Prerequisites – The Body
A prerequisite for training in the Toda-ha Bukō-ryu of the Hokusei Dōjō is that one maintain a high level of physical fitness. One needs both power and endurance . There are no exceptions to this requirement.
Prerequisites – The Mind
If you find yourself intrigued by Japanese martial traditions, and in particular, Toda-ha Bukō-ryu, it is important that you get some idea of what koryu really is. Training is a serious commitment – it would be unfortunate if you went through a rigorous process to enter this ryu and found that it was not at all what you expected. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that you read the following books, either authored by or including essays by Ellis Amdur, before contacting the ryu.
Other important books are listed in the Essential Reading section.
The Toda-ha Bukō-ryu curriculum includes:
- Shoden: ai- naginata – eleven kata, naginata-tachi – five kata
- Chuden: naginata-yari – five kata, naginata-kusarigama – five kata
- Okuden: kagitsuki naginata-tachi – five kata, kagitsuki naginata-yari – five kata
- Bōjutsu-tachi – five kata
- Kusarigama-tachi – five kata
- Nagamaki-tachi – five kata
The central method of practice is two-person forms known as kata. However, there are also a number of absolutely necessary solo training methods to build power, technique and proper physical organization.
The curriculum of Toda-ha Bukō-ryu was once much larger. Not only did it include kenjutsu kata, but Toda-ha Bukō-ryu was closely associated with Kogen Ittō-ryu kenjutsu as well as Tenshin Bukō-ryu kenjutsu, a creation of Suneya Ryosuke, 13th generation headmaster of Toda-ha Bukō-ryu. The connection between these kenjutsu ryu and Toda-ha Bukō-ryu has been lost for a number of generations as have a number of sections of the curriculum. Because of this, Toda-ha Bukō-ryu practitioners do not receive a very extensive education in kenjutsu, unless they also train in another ryu. Yet the sword is one of the central weapons in the ryu, functioning as uketachi in 25 different kata.
Komochisan is the closest mountain to Bukosan, the namesake of this ryu. Ellis Amdur developed a kenjutsu school based exclusively on Toda-ha Bukō-ryu parameters, and named them after that adjacent mountain. This small ryu includes five standing iai forms and six two-person kumitachi forms. The aim is to enhance the training in sword of Toda-ha Bukō-ryu practitioners. It is a fuszoku-ryu: as a subsidiary training, used not only at the Hokusei Dojo and its affiliate dojos, but also in the Yamakaze dojo of shihan Steve Bowman, and the Melbourne Koryu Kenkyukai of shihan Liam Keeley. Because it is separate from Toda-ha Bukō-ryu, it does have a separate certification process, with a separate menjyo, in so far as someone getting permission to teach.
An Explanation of Certification in the Curriculum of Toda-ha Buko-ryu
When participants have sufficiently learned a section of the ryu, they are given a certificate of recognition of that level of skill. This is not a teaching license – merely a recognition of the individual has sufficiently learned that portion of the curriculum:
Teaching certification is separate from the above. There are two levels:
- Shihan-dai – at this level, the person has permission to teach under the authority of a specific shihan of Toda-ha Bukō-ryu. This license does not grant any independent authority to teach, and is never a certification of complete transmission of the curriculum or mastery of the ryu. The shihan-dai is considered to be a ‘student-instructor’ – and part of his/her learning process is the permission to begin teaching under supervision. If a person quits or is expelled from the ryu, their shihan-dai authority is terminated.
- Shihan – at this level, one has received the complete transmission of the ryu, and has independent authority to set up his or her own dōjō.
- Soke – The central authority of the ryu is the soke. In tradition, this title is not confined to a transmission within a single family. Rather, a single person is designated by the previous soke to assume that central authority for the ryu. Since the untimely death of 20th generation soke, Nakamura Yoichi, the ryu has been under the authority of Mr. Kent Sorensen, soke-dairi. Shortly before his death, Nakamura sensei requested, in my presence, that Sorensen sensei take over full responsibility for the overall authority of the school until we can develop a young Japanese national to be our next soke.
Any questions about the certification of any individual can be directed to Ellis Amdur.
Toda-ha Buko-ryu Dōjō
In addition to my own dōjō, the following dojo also offer Toda-ha Bukō-ryu training.
Athens Hokusei Dojo – practice is under the supervision of Ellis Amdur, who goes to Greece on a biannual basis.
Valencia Hokusei Dojo – practice is under the supervision of Ellis Amdur, who goes to Spain on a biannual basis.
Nakano Dojo – This dojo, at the Nakano Taiikukan is under the direction of current soke-dairi of Toda-ha Bukō-ryu, Kent Sorensen.
Shutokukan Dojo – The dojo of Meik and Diane Skoss – Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, Toda-ha Bukō-ryu & Shintō Muso-ryu (New Jersey, United States)
Melbourne Koryu Kenkyukai – The dojo of Liam Keeley – Tatsumi-ryu and Toda-ha Bukō-ryu (Melbourne Australia)
Oshinkan – The dojo of Claire Simon, who teach Toda-ha Bukō-ryu, Tatsumi-ryu, Negishi-ryu (shurikenjutsu) and Shindō Muso-ryu jodo in Toulouse, France
Yamakaze Dojo – The dojo of Steve Bowman (Redmond, Washington)
Budokai Australia – Bill Fettes teaches the shoden/chuden curriculum of Toda-ha Bukō-ryu, as well as a number of other martial traditions, in Adelaide, Australia.
NOTE: These are the only true dojo of Toda-ha Bukō-ryu. If the reader encounters another dojo – on line or in person – using the name of our ryu, please contact Ellis Amdur through this website, and he will be happy to explain the nature of any such other school.