About Loyalty …

Training mit Soke und den Meistern

You know, the history of Takeda Ryu in Europe is sufficiently explained. It is a story of ego combined with wrong understanding and focus on only one thing. Power. Well, that is what you get, if you are in Europe and someone calls himself a master.

For decades clubs and organisations fought each other to be supreme, even lawyers where involved.
All that, because the japanese people had a classical misunderstanding.
It is, that japanese masters are raised in different manners and in different ways.
In Japan an ancient school of martial arts, like mine, is based on tradition and history.
And in knowing that history the approach differs very much.

In the late 1980ties, when Soke Nakamura opened the school for Europeans, he did not expect such a mess. He expected a common understanding of the value and simple a civilised association with everyone entering his organisation.
The opposite happened.

But the genie was out of the bottle and so it became a big mess and a big damage in reputation at all.
Soke Nakamura only had the chance to shut everything down in 2000.

As my Soke died some weeks ago I was thinking about his legacy. After Toyoshima sensei and me could convince Soke Nakamura in 2004 to take a new beginning in Europe, this time on legal bases and with a straight organisation, it is time to look back and resume.

Did really something change? Indeed, the school is on solid basis now. That is the work of every sensei, who has a dojo and is constantly working. Their dedication is doubtless.
The school of Soke grew and still is. So, that is all fine.

From my point of view however, after almost fifteen years, the situation has a small but important blemish.

No more new professionals.

Someone, who knows me is aware, that if it is about the school of Soke Nakamura I am very strict. A professional only does Takeda Ryu. As me and the few in Japan also only do. There is no time for mixture and combining. As if the school would not offer enough.  Only one thing.
As Morita sensei wrote me in his Haiku. Only one tree. Not a forest.

As a professional life is very difficult and sometimes very hard. To have food on the table every day was not always easy. Sometimes I depended on the food donations of my students.
Thank you all for that help, you are the reason I survived.
Especially one student shall be sincerely thanked. She donated money, household stuff without ever wanting something in return. She was an angel, who left when she felt, that my feet could stand on the ground again.

It was the first time in my life, that I felt real loyalty, without having asked for it. At that time, I was ashamed on depending on others, so the understanding of that came later.

And here we are: loyalty.
A word so often used in martial arts and so less understood.
And we in Europe have a problem with that loyalty. Otherwise the Japanese culture of martial arts and that concept would not affect us so much.
And again, we in the west turned the thing around, made something completely different out of it and therefore ruined the whole concept of loyalty. (chusei <= japan.)

The internet is full of articles, written by some „masters“ to explain that loyalty is the key to success, as long as they are loyal to them. “You must be loyal to your master” “Always trust your master” and so on.
Some years ago a student joined me. He found out that his sensei, was a liar, a pretender and a tyrant. I smiled and remembered my past. I could understand each word he told me and therefore believed him, as I did not invite him. He by himself did the first step, left everybody and came to me in search for the true ancient way.

I accepted and today everything is perfect. He is happy, I am happy and we work together in our quest.

You see, for Japanese teacher it is far more simple to stay loyal than for us in the west.
If a Japanese person wants to learn Takeda Ryu, she simply enters a dojo and knows that the headmaster, the keeper of tradition, is only one line above her. She can trust, that the teacher, who is teaching her, is taught by the headmaster himself, or by his best students, the other masters.

She can trust the value and she can trust the history as everything is in her language.
And when she looks at the dojo plans, she easily finds out that there is daily training at the hombu, or there is a professional, who teaches 5 times the week. Voila.
It is very simple to trust, that the knowledge, which is taught to her is in direct line with the Soke.

But how is it 8000 miles more to the west?
We must go there. We must go to Japan. And make no doubt about that, we are going there. They did not come to us. If you enter a foreign house you have to follow the rules there. Especially you are not invited.

And here comes the keypoint. Here in Europethere is a person in charge. A representative. He or She is waving with certificates, proclaiming to be legit and you have no possibility to check.
You know, when you go to the hospital you may want to check, that the doctor opening your chest may have a valid certificate and but you want to be SURE that he/she really can handle it.

You would not give your children to a kindergarten, if you are not 100% sure that it is good for your child. No matter if it is written on a piece of paper.

But funnily enough not so in martial arts.

Why is that so?
I had a discussion the other day, with one of our members from another country. He always said that he wants to go to Japan, but his sensei (a European) forbids it.
I asked him, if he has any contract with this person. He says no, so I said then go.
And his answer was critical and eye opening: “In Budo you do not need any contract”
And when I asked him: ”OK if it is that so, why do you follow then foreign rules?” I got no answer.
In the last 30 years I met so many unhappy students. And all their problems could be broken down to two reasons.
Number one the sensei is ignorant and false but I like the school so I stay.
Number two I am not allowed to go to the source to find out the original way.

So many of these persons then were kicked out of their dojos, as they started to question the legitimation of the sensei, and as he had nothing against it, he got rid of these, as they called them, with lack of loyalty. Here it is again, the word.

And so many give in, train as they think “I spent so much time getting that far, I will not throw it away for just this guy”.

And here ladies and gentlemen we have the key. The USP of all that bad teachers.
The students builts up his own house of cards to justify his staying, without taking the most important thing into account, the school.

It is the school you should stay loyal to and not all the sensei.
A real sensei, like my master, does not need to be checked, discussed and tested. Because with each training you feel and see, with your own eyes, that he is real.
Less talking more doing.
OK, I am lucky, that I have my master. He is the last old school professional in Japan, as I am the only one professional (do not forget ONLY Takeda Ryu) in Europe.

We walk now for a very long time and we have one thing in common. Loyalty for the school.
So many wanted to denigrate us over the last decades. All Europeans.
They even said that my master and me will open our own Ryu.
Just because the difference from Europe to Japan was so big, that most of the Europeans could not handle it. Some of them of course were jealous but most of them could not understand or better to say, bear the consequences not to have trained the right way for a quite long time.

So many stayed in their dojos and some even left the organisation.
The first training with Soke was eyeopening. After the training I sat down with him and told Soke “Take back all my certificates. They are all rubbish, nothing of what I learned is true.” Toyoshima translated and the answer Soke gave me was overwhelming.
“The certificates are from my school. They are mine. I do not accept, that you want to give them back BUT you will come as often as possible to Japan and train with Toyoshima sensei and me to fullfill the graduation.”

What does this tell us? Even Soke was loyal to the school.

Not to a person, to the school.
An old traditional ancient martial art is always bigger than a person.
Soke is a title, and now he is gone, someone else becomes Soke.
But it is the person and not the rank, who shall make the difference.

Soke never saw himself as a leader, he saw himself as a keeper. It was his story, which helped me to survive my bad times, as he had the same.
My master used to tell me his time, when he was young and again no difference. It seems that the professionals have to undergo a detour through hell and all nearly die before realizing the value of a good sensei, an authentic school and three meals the day.

If you only follow certificates, pictures and people, who do not have constant training in their dojos, you will not succeed, because your are not loyal to the school. You are a monkey following orders.
How can someone then be taken serious?

There is a story about the Soke before the last Soke Nakamura Hisashi, his teacher, Oba Ichio.
It seemed that this guy had sworn an oath to his Soke Nakamura Okichi, never to show Takeda Ryu to people outside the dojo. (even Japanese)
When Ichio opened his dojo at mount yagura, nobody was there. He was loyal to the school and he searched for ways to get students, so he made, lets say, a very traditional approach.
Ichio went to other dojos, entered and said “ I am Oba Ichio, Soke of Takeda Ryu, who of you students want to come with me?”
And of course not in every dojo it went well. The sensei there came and wanted to throw Oba out of the dojo, just to find himself on the floor shortly after.
And so he collected his first students. I can not help, but he kind of broke a rule.
So let’s say the rule was bend, a very Japanese way.
Oba on the other hand told to Nakamura Hisashi, not to open the school to foreigners.
And look what Soke did.

Sometimes to be loyal means to stay on a very delicate outside position and to go on.
The naysayers, the so called “masters” are not there as they live in their comfort zones.
But if you understand the difference between being loyal to a school and not being a monkey for a license, then you may be the preserver of an old tradition, which would be lost in history due to lack of teaching, learning and loyalty.