An interesting incident took place lately. One of the older koryu's in Japan decided that they were no longer going to teach their more advanced (secret?) teaching to the non Japanese. And this caused some grumbling among their non Japanese students.
One of them complained to me that he felt it was discrimination because he paid his dues every year to belong to this koryu.
I don't know the details except from what I heard from a few of the American students and knowing what I know things do tend to get lost in translation sometimes so perhaps the reality is a bit different from what they seem to understand. But assuming this was true I do know that there are other Japanese martial arts groups that never taught the heart of what they do to their own Japanese students. They certainly did not share it with Americans. Given that many of these people are one step removed from the ultra right wing that ran Japan in the group during WWII these sentiments are understandable. But sometimes things are just withheld because people are not deserving.
People are willing to show you the front yard. That is for public viewing. The backyard....that's another story.
Sort of the omote/ura thing. Omote is the front. Ura is the back. Literally.
This past summer I asked my teacher why many of the things he has taught me was not written down anywhere. He replied that much of this was Kuden. (oral teachings). Kuden are never written down. They are communicated verbally from teacher to student. And much of the Kuden are taught on a need to know basis, the bottom line being, are you worthy? What worthy means I guess depends on the instructor.
I know I have already been warned by my instructor that I teach too much, that I give too much information away. He was not specific about the details. Like what? I can't teach junzuki? I doubt that. I can't teach people how I am using my body? Hmm. But some of this was self discovery. Some was drilled into me. And to be honest it is hard to tell what was taught and what was discovered. It all just starts getting jumbled together. And the way he teaches me is different from how I teach. He has never told me the 'answer'. He just lays out puzzles or shows something without breaking it down, and usually shown at a blinding speed, too fast to discern but just enough to leave a feeling.
And my task was always to try to reassemble the puzzle based on feeling. Trial and error. R&D.
A good friend of mine who is a master of the bo learned his art from his teacher in Okinawa. He was taught in the DARK. There was never any light. Just darkness and sound. The sound of the whooshing of the bo as it cut thru the air. he spent hours in the dark practicing kata in front of his teacher, Chogi Kishaba. And it must have worked because look at him now...he is world renowned for his bo (Toshihiro Oshiro).
I remember standing next to Oshiro Sensei watching Kishaba Sensei (he was really old) do a bo kata. Kishaba was on the ground then he leaps up in the air backwards. Oshiro Sensei pokes me in the ribs and whispers to me that he has no clue how the hell his Sensei pulls that move off. He says it is not human. This was the great Oshiro telling me he could not replicate what the old man was doing. I feel the same way when I see my teacher do kata. It isn't right. It isn't humanly possible. Or is it? There has to be a way to replicate it. We just don't know how.
There is a Japanese saying about 'stealing people's technique.' It is a figure of speech referring to the method of replicating someone's technique if you aren't given the how to. Matsui, the chairman of the Wadokai has told me in the past that I had to steal as much as I can from Takagi Sensei while he was still alive. I am not sure about stealing anything. He sort of just gives me what I need at the moment. Each time there is more.
Where am I going with this? Basically that there is Kuden. There is also Gokui but that is from koryu. Gokui are secret teaching of various koryu groups. Wado does not have gokui. We are modern budo. Shindo Yoshin ryu has gokui. I have no clue what they are and Toby Threadgill is not coughing up those goods to just anyone. I'm not exactly sure how the process works but even if I swiped one of those scrolls (just kidding) I am sure I could not make heads or tails out of them because they are all written as metaphors and symbolism. In other words he is not obligated to teach you anything he doesn't want to teach. This is the world of koryu. But it seems my sensei does the same via Kuden. He only teaches on a need to know basis.
Perhaps this is where the Japanese pedagogy fails? I am not sure. What I do know is that much has already been lost in the history of Japanese martial arts because of this teaching methodology. But does it really matter? I am not sure. Does this information lead to super human like powers? You bet it does. I've seen it and felt it. A part of me thinks this stuff needs to be written down. But then again it can't be learned from a book. If I tell you to incorporate your psoas thru your front leg with intent as you punch does that make any sense to anyone who hasn't trained with people who understand this stuff? I doubt it. That would be just as unclear as me telling people to manifest Heaven Earth Man while standing on the floating bridge of Heaven....lol. One is a direct instruction on isolating a specific muscle but I don't talk about the tonality or define 'intent'. The other is a metaphor for a specific type of body state via eccentric muscular usage that enables people to release tremendous internal power. Otsuka Sensei did this. Takagi Sensei has this. None of this is written down. And once you've seen it you can tell who has it and who doesn't have it. I honestly have never seen anyone else in Wado with it.
Earlier I mentioned Tadao Okuyama. Reason being, a friend of mine is rewriting a chapter in his book (Dueling with O'Sensei - Ellis Amdur) and he called asking me to find out what I can about Okuyama. Apparently Okuyama studied under Gichin Funakoshi AND under Noriaki Inoue - Morihei Ueshiba's nephew. Inoue had 'it'. And apparently Okuyama could punch harder than most according to Shigeru Egami, one of Funakoshi/s senior students. Egami was there at the same time as Otsuka Sensei under Funakoshi. Apparently Egami concluded that the average karateka had a weak punch and sought out people who knew how to really hit. He too ended up under Inoue. And Egami said Okuyama had one of the strongest punches he had ever felt by any martial artist. I also heard that Okuyama practiced his punches on American prisoners of war. He would have possessed the ability to kill the prisoners with his fists. Ellis is investigating this because if Okuyama could truly hit that hard then he had to be utilizing internal power which he would have had to learn from Inoue. To make a long story short Okuyama trained with Kenji Kawanabe who still teaches today in Atsugi. http://www.kawanabekaratedo.com/
The only way to see if Kawanabe /Okuyama had it is to see Kawanabe. The problem with these men are that they will go on and on about philosophy and hide their actual technique. They don't want to show the public. No desire. Takagi Sensei is like that. He rarely shows anything for longer than 3 seconds. It's like he doesn't really want to show his stuff in public either.