The first martial art I practiced for an extended length of time (1989-2005) was a self-defense oriented form of modern jujutsu that was developed in New York City and called Kaze Arashi Ryu. The art was a mixture of Karatedo, Shorinji Kempo, Judo and Aikido with techniques drawn from Danzan-ryu Jujutsu, Sosuishi-ryu Jujutsu and Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu created in the 1970's. In 2012, I wrote a summary article of my conclusions about the art's history so people interested in training in it could be properly informed:
More details can be found on The E-Budo Forum. I have kept this article online in case it is helpful to others.
Below I am providing some thoughts from 2014 that I resurrected from Disqus comments I had put on an earlier version of this post.
Analysis of Technique
It is interesting to watch footage of Vilaire over a period of twenty years -- first in 1986, then in 1996, and finally in 2004. In 1986, he is demonstrating portions of his aiki-jujutsu syllabus: any technique from any punch, and combinations of various techniques (for example, performing kote gaeshi while executing a leg sweep). He is trying to be clear on the tape, but it comes off as: block, wait a second, cross block, wait a second, start technique, wait a second, finish technique. Someone could very easily move during those pauses and get out of what he is trying to do. He doesn't use any real good "kuzushi" or blending or "aiki" or anything subtle at all. All in all, his ability level at that time is not any better than any of his current students at mokuroku level, and the way he moves is very similar to the choppiness I have seen on video of other "Made in NYC" jujutsu arts.
Flash forward ten years to 1996, and he is actually quite impressive to watch. He blocks very quickly, and gets his uke off-balance very soon after initial contact. At times his throws happen (irimi nage especially) so quickly it is hard to see any actual throwing motion. This was against a big guy, coming at him fast, so there is a lot of momentum to work with, but it is still impressive to see him bounce someone off his structure. So, his skill dramatically improved in the ten years between 86 and 96. This may be related to the qigong teacher who visited our school on Friday nights for a while, or may be a purely external (waijia) development. Whatever the source of his improvement, I can see why we all put so much faith in his teachings at the time. But, then, listening to the audio track, what starts creeping in is the verbal montage which does not quite make sense. Lessons go on and on talking about "the medieval battlefield" and wind up sounding like something out of a movie or a bad dream -- even while practicing empty hand kempo techniques, students are told they are designed for use on the battlefield.
Then in 2004-2005, we see Kaze Arashi Ryu becoming much more focused on samurai-styled weapons techniques, attempting to blend their practice with its jujutsu-based art. A seminar is spent teaching the use of a naginata in one hand and a katana in the other. Another seminar is spent attempting to integrate turning and projecting movements against a person while the defender is armed with a short sword and being attacked with a short sword. Leaving aside the question of why one would do this, there are numerous gaps in the timing of the execution of the techniques -- stops and starts, just like in 1986, that lead me to believe they were being reasoned out as they were being taught (and that maybe the earlier syllabus was in fact as well). Another seminar is spent learning an entirely new syllabus of eighty joint locks and throws performed against two attackers, much in the spirit of Hakko-ryu or Daito-ryu -- also done with fits and starts.
So, the question to me became how to reconcile the grace and power of our instructor's basic techniques with the choppiness of his later performances. Factoring in the strange reasons put forward to support the existence of each kata, I now believe the lessons offered to us were often invented that very day, extemporaneously. The question then, for me, became how to isolate the wheat from the chaff -- as the core art remained a solid grounding in locking, throwing, and striking. I believe to have resolved that conundrum over time, but only by abandoning a large swath of what I had learned.
Some additional data might be useful. KAR was taught in Jackson Heights, NY by Henri Robert Vilaire and his students from 1979 onward. That would put Vilaire at 24 years of age when he began teaching, as he was 34 when I began training in 1989. Another local jujutsu teacher, who had trained in Miyama-ryu under its founder and then Bernie Lau (Icho Yama Ryu), Yonezawa Kasumi (Daito Ryu), and Roland Marotaux (Takeda-ryu) was Miguel Ibarra, who mentions on e-budo in 2004 that Vilaire had a black belt in jujutsu from a student of Miyama-ryu who started his own group. This correlates mostly with what I learned from Lou Bravo and describe in my article on KAR above, about Hoteikan Ryu in the Bronx. Ibarra stated on e-budo that Tony Annise of Massachusetts knew Vilaire first. Ibarra studied with Yonezawa Katsumi in Daito-ryu around 1982 (i.e., after KAR was being taught) and did not know him from those seminars. An open question I have had is whether Vilaire incorporated Daito-ryu waza from the seminars Yonezawa Katsumi taught, but my current theory is that KAR "aiki" is largely early post-war Aikido techniques. Many of the hard throws I learned in KAR that were not standard Aikido waza can be found either in books on Yoshinkan Aikido, or when I spoke to a student of Koichi Tohei, remembered as techniques practiced in the 1950's and 1960's that were later dropped from the common curriculum. So, it is is most likely that KAR "aiki-jujutsu" comes from Vilaire cross training in Aikikai and/or Yoshinkai Aikido after he learned the core of his jujutsu and kempo.