Ellis Amdur is a licensed instructor in two koryu (classical Japanese martial traditions), the Araki-ryu torite-kogusoku and the Toda-ha Buko-ryu. (Click links in this text if you wish to get more specific information on these two arts).
The Araki-ryu is believed to have been founded by Araki Muninsai ( or Mujinsai) Minamoto no Hidetsuna (荒木夢仁斎源秀縄) in the last years of the Warring States era in Japan. The ryu was quite widespread at one time, well-known for its rough-hewn techniques, the provenance of ordinary foot-soldiers and at a later period of history, low ranking samurai/farmers.
Each faction of Araki-ryu created different weapons kata, influenced by other ryu in the same locale, and also adapting to local conditions in strictly utilitarian fashion. In some areas, there were two or more factions within the same town. What unified Araki-ryu was not a familial headmaster- it was a core body of techniques using weapons at close range. Araki-ryu is, in essence, grappling with weapons.
The line of Araki-ryu torite-kogusoku which I maintain is the product of almost half a century of study. My instructor – who previously had substantial experience in judo, kick boxing, Shorinji Kenpo and other martial arts – studied with the seven surviving shihan of Isezaki Araki-ryu. These seven men, although very collegial, practiced several related, but distinct lines of the ryu. After receiving the highest level license – zekkoku menkyo – my instructor sought out other surviving factions of the ryu, as well as teachers of several lines of Araki Shin-ryu, learning from them as well: not to receive further certification, but rather, to flesh out his knowledge of this old school. Within the confines of his own dojo, he led his students through rigorous pressure testing, examining the kata to ascertain if they truly would teach a fighter to function at optimum capability using the core principles of the ryu. Kata were scrapped, carved up or reworked – paring and reshaping unnecessary, inefficient or flashy moves in an attempt to return to a ferocious, raw way of exerting martial skill.
After returning to America, I have continued in the same vein. I have cross-trained in a number of different martial arts, and has been fortunate to have students who are high level practitioners of other arts willing to work with me to further pressure test and hone the curriculum. My dojo and its subsidiaries are independent of any other Araki-ryu organization.
The Toda-ha Buko-ryu is a martial tradition which specializes in the use of the naginata. Its highest teachings center around the kagitsuki naginata, a weapon with a small cross-bar, against both sword and spear.
Toda-ha Buko-ryu has its roots in the Toda-ryu, founded by Toda Seigen (富田勢源) in the later years of the Warring States era in Japan. Toda-ryu became an enormously influential school throughout the Edo period, and up into modern times. Among ryu which developed from Toda-ryu are Itto-ryu kenjutsu (the primary influence on modern kendo), Kiraku-ryu jujutsu, Saburi-ryu sojutsu, and, of course, Toda-ha Buko-ryu.
Toda-ryu was adopted by the Suneya family in the mountainous Chichibu region. Among other weapons, the clan apparently focused on the naginata, and its study, over many generations, was known as Suneya-kei naginatajutsu. In the mid-1800’s, Suneya Ryosuke and his wife Suneya Satoo initiated a renaissance of the naginata. This became the Toda-ha Buko-ryu.
Toda-ha Buko-ryu is currently under the direction of soke-dairi, Kent Sorensen, also head of Toda-ha Buko-ryu’s core dojo, the Nakano Dojo in Tokyo Japan. Sorensen sensei is supported by a number of shihan (fully licensed instructors) throughout the world.