The Art of Self-Defense
This page is a discussion of our school, Shinden yoshin ryu, and the Japanese martial arts in general. Specifically this page explains what our school is, what its techniques are, and the general context in which both exist within the Japanese martial arts. Such schools as Shinden yoshin ryu are usually classified as 'Gendai goshin jujutsu' or “Modern jujutsu for self defense.” Sometimes this designation is abbreviated to simply 'Gendai goshinjutsu' or "Modern arts of self defense.”
Our school although minor is originally straight from Japan, there were many American servicemen who used to take leave in Osaka, Japan in the 1960's and several of these were practicing judo and Jujutsu in the dojos of this open minded school (who most probably saw their presence as a means to generate cash-flow and attendance in their dojo.) In any event, the Osaka dojo was very small, headed up and taught by a one Kimura, Yoshinuri Sensei. (born in 1915 and passed away in 1967) Kimura sensei was assisted by Nomoto Sensei and Kawabe Sensei. Kimura was not the Founder but had been trained under him -- possibly his son or grandson? They taught in Osaka from 1946 until 1966. Nomoto Sensei was teaching in Europe (in the 70's) and Kawabe Sensei has not been heard from since 1971. Kawabe Sensei was teaching it under the name Yoshin Ryu in Detroit, Michigan back in 1970, to make money for himself.
The techniques contain some adaptation of the formal katas of the Yoshin and other Takagi jujutsu schools, but it's hard to be certain which school might have produced them. Apparently, there was little emphasis on structure in the dojo of Kimura sensei, they cared more for technical content rather than context of structure. In short, they were studying Judo for sports competitions and this school of Jujutsu for self defense. Some of the Katas (I learned back in the 70's & early 80's) were not named, but later proved to be (adaptations) of common Takagi jujutsu katas. The system is definitely related somehow (?) to some kind of Takagi school, but the Shinto Yoshin ryu and many others are too, so that doesn't say much. The ryuha in question use similar katas but usually with very different Junban systematic structure (順番 Junban) The comparison page fairly well demonstrates what is often held in common between such schools. I've known some sources to adamantly claim that they aren't related schools, but by nomenclature and sometimes technical content of kata, they show a definite inter-relationship. I think then, what is meant is that there is no relationship because it's gendai? I dunno but here's the link to the comparison: For a comparison of ryuha kata go here.
The term 'goshinjutsu' is the standard Japanese designation, but really it's not that accurate a term outside of this context, since this term more refers to unarmed defense (weaponless.) So it doesn't lend itself well to schools that practice sword and staff (as do we.) Shinden yoshin ryu, and many others, uses instead the term 保身術 Hoshinjutsu when referring to the art or techniques of self-protection. The objective is to develop and have 明哲保身 Meitetsu hoshin wisdom and skills for self-protection. In our school, and many others, this subject is definitely not limited to mere physical self defense. Really, the subject of Hoshinjutsu itself isn't limited to this either.
In hoshinjutsu, the term hoshin is composed of the kanji 保 "protect; guarantee; keep; sustain; support” and 身 “self; body; one's person; one's lot or station in life.” So really the term means something more like 'securing oneself' or perhaps 'securing one's own needs and interests' and this is how we understand it. I once got into an argument about the meaning of these kinds of Japanese terms, and the other party was arguing that this term and 'goshinjutsu' mean the exact same thing, That it's just the Japanese word for “self defense.” This is far from correct, as I shall demonstrate. Most modern thinkers don't actually care for it as a subject, but the fact is that Hoshinjutsu and arts like it actually include stuff that we today would call superstitious. For example, hexes and spells ( Shinto incantations ) to ward off evil, or to help oneself in life. It addresses spiritual 'threats' of all sorts, prayers, hexes and spells etc etc. All of this is really a native part of traditional “Arts of self protection.” The term Goshinjutsu definitely does NOT entail this sort of thing. These kinds of things are an extension of the broader ideology behind Hoshinjutsu, an attempt to help oneself out in life, to escape danger and misfortune, and as such Hoshinjutsu and arts like it have always included prayers, incantations, spells, charms and various forms of divination with which to help oneself.
So in schools like ours, and really the same is true of mainstream Budo as well, the subject of Self protection is most certainly not about mere physical skills of self defense against attacks. It is, in and of itself, a complete system and body of knowledge. Some of this “knowledge” is native Japanese culture but we do have equivalents in our own cultures by which to appreciate the type of practices described. I have always liked the explanation of my instructor so I will defer to it: Divination is a means of making decisions or plotting a course of action when one has no better way to make such decisions and no idea what to do. Essentially, divination is a very simple low tech computer used to generate potential courses of action and/or to predict the outcome of a thing. Even when as outcome prediction, it is intended that you follow it's instruction as a course of action and thus 'materialize' that outcome yourself. Similarly, prayers, incantations, hexes and etc. These are, by tradition, a prelude to action. One is (by the conventions of the relevant religion or tradition, in this case: Shintoism – but any tradition applies) supposed to do everything in their power to make the prayer or incantation work. This means that if the prayer or incantation was to ward of the evil of, say, an enemy presence – one is supposed to take actions that will address and dismiss that enemy's presence. In the end, it's all supposed to be ways of helping oneself, seeking guidance and/or assistance for one's life – and acting accordingly in the course of events.
Beyond this vector of Hoshinjutsu, but really an embodiment of this vector, are subjects like Nichijo seikatsu. This is more important as the subject of Hoshinjutsu Self protection and you should refer to that page if you haven't already viewed it. This link will take you to it. At this level, Hoshinjutsu methods of self protection are concerned with taking care of oneself in life, protecting and securing one's own life and interests. Suffice to say that it's all your LIFE and there's no better reason to protect it and secure good for yourself than that. This is more Hoshinjutsu than learning how to kick an attacker's butt, if ya know what I mean.
To conclude this discussion, I would remind you that the objective is to develop and have 明哲保身 Meitetsu hoshin Wisdom and skills for the protection of one's life and interests. The ability to secure and guarantee one's own needs and interests. The subject of mere physical self defense is simply not sufficient to do the job, since that is a relatively limited set of skills and to properly do the job of acquiring Meitetsu hoshin ( Wisdom and skills for self protection ) one must not restrict themselves to nor be restricted by these kinds of common misconceptions. Budo is not limited to, nor does it espouse, such misconceptions.
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