How did you come to find out about the Soke and what drove your interest to continue in Kiyojute Ryu
I actually found the Soke through his writings in martial arts magazines. A younger cousin of mine was selling magazine subscriptions, and my mother wanted to support his effort; thus, she encouraged me to find a ‘karate magazine’ that would key in to my interests and also help out the cousin.
At the time I began reading the Soke’s work, I was a second degree black belt in a (so-called) traditional Japanese karate style. I still remember the progression of articles. The first one I read was on using the jo. Understand, I had no weapons orientation at all, aside from a few bo kata (prearranged, of course). In the article the Soke gave the history of the weapon and spoke of the various ways of manipulating it; he also included an example of bukidori (taking the weapon when under attack). Of the other material in the magazine, it was, by far, the best article.
The next magazine came, and I very intentionally checked to see if there was another article by William Durbin, our Soke. There was, and the article covered counters to aiki style joint locking. It demonstrated counter-techniques to locks like kotegaeshi, sankyo and ikkyo. I began to wonder what art the author studied; I assumed it was some aikijujutsu ryu that also taught weapons. Then, the third magazine came.
The third article showed the Soke adroitly placing a lead roundhouse kick at the scalp of his partner. At that point, I was entirely sold. The man in the magazine knew weapons, locks and throws, and had kicks superior to any of the karate people I had encountered. I learned the name of the Ryu was Kiyojute, and, through the magazine, discovered a school in Lexington (the Goshin Kan of Dr. Tom Griswold, Hanshi). That was too far for me, an extremely sessile fifteen-year-old, so I contented myself to follow the Soke’s writings. Over time, of course, the magazines began to shift toward the undisciplined, sporty nonsense of our current day, and I became unable to find the things the Soke was writing.
Several years later, I was a young collegiate haunting one of my favorite bookstore/coffee shops. I always went by the martial arts section (which was curiously placed under team sports…?). On one such visit, I saw Mastering Kempo sitting on the self, and I instantly recognized the fellow on the cover as my favorite author of the years before. I bought it and quickly read it from cover to cover. A friend of mine, a person possessed of a bit more common sense than myself, saw me frequently studying the book, and it led him to make one of his characteristically penetrating observations: “Bob, he’s only in Frankfort. Go meet him.” Why that had never occurred to me, I cannot say. Nevertheless, with my friend, my brother, and my fiancee in the car, I headed to Frankfort to meet the Soke.
A number of tales could be told about those early years, including the fact that the Soke was visiting his Soke when I made my first visit (class was being covered by a capable replacement, and I returned not long thereafter and met the Soke). A final story will suffice to declare my total conversion to Kiyojute Ryu. The Soke actually kept me at white belt for a solid year, a move I appreciate the wisdom of a great deal. After I gained my first promotion, I asked to see the next level of techniques. Be mindful the specific moves I was then shown are what yellow belts in Kiyojute Ryu are taught—deashibarai through ikkyo. I still remember watching the Soke perform those movements with one of the hanshi, and I thought to myself, “This is what this man shows yellow belts…and it’s better than anything I’ve learned in the last ten years.” The real joy is that this learning experience continues. Whether it be through nimpo, jujutsu, or shuho, each new discovery in Kiyojute Ryu shows me how much more there is to learn and how inspired our art truly is. Our Ryu truly is a Divine gift.
Thank you very much for the question. I never grow tired of telling that story. I was eighteen, had recently earned a third degree in karate and a third degree in jujutsu. I had been appointed as the student head of two related dojo in my area, yet I very happily walked away from that world when Bill Durbin offered me a white belt. I’ve never regretted that.