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Kyu-Shin-Do and Zen Judo

Kenshiro Abbe, The Kyu-Shin-Do and Zen Judo by Keo Cavalcanti 6th Dan Zen Judo   

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The Kyu-Shin-Do

Abbe was greatly concerned with the modern trend toward materialism. It was to counter this lack of spiritual interest that he blended ancient Japanese philosophy and Martial Arts, creating the Kyu-Shin-Do. For the Kyu-Shin-Do Judo syllabus Abbe used the same system that he learned at the Butokukai, which explains why the Kyu-Shin-Do syllabus and the Zen Judo syllabus (which is derived from the Kyu-Shin-Do) are different from the Kodokan syllabus. Some of our throws do not appear in the Kodokan Gokyo no waza and the order of throws in the Kodokan Gokyo is very different from the one in our syllabus.

The Kyu-Shin-Do is a specific Budo system where Kyu means to study, to seek; Shin means the heart, the spirit, the true inner nature, the central law or nexus point of life; and Do means the way or path, in the sense of a journey involving one''s whole life - a way of life or self-discipline. The whole system is based on three fundamental principles:

Bambutsu Ruten - all things existing in the universe turn in a constant state of flux. All thing in the universe undergo a succession of change.

Ritsudo - This motion is rhythmic and smooth, a flowing movement.

Chowa - All things act, flow, work in a perfect accord (wa) or harmony.

One can see in Abbe''s principles the influences of both Taoism, Buddhism and also Sensei Ueshiba''s Aikido, especially in his third principle which emphasize perfect accord and harmony. For Kenshiro the universe revolves and therefore always keeps in perfect balance. All motion in the universe may be resolved, basically in a series of circular movements. It is only by applying this fundamental principle of motion and avoiding stiff angular stances that we can achieve the best in Judo. Kyu-Shin-Do starts from a relaxed posture, namely perfect relaxation of mind and body. Its actions are gentle,soft, quick and safe because they spring from a relaxed mind and body.

Why is it important to understand the origins of the Kyu-Shin-Do? Because it was at a Kyu-Shin-Do dojo that Shihan (founder) Dominick Mac McCarthy, the founder of Zen Judo, took his first Judo lessons. It was at a Kyu-Shin-Do dojo that he was awarded his Shodan rank. Some of his family still maintains those connections - Mac''s oldest son, Rick McCarthy, still holds a high rank with the Kyu-Shin-Do organization. Furthermore, it is through the Kyu-Shin-Do that Zen Judo is connected to the Japanese origins of our art. Which makes the Zen Judo family highly indebted to Shihan Kenshiro Abbe for bringing Butokukai Judo to the West.

As far as I can tell the Kyu-Shin-Do and the Zen Judo family are the only two groups in the West that practice Judo in the Butokukai style. The rest of the world has adopted Kodokan Judo. So we are the keepers of that system in the West. We are responsible for its preservation and perpetuation. We inherited Abbe''s system in Zen Judo when Mac chose to continue to use the Kyu-Shin-Do syllabus. And all Zen Judo Sensei contribute to its preservation when we commit ourselves to perpetuating the syllabus by promising to uphold its integrity and to pass it on to our students as it was taught to us. We all make such a promise when we awarded our black belts.


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