Enrollment in a proper Japanese koryu dojo is a very serious commitment. Unlike a modern martial arts studio, the knowledge contained in the syllabus of a classical school of Japanese budo is considered a sacred trust, not a commodity. Therefore acceptance into the Shindo Yoshin Kai should be viewed as rare privilege, not a recreational hobby. Every potential student must apply for membership and undergo a personal interview by the sensei of the dojo. Even after initial acceptance, membership is of probationary status. Only after the sensei of a dojo is convinced that a potential student demonstrates the necessary character, dedication, skills and temperament will he be allowed to join the dojo as a formal deshi or disciple.
2.) Is Shindo Yoshin ryu associated with any larger martial arts organization such as the NKK (Nippon Kobudo Kyokai)?
The Shindo Yoshin ryu Domonkai (mainline) is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan and is a member of the prestigious Nippon Kobudo Kyokai. The Takamura ryuha headquarters relocated outside Japan in 1946, and therefore no longer meets the criteria for membership in the NKK. Although the Takamura ryuha has been frequently approached by other budo organizations concerning membership, these have been politely refused. Membership within large martial arts organizations often require political or financial compromises that are deemed incompatible with the best interests of the Takamura ryuha.
3.) Can an existing dojo or instructor outside your organization join the Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Kai?
Yes. It is possible for an existing dojo or instructor to join the ranks of the Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Kai, however it is a more rigorous process than most people are prepared to pursue. It requires long-term probationary status as a study group and extensive retraining by a joden licensed instructor. The sponsor of a study group must commit to visiting the headquarters dojo every year or hosting an annual seminar. It is preferred that a study group sponsor both visit the headquarters and host one seminar annually. Without this minimum level of instruction, it is the opinion of the kai that substantial progress towards internalizing the curriculum is extremely difficult if not impossible.
4.) How long does it take the average student to get a "black belt" in a Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu dojo?
In the Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu the belt or "obi" stabilizes the uwagi or training jacket. It can be virtually any color including black but its color has no significance whatsoever. There are no ranks within the Takamura ryuha or for that matter, most classical schools of budo. The common kyu/dan ranking system was a modern invention of Kodakan Judo to recognize victories in competition or shiai. Since there is no formalized competitive practice within the Takamura ryuha, there is no ranking system.
5.) Do you allow visitors to observe class in your dojos?
Generally yes, but rules concerning observation of classes are decided upon by the individual sensei of each particular dojo. The kai does not make formal guidelines which encourage or discourage observation of classes within specific dojos.
6.) Do you practice weapons within the Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Kai?
Yes. Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu is correctly considered a sogo bujutsu or comprehensive martial arts tradition. Teachings of the school include both classical weaponry and empty handed applications, studies that were historically embraced by the warrior class of feudal Japan.
7.) Is Shindo Yoshin ryu considered koryu?
Yes. Shindo Yoshin ryu was founded prior to the Meiji Restoration in 1868 and as such is considered a "koryu" or old school. As stated previously the Shindo Yoshin ryu is represented in the prestigious Nippon Kobudo Kyokai. The Takamura ha line broke from the mainline tradition in 1895 When Shigeta Ohbata, a menkyo kaiden licensed student of Shindo Yoshin ryu's founder, Katsunosuke Matsuoka, was permitted to open his own dojo in the Asakusa district of Tokyo. With the opening of this dojo Shigeta founded the Ohbata ha Shindo Yoshin ryu. In 1966, the grandson of Shigeta Ohbata, Yukiyoshi Takamura renamed this line the Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu. For more in-depth information concerning Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu's historical legacy please refer to the lineage section identified on our home page.
8.) Is Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu similar to Brazilian or Gracie Jujutsu?
Not really. Brazilian jujutsu is a modern form of budo more closely related to judo. It is correctly called a goshin jutsu system as it was formulated outside Japan and is influenced most strongly by other modern martial fighting systems instead of koryu. Brazilian jujutsu is a wonderful expression of modern budo sport and has been very effective at demonstrating the viability of jujutsu/judo principles in budo sport competition.
9.) Does the Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Kai teach children's classes?
No. The technical syllabus and emotional maturity required of the members of the Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu is too demanding for children. In fact, it is very rare that a student below the age of 21 is considered for enrollment in the kai.
10.) Does the Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Kai include women?
Yes. Women have been an integral part of the kai from it's beginning. The first person issued a teaching license by Sensei Takamura outside Japan was Karen Andersson of Stockholm, Sweden. Sensei Takamura took special interest in teaching women learn to apply jujustu concepts in very practical ways. He felt one of jujutsu's most important functions in the modern era was its application in realistic self defense. There have been and continue to be excellent women practitioners within the kai.
11.) Who it the current headmaster of Shindo Yoshin ryu?
This is a complex question. The mainline tradition (Matsuoka ryuha), from which the Takamura ryuha is descended, is now without a formal headmaster as Tatsuo Matsuoka died in 1989 without appointing a successor. This branch of Shindo Yoshin ryu is presently overseen by Dr Ryozo Fujiwara in Tokyo under the name Shindo Yoshin ryu Domonkai.
The Takamura ryuha was headed by Yukiyoshi Takamura until his death in March of 2000. The art then passed to the most senior student of Yukiyoshi Takamura, sensei David Maynard, holder of a menkyo kaiden awarded in 1996. In 2004 health issues prompted David Maynard sensei to step down as kaicho. Sensei Toby Threadgill, issued a menkyo kaiden by Yukiyoshi Takamura sensei in 1999, was then asked to ascend to the position of kaicho.
These are the only two lines of Shindo Yoshin ryu supported by the transmission of legitiment teaching licenses.
12.) I have heard of an organization called the AJKAI who teaches an art identified as Shinto Yoshin ryu. Is this the same art?
Not really. AJKAI Shinto Yoshin ryu represents a modern eclectic budo curriculum. The Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Kai conversely reflects the classical curriculum of a Nihon Koryu Jujutsu tradition which includes weapon training and tactics associated with the warrior class of late Edo period Japan.
13.) If this organization is not teaching classical jujutsu why do they use the name of an existing classical jujutsu school?
The AJKAI is an organization reportedly descended from classical Shindo Yoshin ryu via Hironori Ohtsuka, a licensed member of the Shindo Yoshin ryu and the founder of modern Wado ryu karate. The actual name of this student is assumed to be Uechi Takeski or some phonetic variant who taught a US serviceman named Douglas Grose in Nevada in 1942. Our investigation indicates that Uechi Takeski was not a formally licensed instructor of Shindo Yoshin ryu, however his teachings based on Wado ryu have survived and were passed forward through the pioneering efforts of Mr Grose. The AJKAI Shintoyoshin ryu curriculum as it exists today reflects a modern or gendai variant of Wado ryu which includes recent additions to the curriculum from Okinawan Karate, Judo and Aikido. Although not reflecting the curriculum or pedagogy of a classical jujutsu school, the AJKAI has a reputation for competence and solid technical instruction within their own curriculum.
The Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu and the AJKAI maintain an open and respectful dialogue.
14.) Wasn't Ohtsuka Hironori, the founder of Wado ryu karate the 4th headmaster of Shindo Yoshin ryu?
This claim although commonly presented is historically incorrect. The individual awarding Ohtsuka Hironori his menkyo kaiden was Nakayama Tatsusaburo of Shimotsuma, Japan. Tatsusaburo Nakayama was not the 3rd headmaster of Shindo Yoshin ryu as is frequently stated. In 1917, the 2nd headmaster, Motokichi Inose awarded Tatsuo Matsuoka, grandson of Shindo Yoshin ryu's founder, a menkyo kaiden thereby returning the position of third generation headmaster to the Matsuoka family. Tatsuo Matsuoka died in 1989, almost 8 years after the death of Hironori Ohtsuka in 1982. It is therefore impossible that Hironori Ohtsuka ever had the opportunity to become the 4th generation headmaster of Shindo Yoshin ryu. Since Tatsuo Matsuoka died without formally appointing a successor, Dr Ryozo Fujiwara was elected director of the Shindo Yoshin ryu Domonkai and representative of the Shindo Yoshin ryu mainline tradition to the Nippon Kobudo Kyokai.
(This information can be confirmed by consulting the Nippon Kobudo Kyokai, The Japanese Budo Academy or Watatani's Bugei Ryuha Daijiten.)
15.) Are there any characteristics that separate the Takamura ryuha from the mainline tradition directed by Dr Fujiwara?
Although we are not intimately familiar with the curriculum presently taught in the mainline tradition, documentation in our possession leads us to conclude that the mainline tradition does not teach a significant weapons syllabus. Bukiwaza influenced by Jikishinkage ryu, Hokushin Itto ryu and Matsuzaki Shinkage ryu are evident in the syllabus of the Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu.