I often refer to Daiwa Ryu Jujutsu as a traditional martial art. But it was founded in 1979 — barely three decades old. So how can I justify that claim?
First and foremost, this is not a claim that Daiwa Ryu is a koryu. Koryu are Japanese martial arts which can demonstrate their existance before the westernisation of Japan. This is frequently taken to be those martial arts known to be in existence before the introduction of the sword laws in 1867. Koryu tend to be taught in small, intimate groups. The teaching is based on kata: a formalised set of attacks and responses. The senior grade typically takes the role of attacker — bad guy — and is ultimately defeated.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are many modern jujutsu styles which teach in a very different fashion. In the UK, one example would be the Jitsu Foundation. These groups have adopted techniques and teaching styles for a different audience, with less emphasis on kata and more on contest and self defence applications. For the Jitsu Foundation, and others, this has been hugely successful with clubs opening up all over the country and a large active membership
So where does Daiwa Ryu fit in? The underlying curriculum is kata based: two people performing a predetermined series of movements to demonstrate a technique, and commit it to muscle memory. Attention is paid to the smallest details of the kata, a little finger turned out or a slight rotation of a joint all combine to allow the technique to be effective. The kata we are practising is derived from Hakko Ryu Jujutsu, in turn derived from one of the koryu: Daito Ryu.
Classes are small — typically a handful of people, with a high proportion of experienced practicioners. This allows us to train with a high degree of attention to detail. In turn, that attention to detail tends to discourage a number of beginners who are looking for a more dynamic approach.
As well as our underlying lineage, we have other influences: the other martial arts which members of the club have studied. Martial art schools differ in their approach to cross training in other martial arts. Some actively discourage it, others, like us, are keen to welcome students of other styles and benefit from the different perspective. So the Daiwa Ryu taught in Oxfordshire builds on the same underlying kata as Daiwa Ryu taught elsewhere, but is influenced by my own background in other martial arts: notably aikido, judo, other jujutsu styles and shorinji kempo.