3/01/2008 3:43pm, #1
- Join Date
- Mar 2008
Is Soke Joe Miller Another Ashida Kim?
While aimlessly browsing Kendo videos on YouTube, I came across a video of a couple of guys doing really bad Kendo (if you can even call it that). In any case, I decided to read a few of the comments to see what others had to say about the video and I read a comment *claiming* that a sensei named Ronald Gotlin was believed to be a fraud. Having never heard of this particular sensei I decided to look into the matter to see if there was any information available that could substantiate this claim. While attempting to locate information about Mr. Gotlin, I came across a forum at Kendo-World.com (http://www.kendo-world.com/forum/showthread.php?t=14125) questioning the credentials of a sensei that goes by the name Soke Joe Miller.
Apparently, Soke Miller posted a couple of videos on YouTube in which he demonstrates various Kendo and Iaido techniques and katas. The manner in which Soke Miller went about demonstrating said techniques and katas raised a few questions about his expertise and members of the martial arts community (at least those from Kendo World, as far as I know) posted comments expressing their concerns. Shortly thereafter comments for at least one of the videos was disabled before the subsequent removal of both videos. And when I say ďshortly thereafterĒ I donít mean a few months or a couple of weeks later, I mean hours. The thread at Kendo-World.com was started at 5:21 a.m. on April 21, 2007 and almost exactly 6 hours later at 11:17 a.m. a member posts a message stating that the Kendo video is no longer up. Later that afternoon, someone posted a message stating that comments for the Iaido video had been disabled.
**Note: Just above the message stating the Kendo video is no longer up is the message referencing Ronald Gotlin that led me there in the first place.
In any case, the URLs for both of the aforementioned videos are listed in the Kendo-World thread (though bear in mind they have been removed) along with comments from those who saw them. Also listed in the thread are links to a couple of websites; one that appears to be a personal site owned and maintained by Soke Miller himself (http://www.taizanryu.com/index.php) and another page that looks to be that of his dojo in Puerto Rico (http://www.jujutsupr.com/index.html). According to both websites, Soke Millerís expertise is quite extensive as he spent at least 18 years in Japan studying 12 martial arts disciplines, one of which is Kendo.
I, along with other members of the Kendo-World community, noticed several inconsistencies regarding Soke Millerís Kendo expertise on the website for his Puerto Rican dojo. Below is a link to the Kendo photo gallery located on the dojo website. Once the page loads, you will need to click the image that appears at which point a new window will open that will allow you to view the images as a slideshow.
The first image that appears shows a somewhat overweight kenshi standing next to his sensei. As noted by one of the Kendo-World members, the student appears to have his hakama on backwards. Hakamas have seven distinct pleats or folds on them; each one representing a virtue (though I donít remember them). Two of the pleats are on the back of the hakama and orginate from the middle while the remaining five are on the front; two on the right and three on the left (from the wearerís perspective). From our perspective, there should be three pleats on the right and two on the left, however, there appear to be only two pleats on the hakama and they appear to originate from the middle.
The second picture in the slideshow shows three students preparing for what Iím guessing is an Iaido demonstration using bokkens or bokutos rather than iaitos or shinkens. By the way, thereís absolutely nothing wrong with using bokkens initially and, in fact, itís standard for beginners. (Just wanted to make that clear in case anyone thought that I was making that a point of contention.) While it appears that the individual on the right might also have his hakama on backwards, thatís not the major issue here. The problem with this picture is that all three students are holding their bokkens with the blade facing downward. Anyone who has even the slightest bit of knowledge about Kendo or Iaido, though especially someone who studied both arts in Japan, would know or should know that the blade should always be facing upward when sheathed. While there are katas/styles in which this is not the case, for the most part this is the rule.
The third picture shows two people who appear to be demonstrating kote-uchi, an exercise in which one person strikes the wrist of his partner a set number times (usually 3 or 5). This exercise is always done by striking the personís right wrist. The reason for this is that the rules state that you can only strike the left wrist when it is in a raised position above the shoulders (i.e. when your opponent is fighting out of jodan no kamae). Also, even in the event you could strike your opponentís left wrist from chudan no kamae, the right wrist is the closest and easiest target as the left wrist would be all but impossible to hit. Here, one can see that the left wrist is being hit instead of the right wrist which violates not only the ďrulesĒ of the exercise itself but also the rules set forth by all the governing bodies. Also, you NEVER remove your hand from the handle of the shinai and hold it out for the other person to hit. You are to simply give up the center by moving the tip of the shinai to your left thereby creating an opening for the other person.
The fifth, sixth and seventh pictures show both kenshi sparring openly. The issue here is a serious one as it concerns safety. The tip of a shinai is covered with a cylindrical leather piece called a saki-gawa that holds the ends of the bamboo in place thereby keeping each of the four slats in there respective places. About 12-15 inches from the saki-gawa is a leather strip called the naka-yui that wraps around the slats and keeps them in place when striking. The distance between the saki-gawa and the naka-yui is the area of the shinai that you are supposed to strike with and both, along with the handle (tsuka), are secured tightly with a string (tsuru). In the three aforementioned pictures you can see that the person on the left has his/her naka-yui less than an inch away from the saki-gawa. This is EXTREMELY dangerous as the saki-gawa could potentially come off and one of the slats (or a splinter from one) could go right through the grill (men-gane) and pierce someoneís eye.
Furthermore, the website for Soke Millerís Puerto Rican dojo claims that it is a member of the All United States Kendo Federation (AUSKF). However, in order to be a member of the AUSKF a dojo must belong to an AUSKF regional federation and the AUSKFís website doesnít show that there are any registered regional Kendo federations in Puerto Rico. As the link on the dojoís page is labeled ĎAll United States Kendo Federationí, one would expect that clicking it would take you to the AUSKFís website. Instead, it takes you to the website for the Gulf Coast Kendo Dojo (http://www.gulfcoastkendo.com/index.htm) based out of Sarasota, FL with a branch in Brandon, FL. This dojo is a member of a regional federation registered with the AUSKF and is therefore an AUSKF member. However, after a search of the Gulf Coast Kendo Dojoís website I was unable to find any mention whatsoever of anyone by the name of Soke Joe Miller. There was also no link to any of his dojos on the Links page nor was his name listed on the Members page. This causes one to wonder whether or not the members of Gulf Coast Kendo Dojo are aware that Soke Miller is claiming to be affiliated with their dojo.
I realize this is a bit long winded but PLEASE walk with me just a little while longer. Things get even more interesting. On Soke Millerís personal website (http://www.taizanryu.com/index.php) there is a Testimonials page where several people have apparently left kind words that are to act as a testament to Soke Millerís expertise. The testimonials listed on the page range from absurd to laughable to down right disgusting. Below is a snippet from a testimonial left by a Wayne Ledbetter on June 23, 2006 that was also listed in the Kendo-World thread:
I am sure you remember about my medical issue of bleeding from my rectal area, which was caused from the treatment of my heart attack. The medication for the heart attack acted as a diuretic and my body became dehydrated. This caused a tear on my bottom and the tear has been bleeding constantly on and off since February 2006.
Well, I was scheduled for an operation that involved cutting vital muscles and sewing parts of my back end; something I have been trying to put off hoping it would heal. However, all western medicine and medical advice was pointing me to the operating room for June the 16, just a week after you left here for home.
Fortunately for me, while you were here you worked on my meridian lines in the area of my bottom; it actually felt like you were giving me a lower back massage. However, to my surprise and the surprise of the surgeon, I stopped bleeding two days after your therapy! The surgeon cannot explain this fact and I certainly had not changed anything in my daily routine. Yet after four months of bleeding, Percocet pain pills, hours of soaking in a bathtub filled with hot water and Epson salt (western medical treatments), all came to a halt after you worked your magic on me.
According to Soke Millerís website, he has two dojos in NJ, one in CA, one in FL and one in Puerto Rico. As it turns out, the CA dojo is in Glendale, CA, which is less than 10 minutes from me and it also happens to be the dojo that Soke Miller trains at. As the website invites you to drop by I decided to look up the address on Yahoo! Maps so I could drop by and attempt to verify the information Iíve gathered. Strangely, when I searched the address in Yahoo! Maps I received a message stating ďThe exact location could not be found.Ē Thinking this might just be a Yahoo! problem I decided to try Mapquest but received a similar response. Further browsing revealed the only dojo on Soke Millerís website that had a valid address, if any, listed was the dojo in Mary Esther, FL. I also noticed that the only dojo listed on Soke Millerís website that actually had a website of its own was the Senshi-Tori Dojo (http://www.senshitori.com/index.html) and even then I had to do a separate Google search to locate the page. **Note: Google searches for the other dojos simply returned Soke Millerís personal website.
According to information on both websites, Soke Miller also holds the rank of 9th Degree Menkyo Kaiden San Dai Kichu Shihan in the Hakkoryu Jyu-Jitsu System of Japan. However, as a member of the Kendo-World community pointed out, there were only seven westerners with that title as of 2004 and Soke Miller was not among those listed.
While Iím certainly no expert in any field of martial arts, I find Soke Miller to be a highly suspicious individual whose credentials are dubious at best, especially those pertaining to Kendo. The reason I focused primarily on Kendo and Iaido is because those are the martial arts I practice and, in all fairness to Mr. Miller, I would rather not speak on things I know nothing about. That does not mean, however, that I cannot attempt to verify information I find questionable. That being said, I will now explain the reason for my post.
Upon being made aware of the aforementioned YouTube videos that were supposedly deleted by Soke Miller, I decided to see if I could find other videos in which Soke Miller demonstrates his technical ďexpertiseĒ. I was able to successfully locate a YouTube profile named Ďsokemillerí (http://youtube.com/user/sokemiller) and on it were several videos that appear to star none other than Soke Miller himself. In order to verify the claims of disabled comments and deleted videos made by the Kendo-World community, Iíve decided it would be best to post a few comments on the remaining videos referencing the Kendo-World thread to see if the same action is taken. Before doing so, though, I wanted to post this thread for two reasons:
(1) In the event comments are disabled and the videos removed, it can be verified that there were in fact comments questioning Soke Millerís credentials and that any action taken was the result of those comments. This should prevent any he said/she said regarding what I did and what the YouTube user did.
(2) I would like to politely request that any practitioners of the other arts Soke Miller claims to have expertise in please review the above information, view his websites and verify whatever information you can. Anyone with knowledge that may be helpful is also welcome to contribute. If I am wrong to question Soke Millerís credentials I am prepared to admit it and leave the issue be. If, on the other hand, there is reason to question Soke Millerís credentials I would like to be sure that the information I have is solid.
Any further suggestions about how to best go about this matter are welcome as well. Thanks!
3/01/2008 6:06pm, #2
- Join Date
- Apr 2007
- Doncaster UK
This webpage http://www.hakkoryu.com/display/dsp_...m?page=history states that Hakko ryu goes up to yondan (4th level) and no further.
Yondan (fourth degree), which also correspond with the black belt level a disciple holds. There are no higher Dan ranks awarded in Hakkoryu.9th Degree Menkyo Kaiden San Dai Kichu Shihan in the Hakkoryu Jyu-Jitsu System of Japan.
One's attitude, approach, contributions, and appreciation for subtleties are all reviewed. Especially with non-Japanese disciples, at whatever level they may have attained in Hakkoryu, it is best and appropriate to always consider oneself as simply a guest of Hakkoryu. The seeking of personal power, fame, and fortune is counter to the spirit of Hakkoryu.Should a disciple complete the Shihan Jikiden and pass an examination given before a gathering of Hakkoryu Shihan, he/she is given the Makimono/Densho (hand scroll) for Shihan, the Hakkoryu Hombu certificate of Shihan training, the Menkyo (teaching license), and is awarded a Hakkoryu Hombu purple belt, the Imperial color of Japan.
Beyond Shihan Jikiden, should one be invited by Nidai Soke, are the even more advanced teachings of Kaiden Shihan (Master Instructor of the Deepest Mysteries) and Kaiden Shihan Sandaikichu (Master Instructor of the Deepest Mysteries and the Three Great Foundation Pillars). Training in these arts requires sustained or repeated residences at Hombu Dojo, and again, is taught privately by Nidai Soke. Also, should a Shihan or above wish to have a review of any Menkyo level provided by the Soke, this is available. Upon completion of such review, one is given a Renshi (Polished Master) designation, which must be renewed yearly to remain active.
As a final note
Unlike most systems of self-protection, Hakkoryu does not engage in any sports-like activity whatsoever. Sports pit one adversary against another under defined rules to determine who scores the most points, and then gives the victor an award. The purpose of Hakkoryu is not to determine the relative merits between individuals, but rather to improve one's knowledge, ability, and understanding of self and public protection consistent with physical and mental health. Sports have no place in Hakkoryu.Shodai Soke, and now Nidai Soke, has made it clear that practitioners of Hakkoryu should study and practice only Hakkoryu. Those wishing to study other arts are asked to leave Hakkoryu. Hakkoryu earns and demands total loyalty from its exponents in good standing.
Last edited by Bran Lydster; 3/01/2008 6:08pm at .
3/02/2008 1:41am, #3
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- Nov 2007
This is also on the Hakko-ryu site:
Originally Posted by http://www.hakkoryu.com
3/22/2008 2:21am, #4
- Join Date
- Mar 2008
Let's See What Happens
According to the Hakkoryu site they make clear in no uncertain terms that they don't respond to general inquiries so I decided not to send an email inquiring about Soke Miller. My research into the matter was somewhat thorough (at least that's my opinion) and as there have been no further replies I assume there's not a lot of room debate. In light of that fact I recently posted comments on the following Soke Miller YouTube videos about a half hour ago.
In my comments I referenced this post and stated that removal of the videos and/or the disabling of comments would confirm claims of fraud. Let's what happens.
9/28/2008 11:48pm, #5
- Join Date
- Sep 2008
My father was trained by Nidai Soke Toshio Okuyama, and was given permission to form his own system, which he definately takes ownership for formulating. His Kendo, may not be his strongest asset, however he was trained by YOSHIJI OKUYAMA. Are you familiar with his techniques? I have some old VHS from when we used to live in Japan, while my father was in the milirary. It clearly shows who he was associated with. I have fond childhood memories of being at the Hombu (sp?). My father doesn't have an offical dojo, that he maintains, or that glaringly bears his name; but he has the knowledge, longevity, and the spirit to teach anyone, anywhere. His Dojo is in people's homes, basements, YMCA's, and he has trained military personel. I must respond in my father's defense. He loves Ju jitsu more than anything on earth, and would do nothing to degrade it. He may but his own "spin" on things by creating his own form. My teacher once told me that the information he gave me was for ME to make MYown so that I could apply it to MY life.
12/06/2008 12:14pm, #6
- Join Date
- Jun 2008
True that there are no higher dan levels in Hakkoryu than fourth, that's when they move into the older menkyo licensing system. I say "they" since I am no longer with Hakkoryu, but have begun training with Mr. LaMonica of HakkoDenshinRyu.
I doubt anyone can verify Mr. Miller's claims to be menkyo kaiden sandaikichu in Hakkoryu since likely he has been Hamoned (expelled) and records destroyed, as is the custom of anyone who doesn't follow Nidai Soke Okuyama's dictates. If he has a makimono from the Okuyama's then he is what he is. I suppose you could have someone verify that.
Many high ranking followers of Hakkoryu created their own systems following Nidai Soke's control measures (no other martial arts other than Hakkoryu etc.); LaMonica (Ohio) and Garcia (Belgium) created HakkoDenshinRyu, Irie (Omiya Japan) created Kokodo, Palumbo created HakkoDenshoRyu (however short-lived). Others students had been Hamoned prior to Nidai Soke taking over for wanting to do their own thing; DePasquale comes to mind, who I believe Mr. Miller was a student of. From my understanding Mr. DePasquale Sr. was given an "honorary" shihan and told to come to Japan for the training, which he never did.
I laugh when I see the backwards hakama guys. I recall an old Blackbelt that has a ninja guy do that and say the koshi-ita was a stomach protector. As far as the hakama in the still photos, the pleats may have just been washed out and not ironed in.
I like to see professionalism in all aspects of the martial arts, but unfortunately in the US there are less and less who, even if they legitimately learned the art, cared about the dress codes, customs, and mannerisms of their art until they no longer had a teacher to correct them.
Bottom line, I have no knowledge of Mr. Miller's experience in Hakkoryu, although from the videos I can see strong ties, and I don't have a strong reason to doubt his claims.
The kendo is atrocious as claimed. There are many schools that have a core art, then try and get additional interest and students from other add-ons, which seem to be the case here. For sure bokken like katana are held at sageo-to with edge up. The kendo moves are as you describe, and would be an embarrassment for anyone but someone who first picked up a shinai. Not to mention as you did the faulty shinai that was being used, should have been caught by a teacher to correct the problem before continuing with the demonstraiton. Youtube video do have a way of making its way into the mainstream without an instructors knowledge or consent, but since the stills were posted on their website it does make that an endorsement of its correctness according to their best sources.
Last edited by Hakko; 12/06/2008 12:38pm at .
12/23/2008 1:17pm, #7
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- Sep 2008
Having watched the videos, the uke seems awfully compliant.
And that gun disarm in the second video is pretty much suicidal: there's no attempt to move out of the gun's field of fire before the technique is executed, and that's pretty much the basic rule for gun disarms.
12/23/2008 1:39pm, #8
That last video reminds me of the movie "Police Academy".
12/23/2008 5:28pm, #9
- Join Date
- Sep 2008
I see what you mean. The guy who could make all the funny noises, right?
12/23/2008 5:50pm, #10
And the girl that is initialy shy, but screams REAL LOUD when she's aresting someone. Otherwise it seems a bit craptacular.