Settlement of succession in the Hokushin Ittô-ryû Hyôhô and certain implications

In the classical martial schools (ryûha) the settlement of succession is of utmost importance. The main concern is, who will lead the school and how the teachings will be transmitted for following generations.

In our ryûha this decision was pending and the announcement was published this week.
On March 26th 2016 the current 6th Sôke (Ôtsuka Yôichirô Masanori) will entrust the Hokushin Ittô-ryû Hyôhô to the Menkyô-Kaiden holder Ôtsuka Ryûnosuke Masatomo who will lead the school from that day on as 7th generation Sôke.

Of course, this is a major honour but principally this is a even a greater responsibility.

Ôtsuka Ryûnosuke Masatomo speaks fluent japanese and he conducts the lessons mainly in japanese (in Japan, Germany and the Dôkôkai seminars). This makes a lot of sense as for the Kajô-Mokuroku (the third of five scrolls in HIRH) advanced japanese skills are necessary and in that way the students can practice their language skills already in daily training.

The announcement:



It was probably clear that some critics of such a decision wouldmake an appearance. Basically, the appointment of the next Sôke of a Koryû is not really a very extraordinary matter. Although the circumstances in this case might be some kind of a novelty.

First of all the appointee is not Japanese but a native German. In addition, he is still relatively young.
These two factors make the current Sôke’s decision a bit odd in the eyes of a few.

But in reality this choice prompt some very intriguing questions: Is it possible that a non-Japanese can lead a japanese Koryû? And is it a must for a Sôke to fit into the picture of an old asian man with a long white beard in order to be taken seriously?

Well, it shouldn’t surprise anyone anymore that also foreigners (aka non-Japanese) can climb the ladder in Koryû to high levels of expertise and responsibility. Names such as Donn Draeger, Meik Skoss, Ellis Amdur, Toby Threadgill or Kent Sorensen are well-known to the most readers here.

If you take into account the current dreadful state of many Koryû in Japan (given it’s member structure in Japan) and the willingness of a few foreigners to put in a lot of time, money, sweat and blood to study such a school it shouldn’t surprise anyone if similar developments happen in other schools as well. There is one condition: That the respective japanese Sôke has enough self-confidence and fortitude to carry through with such a decision.
Because the critics are not just westerners. There are enough Japanese who think it completely impossible that foreigners could really „cut it“. And for them it does not matter at all how long or how hard someone studied, or if he lived in Japan for decades or if he can speak fluent japanese.

We have already seen courageous decisions where westerners were made responsible for a school: Kent Sorensen was named Sôke-dairi in the Toda-ha Bukô-ryû a few years ago. He lives since three decades in Japan and is now responsible for the education and training of the future Sôke. In an interview he explains openly that this decision was challenged by some or that others at least voiced their disapproval. But as he cited two former female Sôke of the school in that interview: uchi no koto wa, uchi no koto dake desu (our business is our business and our business only).

Let’s get back to the critics. Well, actually there wasn’t real criticism around.  Mainly congratulations and joy that something like this is obviously possible.
And there is Facebook. It is not really the place for decent criticism. More the place for swearing, insults and deliberate falsehood.

No, I will not dash out all the dirty details. Because it is totally insignificant for the continued existence and well-being of our school.

Just this: The man who excelled on this over there was promptly expelled by his Sôke from the school he was studying. The Sôke formally apologized for the obscene behaviour of his (grown-up!) student. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to bring him to make a public apology. Therefore the headmaster couldn’t imagine to keep this disciple for any longer and therefore he issued „Hamon“.


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