For those studying Jodo in Tokyo when Shimizu Sensei died a Diaspora type of event took place. In-fighting and petty politics between Shimizu's senior students created factions. Westerners had to make painful choices as to which dojo and teacher they would associate with.
Two of us, my sempai (senior in Jodo) Bruce Brown and I chose Kaminoda Sensei and his colleague Osato Sensei. We continued to train at the Zoshyukan, a rented space across the way from where Shimizu Sensei had lived. The dojo space had a very nice feeling to it, even for a contemporary structure.
Perhaps naively we hoped that a reconciliation of sorts could be forged and the contentious atmosphere between rival teachers would abate. Although "blessed" by Shimizu Sensei before his death, the Zoshyukan never replaced the Rembukan as a home dojo for Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo in the Tokyo/Kanto area. Efforts to do so were blocked by Kaminoda Sensei. Eventually I would serve as Kaminoda Sensei's first and only North American "Shibucho". Mr. Kaminoda didn't like to travel abroad and down deep he shared an opinion that many Japanese have that Westerners could never truly get budo. This is despite the fact that Draeger was his brother deshi under Shimizu Sensei. Despite a 25 year hiatus, Mr. Kaminoda came to visit my dojo at my invitation each year from 1994 thru 2000. Today there are those that say that they are his direct students or that Kaminoda S. came to the U.S.A. of his own volition. This is false.
Times change. Adapting to economic pressures within Japan many dojo have decided upon adjusting standards and redefining themselves as "Sports Clubs" in an effort to attract and retain new students. Coupled with a relaxation of the criteria for granting makimono, classical scrolls in order to increase revenue and an increased emphasis on revenue-earning "events" the atmosphere of the dojo and the nature of the folks studying changed too. The breakdown of the makimono (classical grading) system and the rise of umbrella organizations such as the Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei (Now AJKF) have altered the face of modern budo. Some changes can be embraced and depending upon your view, some changes are sad.
Although we at the Rembukan understand these developments, it would not be in keeping with our stated goals to accept these kinds of changes here. Suffice it to say that despite our best efforts to communicate our concerns over some of the decisions made at the Zoshyukan, I decided to resign as "Shibucho".
Kaminoda Sensei and I had a relationship spanning many decades. I first met him in 1974. This history can never be ignored though there are those who would love to rewrite it to their purposes. Today we are not actively involved with the Nihon Jodokai. Fortunately we have many excellent relationships with very capable teachers who work hard to improve our skill sets.
Despite my own long tenure and personal relationships with my Jo seniors and dojo mates I invited our entire dojo membership to discuss and contribute to the direction our dojo should take henceforth. After all the decision would have a profound effect upon them as well. In short, my decision to withdraw was not made lightly or out of a private grievance. The vote was unanimously made after ten of our number went to Japan in November, 2007 to train and to determine whether any positive way forward could be made that reconciled our own dojo goals with those of the Nihon Jodokai. After this protracted effort to find solutions to changes beyond our control, the membership determined that it was in our best interest to stand away from the current affairs of the Zoshyukan and the Nihon Jodokai.
It was difficult to watch so many changes take place within my own (formal) dojo of the last thirty years. I've seen many excellent people leave the Zoshyukan Dojo, questionable lapses in financial accountability and the wholesale destruction of a classical makimono system. I came to learn that there is a tremendous difference between the human characters of a Shimizu, Takaji as a "Meiji" man and a
"Meijin" and those that followed him that would be raised in the generation of Showa.
Eventually activities within the Nihon Jodokai would be at odds with the very reasoning for establishing the Rembukan Dojo here. In all good conscience I could not endorse these changes and use the dojo as a platform for collecting large numbers of Western students for the purpose of generating revenues or promoting a cult of a single personality. Nor could I promote training of beginners in Isshin Ryu as a marketing tool or work to create a hollow legacy based upon numbers rather than quality.There is a silent rule within older traditions that the "dirty laundry" is not aired in public. I hope that I've drawn the line ethically with my statements. Let me simply say that anyone who shared the mat with Shimizu Sensei sensed a level of commitment to "do it right and devoid of the pursuit of self-aggrandizement.
For me as an impressionable young man, these are the experiences for which I am most grateful. They were life changing. I'd add that in rereading this many years after it was penned that in retrospect departing the dysfunction of the Nihon Jodokai was one of the best choices that could've been made. Sometimes a little history and a little perspective is needed.