Ryu means “flowing water” — but it also means “style” or “school of thought” and specifically is used to styles of martial arts. In addition, it has a more significant message for us about the need to both stay true to our ideals and to learn to evolve our core beliefs and continue to keep them healthy and vibrant.
Ryu is pronounced “roo” or “y-oo”
One of the key concerns for any martial art is the transmission of knowledge — the experiences, skills, processes, and wisdom that make up the art — to future generations of teachers and keepers of that art. In most traditional martial arts, the only way to do this is to train students well, and then choose those among the students that are best-trained and most-skilled, and most-dedicated and passionate, to perpetuate the art.
However, one of the key concerns in doing this is that the information “flow” correctly to the next generation of teachers. The core concepts that make up the martial art must be correctly preserved and nurtured by the next generation, and this “flow” is very important. Inherent in the notion of “flowing” is that the information flows away, and is subject to being mis-remembered or corrupted in some other fashion.
On the other hand, if the flow is too stagnant — if the new generation is locked into robotically following what they were taught by their teachers — then the art itself stagnates. For a martial art to survive, it must also adapt, grow, and evolve to assimilate new information and to live in a new world.
It is for this reason that schools of martial arts are called Ryu. Flowing rivers perfectly exemplify the need to both be pure and consistent in carrying forward the knowledge of the school while at the same time to move and adapt and reshape itself to continue to stay alive and vibrant.
But just as a school must be a Ryu, so also must the student. It is important for us to also nurture our core beliefs and knowledge so that we continue to be true to them in our daily lives. But it is also important for us to grow, evolve, and keep our core beliefs dynamic and current with our lives and the changing world in which we live.