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The In-depth meaning of Kiyojute Ryu

Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei is a modern system of ancient self defense.  Every aspect of the art, and the many arts it encompasses, is based on ancient forms of martial arts from Japan and Okinawa, with an influence from China.  The main principles are those of the most ancient art of Okinawa, Ryukyu Oke Hiden Bugei.


While modern developments have been examined and weighed, any found lacking in the ability to produce a higher level of realistic self defense skills, were abandoned.  This is why formal, prearranged Kata are not used by Kiyojute Ryu.  This is also why you will see many familiar moves and names common to many styles of Aikido, Judo, and Karate.  Primarily, Kiyojute Ryu is a Bugei, with complete skills of Kobujutsu, Jujutsu, and Karate.  All of the major arts of Japan and Okinawa are contained in the system, but are taught in the most ancient of ways, which especially emphasize Tsugi no Kata and Jiyu Kata, also known as, Mukei.


For a complete understanding of what Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei really is, it is necessary to examine in-depth the name of the system, which expresses the spiritual and combat philosophies of the art.  Before starting the examination, let us look at the history of the term.  As a young martial artist, I was fascinated with the Japanese and Chinese words that I was learning.  At first I was really interested in the words dealing with philosophy and spiritual aspects of the martial arts due to the fact that I was a young minister seeking to improve his own spiritual life.  When I first learned about Ki, which was translated ‘spirit’, I naturally sought to understand it in the form of the Holy Spirit of my own Christian faith.  Later I learned about the concept of Yin and Yang in one of my college philosophy classes.  It was in 1973 that I coined the phrase Ki Yang, which I took to mean ‘the spirit of man’.  More on the meaning later, now let us look at the development of the second half of the art’s name.  In the beginning of my martial arts training I was primarily studying the gentle arts of Kodokan Judo, Aikikai Aikido, and Kosho Ryu Kempo.  I had a peripheral knowledge of Karate, though at that early date I was unaware of different styles.  I knew that Judo meant ‘gentle way’, while Aikido was derived from Jujutsu systems, also based on gentleness, and Karate meant ‘empty hand’.  I couldn’t help thinking that what was really needed was an art that emphasized a ‘gentle hand’.  It was in writings as early as 1974 that I started using the term Ju Te.  So at that early date I had the complete phrase Ki Yang Ju Te.  At first I just used it as my teaching philosophy.  Then when I had the opportunity to become a Soke in 1982, I chose that phrase as the name of my Ryu.  In 1986, due to increased contact with Japanese martial arts associations, and because of an increased understanding of the Japanese language, I began using the formal Japanese pronunciation, Kiyojute (with the Te being used instead of Shu, the normal Japanese rendering, to emphasize the Okinawan connection).  Yang is the pronunciation of the Kanji the Japanese pronounce Yo.


Now let us look at the actual meanings of the name Kiyojute Ryu.  First of all, Yo is half of the diametrical opposites contained in the Oriental idea of In/Yo.  This idea was probably created in China by the Taoist, but it was adopted by the Buddhist as the philosophy was transported into that country, and eventually carried to Japan and the other countries of the Orient.  In/Yo, known as Yin/Yang in China, and Um/Yang in Korea, is a very central principle of the martial arts, and can be quite helpful in understanding life from a philosophical point of view.


One of the main tenets of In/Yo is that for anything to exist in the empirical world, it must have an opposite.  Thus the opposites; dark/light, soft/hard, stillness/movement-false/truth, female/male, mortal/divine, mortal man/divine man, negative/positive, earth/heaven, rigid/flexible, hate/love, man/God, and the list can go on endlessly.  ‘In’ are the negative, passive aspects of life, while ‘Yo’ are the positive, active aspects of life.  Thus Kiyo may be translated the ‘spirit of all that is positive in the universe’.  Among my favorite individual ways of translating the phrase, in order to explain the main principles of the living art of Kempo, are; ‘the spirit of the divine man’, ‘the spirit of light’, ‘the spirit of love’, ‘the spirit of truth’, ‘the spirit of life’, ‘the spirit of movement’, and ‘the spirit of heaven’.


The first one relates specifically to Jesus Christ.  As a Christian my ideal personage of a divine man is Jesus that is why I have a picture of him in my Hombu Dojo.  Another reason I use the divine man translation is that one of Jesus’ favorite terms for himself was ‘the son of man’, which I think he used to try and help man understand his own divine nature.  As Jesus said, the Father is in him and he in us.  Thus God is in us and as such we all have a divine nature which we can live up to and so become a divine person.  This is the goal of life.  Many people try to find a meaning to life and when they can’t they become disappointed with their lives, but if we see as our goal the elusive quality called perfection, we shall have a lifetime full of growth.


The next translation I like is ‘the spirit of light’, once again we can go back to Jesus for a fuller explanation of this translation.  Jesus said of himself, ‘I am the light of the world, he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life’.  And then he too said of us, ‘You are the light of the world’.  The world is full of the darkness of ignorance and it is up to the enlightened to shine the light of God into a dark filled world.  A depressed Christian just waiting to die is a burned out light that helps no one.  Rather, we must always let the light of God shine through us even as Jesus exhorted us to do.  This is an important part of our training in Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei that we develop a positive attitude in all that we do, so that our very life, in class or in the street, is a beacon of light to the world.


The next translation I like is also in some ways the most important, ‘the spirit of love’.  Once again we can look to Jesus for a full explanation of this ideal.  Jesus gave three commandments during his time upon the earth.  They were simply, ‘Love the Lord your God with all our heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  Love your neighbor as yourself.’  and ‘That you love one another, as I have loved you’.  It is easy to see that love is the central theme of Christianity.  Yet it is a theme that is easily forgotten in the rush of all other aspects of the religion.  Thus Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei seeks to reestablish that love as the center of living.  As we train with other people we do so in the spirit of love, always caring for the safety of our partner.  Training so that we never strike out of anger or revenge, but using our art in love, to protect what God has given us and the lives of innocents.  That is why one of the main rules of Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei for self defense is; never use more force than is necessary to end a situation.


The next two translations are part of the same text so we shall deal with them together.  They are ‘the spirit of truth’ and ‘the spirit of life’.  The main text is when Jesus said of himself, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’.  I’d also like to use a second text in which Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, ‘The Spirit of truth will guide you into all truth’.  First, let us understand that life is not a curse, but rather the greatest gift that God gives to us.  With that gift comes a responsibility to live up to our fullest potential.  The world around us is also a gift to enjoy, just so long as we don’t get lost in it and lose sight of God.  Thus we train to love life and enjoy its pleasures while developing the discipline to fulfill the responsibilities it entails.  One of the main responsibilities is maintaining good health.  It is hard to do anything for ourselves or for others, or most especially for God, if we are so sickly that we cannot get out and live.  We need strength and flexibility to be able to maximize our ability to live and serve.  Now in regard to truth, there are two types.  There is ultimate truth and there is relative truth.  This can especially be seen by examining cultural differences around the world.  Most of what men fight over are relative truths, which mean very little.  God gave us a gift of the Spirit of truth, yet few people understand it or even accept the truth it gives.  Sometimes it is easier to live in darkness and hate than to live in the light of truth and have all reason for hatred dispelled.  The real truth is simple, you cannot hate and have God’s love in you.  Once filled with God’s spirit, you will no longer be blind, and upon seeing the light of truth, relativity pales and you see all people in their proper relationship with God.  This is the goal of real training.


Constantly we are reminded throughout the Old Testament, which are the Hebrew Scriptures, and the New Testament, that the Spirit of God moves people.  In regard to Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei, this refers to the fact that the sheer practice of the movements, done in the proper spirit can be worship of God.  Many Christians are as the Buddhists of the seventh century, so wrapped up in sitting around thinking of God, that they don’t know how to have a personal relationship with Him.  Unto seventh century Buddhism came the great master Sokei Eno, who taught that meditation was a frame of reference not an act of sitting.  This is the concept of moving meditation, which is to seek complete awareness of God in daily activities.  In Kempo, we seek to do this by practicing our Kata as a form of moving meditation.  Each Kihon, Kumite, Embu, in essence, every movement can be used as a form of developing our oneness with God, if we have the right, positive attitude.  The object of such training is to allow a person to constantly be aware of God in all that they do in life.  Since people move more than they sit still, or should, and since most of life is involved in moving, then this is the way true meditation should be taught.  It is interesting to note that while Jesus could have sat still in one place and waited for his disciples to come to him, he instead chose to travel to the different houses and around the countryside, speaking wherever the spirit of God moved him.


Finally, we come to the last translation I like to use, though by no means the last one possible.  ‘The spirit of heaven’.  This has a profound meaning to one who is enlightened, while it is a dead weight to one who is not.  To the uninitiated, heaven is the land of great escape.  It is where they go after they die, to flee the pain and sorrow of life.  Yet as we have already established, life is the gift of God to us, his children.  Thus heaven should not be viewed as an escape from life, for to escape from life is to know death, but those who know God do not die in the true sense of the word, but rather live on forever.  What must be realized is that the new life begins with salvation and enlightenment, not with the physical death.  Eternal life began for me when I came to know the Lord and I need not have fear of death because of it.  No truly enlightened person, nor saved individual, nor real Christian, fears death, at the same time, neither does such a person seek it.  Rather, the person who is one with the Father, knows that heaven is all around us, but as yet we haven’t the eyes to see it.  Death for the saved is merely a change of insight.  It is like removing a winter coat on a hot day, or stepping out of a car after arriving at one’s destination.  Stephen, before he was stoned and being under no duress, saw heaven as he stood upon the earth, simply because he saw, filled with the spirit of God.  The Japanese martial artists and religious leaders, have for years had the belief that we must learn to see with the eyes of God.  It was their way of saying that once you were filled with the spirit of God, what we Christians would call salvation, and become enlightened, you would see clearly the truth, beyond the phenomenal illusion, and as such see heaven.  So in Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei, when we practice in the spirit of heaven, it is with the knowledge that heaven is all around us.  That we neither need to fear death, nor seek it.  That God is with us every minute and that our time in this life is for a reason.


And so we live our lives fully, seeking to be a divine person, showing light, giving love, spreading the truth, as we move through this life within heaven.  Only a positive spirit can help us to see this truth and then have the strength to live it.  You see the Ki of Kiyo really means God’s spirit, or as many want to explain it, the Holy Spirit.  It is the only true spirit that exists, and it is what creates, sustains, and nurtures all of life.  Ki is God’s nature and the force behind creation.  As God poured forth His Ki, the Ho, law, of nature was established, and life as we know it began.  Faith in God lets us see the Do, way, and life takes on more meaning than anyone could ever dream of who has not felt that spirit.  All the religions of mankind have been created by man to express the inexpressible ideal of the ultimate.  Better for us just to learn the truth and not argue about it.  This then is the hope of peace on earth, that mankind can learn the truth, know God, and stop trying to put the experience into words.  My fondest wish for all my students is that they might come to know God in this personal, loving way.


There is so much more I could say about Kiyo, but I feel that what I have said if thought about, meditated upon, and carried to the heart with love, will help anyone gain a greater understanding of my Ryu, life, and God.  So without any further preamble, we shall now look at Jute.


Most people know the importance of gentleness in the Oriental concept, especially those of us who have training in the gentle arts.  But most people don’t realize that the same type of gentleness that the Asians admire, is part of our Judeo-Christian background.  The great warrior king David wrote in his Psalms, ‘(God’s) gentleness has made me great’.  And this echoes the Hwang Shihkon which says, ‘In yielding is strength’, which is one of the original sources for the philosophy upon which Jujutsu was based.  This is also reflected in the Bubishi, the Okinawan martial arts manual, which says, ‘Strength is overcome by gentleness’.


Gentleness is the cornerstone of Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei.  The first rule of self defense is, avoid trouble, and the easiest way to do so is to keep from hurting other people, mentally or physically, hence gentleness.  Many fights are caused when someone feels threatened, either mentally or physically.  At times, confrontations are caused by innocent sarcasm or teasing.  When words of play hit too close to home, people lose their tempers and are ready to fight.  Or when you tease someone about an insecurity, it can lead to a great deal of trouble.  And especially when someone has tried their best and a sarcastic remark is made in regard to their effort, do feelings get hurt, which can lead to physical confrontations.  Thus from the standpoint of avoiding trouble and fights, we should learn to be gentle in our dealings with our fellow man.


But to the Kiyojute Ryu Kempoka, that is not the main reason to avoid sarcasm and teasing.  Rather the reason and motivation for gentleness is love.  Not wanting to hurt anyone, the true martial arts practitioner shows gentleness to all people.  An expert of any level in Kiyojute Ryu, feels empathy for all mankind.  Thus a daily goal of each person should be to not hurt anyone in anyway, as well as, to gently aid anyone they can.  This kind of idea is developed in class, by each person learning to be gentle in the execution and application of their martial arts techniques, along with helping those of junior rank who need their aid.


Secondly, gentleness is also important in self defense itself.  If when attacked I needlessly hurt or injure my assailant, there is a good possibility that I will end up legally liable, which could range from a fine paid in court, to time spent in jail.  And of course, if I kill someone it could mean a prison term.  Most of all, the Kiyojute Ryu practitioner considers the moral liability of the situation.  While this means that Kempoka accept the responsibility for their actions, it doesn’t mean that they are morally helpless.  Rather, because the Kempoka understands real truth and has entered all situations with gentleness, they know that if they must defend themselves, it will be justified.  And more, knowing that they have been trained never to use more force than necessary when attacked, that is to remain as gentle as the attacker will allow, at the end of the altercation, they will be assured that whatever they have had to do, was necessary, and so they need feel no guilt for any pain, injury, or death caused by their actions.  That doesn’t mean that they won’t grieve over a death, or feel remorse for an injury, but they will know that they did their best to remain gentle during the conflict and used only the force necessary to save their life or the life of an innocent.


The easiest way to look at this idea of gentleness is simply this, I enter all situations gentle, and extend to all people a gentle hand.  Then if I am verbally assaulted, I still remain gentle, using silence as my response.  If I am physically attacked, I will first seek to avoid and if I cannot I will then defend, remaining as gentle in that defense as I possibly can.  Only if my life is threatened, or that of another, will I use lethal force and only when the other skills at my disposal fail to handle the confrontation.  And in regard to this final idea, it is important to realize that Ju is more than just being gentle in manner.  It is also a principle of combat that the main martial arts of; China, Japan, and Okinawa, have been based on for at least eight centuries.  The principle of Ju, in regard to self defense means several things.  First it means, never meeting force with force, unless it is totally unavoidable.  In this way Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei stays a useable form of self defense for women and whenever a larger man attacks a smaller one.  Second, it refers to using a person’s strength against them.  This has two basic applications.  Obviously, it refers to the application of throws and joint locks, which are the main techniques of Jujutsu.  But it also refers to letting the attacker generate momentum with which he runs into your punch or kick at a vital point.  Using this idea it is possible for a smaller person to knockout a larger person by letting him generate the force necessary.  Finally, it means appearing gentle when the time is right, so that you can take the path of least resistance to your objective.  In other words, there are times you need to appear as if you were giving into an attacker, so that you can surprise him and get past his relaxed guard.  This works well when a man is trying to force himself on a woman, giving her the opportunity to get to his main vital points.  It works well for anyone who needs to distract an assailant.  Such as acting like you are having trouble getting your wallet out of your pocket, while assuring your attacker that you are being cooperative.  Being gentle is also looking confident and secure, so that an attacker thinks twice and never attacks at all.  It is being so aware and self-possessed, that an assailant sees no opportunity to strike.  This is the ultimate expression of gentleness in self defense.


Finally, let us look at Te, which means in it’s most basic translation, hand.  Te was the original term used for the Okinawan empty hand fighting method.  As influences from other countries entered the country, prefixes began to be applied to the martial arts which developed, such as; Bushi Te, To Te, Tui Te, Tori Te, Kara Te, and others.  However, Te did not refer just to the ‘hand’ which is one of its literal translation.  It has a much deeper meaning.  To look at the term from the Japanese/Okinawan point of view reveals that Te means not only hand, but also; arm, help, trick, skill, control, and person.  So Jute can mean many things.  It can mean; to give gentle help, to perform a gentle trick as in self defense, to have gentle skill, to exercise gentle control, or simply, to be a gentle person.  It is easy to see that Te has a much more complete meaning than most people even suspect.  To the Okinawans, Te referred to the complete person, thus when they coined the phrase Karate for their martial art, what they meant was not just ‘empty hand’, but a ‘person who was empty of ego’.  To the Kiyojute Ryu Kempoka, Jute means that their skill is one of gentleness, used to gently help others, and to help them achieve the ultimate goal of being a gentle person.  The tricks of self defense are so that the Kempoka can, as gently as possible stop an attack, without unnecessarily hurting the assailant.


My absolute favorite translation of the entire phrase, Kiyojute, using the depth of the meanings of the individual Kanji, is ‘spiritually positive, gentle person’.  This is the goal of our training, this is what our Kempoka are striving to become, ‘spiritually positive, gentle person’.  If we accomplish this objective, then we will have achieved a life that is pleasing to God and reflects that of Jesus Christ, or that of any of the religious leaders or prophets who have represented God over the span of creation.


Thus Kiyojute has a deep philosophical meaning that is the quest of the Kempo practitioner.  Simply put, Kiyojute can mean, ‘the spirit of the divine man, gentle hand’ or as above, ‘spiritually positive, gentle person’, but to the Kiyojute Ryu Kempoka, it stands for God’s spirit in this world used to create a positive, loving, and gentle person.  This is what makes Kiyojute worthy of being a Ryu.  Just as the masters of the past established the names of their systems to explain their way of thought and to capsulize their philosophy, so too I established this phrase as the way (Do), art (Jutsu), and law (Ho) of my system, now and forevermore.  Kiyojute Ryu Kempo Bugei is the fruit of my life’s work and the meaning of my existence.  I hope more than anything else, that this statement of my philosophy will show once and for all the oneness of the philosophies of the world, so that all mankind can live in harmony and peace together.  This was the original goal of all the great masters of philosophy, religion, and true martial arts.  Lao Tzu, Buddha, Bodhidharma, Sokei Eno, Kempo Osho, Dogen, Jesus Christ, John, Jigoro Kano, Morihei Ueshiba, Gichin Funakoshi, Michiomi Nakano, and others too numerous to mention, all sought to bring a message of unity and peace to mankind.  In my martial arts I seek to restate that same message for the benefit of my students and hopefully for the world.  Let those who read these words go in peace and seek to live the life of Kiyojute that they might be; spiritually positive, gentle people.

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