles.

In this simple design, we're confirming an infinite potential available to individuals on the never-ending path toward perfection via modern budo and ancient bujutsu. In addition, the mon serves to remind SMAA members of the essentially circular movements of the arts they practice and the eight basic angles of evasion, attack, unbalancing, and weapon movement that are universal for most martial studies.


Objectives of the SMAA

  1. To promote and aid in the growth of Japan's traditional martial arts and ways.
  2. To assist the public in achieving spiritual growth and physical development through budo and koryu bujutsu training.
  3. To further friendship and understanding between Asian and Western martial artists.
  4. To establish goodwill and harmony among martial artists of various systems.
  5. To offer Western martial artists access to legitimate budo and koryu bujutsu organizations and teachers in Japan.
  6. To give practitioners of authentic budo and koryu bujutsu recognition for their years of devotion to these arts.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Meifu Shinkage Ryu Seminar in Japan

From May 20 through May 23, Otsuka Yasuyuki Soke taught a special international seminar on Meifu Shinkage Ryu. The event took place in Japan, with participants coming from Japan, the USA, Spain, Germany, Italy, Finland, and Denmark.

Otsuka Soke is a member of the SMAA Board of Advisors and the current headmaster of Meifu Shinkage Ryu, a martial system specializing in the use of ancient shuriken throwing weapons. He is one of very few people in Japan still teaching this rare martial art.

Want to join Otsuka Soke in the SMAA? Just drop by for membership information.