Shoshin Ryu's Future

September 14, 2021

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Looking at Shoshin Ryu a few generations into the future it might be difficult in one sense to see exactly what the Shoshin Ryu martial artist of that day will look like. Yet if one focuses on the values of Shoshin’s beginnings with a vision to the future, one will most assuredly see many of the same martial qualities and the pursuit of excellence that we see today….only with better overall quality of movement; more dynamic and innovative martial execution/material; greater representation of its Kokoro; and deeper levels of understanding with developing the student. The Goshinjutsu will adapt to the future’s technology, types of attacks, clothing, etc. Future practitioners will be a reflection of all the martial quality and high level individual character that current leadership has held in such valued esteem since the beginning.

Shoshin’s identity is, in part, defined by our ability to keep our traditional roots alive, avoiding restrictions of dogma and allowing/encouraging innovation and new ways of looking at martial material. Senior level practitioners of future generations can carry forward this identity by looking at it analogously as Tradition and Evolution - Tradition being the fundamental art, the points of emphasis, the teachings of the old, of the ancients; and Evolution being the freedom to make change for the better, to develop the art further, to adapt to the times, to seek that which is yet to be known both within the art and outside of the art. Evolution is about learning concepts/ideas

Shoshin Ryu's Future Tradition & Evolution

Shoshin Ryu Board

No one can know the future. The founders of Shoshin Ryu could never fathom the skills or techniques or strategies we regularly practice today. Similarly, the technology we all take for granted today was beyond anyone’s imagination at Shoshin’s beginning. Consider when a board member first suggested in 1993 that all the board be required to get email – most everyone was like ‘What do we need that for? We can call and send letters just fine.’ Ultimately, the thought process won out, giving new things a try won out, being open to new concepts won out, technology won out. So too, it is likely for the future; but it is still good to give SR Practitioners some thoughts on what the future may look like;  but understand even by ‘predicting’ the future we change it.

through self-discovery as well as integrating other martial arts’ effective principles and bringing that educated mind back into creating a more well-rounded Shoshin Ryu practitioner.

Thus, the focus of the practitioners and leaders of Shoshin will be to reinforce the process of returning to the Traditions of the Art, steeped in the classical emphasis on perfection of one’s self while pursuing training born of sweat equity on the mat, but with a greater arsenal of foundational, martial material encompassing deeper, more integrated levels and understanding of psychology, biomechanics, and physics. All of which leads to improved kihon, jujutsu, kata, ne waza, weaponry and of course, goshinjutsu (self-defense).

Tradition gives leadership a foundation or identity with who/what Shoshin Ryu has been and how we train; while Evolution offers future leadership endless possibilities to seek and discover the unknown while cultivating newer relationships and connections with other martial influences that reflect the science and realities of that generation. These new martial influences will continue to grow and shape the old of the art.

If you examine some martial arts styles and look back at video of them 20, 30 or even 50 years ago, practitioners in those arts often are moving the exact same way today as they did back then; learning the exact same information as it was taught all those years ago. Shoshin’s preference is to strike a balance with the tradition of the ancients while  continuing to elevate those foundations of knowledge, thus training to evolve the art by learning from within as well as from other arts and influences.

Purist vs. Practical: Tradition and Evolution - The purist mindset is essentially, the pursuit of the perfection of the waza with an uke/partner who is an active participant in the practitioner’s learning for the sake of the waza or art itself. The purist trains to absorb the very essence of a throw or ground based sweep or whatever waza at its highest level. These are our traditional practices, our foundation, and they are in place for good reason. Shoshin spends considerable time in this arena as this method develops very good principles of movement and allows the student to develop from a path of always striving for excellence. In nage, students will often take several steps in a line early on in order for the practitioner to develop the feel and flow of a throw. Over time those steps shrink and the sequencing takes on all directions of moving/stepping along with countering by a receptive, active, and well-trained uke.

The practical mindset gives new direction to the purist mind and is born out of the creation of what works in the heat of an assault or attack, where all things may not be perfect. It allows the student to prevail and overcome the pressures and reality of the moment primarily. Evolution or new growth comes about as our Goshinjutsu grows/develops, thus influencing or transforming the reality, or the practical (for example, how we might throw in an actual self-defense situation).

Therefore, both the purist and practical minds are necessary in one’s training as together, they form a symbiotic relationship. The continued study and understanding of violence and predatory behavior will serve Shoshin well. Future practitioners will be better prepared to deal with what/ who they are likely to encounter should an actual attack/assault occur.

Weaponry: Tradition and Evolution - When Shoshin first started there were primarily 3 weapons of bo, sai and tonfa. None of the other weaponry of iai, jo, cane, stick and knife that we now have today were part of our early traditional training. Rooted in the founders’ vision, however, was the belief that future Shoshin weaponry would, 1) encompass high level skill leading to transformable, self-defense benefits/capability with said weapon 2) would breathe life from the weapon directly into our unarmed way of moving, and 3) would enrich and positively shape the practitioner mentally in ways unarmed might not.

To illustrate evolution with a weapon, tonfa was originally utilized simply as flip/rotate it out and back, punch with it, strike with it, block with it, and incorporate those simple mechanics within all of one’s basic atemi strikes/blocks/stances. Tonfa was able to develop further within the three founding ideas and desired benefits of weaponry because of several relationships with weapons specialists and from the influences of several arts including sword, knife and stick. These additional martial resources have helped to shape and breathe more life into the weapon, thus creating more versatility in ways not seen or utilized in most styles which train the tonfa. The development also illustrates how all senior practitioners apply new, broad based learning back into specific martial material from the old.

In Shoshin's early stages/years as an art, our core knife defense was just block, move out of the way, take down, and apply a follow up waza while uke was on the ground.  At best it was rudimentary in application, lacking flow and blending skills. Again, with the help of outside influences and Shoshin senior practitioners' dedication to growing the art, there are now several knife deflecting, knife stripping, knife controlling and knife drilling basics available to students to train and grow. The evolution with knife training that has been established will continue to help shape/influence Shoshin for the future. Further, as other categories or fingers of the Shoshin art grow/improve, Shoshin will elevate students’ skill/command with the knife from within as well, making it more aligned and reflective of how we move and how we approach self-defense.

Basics: Tradition and Evolution - Foundational basics are the platform that allows the practitioner to freely flow in/out of waza while maintaining a high level of structure and effectiveness in action. Basics from every finger of the art are a Shoshin staple, a Shoshin Tradition; teaching good fundamentals of how to move effectively and efficiently. Ne waza has been added since the beginning and possesses its staple of basics: moving the body better through ground based applicable drills designed to get students comfortable and proficient moving on the ground while building skills and strength necessary to become effective. All the fingers have their basics as well and are intended to develop the student and deepen their kinesthetic understanding.

The early Shoshin front stance (basic), for example, has been a long zenkutsu dachi with the back leg locked and extended. The stance was intended to provide a structured platform to deliver power and in general, it provides for that. As evolution and outside influences have impacted Shoshin thinking, higher level practitioners learn to keep one’s weight centered between the feet while in stance because it has proven to be more practical and efficient in motion and ultimately gives tori better balance/control of themselves and thus, better control/influence with uke. Thus, the locked out zenkutsu dachi will over time serve more as a stepping stone as needed in order to facilitate development.

Shoshin currently has developed better methods both from within and from the help of outside influences which have led to better stances. This has allowed more experienced practitioners to move in/out of stance with better center connection and better balance. Evolution will continue to shape the platform of stance to one that provides the student greater balance and stability all the while maintaining one’s center with much more proficiency while in motion. This will ultimately create a platform at the upper levels that can be both heavy and light yet balanced in all directions at the same time. The evolution given to the stance will continue to ripple down the ranking ladder over time as deeper understanding is attained.

Foundational basics of punching, blocking and striking within Shoshin Ryu have carried rotational and spiral energy since the beginning. Basics will always be a part of the Shoshin practitioner’s development since they help lay the foundation for good martial movement. Future practitioners will learn how to execute those basics with a greater command, understanding and application of rotational and spiral dynamics. Senior level practitioners will continue to grow and explore methods for dealing with and redirecting forces of energy all the while learning to better control the outcome by introducing predictability in motion, thus allowing tori to effortlessly move and allowing waza to flow from that movement.

Breath is a key component of all Classical Ryu and Shoshin Ryu is no different. Breath starts simply as a mudansha. One learns to breath while executing a technique and to kiai. Later reverse belly breathing is added to help with releasing tension. Step by step we grow our breaths, adding reverse belly breathing that has been shown to relax the mind and body via parasympathetic nerve stimulation and to help brace the hip/shoulder transfer of power/speed from the lower extremities to the upper. And so it continues into the upper levels of  yudansha ranks – step by step progression. Where might our breathing techniques develop – what new physiological discoveries will be made? What new insights might we gain from training in other classical ryu or doing high level mediation in Japan? One cannot say but mostly likely our breath will continue to grow.

Permanent Dojo: Tradition and Evolution - Shoshin’s Permanent Dojo was a concept/vision from the early days of the organization. The founders desired a permanent structure that would be owned by Shoshin and/or a Senior Shoshin practitioner. Because the Dojo would be operated on a full time basis, house a senior ranked practitioner, have the capability to house students and house more long term uchi deshi (live in student), the art would be able to flourish. More senior practitioners would be able to reach new martial heights and in turn those senior practitioners would influence the beginner students back in the collective Shoshin Ryu Dojo; thus, the art and overall membership would continue to move ahead.

The Permanent Dojo was built in Scottsdale, AZ in 2010 and began hosting seminars, classes and uchi deshi immediately.  Coniaris Sensei, a long time senior ranked practitioner/sensei has been its owner/caretaker throughout. The Dojo became a permanent host for the annual winter Yudansha Gasshuku, taking advantage of the warmer climate that the area provides. Various annual seminars take place there, primarily for the more senior ranks of Brown and Black Belts. From early in our beginnings, the Permanent Dojo has been a physical tradition in Shoshin; but in the bigger picture, the Dojo’s “vision” is the tradition that future generations will come back to and carry forward.

While the Permanent Dojo speaks primarily to the tradition of continued martial research and martial interactions across the spectrum, it also speaks to the potential for more frequent and intense training opportunities of sharing and growing martial skill and knowledge, all not yet realized. Evolution will carry forward the foundations of the Permanent Dojo to heights not previously conceived. If you look at the Olympics over the years, athletes have gotten faster, stronger, more technically skilled, more educated, better trained and today, all have access to their respective training/coaching on a year round basis. Records and milestones in all sports have been broken repeatedly and results significantly improved. Athletic performance has reached heights not previously imagined. Many gold medal winning times of yesterday often would not even qualify an athlete to compete in today’s Olympic world. That is how far athletic achievement has come.

Many things have contributed to that success, but one of the common denominators with the Olympics of today is training centers and training venues. In the United States athletes are subsidized and sent to train at these state of the art facilities where they are getting state of the art training, cutting edge nutrition/education and all within very comfortable accommodations. This is Shoshin’s Permanent Dojo in the future, undoubtedly on a smaller scale, but with the same approach to training, by educating the more senior practitioners more often, for longer durations, with better and more educated coaches/sensei.

Thus, the Permanent Dojo will become an enhanced center to train more members to levels not previously reached; both for the old and the new of the art to come together to elevate the collective art and practitioners further; to also act as a museum of sorts for Shoshin’s history and milestones over the years. More and more students will learn to take advantage of all that the Dojo offers practitioners in their journey through this art.

Technology: Tradition and Evolution - In the early days of Shoshin, very little existed in the form of technology. Early curriculum videos required a special venue to film and footage was ultimately transferred to VHS format, leading to a great deal of inefficiency by today’s standards. Younger students today look strangely when an older practitioner mentions VHS, as if “What is that?” VHS was the technology of the day; there was no official internet as we now know it, no YouTube, no websites, no cell phones, no Facebook, etc.

Thus, there was very little in the way of Shoshin tradition with using technology, it was relatively simplistic. As technology has advanced over the years since Shoshin’s start, leadership has chosen to take advantage of the social and technological resources available today.

Shoshin now has a social media team whose function is to fully utilize all that technology offers for sharing knowledge and information and developing content for others to view online. This will bring about a collaboration of new ideas. Where traditional growth may have been limited to annual seminars or Nationals training sessions, students now have access to martial content at the touch of a keyboard or at the tap/ swipe of a cell phone. Technology has also allowed Shoshin to improve its video quality exponentially; access is made easier with the click of a mouse on a downloadable or streamed video as opposed to ordering an actual VHS tape, loading it into a machine and fast forwarding or rewinding as needed.

Who truly knows what the technology of tomorrow will look like. Perhaps there will be virtual simulators where students can perfect their craft and waza against virtual bad guys, greater 3D imagery, more developed platforms of Facebook, YouTube, Zoom, etc. Whatever it is, Shoshin will utilize it to its full advantage.

Curriculum: Tradition and Evolution - The culmination of the collective traditions and evolution is ultimately the curriculum in all its forms and in all its ranking requirements. Each rank has been well thought out in terms of what serves that level best, presenting unique stepping stones or bridges to the next rank. Ideally each one building on the prior rank. Currently Shoshin Ryu has a complete curriculum through Yondan (4th Degree Black), with the Godan (5th) and Rokudan (6th) currently being broad strokes in nature at this point, waiting for the next generation of skilled practitioners to define it more specifically.

The specifics of Godan training and successive ranks will fall to the next generation(s) to address and ultimately training practitioners to achieve/reach this upper yudansha skill level. Recent and future curriculum will reflect a continued balance between maintaining the essence of our traditions coupled with the desire to make changes as a result of the evolution found through exploration, learning new methods, to adapt, to integrate, to improve.

Kokoro: Tradition and Evolution - Kokoro can be translated as “heart” which is  represented within Shoshin Ryu’s translation - Truthful ‘Heart’ Tradition. Kokoro is intended to capture or represent Shoshin’s focus on classical teachings in order to improve the student; to encourage him/her to look inward. It really means something like ‘heart, mind, spirit’ as one united thing. For Shoshin Ryu it is about learning, discovering and developing our heart/ mind/spirit to help us lead a better, more harmonious and fuller life.

The Tradition of Kokoro in Shoshin Ryu was initially the existence of a spirit or desire for actual character development of all its practitioners and to improve the quality and efficiency of learning. The pursuit of this ideal was to develop not just a fighter with martial skills; but rather, to develop a well-rounded person who seeks peace but is able to defend oneself and family, both in skill/knowledge AND in character/quality of  the individual. In the early days of Shoshin Ryu, a smattering of classical teachings were simply expressed in random fashion by various sensei at a Nationals talk or perhaps during a class at a Shoshin Dojo on any given day. The newsletter and subsequent journal also became an early focal point for such teachings via articles, stories, quotes and the like - all things attempting to reach a person’s heart/mind and to encourage selfreflection. It was later that the concept was included in an organized manner into the curriculum.

Evolution with Kokoro was manifested when the Shoshin Board made the commitment to formalize heart to heart teachings and classical viewpoints. Out of this commitment came what we now refer to as the Kokoro Series which number in the 40s with each one having a designated spot within the ranks in the curriculum including yudansha. These Kokoro are now written, clarified and highlighted on one page posters. Students can download them or read them online. With Sensei’s help, guidance and input, practitioners are expected to have knowledge and understanding of Kokoro. For example, a student should be able to explain how one might “Empty Your Cup” and be able to articulate how that might apply to his/her own training and life.

The ongoing evolution has seen the Kokoro translated into a series of guided audio talks for students where they can listen and absorb the greater meaning; to reach deeper into a practitioner’s mind. One cannot imagine the future of the Kokoro Series, but please know that Kokoro will always have a large place in Shoshin Ryu. Character matters, Heart matters, Spirit matters - in martial arts and in life.

While a few of our senior practitioners have a well-developed mediation practice in their personal training, it is likely to work its way down to the lower ranks in some form. The use of Guided Imagery in athletic performance is well documented and something Shoshin Ryu has used for a number of years. Where will the next mental training jump come from and in what form? There is too much potential here not to develop it and so the senior students continue to practice, read, study and sit to develop the next generation of mental skills that can benefit everyone.

Summary: Tradition and Evolution is an analogy for looking at how to view/move Shoshin into the future. The tradition is our identity of all things foundational within the art itself along with points of emphasis such as:  Kokoro and the character, spirit and heart of our members; our embrace of foundational and classical training methods from the old, from the ancients subsequently developed into the dynamic fingers of the art; the pursuit of excellence in all SR and by its membership; the purist and practical training; the physical manifestation of tangible things such as Permanent Dojo or mouthpieces such as the journal that enhance training/learning; and the emphasis that the student comes first, that monetary concerns are of secondary concern as reinforced by our nonprofit status.

Evolution is a gift we give ourselves, our senior leadership to reach for that which is not known or to that which is yet to be developed from within our own training. Evolution allows us to go outside the borders of Shoshin if you will, to continue to foster martial relationships across other arts and through relationships with upper level practitioners/representatives of those arts and learn from them. Evolution gives us a platform of encouragement to go beyond our current understanding, knowing that the goal is not to simply be a collector of waza, but rather, to know when/what/how to change for the better and how to integrate that knowledge back into Shoshin.

Future practitioners will be a reflection of the pursuit of high-quality martial arts that was sought from the beginning along with everything in support of that objective or ideal. Shoshin will strike a balance between its founding traditions and its evolution of growth, keeping alive these traditions all the while integrating better ways of thinking, moving and training. Should senior practitioners ever run into doubt about what to do or what path to take, the instructions are on the patch - Truthful Heart Tradition.

The Ryu in Shoshin Ryu doesn’t simply mean tradition or school or style but rather gives a much deeper feeling of flow and continuation of the learning and growth in skill and knowledge. It is not something static but a dynamic, living, changing, adapting to its existing environment. If we have seen farther then it is because we have stood on the shoulder of giants. And we hoist the next generation of senior Shoshin Ryu students on our shoulders to allow them to see even farther. To grow in skill and knowledge beyond what we know. This is the Ryu of Shoshin.

Summary: Tradition and Evolution is an analogy for looking at how to view/move Shoshin into the future. The tradition is our identity of all things foundational within the art itself along with points of emphasis such as: Kokoro and the character, spirit and heart of our members; our embrace of foundational and classical training methods from the old, from the ancients subsequently developed into the dynamic fingers of the art; the pursuit of excellence in all SR and by its membership; the purist and practical training; the physical manifestation of tangible things such as Permanent Dojo or mouthpieces such as the journal that enhance training/learning; and the emphasis that the student comes first, that monetary concerns are of secondary concern as reinforced by our nonprofit status.