Shoshin Ryu is both bujutsu (a school emphasizing effective martial arts techniques) and budo (a school emphasizing personal character development). The kanji for bu translates loosely as martial, but more exactly to restore harmony. The two parts of the kanji for bu mean, by themselves, “stop” and “spear.” Bu,thus, means to stop the spear or stop war, or to restore harmony. This is the feeling of bu. Bujutsu (or, using an older word, bugei) means “martial art” with the emphasis on self-defense techniques. Budo means “martial way” with the emphasis on the practitioner’s personal development.
While nearly every martial art lists itself as either budo, bujutsu or modern budo (which refers to modern martial arts sport), Shoshin Ryu has found that certain skills gained from bujutsu and budo complement and enhance the skills of each other. In some budo systems, skills gained no longer have any martial reality. This makes it difficult for the practitioner to get feedback if the technique is in fact effective or simply visually appealing. Keeping the bujutsu aspect in place allows the individual to know if it is correct – you either block the punch or you get hit. Conversely, the budo aspect aids in keeping the practitioner from being simply a fighter and moves the student toward one who is skilled in martial arts and who seeks harmony in life. Budo lets one use the art of Shoshin Ryu as a means to promote harmony and inner peace instead of conflict.
The development of the Shoshin Ryu practitioner leads to a skilled martial artist who is not a fighter but rather one who can fight; a martial artist who continually seeks to better his skills and personal understanding. The Shoshin Ryu practitioner is a warrior scholar who is at home with peace and not afraid of the challenges life brings. He is a person who develops toward his own concept of perfect self. He is a person who is at peace with himself because he is confident in his tools and abilities.
The waza (techniques) of Shoshin Ryu are both empty-hand and utensil (weapon) based. They are taught as kihon waza (basic techniques), in kata (forms), and as goshinjutsu (specific self-defense applications). The waza are motions that are naturally effective, efficient and work with the physical laws of science. They include information ranging from how to use Newton’s third law of motion to give you a more powerful punch to how to breathe more efficiently in the same manner as was taught to bugeisha some 550 years ago.
Shoshin Ryu waza include the following elements:
- Atemi Waza (striking techniques): with all parts of the body
- Nage Waza (throwing techniques): including hip throws, leg sweeps, projections, and sacrifices
- Kansetsu Waza (joint locking techniques): of fingers, wrists, shoulders, knees, and ankles
- Shime Waza (choking techniques)
- Kyusho Waza (pressure point techniques): attacking nerves
- Ne Waza (ground work techniques)
- Ukemi (falling skills): to front, back or side, with use as countering an attack or as a method of escape
- Heiho (strategy); the means or strategy to utilize the waza effectively
Along with these elements, there are six categories of weapons taught to yudansha:
- Bo – six foot staff (kata taught to upper brown belts)
- Jo/Ken – four foot staff/ sword
- Nitan bo – two sticks each about two feet long
- Tonfa – short stick with handle (original model of the PR-24)
- Cane/Yawara – wooden cane/ five-inch long stick
- Iai – traditional sword training from Eishin Ryu
The kanji (the written Japanese characters) for Shoshin Ryu are seen to the left. The characters are read from top to bottom. The name “Shoshin Ryu” was suggested by Genchu Roshi, the Zen master of the Zen Temple Gokukuji in Kochi, Japan. This was based upon his understanding of the purpose and intent of the founders of Shoshin Ryu. The relationship between the martial arts and Zen in Japan is a long one, with each supporting and increasing the skill base of the other. The word “shoshin” was brushed by Genchu Roshi’s teacher at the turn of the 20th century and can be seen hanging in Gokukuji’s Hondo (main hall).
While there are strong ties between martial arts and Zen, it should be noted that Shoshin Ryu has no religious affiliation and that people from all religious beliefs train the art. Zen can be considered more of a philosophy or view point that a student can use to aid his martial arts development.
The first kanji is pronounced sho and means truth, true, or justice. In Japanese, it is common for kanji to have more than one meaning. It may also be read as sei, which means right or genuine, or as tada meaning correct.
The second kanji is read as kokoro when by itself and as shin when read in a compound word. Shin or kokoro is translated as heart, but more exactly means heart/mind/spirit as one. The coordination of heart, mind and spirit allows the practitioner to utilize his full potential. There is a sense that all parts of a person are working toward the same goal in a synergistic manner.
The third kanji is read as ryu. While the translation is tradition or school, it is important to note that there is a feeling of flow, or continuous current, as in the flow of a brook or river. The ryu of classical Japan do not have static curriculum, but are dynamic, with a flowing continuum of ideas, manners and skills passed down from one generation to the next. In English, the word “tradition,” however does not have the depth, subtly or the dynamic essence of the Japanese word “ryu.” In the Japanese name, there is additional meaning not found in the English translation, and this is why Shoshin Ryu is so named, instead of using the English translation – “Truthful Heart Tradition.”
Shoshin Ryu is a dynamic art that offers its practitioners a wide range of techniques and methods to defend themselves both physically and mentally. It changes to fit the challenges of the times and yet carries with it the essence of previous generations. The practitioners of Shoshin Ryu do not seek to demonstrate their effective skills, but grow strong by building their understanding of the truthfulness that lies within their own hearts. Shoshin Ryu, the Truthful Heart Tradition, is a tradition that lies within the hearts, minds and spirit of its practitioners. Seek its meaning for yourself, with your own training of the kata and waza of Shoshin Ryu.