“For me, after leaving my home and living 13 years in a foreign country, if all I did was go there to come back and replicate what I learned over there, as if I had not returned to a very different world, I believe that I would be failing one of the functions of what koryu was, namely, to influence society. I don’t mean something simplistic like, “Well, I’ll modernize it, and I’ll use a baseball bat instead of a sword,” but it has to somehow fit and contribute to my society as opposed to being just an antique that people visit.”
This quote is an example of how a single idea can change our life’s direction. For some context, the word koryu (古流 ‘old flow’) refers to classical Japanese martial arts that originated prior to the Meiji Restoration in 1868 and Ellis Amdur is a licensed instructor in two koryu: Araki-ryu torite kogusoku and Toda-ha Buko-ryu. Ellis Amdur has had a significant influence on my martial art path and, therefore, my life in general. His writings rerouted me from Korean hapkido to the Japanese martial arts and, in an indirect way, Brazilian jiu-jitsu (something I will write about at another time). He introduced me to my teacher and friend, Budd Yuhasz, and my dojo, Kogen Dojo, is named after an amalgam of Japanese characters 古 (ko), meaning ancient or classical, and 現 (gen), meaning present or modern, that he originally put together for his martial art blog: Kogen Budo. The above quote, the topic of this post, was a seed planted in my mind that led to the creation of my own blog, the one you are reading now: Holistic Budo.
If a principle is true, that truth, that principle can be extrapolated and applied in other aspects of life. I never lived nor studied koryu in Japan, but I have been a student of martial arts for most of my adult life. Reading the above quote and the two-part interview it is from, I began thinking about all of the principles and object lessons martial art training have taught me over the years. I then began thinking about how the arts in general, music, literature and even the culinary arts, have shaped and influenced my life. If the arts have given me so much and have helped to make me who I am today, what is my contribution to the landscape? How can I pass on some of what has impacted me and influence the culture around me?
It is not that I like writing, per se. I like telling stories, stories that have meaning to me and may help others to see things from a different perspective. Whether or not anyone reads or finds value in my writing is not my concern. My goal is to have written, to have put my work into the world, to transform what is in my head or in my past into something tangible and potentially useful. For the same reason I show up to the dojo day after day to pass on what has been passed on to me, I do not write for myself, but to be part of a continuum. For me, writing is not about creation or regurgitation, but transformation, the transformation of that which has inspired me into something that may inspire others.
– Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu