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Thread: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

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    Default Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Pretty simple question for the folks out there studying Japanese martial arts.
    Some people like the fact that they are studying an art that has a running tradition and happens to be listed in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten.

    What say you.....

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Hi Shawn,

    I think that is a very good question. I for one don't have a preference for either one. I personally study three gendai arts not listed and three koryu arts listed in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten. I believe that they are all extremely valuable and have contributed greatly to the quality of many peoples lives.

    I don't know too many people that really give a hoot as to whether or not they study a style that is listed or not listed in the Book you reference. But to add a little to the topic you pose; I take a exception to anyone who claims that they teach a koryu art that is not listed in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten and try to pass it off as a koryu. Something that it is not. Gendai arts art great. I have studied them for almost 40 years now. They fill a purpose for which most people are looking to get involved in martial arts.

    So to add to your question, I would also pose the question as to why so many gendai practitioners feel the need to try to pass off their modern arts as something as old as those listed in the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten. To me it performs a huge disservice to the great things that the gendai arts have to offer. It sort of implies that they don't think gendai arts can stand on their own. I think you pose a good question and look forward to others opinions as well.

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Part of me would like to pick up a listed koryu, but then again, the koryu are not, to my mind, all they're cracked up to be. (And though I've studied some Bujinkan methods, I don't think they count.) Many koryu have histories that need to be taken with a grain of salt, and the frequent claim that they are "battlefield arts" is dubious, given that they are defined by a system of organization that is post-Sengoku Jidai.

    The main advantages of koryu are, in my opinion, that some of them are taught as multidisciplinary systems. That's not terribly common in gendai arts.

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    When i first started studying martial arts......i thought they were all old.....except for the obvious ones.

    I didn't know the difference back then, and i didnt really care. After some time studying the history, language and culture.....I did start to care.
    I cared that the art i studied may not actually be koryu.

    I am back to not really caring......the main point is that it is an effective art.

    It is also my belief that, while the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten is the last word in koryu arts for many people and it is certainly comprehensive........I doubt that it contains every style, as some die out, and some certainly weren't as public about their arts.

    That being said....there are a few JSA that i have an interest in, hopefully i will be able to find the time to do some serious studying in that area.

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Hello Eyebeams!

    PHP Code:
    the koryu are notto my mindall they're cracked up to be. 
    I am interested in what koryu you have directly experienced that enables you to form such a statement.

    PHP Code:
    Many koryu have histories that need to be taken with a grain of salt
    Are you saying that you don't buy into the idea of revelations of superior combat methods coming to the various ryuso from kami, divine inspiration or tengu?

    PHP Code:
    and the frequent claim that they are "battlefield arts" is dubiousgiven that they are defined by a system of organization that is post-Sengoku Jidai 
    That is a bit of a blanket statement. However, regarding some koryu as battlefield arts, well, there are well known historians who are considered to be experts in their field, with the academic credentials to back it up that who might disagree with you. However, that being said, there certainly are plenty of koryu that were formed during the relative peace of the Tokugawa Shogunate, such as the Tenjin Shinyo-ryu Jujutsu. They make no claims to being battlefield arts.

    Others koryu were certainly founded prior to establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate. What purposes would you ascribe to methods in various systems of Kenjutsu that target weak points in armour? Where would naginatajutsu and sojutsu be most applicable? Along the same line of thought, what purpose WOULD you ascribe to a hojutsu (gunnery) ryu such as the Morishige-ryu?

    Respects,

    Erik Johnstone

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    I doubt that most folks know or care what koryu is. Actually, I doubt that most folks know what Gendai means. The debate is truly a western thing mostly.

    We hear about these due to the fact that some folks wish to market their martial art and try to make it stand out from all the rest. I don't particularly believe that the general public could give a hoot. Most folks come into martial arts schools wanting to learn a self defense art. Modern Gendai arts are much more suitable to self defense if you ask me. Simply by the nature of what they are. Most Koryu arts are not designed for self defense. They were predominantly developed for use between military combatants. Self defense is not exactly what we think of today as two people agreeing to try to kill one another. Koryu arts were just that. I don't think anyone would consider hand grenades as a method of self defense for civilians. Nor are modern bayonet applications. That is not to say that all military disciplines are koryu. Koryu are specifically Japanese military arts that exisited prior to the Meiji restoration.

    The difference between Sengoku-Jidai and post Sengoku-Jidai warfare has nothing whatsoever to do with what makes a Koryu different than a Gendai art. The difference is in the intent of the combatants and the time it was developed and tested.

    As far as self defense arts like Karate go, these were never martial disciplines to begin with. They are more akin to being what is referred to as Mingei, folk arts. They were created as plebian self defense systems. To compare the two is truly comparing apples to oranges. The martial intent when performing the two is completely different. I have done both and I can tell you that the feeling is completely different. One is not better than the other, just different.

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Excellent description.

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackcatbonz
    Excellent description.
    Yes. Thank you Sensei Long for taking the time to visit here.


    I can't recommend Sensei Long's seminars enough. If you have an oppurtunity to train with him, make every effort. You wont be dissappointed. I always learn valuable insights into technique, history, philosophy, and every other aspect of martial arts.

    Bob Blackburn

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Although I have experienced Koryu arts here and there (throughs seminar or by visiting other schools), I would have to say that I am a product of modern crafted martial arts. Once you see the devistation caused by the average handgun, the arguments are really pointless anyway.

    Your ancient battelfield this or modern hand to hand that is really a moot point when staring down the business end of a 12 year old with a hand gun and the intent to shoot you to get your wallet.

    great article about seeking koryu training...

    http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=234#comments

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Hello Walt!

    Very good point...

    Here's another article by Threadgill Sensei that you may find interesting:

    http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=1783
    Respects,

    Erik A. Johnstone
    Shindokan Budo
    Jikishin-Kai International

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by kroh
    Although I have experienced Koryu arts here and there (throughs seminar or by visiting other schools), I would have to say that I am a product of modern crafted martial arts. Once you see the devistation caused by the average handgun, the arguments are really pointless anyway.

    Your ancient battelfield this or modern hand to hand that is really a moot point when staring down the business end of a 12 year old with a hand gun and the intent to shoot you to get your wallet.

    great article about seeking koryu training...

    http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=234#comments
    Toby Threadgills article does raise some interesting points. The rebuttals were even more amusing.

    But when you speak of looking down the business end of a 12 year old with a handgun by accident, I can tell you from personal experience, that that scenario is quite different than choosing to look down a barrel held by a convicted felon that has already shot someone and you are doing it because it is your job.

    Most Koryu also teach you how to take a life if necessary. Here is where studying a koryu is far ahead of self defense arts in preparing you for that kind of encounter. When training in a classical koryu you are taught that there are three possible outcomes to an engaged battle. A. Your enemy dies B. You die C. You both die. But the fact is that two out of three times...you die. And two out of three times your enemy dies. And when you constantly train with that kind of mindset, your training focuses on completing your mission. Survival of course is nice as well but the odds aren't good. That is your job. This is not something that the modern day martial disciplines teach. They try to prepare you to survive an attack. They do not prepare you to enter into combat accepting ALL of the possible outcomes. No, you're not going to carry a sword or spear as a law enforcement officer, but you will have the experience of facing these same scenarios over and over.

    Please bear with me here, because I would like to relate a personal experience and why I feel the way I do.

    I was once working an event where I was in the process of handcuffing an assailant that had just knocked out my partner. The crowd was drunk and beligerant and closing in around us very quickly. He (the assailant and my partner) was on the ground (In a not so comfortable position I might add), I had one hand cuff on him and my other hand was stuggling to arrest his other hand. You don't exactly like seeing a handcuff being swung around with an open gate on it, it's a very nasty weapon. Just as the crowd was closing in I sensed the unmistakable breaking click and tug on my holster. Time slows down and you immediately recognize the fact that your firearm has just been released from it's resting place on your right hip and that it is being extracted from your side. The person doing it has one intention. To put a bullet in the back of your head.

    I cannot begin to tell you how many thoughts can go through your mind in the blink of an eye. And how unprepared you would be if this happened to you. In your mind, you see the scenario unfolding behind you. You see your family. You see 5 different thing that you can't do! It all happens in a micro-second.

    I wrestled with this scenario for many, many months thereafter. What was the right thing to do. I had studied martial arts for 25 years at that point and was totally unprepared for the outcome. In police work there is a saying, "Every day you come home from work is a good day." And that day was one of them. I thank god for the fireman with the 2 X 4 that cracked it over the skull of the guy that was pulling my weapon out of my holster from behind me. I owe him my life to this day.

    I have seen men shot and stabbed. Neither are pretty. But both are a fact of life and death. I don't wish it on anyone. But to try to tell someone that they are prepared for this kind of scenario is ludicrous. When your time is up, it's up. It's what we do in the meantime with our lives that makes a difference. Koryu were meant for men whose very existence was to live, serve, and die in the pursuit of their mission of helping and serving others. They were born into it. They could not escape it. So the training focused on getting the job done at all costs. Including the sacrifice of ones own life in the process if necessary. And this same mindset is still very necessary for a small percentage of men and women today. But it's not for everyone as I said in a previous post. Most folks will do just fine, if not better, by studying a martial art that was developed for their own personal self defense. And as Mr. Threadgill and Mr. Amdur alluded to in their posts, not everyone has the makeup to carry on a koryu tradition. It's different.

    Thank you for allowing me to take up your valuable time reading this post. You could be hugging your kids instead. Which would certainly be more productive in the long run I am sure.

    Thanks for reading,

    Carl Long

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Sensei:

    Thank you for your time & willingness to share your experience to provide a valuable lesson for us all.

    Respectfully,

    Erik
    Respects,

    Erik A. Johnstone
    Shindokan Budo
    Jikishin-Kai International

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Mr. Long
    Thanks for another great post. It's always interesting to hear about another person's experiences and thoughts on a subject so personal.

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Great post Mr Long. That must have been scarey as hell. Do you still talk to the board wielding fireman?

    I would agree that the mindset that formulated the Koryu is different than that of some of the modern martial systems we see today. I would also like to contend that not all modern martial systems are so reluctant to "throw down the guantlet". FOr example, Uechi Ryu Karate Do maintains that it's syllabus contains killing strikes easily learned from the word go. Sayoc Kali teaches its students the blade, even to the point of teaching to attack the opponent when you have a blade and they do not. By the same token, killing arts like Suio Ryu Iai Kenpo can show mercy in its syllabus by severing the tendons of the wrist with the kissaki while letting the opponent live. While the arts themselves may have inherant philosphies toward one combative attitude or another, it is how they are applied that defines them (intent).

    I use to be a soldier (infantry) and I can firmly attest that just because the skills I used were for the battlefield and the skills some one like yourself used were for the street does not mean that the police officer is not capable of deadly force or he soldier capable of capturing. I believe that the intention drives the application. The polcie officer is held to a code of conduct that says I should "attempt" to take the suspect alive. The soldier only has to think of the objective. Anything barring that objective can be removed.

    So in essence, both of our real world jobs defines the others training methods and philosphies while at the same time re-enforcing the alternate methods of our own training. It takes extreme skill to capture an unwilling person and bounce their tail into a squad car. It also takes skill to take action on an objective and bring everyone back alive. At the same time, the officer can use deadly force if required and the soldier can capture the enemy if the situation presents itself.

    I admire the koryu for its persaverance and its dedication. The discipline of the koryu practitioner is amazing when compared to the mediocrity that has come to afflict many modern dojo. At the same time I admire the modern systems for their willingess to adapt to a world that changes faster than a model at a fashion show. I feel they each have thier place and purpose. The longer I train the more I wish i could live to be two hundred years old just so I can learn more.

    Thanks for the post, Mr. Long and thanks for the article, Mr Johnstone, This is good thread.

    Regards,
    Walt

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Thank you for your kind words.

    There is very little I would disagree with in your last post. Again, I didn't mean to imply that military arts teach only killing techniques. But, that they do teach a completely different mindset from the very beginning.

    I would have to agree to disagree on one point that you do make however. The one regarding Uechi Ryu Karate Do. And I would like to apply this equally to Shorin Ryu, Goju Ryu, Okinawa Kempo, Isshin Ryu, Ryuei Ryu and any other empty hand art that stresses hands and feet over weapon techniques. Those techniques don't make big permanent gaping holes in your body that bleed out profusely when being employed by an absolute novice. They are very rarely fatal. Now I am not saying that they couldn't be if effectively employed by a very high level practitioner. It's just that for the average Joe learning these techniques, you are not giving him a loaded gun right from the Get-Go. You give someone a spear, knife, sword or Bow & Arrow and you are talking lethal immediately. The context of the training is immediately felt and the responsibility that goes along with that power is immediately palpable to everyone in the room. I have trained with and under some of the greatest martial artists of our time. Including some of the highest level Karate practitioners of our modern day. I can tell you from personal experience that the expression in their demeanor changes immediately when you put a live sword or gun in their hands. Yes, they may be quite capable of taking or sparing a life at any other time with their knowledge and ability but they immediaitely sense the difference in the lethality of the weapon that they now hold. It is diferent. That is the essence that I was trying to convey.

    Koryu do change with the current conditions. They are not written in stone as many who do not understand them or practice them believe. They have evolved and changed with every succeeding generation. That is not only the perjorative but the responsibility of each succession of headmaster to make the ryu relevent to it's time. I thnk we are agreeing on the same things here. And I would like to state that I totally respect your point of view. It's just that when it comes to techniques that are meant to take a life immediately versus techniques that take a very long time to become proficient enough to do so, the training regime is much different. As a caveat, I would like to state that I have been studying Okinawan karate now for about 38 years. I consider that a reasonably long enough time to understand the lethality of the techniques. I have had to use them on NUMEROUS occasions to complete my objectives. I have preferred to use them over the more military arts that I have had to use. But that is because they are not lethal. Again, not that they couldn't be...but the odds are much better that they won't be.

    I am sure that you understand how difficult it is to cut someones wrists during combat so that they become incapaciltated vs lethal. The ability to perform such feats during a sword encounter is very difficult indeed. You are lucky if you place the blade anywhere that you initially intended it to land. People fight back. They do not stand in one place and allow you to cut them. Only Makiwara do that. Or restrained prisoners. In several of the koryu I study we have very similar techniques. But that is not what we teach folks to do initially. Please ask any Koryu sword practitioner how difficult it would be, even as an expert, and I think you will be surprised by the answer. Is it possible, yes, is it probable, well let's just say that while your objective may be to drain the swamp, its the alligators up to your gluteus maximus that you have to deal with immediately.

    BTW, armed or unarmed combatants, military or otherwise are rarey taken captive by someones empty hand skills. The empty hand skills are usually employed after the immediate submission of the targeted individual. They usually submit due to the fear of the weapons being employed and their reluctance to having someone use them on them. Because everyone knows that a monkey can kill you with a weapon. ( Which is one of the reasons I have not been involved in LEO duties for well over 16 years now.) I am very much older and the wiser. Older being the bigger reason. Wiser would be debated by almost everyone I know.

    I truly do agree with pretty much everything you stated above. There are just a few things that I wanted to clarify regarding my last post that may have led you to believe that I don't understand the value of NOT USING lethal force when it is possible. Thanks again for the opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding.

    C Long

    PS I have not had contact with the fireman in about 6 years. But I think a phone call and a cup of coffee are in order. Thanks for the reminder.

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Mr Long,

    This last post is exactley why I love internet forums of this type. It gives me access to a wide gruop of people with vast experiences. It also give the little fishes (people like myself) the ability to swim in the wake of bigger fish. Good Stuff. Very Cool post sir.

    Speaking of the fireman...I think I am going to do the same with my own "personal fireman."

    Regards,
    Walt

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    [quote=E. Johnstone]Hello Eyebeams!

    I am interested in what koryu you have directly experienced that enables you to form such a statement.
    Formally, a couple of Aiki bugei and the Takamatsuden. Informally, a couple of more. I don't mean that the koryu are inferior, but the oft-cited "do/jutsu" thing is not something I believe has practical significance. Plus, there are a few ryuha that I don't think really deserve to be adninistered as separate bugei in today's society.

    Are you saying that you don't buy into the idea of revelations of superior combat methods coming to the various ryuso from kami, divine inspiration or tengu?
    Yep. I also think a bunch of them are not as old as they say they are, like the TKSR (though it probably predates unification).

    That is a bit of a blanket statement.
    Most ryuha are governed according to the rules used to establisg trade associations during to Tokugawa Bakufu, namely, the iemoto/gunshi system.

    However, regarding some koryu as battlefield arts, well, there are well known historians who are considered to be experts in their field, with the academic credentials to back it up that who might disagree with you.
    And I think martial arts history is one of the more politically influenced aspects of an already damaged Japanese historical scholarship. This is one of the other reasons I'm cautious about koryu. The Bugei Ryuha Daitijen has been rewritten a couple of times in service to the political vicissitudes of the Japanese martial arts community.

    Others koryu were certainly founded prior to establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate. What purposes would you ascribe to methods in various systems of Kenjutsu that target weak points in armour?
    I'd say it was Bakufu-era samurai playacting at war and military skill, as they were wont to do, along with preparedness for a small number of actual military engagements. I think the niten-ichi ryu is a classic example of this. It as developed after Sekigahara and, when it was applied (in a theoretical sense) to actual battles (not duels) . . . let's say Go Rin No Sho shouldn't be overgeneralized!

    Where would naginatajutsu and sojutsu be most applicable?
    Pretty much the same thing, really. I'm sure there are exceptions aplenty, but not so much as we might wish to believe.

    Along the same line of thought, what purpose WOULD you ascribe to a hojutsu (gunnery) ryu such as the Morishige-ryu?
    Actually, that's an interesting one. Japan did not modify its firearms designs for several centuries. Even though the techniques probably originated in war, the systematization, ritual and practice of those techniques is something different. Frankly, I think that if a Sengoku period samurai had to deal with the formalities and ritual of all the different extant ryuha that descended from his average skillset, he would never learn that skillset.

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Hello Eyebeams:

    You wrote:

    ...but the oft-cited "do/jutsu" thing is not something I believe has practical significance.

    As I understand it, the do/jutsu distinction is an artificial convention that can be attributed to Donn Drager. A number of senior teachers in various koryu arts have stated that indeed, it does not have practical significance and that the Japanese involved in such arts make no such distinction. As an example, Kobudo is an alternate term for Koryu Bujutsu.

    I wrote:

    Are you saying that you don't buy into the idea of revelations of superior combat methods coming to the various ryuso from kami, divine inspiration or tengu?

    I was writing with tongue in cheek there; I guess it didn't come through very well in written form. My point was that I was essentially agreeing that aspects of the history of various koryu can be taken with a grain of salt. Regarding the TSKSR, its founding is dated in the 1400's.

    You wrote:

    Most ryuha are governed according to the rules used to establisg trade associations during to Tokugawa Bakufu, namely, the iemoto/gunshi system.

    I am familiar with the roots of the iemoto/soke model; there is an essay by William Bodiford on the subject available at http://koryubooks.com.

    You wrote:

    And I think martial arts history is one of the more politically influenced aspects of an already damaged Japanese historical scholarship.

    One always has to apply critical thinking when approaching historical accounts and records. I think that the recording of history is politically influenced, no matter where you look. You don't have to look past the history of the United States to see this. As an example, George Armstrong Custer was widely regarded as a hero for many decades after Little Bighorn (i.e. the "heroic" image of Custer's Last Stand) . Accounts such as "Black Elk Speaks" paint a very different picture of what took place that day in June, 1876, i.e., a surprise attack (lead by a man who was responsible for a previous massacre of Cheyenne women & children) on a large encampment of Lakota and Cheyenne and the rapid response and successful defence of the camp and its women, children & elders.

    Just to be clear, I am not trying to be argumentative regarding your posts; I am genuinely interested in where your opinions are drawn from. I am also interested in which Aiki bugei that you have studied.

    Thanks!

    Erik Johnstone
    Respects,

    Erik A. Johnstone
    Shindokan Budo
    Jikishin-Kai International

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    Default Re: Koryu or Gendai.....Does it matter to you?

    Quote Originally Posted by E. Johnstone
    One always has to apply critical thinking when approaching historical accounts and records. I think that the recording of history is politically influenced, no matter where you look. You don't have to look past the history of the United States to see this. As an example, George Armstrong Custer was widely regarded as a hero for many decades after Little Bighorn (i.e. the "heroic" image of Custer's Last Stand) . Accounts such as "Black Elk Speaks" paint a very different picture of what took place that day in June, 1876, i.e., a surprise attack (lead by a man who was responsible for a previous massacre of Cheyenne women & children) on a large encampment of Lakota and Cheyenne and the rapid response and successful defence of the camp and its women, children & elders.

    Just to be clear, I am not trying to be argumentative regarding your posts; I am genuinely interested in where your opinions are drawn from. I am also interested in which Aiki bugei that you have studied.

    Erik Johnstone
    Hi Erik,

    I can't claim any technical expertise, but I have been exposed to Daito-Ryu and a modern school, Chokushin. But I suppose my bit of cynicism really comes more from the Bujinkan/Takamatsuden (I suppose I'll call them Takamatsuden because, due to the vicissitudes of organization, I'm not sure what organizations are involved in my line).

    I had an excellent teacher, but I found in the Buj's case, trying to further my own knowledge after I moved -- at least in terms of history and rationale -- left me very disappointed, whether it was because of the elements that don't add up in Bujinkan history or some of the interesting material that I think the Bujinkan's existence and politics have very much obscured. Examples like the editing of the Bugei Ryuha Daijiten around the historicity of the Takamatsuden come to mind, as do other conflicts that are so involved that, at this point, I've washed my hands of the whole business.

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