Koryu Bujutsu as a Transformative Learning Experience


  • Ron Mottern Ashford University


koryu bujutsu, transformative learning, Katori Shinto-ryu, swordsmanship


The purpose of this study is to examine koryu bujutsu, primarily through the lens of Japanese swordsmanship, as a transformative learning experience through the archival study of 1) the scant information available to outsiders on the teaching scroll of the Katori Shinto-ryu as part of an obscure pedagogical tradition that is sensitive to facilitating learning through egalitarian instruction and acknowledgement of different types of learners, and 2) other historical texts on Japanese swordsmanship.  The study provides insights into the transformational states achievable through educational experiences.  A considerable amount of information on the Katori Shinto-ryu, specifically, will be presented as a means to understand koryu bujutsu, generally, and how koryu has survived into the modern age. While this study is not limited to Katori Shinto-ryu, it is used as a representative model of the workings of a koryu. 

Author Biography

Ron Mottern, Ashford University

Dr. Mottern is Associate Faculty at Ashord University, College of Health, Human Services, and Science, Department of Psychology.  He teaches in the Master of Arts in Psychology Program.


Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2004). Evolution of a constructivist conceptualization of epistemological reflection. Educational Psychologist, 39(1), 31-42.

Cranton, P., & Roy, M. (2003). When the bottom falls out of the bucket: Toward a holistic perspective of transformative learning. Journal of Transformative Education, 1(2), 87.

Csikszentmihayli, M. (1997). Finding flow in everyday life. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Dirkx, J. M. (1998). Transformative learning theory in the practice of adult education: An overview. PAACE Journal of Lifelong Learning, 7(1), 1-14.

Draeger, D. F. (1976). Ranking systems in modern Japanese martial arts: Modern vs. classical. Retrieved from http://judoinfo.com/ranks.htm

Draeger, D. F. (1974). Modern bujutsu and budo. New York, NY: Weatherhill.

Friday, K. (2005). Once and future warriors: The samurai in Japanese history. Retrieved from


Gonzales, O. (2011, October 18). Katori Shinto Ryu [video file]. Retrieved from


Green, T. A. (2010) Invented traditions. In T. A. Green, & J. R. Svinth (Eds.), Martial arts of the world: An encyclopedia of history and innovation (Vol. 2, pp.428-434). Denver, CO: ABC-CLIO.

Harris, V. (1974). A book of five rings. Woodstock, NY: Overlook.

Hoggan, C., & Cranton, P. (2015). Promoting Transformative Learning through reading fiction. Journal of Transformative Education, 13(1), 6-25.

Jennings, G. B. (2010). Fighters, thinkers and shared cultivation: Experiencing transformation through the lon-term practice of traditionalist Chinese martial arts (Doctoral dissertation). University of Exeter, UK. Retrieved from


Kotler, S., & Wheal, J. (2017). Stealing fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and maverick scientists are revolutionizing the way we live and work. [Kindle for Android version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

Light, R. L., & Kentel, J. A. (2015). Mushin: Learning in technique-intensive sports as a processof uniting mind and body through complex learning theory. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 20(4), 381-396.

Löwel, S., & Singer, W. (1992). Selection of intrinsic horizontal connections in the visual cortexby correlated neuronal activity. Science, 255(5041), 209-212.

Mezirow, J. (2000). “Learning to think like an adult: Core concepts of transformation theory.” In J. Mezirow and Associates, Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mezirow, J. (1990). How critical reflection triggers transformative learning. In J. Mezirow and Associates, Fostering critical reflection in adulthood (pp. 1-20). Retrieved from's%20chapter,%20How%20Critical%20Refletion%20Triggers%20TL.pdf

Nakamura, J, & Csikszentmihayli, M. (2002). The concept of flow. The Handbook of PositivePsychology, 89-105. Retrieved from http://nuovoeutile.it/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/2002-Flow.pdf

Nitobe, I. (1905). Bushido, the soul of Japan: An exposition of Japanese thought. Retrieved from


Otake, R. (2016). Strategy and the art of peace: Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto-ryu. (D. Lee, Trans.). Tokyo, Japan: Nippon Budokan.

Otake, R. (2007). Katori Shinto-ryu: Warrior tradition. (D. Lee, Trans.). Berkley Heights, NJ: Koryu Books.

Rafolt, L. (2014). Ritual formalism of the Japanese koryu budo: A socio-anthropological approach. 7th International Conference on Kinesiology, Opatija, Croatia, 540-543. Retrieved from http://bib.irb.hr/datoteka/717811.698009.Konferencija-zbornik-2014.pdf#page=540

Reguli, Z., Vit, M., & Cihounkova, J. (2016). Is dojo the spiritual place in aikido? Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Zdenko_Reguli/publication/308753677_Is_dojo_the_spiritual_place_in_aikido/links/57f24aba08ae280dd0b517c4.pdf

Roberts-Thomson, S. (2014). The promise and the peril of martial arts. In G. Priest, & D. Young (Eds.), Philosophy and the martial arts: Engagement (pp. 13-27). New York, NY: Routledge.

Sato, H. (1985). The sword and the mind. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble.

Sugino, Y., & Ito, K. (2007). Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu budo kyohan. Kawasaki, Japan:Sugino Dojo.

Suler, J. R. (1989). Paradox in psychological transformations: The Zen koan and psychotherapy. Psychologia, 32, 221-229.

Taylor, E. W. (2007). An update of transformative learning theory: a critical review of the empirical research. International Journal of Lifelong Learning, 26(2), 173-191.

Taylor, E. W. (2008). Transformative learning theory. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 119, 5-15.

Taylor, E. W. (1998). The theory and practice of transformative learning: A critical review (Information Series No. 374). Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED423427)

Tokitsu, K. (2004). Miyamoto Musashi: His life and writings. (S. C. Kohn, Trans.). Boston, MA: Shambala.

Wilson, W. S. (2006). The demon’s sermon on the martial arts and other tales. Tokyo, Japan: Kodansha.

Wilson, W. S. (1982). Ideals of the samurai: Writings of Japanese warriors. Santa Clarita, CA: Ohara Publications.






Research Articles