Daito-ryu is primarily an unarmed combat system. Techniques are organized into different levels of increasing complexity. Students systematically progress from level to level, beginning with the first level, hiden mokuroku ikkajo. Techniques are primarily learned through kata: pre-arranged two-man exercises. Kata allows for the safe practice of techniques. More importantly, kata are repositories of highly developed martial knowledge. As the skill level increases, practitioners can extract more and more of this martial knowledge from the kata (relaxation, utilization of breath, timing, proper distancing, etc.). Learning kata is a complex process and it is essential that a student be taught by a qualified instructor.

As is typical of traditional training, there are no formalized competitions or contests. Kobukan and Takumakai have adopted the dan ranking system. All ranks are issued from Kobukan in Japan.

Yushinkan has four types of classes: 

  1. Fundamentals Class: Basic concepts and techniques. All new members start here.
  2. Regular Class: A more advanced class that builds on the Fundamentals Class.
  3. Zahedan: Advanced applications.
  4. Choksetsu Shido: Specialized individual or small group training.

A Typical Group Class
Class begins with seated meditation and bowing. The meditation creates the proper mindset for practice; the bowing shows respect to the art, each other, and ourselves. This is followed by a short warm-up consisting of both general and Daito-ryu-specific exercises. Often these exercises are simplified movements designed to improve a student’s understanding of balance, timing, and energy flow. Most of class is spent in two-person exercises. These exercises are usually the formal kata, but may also consist of application techniques/exercises. The majority of techniques are concerned with joint locking, pinning and throwing, with striking being subservient to these goals. Striking in the boxing sense is not practiced. Students of all skill levels practice together. All students are exposed to basic and advanced techniques. Students are often separated into groups to practice rank-specific kata. Class ends with seated meditation and bowing.

Kong Sensei demonstrating a technique with a student.