Koryu or Gendai, which is best? 

Gendai budō (Japanese: 現代武道, modern budō) or Shinbudō (新武道, new budō) are both terms referring to modern Japanese martial arts, which were established after the Meiji Restoration (1866–1869). Kobudō or koryū are the opposite of these terms referring to ancient martial arts established before the Meiji Restoration. While koryū are often considered to be traditional martial arts, gendai budō is the result of the modernization and development of Japanese martial arts.

Koryū makes no use of the popular kyu-dan ranking system. The gendai budō (modern budō forms), however, uses the kyū-dan ranking system. These rankings replaced the various certificates of merit awarded within koryū. Gendai budō also generally do not contain the same strong entrance oaths and rituals as koryū, such as the keppan (blood oath). Whereas in most gendai budō dojo all are welcome provided they follow basic rules of conduct, koryū instructors often strictly scrutinize candidates. The primary purpose of gendai budō is for spiritual, social and mental development while application of techniques is the secondary purpose. So the practitioner will provide little danger to society at large.

Koryū, however, considers ‘battle field’ technique application as the primary purpose with spiritual and mental development being secondary to succeeding in combat. Koryū are not standardized in terms of content; one school may focus heavily on only a few weapons or techniques while another may offer a wide variety of training. Gendai budō, on the other hand, is largely standardized. Budōka (practitioners of martial path) are expected to have attained basic proficiency in all areas before progressing further into specialized study within their chosen style. The various kata found within gendai budō generally remain consistent from one instructor to another whereas koryū will often vary from teacher to student due to the lack of standardization. Additionally, most koryū include bujutsu (martial tactics) and some even include the use of firearms such as muzzle-loaded muskets and even small cannons. This is a stark contrast to gendai budō, which focuses primarily on unarmed combat (with the exception of Kendo and Kyodo) and does not include any environmental or strategic methods beyond the dojo.

Regardless of their differences in content and purpose, both koryū and gendai budō have one thing in common: respect for tradition. Koryū honor the traditional methods handed down by generations before them while gendai budō pay homage to the ancient martial arts that paved the way for their development. Though they may differ greatly in terms of philosophy, koryū and gendai budō are two sides of the same coin; each has its own unique strengths and weaknesses which should be appreciated without judgment or bias. Maybe following the middle (dual) path is the answer.


Gambarimasho ~ C.Borkowski