What is the Art of Shoshin Ryu?

September 14, 2021

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Shoshin Ryu is a complete system of martial arts that places emphasis on the physical and mental skills required for self-defense and personal growth.  These skills are taught in a supportive and non-competitive manner with emphasis placed on the development of personal excellence within each practitioner. Shoshin Ryu is derived from Japanese martial traditions and is focused on western self-defense training and personal growth.

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.

In the United States today, nearly all martial arts are modern budo, which is a term for sportoriented styles. For Shotokan Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kendo to Judo, Brazilian Jiujitsu and Mixed Martial Arts; the emphasis is sport. Sport requires rules, and rules limit effectiveness of martial systems. Shoshin Ryu, like classical arts before it, has not chosen this path. If you want to win trophies you can find a good modern budo school; this is not the way of Shoshin Ryu.

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 includes eight elements:

ATEMI Striking techniques using all parts of the body

KANSETSU WAZA Joint locking techniques of fingers, wrists, shoulders, knees and ankles

NAGE WAZA Throwing techniques including hip throws, leg sweeps, projections and sacrifices

SHIME WAZA Choking Techniques

KYUSHO WAZA Pressure point techniques attacking nerves

NE WAZA Ground techniques

UKEMI Falling skills with use as countering an attack or as a method of escape

HEIHO The means or strategy to utilize the waza effectively.

Along with these elements, there are six categories of weapons taught to yudansha:

BO & JO Six foot & four foot staff

NITAN BO Two sticks slightly longer than two feet

TONFA Short stick with handle (orignial model of the PR-24)

KNIFE Knife techniques

CANE Cane techniques

IAI Traditional sword training from Eishin Ryu

There are also mental techniques taught within the Shoshin Ryu curriculum which help to better focus and utilize the physical techniques. These include, among others, such concepts as mushin, mizu no kokoro (mind like still water), isshin (one heart, one mind), and zanshin (remaining spirit). These techniques lead to such traits as fearlessness, compassion, open-mindedness, clarity/depth of vision and inner peace.  These concepts allow for spontaneous, intuitive, and yet appropriate responses to attacks.

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.