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Classical Fighting Arts of Japan: A Complete Guide to Koryu Jujutsu [Hardcover]

Fumon Tanaka , Atsumi Nakashima , Serge Mol
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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"... attempts to provide access to the non-Japanese reading audience a great deal of the information that was previously unavailable." -- Brett Denison, Mizukan Dojo

"... well researched, very comprehensive, and of exceptional quality." -- Prof. Peter McAnalen, Director of the World Demonstration Championships

"... well written, designed, and illustrated. ... will probably remain in print for a very long time." -- IHS

"This book will completely change the way that Westerners perceive and understand the nature of JuJutsu." -- Ross Iannocarro, 6th Dan, President, Tai Jutsu Kai JuJutsu Association

"[The author] has added a well-written, solidly researched book to a genre flooded with misinformation." -- Kevin French, Academia: An Online Magazine and Resource for Academic Librarians

From the Author


Could you tell us a little about your background?

"As far as my background in martial arts is concerned, I started my training when I was 9 years old. I started with jujutsu, and later on became more and more interested in other samurai martial arts. Because in classical jujutsu there are a lot of techniques against opponents armed with swords, I felt the need to learn to use the sword. I was fascinated by iaijutsu and kenjutsu, which were almost impossible to train in outside of Japan, so when I was sixteen I took up kendo, followed two years later by iaido and also jodo. I continued to practice these arts, until I went to Japan.

"After graduating in accountancy (fiscal law, and banking and finance), and a very brief and boring career as an accountant, I decided in 1993 that it was time for me to go to Japan and deepen my knowledge of the classical martial arts. I became a student of grandmaster Tanaka Fumon (grandmaster of Enshin Ryu, Minaki Den Kukishin Ryu and Tenshin Hyoho Soden Kukamishin Ryu) and studied a variety of classical martial arts, including jujutsu, iaijutsu, kenjutsu, suemonogiri, bojutsu, hanbojutsu, sojutsu, naginatajutsu, and kakushibukijutsu, to mention the most important ones. Later I also became a student of grandmaster Nakashima Atsumi (grandmaster of Katayama Hoki Ryu Jujutsu, and also inheritor of Tenjin Myoshin Ryu). My teachers not only introduced me to their own respective ryuha, but gradually also allowed me to study other schools as well. Presently I hold the rank of menkyo kaiden in Enshin Ryu Iai, Suemonogiri and Kenpo, and that of menkyo in Katayama Hoki Ryu Jujutsu.

"Before I came to Japan I had already started the groundwork for a book on the history and development of classical jujutsu. Once in Japan, I threw away all my notes and started again from scratch. This time I decided to use mostly Japanese source material, and I spent years collecting, translating, and interpreting old documents and scrolls of various martial arts schools. Presently I live in my home country, but also spend a great deal of time in Japan to continue both my training and research."

What motivated you to write this book? / What got you started?

"I have always been fascinated by the various Japanese martial arts, and in particular jujutsu. In addition to studying its techniques I also find it very important to know, the history and philosophy of one's art, and its relation to other martial arts. When I started working on my book, the literature available on the subject in any of the major Western languages was usually very superficial and full of misconceptions; I was not able to quench my thirst for knowledge with it. Some of the better books were written by people who had actually trained in Japan for a number of years, but there was no book that focused solely on Jujutsu. That made me decide to throw away my old notes, and get the information in Japan myself, and write my own book based on Japanese sources.

"While I was working on my book in Japan I was also confronted with the fact that so many of the country's traditional arts (not only martial arts) were in danger of disappearing, if they had not already disappeared. This was also acknowledged by several of the martial arts grandmasters I had the honor of working with. Not withstanding the fact that it is very difficult to make contact with the grandmaster of a martial art tradition, I was moved by the trust they put in me, a non-Japanese, once they understood my motives, to record and thus preserve their art. The trust and friendship I received from these teachers strengthened my determination to bring this project to a good end."

Could you tell us a little about the contents of the book?

"Although there are various chapters, the book can be divided into two main sections. In the first section I give an overview of the elements that played a role in the development of jujutsu in general, and discuss characteristics of the art. In addition I explore the relation of jujutsu to other martial arts, and give an outline of the various martial art traditions (the bugei ryuha).

"The second part can be seen as a mini-encyclopedia that can be consulted for further information on a certain school. In this part I focus on history and development of an extended selection of individual jujutsu styles. For better comprehension the schools are not listed alphabetically, but within a logical framework.

"I prefer to see the book mainly as a work on the history of jujutsu. However due to the great number of illustrations it will no doubt also be of interest to enthusiasts of jujutsu technique."

What do you see as the centerpiece of the book? / Why is the book important?

"The book is important because it is the only one of its kind in any major Western language. It focusesto a large extent on the history of jujutsu in general, but also gives detailed information on an extensive number of individual jujutsu schools.

"It is based almost completely on original Japanese source material, and includes numerous pictures of rare authentic manuscripts of various martial arts schools. In addition it includes photographs showing practitioners demonstrating techniques, many of which have never been seen outside Japan."

What did you yourself learn from writing the book?

"In order to get a better understanding of classical martial arts I actually lived in Japan, in Kyoto, one of the oldest cities of the country, for several years, actively practicing a number of classical martial arts. Living in another country, experiencing its culture and being able to approach its history on its own terms, were unique learning experiences.

"Furthermore I learned to apply martial arts philosophy to successfully finishing a big project, such as publishing this book. I came to understand the importance of being able to know when to keep "fudoshin" (an unmovable heart or mind), and when to use "jushin" (the adaptable heart or mind). To put it in easier words, I learned when to ignore any comments and remain focused on my target, but I also came to understand that sometimes it is useful to keep an open mind, and listen to other people.

"While one should be proud of the ryuha one was allowed to join, it is also essential to have respect for other styles. Having researched them thoroughly, I have a deep respect for the various jujutsu/bujutsu styles, regardless of their origin."

What would you like readers to take away with them after reading this book?

"I hope readers get a better understanding of what exactly jujutsu is, and also learn to appreciate it not only for its technical merits, but also for its historical and cultural value. It is important that classical jujutsu, and in a wider sense classical martial arts in general, are seen not as a sport, but as living traditions that are part of Japan's cultural heritage."

What people or books were influential in the writing of your book?

"I felt it was necessary to base my research upon original Japanese source material. To write a work of this scale, however, it was important to use the widest possible selection of source material and not just one or two books. In fact I have consulted a great variety of works, ranging from new Japanese works on the subject of martial arts to Meiji-period books, and even authentic Edo-period manuscripts of martial arts schools.

"I'm also indebted to these grandmasters of martial arts schools, that have generously shared their thoughts with me. I'm particularly grateful to my own teachers, grandmasters Tanaka Fumon and Nakashima Atsumi, both representing different jujutsu styles, for allowing me to explore such a wide spectrum of jujutsu styles, the understanding of which in turn helped me when writing about other schools."

About the Author

Serge Mol is the first and only non-Japanese to have received the rank of menkyo kaiden in Enshin Ryu Iai, Suemonogiri, or Kempo, or to have received menkyo in Hoki Ryu Jujutsu. He began training in the martial arts, starting with jujutsu, more than twenty years ago. Before he specialized in classical martial arts, he studied various modern budo, including kendo, iaido, and jodo; he has dan ranking in iaido and jodo.

In order to deepen his understanding, Mol lived in Japan for several years, where he was a direct disciple of Grandmaster Tanaka Fumon and Grandmaster Nakashima Atsumi and won awards at various martial arts demonstrations. Mol has an extensive collection of Edo-period manuscripts of martial arts ryuha, and collects Japanese arms and armor. He lives in Belgium, where he teaches classical martial arts, and travels frequently to Japan for additional training and research.

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