All of us at Koryu Books (that is, Meik and me) wish you a happy holiday season and the very best for 2010!

Thankfully, 2009 is almost over, and while it wasn't as horrible as I feared it would be for Koryu Books, it wasn't a good year either. We hope that the outlook for 2010 is better, and are looking forward to (probably) launching a new product line. Stayed tuned for further details.

We've tried to keep our postage rates as reasonable as we can and do not always raise them when the post office does. However, to keep from losing money, we must occasionally change the amounts we charge. Effect January 1, we will switch to a weight-based shipping calculation, which should result in taking in about the same as we spend on shipping. For most of you (particularly in Canada and Mexico), this will mean an increase. For single paperback book orders (except Katori Shinto-ryu) to other international destinations, the amount will actually decrease!

So if you were thinking of a Koryu Books purchase any time soon, please consider what effect this change might have on you. There's still time to get an order in before the rates are changed.

Shipping rates until 1/1/2010
US Canada/Mexico Other International
1st book $6.30 $9.45 $20.48
additional $1.58 $2.36 $5.12
Heavy book surcharge $2.63 $3.94 $8.53
1st heavy book $8.93 $13.39 $29.01
Additional heavy book $4.20 $6.30 $13.65

Shipping rates after 1/1/2010
weight US Canada/Mexico Other International
<=1 lb. $ 6.85 $ 12.88 $ 14.40
<=5 lbs. $ 12.20 $ 27.60 $ 40.14
>5 lbs. $ 15.95 $ 34.25 $ 50.97

Our paperbacks all weigh less than 1 pound (except Katori Shinto-ryu), so you can get an idea of what your order might run.

P.S. Sorry about the spacing in the charts--I'm in the middle of remodeling a bathroom and don't have time to get it perfect. I hope that you can figure it out!

Meik and I will be demonstrating Shinto Muso-ryu and Toda-ha Buko-ryu in St. Louis this Labor Day Weekend at the Missouri Botanical Garden's annual Japanese Festival. Wayne Muromoto and Dave Lowry (festival chair), among others, will also be demonstrating during the three-day event.

The festival is truly worth a visit and is fun for the whole family. This year the featured performers are a bunraku troop, who will entertain with their remarkable puppets. Sumo will be back again, and the festival overflows with interesting vendors (want an inexpensive summer montsuki kimono?) and traditional Japanese festival food.

Stop by and say "Hello!"
Meik and I will be presenting two one-and-a-half hour seminars on Toho--kodachi (sword methods--short sword) at the Orlando Taikai, August 6-8 (sponsored by US Toyama Ryu Batto Jutsu). The techniques consist of paired drawing and cutting techniques; uchidachi wears daisho and cuts with odachi, shidachi is armed only with kodachi. If you're interested, please contact the organizers. Registration deadline is July 31.
Tomorrow, Black Belt magazine's June 2009 issue will be on the newsstands. Believe it or not, columnist Mark Jacobs interviewed us for his column, Far East. Here's what the BB web site says about it: "The paths of two students of the traditional Japanese arts converge, leading to marital harmony and the passing on of ancient values. Screenplay by Mark Jacobs." I haven't seen it yet, so am risking a bit of embarrassment by announcing it beforehand, but hey, it is sure to be something different!

To commemorate our "15 minutes of fame," I've uploaded our very first Youtube video. It's from the Nihon Kobudo Shinkokai's annual demonstration at the Nippon Budokan in 1997. Meik & I are presenting Toda Buko-ryu's yari awase set. Here's the link: Toda-ha Buko-ryu naginatajutsu. Enjoy!
What Life Asks of Us

An interesting description of "Institutional thinking," which is most definitely an essential aspect of membership in the Japanese koryu. We owe the ryu everything we can give; this debt shapes our thinking and identity. It's not about what we can get from the ryu; it's about what we contribute. This seems to be a difficult lesson for the modern American practitioner (I know it has taken me a long while to internalize it, to the extent that I have thus far).

Readers have asked us: why are your publications so much cheaper on Why on earth would I want to pay more and purchase books directly from you?

These are excellent questions, and they deserve an answer.

Unfortunately, we can't control Amazon's pricing policy. They are underselling us in a way that hurts our business substantially. We are a very very small publisher, doing important work in a limited field. We (or rather I, there's only me) set a retail price--the one at which we must sell our books in order to compensate the author and to stay in business. Amazon is actually selling our books for not much more than they pay our wholesaler; they don't make very much from the sale, counting on large volumes to make up for the slim profit margin. This makes it impossible for me to compete. They are not particularly interested in the viability of one small koryu publisher, and there's not much I can do about it. Basically, it is up to the consumer to decide where they want to spend their money; some people prefer to purchase directly from me, since they know that the bulk of the money they pay goes towards enabling me to publish other worthwhile projects. Others (and many times this is of simple economic necessity, which I totally and completely understand) prefer to get the book more cheaply. The author and I get a much smaller percentage of the money for each book sold through Amazon, but at least we get something.

We certainly are not trying to pull a fast one or cheat our customers in any way. Everyone is most welcome to choose to make their purchases elsewhere. We do, however, most deeply appreciate the customers who do choose to support our work. Thank you!

Sumo is one of Japan's most ancient traditions; if the members of the professional sumo community aren't able to gracefully maintain and adapt to the modern world, in the context of their own culture and country, what hope do Westerners have of preserving koryu transmissions? I'm not without hope (otherwise I'd never be doing what I do), but realistically, the size of the windmill keeps growing, while my lance keeps getting shorter and my horse punier. But I'll keep dreaming that impossible dream...

You Walk Wrong

I don't know about you, but I don't wear shoes all that often. Having lived in Japan, it's easy to abandon shoes inside the house. Obviously, I don't wear shoes in the dojo. In fact, I never have really liked shoes (it being, admittedly, quite difficult to find shoes to fit my feet properly). Now, after reading Adam Sternbergh's article "You Walk Wrong," I understand better why.

Most beginners come to our dojo--even those with extensive martial arts experience--unable to walk properly. The feet don't connect up through ankles and knees to the hips to allow for a natural stride. Since the best martial arts are all based around using our bipedal body efficiently, this results in a substantial initial roadblock. It simply isn't possible to learn to swing a stick effectively until you have learned to walk.

But why were folks in New Jersey having so many difficulties learning what we all thought we had learned back when we were yearlings? I couldn't recall my fellow students in Japan moving with such awkwardness. I've always attributed their more integrated and centered walking to the fact that many were raised sitting on the floor, which increases joint flexibility and hip strength (it would be interesting to see what the current crop of Japanese koryu students are doing--many young people today are raised in houses with chairs). But I think the prevalence of shoes in our modern Western culture is also part of the puzzle (not that the Japanese would be caught dead barefoot outdoors, but they do spend a lot of time with their shoes off).

So, if you are looking for ways to improve your training and you haven't done any barefoot walking lately, I urge you to try. Pay attention and feel how your foot is connecting with the ground and the motions you go through to keep balanced with one leg striding out in front of the other. You might find yourself wanting to try some of the new shoe types Sternbergh profiles in his article. I know I'll be looking into them!

Happy Year of the Rat (I prefer to think of the critter as a Mouse, since I was born in a earlier Year of the Mouse). May your year be happy, prosperous, and full of great training!

I'm going to use this blog (more on that in a bit) to share preliminary thoughts, not yet fully fledged ideas, and quick hints that might aid your training or teaching. As you'll have undoubtedly noticed, things move along slowly at, largely because--while ideas come fast and furious--the time to organize and present them to the standards to which I have become accustomed eludes me.

So to start things off, here is a list of things to keep in mind when training in the koryu. I compiled it when Meik & I first started accepting students after our return to the States. On the one hand, I knew students really wouldn't have any frame of reference to work from. And in fact, virtually every one of the experienced martial artists who have joined our dojo has told us, several years after starting, that their training has been nothing like they expected it to be, and that their previous experiences did not prepare them for what they encountered. On the other, koryu is not to be "spoon fed" (one of my big objections to spreading too much information on the Internet--training in the koryu is not supposed to be easy, convenient, or comfortable).

At different levels of your training, each item on the list will have a different meaning. The challenge is to keep all five of these in mind when you are in the dojo, and figure out what they mean for you right now.

  1. Pay attention.
  2. You have responsibilities.
  3. Respect others.
  4. Listen.
  5. Beware the dark side.