Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Bojutsu, Jojutsu, Hanbojutsu Training

As recently asked, a brief overview and categorization of the stick training found in our training.

Bojutsu, jojutsu, hanbojutsu.

6 foot stick, 5 foot stick, 3 foot stick.

In our training we approach the use of the stick in two ways- the first as a vehicle to understand distance and timing, and second as the actual application of the stick in the martial arts.

Sticks, depending on the length, have a very exact distance and timing to them- if you are off, you miss. If you are close, your training partner can enter the distance, bypass the stick, and get to you. If you are spot on, there is nothing they can do.

Angles with the stick are also important- striking the right angles and making sure the stick is fluid.

As a way to teach taijutsu movement, if you can "see" these principals in the stick you can see it in unarmed movement and in other training tools.

The stick is a way to see movement.

Sorry Mike...

On the other side of training, a stick is just that- a stick. How can we use the attributes of it- length, size, both ends being active, in the martial arts. Ways of holding the stick, moving it around, using it to strike, or with the hanbo lock joints.

Sorry again...

With bo at six feet we have the ability to reach out and strike at a little over six feet when accounting for body position and hand/arm position. Using footwork, and leaping, along with some very specific hand work, the area that the bo can strike can be extended out to twelve feet. Imagine a radius of 12 feet and anything that comes into that circle gets whacked.

Bo, jo, and hanbo all have particular movements inherent to the range of the stick, all powered by the footwork of taijutsu to make them unique.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Training Tools In Budo Taijutsu (Hidden Weapons)

Class this past Saturday had us exploring the use of the knife as a training tool in taijutsu, how do we use such a training tool in our movement and does it really change anything? 

The challenge with using training tools is that it is easy to have an illusion of how one thinks they should be used- in this case a knife. When you pick it up, you start using it like a knife in your movement.

But how is a knife used?

Can you even be sure you are using it correctly?

And if you are using it correctly as a knife, if compared with a training partner that knows how a knife is used in the martial arts they will be aware of what you are trying to do.

Our taijutsu philosophy is perhaps a bit different when it comes to these training tools- in this case one does not use a knife, but rather uses a knife powered by taijutsu.

As an example for us, and as a way to catch the feeling, we explored all of our class movements on Saturday with a knife in hand, or ready to deploy. Using the unique properties of it, combined with the movement of our taijutsu.

We started off with the kihon happo and san shin no kata movements, only using training tool. 

How did it change distance and timing? 

How did it change the movement and perception of our training partners as they interacted with the blade? 

How can we keep the tool hidden during the entire movement. If one has such a training tool, why would they ever show it or allow it to be seen?

Ukemi was next- forward, side, and back rolls. Start a roll and have the knife tossed at you. Sometimes you grab it, other times avoid it. Have the knife tossed on the ground and grab it as you roll and take ukemi. Avoid grabbing the knife blade, as it is taken, get it into a ready position or hidden position as you are rolling, coming up in correct kamae and ready to go. 

Tehodoki and taihodoki up next. Using the tool for leverage against the joints and weak points on the body. Using it to create unfamiliar movements that your training partner can't see, so it messes with the ability for them to take ukemi. From there exploring kata from the jin ryaku no maki section of training.

Aspects of keeping the training tool hidden. 

In our kenjutsu (Japanese sword) training there is a posture called seigan no kamae. In this posture you hold the sword so the tip of the blade faces your training partner. When done correctly in this way, the length of the sword is concealed since they are looking down the blade. Knowing the length of the sword and its relationship to where you are is key.

Take this concept over to smaller hand held training tools like the knife- there are ways of holding it out in the view that conceal the length of the blade or where it is. From a self defense perspective, understanding how this works and how people can do this, is KEY.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Role Of Uke In The Martial Arts

In learning the Japanese martial arts we have both the role of uke and tori- often though of as the attacker, and the defender in practicing a technique.
Uke is the one who initiates an attack, and tori is the one who does the technique to them.
Seems simple enough, and on a surface level it is, but taken a bit deeper the role of uke is VERY important.
Being a good uke will not only improve your training, it will help push the class and group forward so we can all learn more advanced stuff.
Ideas on being a good uke?
A checklist?
The first is to deliver a good attack.
Often as uke, you know what the technique is going to be and what is going to happen- having watched the teacher or class instructor introduce the technique.
Even knowing this, uke needs to attack with commitment and determination. Giving your training partner a good, strong, committed attack will allow them to properly respond and execute the technique.
A good attack *forces* them to respond- or else get hit, grabbed, thrown, etc.
When tori applies the technique (waza), uke needs to be adaptive- not resisting the technique full force, but at the same time not going down for the sake of going down.
Just taking a fall prevents the feedback of the waza working, and fully resisting means, in a full on situation tori would have to shift to another technique- using the idea of nagare (flow).
This heavy resisting is fine for randori (free form sparring/movement), but not in learning martial arts techniques in practice, as tori will have to shift to something else, and then is not practicing what the instructor is trying to have the group master.
When uke has the technique done to them, being relaxed and open to the experience is KEY. 
FEEL what it is like to be thrown, see how it shuts down your ability to move, how does it make your body comply? This feedback as uke shows you what happens when a technique is done- feedback you are going to use in your own training.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Martial Arts Multiple Attackers

In our training as we work out with our partner, while the practice is one on one, we always assume and want to prepare for multiple attackers in a given situation.
Everything is always one vs. many.
During the past few classes we have been exploring specific points regarding one vs. many in training so once identified we can always keep them in mind and practice them in all our class training movements.
An example from last class, as it relates to movement, posture, and balance:
You and your training partner stand in the middle of a circle surrounded by other training partners. Ahead of time, and unknown to you a second attacker/partner is selected for the drill.
We begin by having the first training partner grab you, and you apply hajutsu (escape methods) to break the hold and free yourself. As soon as that happens the second attacking training partner moves in on you.
Naturally in addition to the unknown they will be moving in on you approaching your blind spot, or behind you, closing very quickly.
In that brief moment you may hear movement, feel a sense of approach, or even see something moving towards you from a blind angle. 
The "natural" non martial arts action is to turn you head to see it.
In your day-to-day when you need to see something you turn your head.
With regard to martial arts movement we don't want to just turn our head- this is not integrated movement, and is not moving the entire body at the same time, facing the threat. 
Kamae- postures and ways of moving in the martial arts.
We want to move the body with the head- everything in alignment so not only are we not out of balance, but as soon as we identify (see) our new training partner, we are ready to move and act on them.
Little, tiny, specific points like this are BIG when it comes to one vs. many.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Martial Arts Intuition

The martial arts are physical arts.
Certainly there are spiritual and philosophical lessons and points to explore.
But a good 99% of training is discovering movement on the mat in the dojo.
One of the points that we aim for- a philosophy in motion is the idea of "mushin"- no mind.
We drill the martial arts, teach our bodies how to move (taijutsu), and move when needed, as needed for the correct situation, and without thinking.
The same way an athlete or performer just "does".
This also help build our intuition- the ability to pick up on small cues and hidden things before the happen so we can respond.
When you get a "feeling" in the martial arts you act on it.
The human mind, even before any martial arts training, processes so much, much more vs. what we can understand.
If you get a feeling to move, move.
If you get a feeling not to be in a certain place, leave.
If something tells you to take the next train, you take the next train.
Don't debate, don't reason, just act.
Just move.
Even if you are not a "martial artist".

Martial Arts Training In Nature

In a previous post we explored some training ideas regarding practice outside of class- focusing on the basics of your martial art system, drilling this "kihon" so your body can learn the movement mechanics of the art. This allows the transmission of the movements in class to take hold and gives us a chance to catch the feeling. In our training group, all of us, work on the lessons of the ten ryaku no maki every day. Developing a training routine and rhythm is important in building a foundation of movement, but every now and then it is important to break that routine...

Training in nature is an important concept in the training philosophy, especially around the changing times of nature- a chance to get our in the woods and practice the martial arts.

An example of training- ukemi & taisabaki, pulled right from the ten ryaku no maki section of training. In the woods, we pick a direction and start moving. As we come across trees, rocks, and other natural obstacles, we use ukemi and taihenjutsu to move past them. Rolling over fallen trees, side stepping around trees, leaping (tobi) over rocks. No cheating once you start moving! Sometimes a bit of shoten no jutsu (climbing to heaven) is even needed. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Why Are Kata Shown Differently In The Martial Arts?

If kata are the formal transmission in the martial arts, how can they be different every time? Are they static or evolving based on where your understanding is in the moment?

In our jin ryaku no maki section of training, we have a number of kata to learn, practice, and explore and why would they be shown different if they are supposed to all be done the same way?

Are they?

Perhaps kata need to be explored based on the needs of the moment, and when I was asked this question of "why", I responded with the following considerations.

The aim of a teacher is to give the student a feeling of the transmission of movement, layered with all the techniques in the art, the finesse of how to bring them alive, while at the same time navigating where the student is in the moment with their own personal movement and what is needed to get them to the next level.

I have been shown kata, and based on my own shortcomings of movement, been told to do a certain part one way, or focus on some aspect of the kata as a way to get the movement I am lacking. 

Essentially, practice the kata this way until I'm told otherwise. 

Sometimes this goes for a few months, other times much longer. 

Now imagine we are training in a group, and I'm called up to demonstrate one of these kata- my teacher has told me that until other-wise do the kata in a certain way- so that is what I'm going to do, which may be a bit out of turn with what is the standard shown.

On the opposite side, when a teach is teaching from a kata, the composition of the group needs to be carefully considered. What is the level of experience- in some of the more complex movements, where strong solid ukemi is needed, perhaps chaining some of the throws to a bit easier is warranted because the class in not at that level yet. 

In this way the kata can still be explored, but it is challenging enough to push growth in movement. 

Maybe the instructor is showing it a certain way, to try and focus on a type of movement in the art- to isolate and transmit that movement to the students.

There are many reasons why a kata might be shown differently. 

In class, one should do it, and perform it as shown by the teacher- capture the feeling in that moment, and later after class one can figure out the how and why it was shown that way.

Learning The Martial Arts

Everything in our Bujinkan training is arranged to help one grow into a complete human being & marital artist: tatsujin. Visually some things in a dojo setting make sense, others require a bit of understanding- like how techniques are demonstrated.

What is the learning process?

Usually the head instructor or a junior instructor when asked shows a technique (waza). They may mention the name of it, or give a bit of background, but there is no explanation as to what is going on, which is done for a reason.

As you watch the technique one has to quickly figure it out and be able to replicate it using correct distance, timing, and rhythm. You need to see what is going on and immediate be able to understand the situation. Naturally this is hard, especially if it is the first time seeing the waza or if it is above your rank.

This is done, in order to train in an important skill outside of a dojo setting- the innate ability to see a situation unfolding and immediately know how to control it, and be aware of the movement being used. Trained correctly, you will begin to see patterns of movement, and how “martial arts” move- it’s easy to spot other martial artists based on how they move and use distance and timing.

After watching the waza a few times, one pairs up with a training partner and works on discovering the waza- distance, timing, rhythm, what it is trying to teach, etc. While this is happening the instructor may make corrections, or demonstrate some important points in the moment, but this is your chance in training to get it.

Eventually it will cycle around to being demonstrated again, only this time pointing out what makes it work and why, and how it is effecting both our movement and your training partner’s movement.

And of course at any time if one has a question, one should ask, as many movement opportunities only arise in that moment, so we want to explore them as they dynamically happen.

Which leads to uke and tori- “attacker” and “defender”.
In learning one student performs the martial arts attack, while the other student performs the waza or counter. Switch sides and the other is the attacker/defender.

Uke- the attacker, or the one who is having the waza done to them has a VERY important role. The most obvious is that it needs to be a good solid “attack”, so tori can execute the waza correctly. But, uke is also learning about the waza in a way that tori currently cannot, until it is their turn.

An example from class this past Saturday:

Practicing a throw that makes landing correctly very difficult, the natural reaction to being thrown in this certain way is to put our your arms to break the fall, which is very bad for your arms, it is better to not put out your arms and risk breaking them. But this is the natural reaction to the throw.

When we are uke, and being thrown, we want to concentrate on the feeling of the throw and see how it wants us to take ukemi, feel and see how we want to land and how we don’t want to land.

This example of a waza within a waza is an important hidden point in the training.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Most Important Martial Arts Skill

Many years ago, as part of my sempai-kohai interaction I was sent to train with each black belt in the dojo with the following condition: They had one hour to show me what they thought was the most important aspect of the martial arts. The thought-flow was that if I was stuck on my own, with nobody to train with, what are the skills I should be drilling aspects of importance that could keep me advancing till I got back to structured training in the dojo. Each black belt- three of them, shared very different and unique perspectives.

I was recently thinking of this type of uchi-deshi training exercise, and thought to turn it into a blog post here on our training blog...

In our own class training, in every class, we practice a simple form of taisabaki movement. It can be scaled down for beginning students, or scaled up for the appropriate skill level. The training drill looks like this:

You and your training partner stand across from each other with enough distance between both of you, so that your training partner has to take a step or two to reach you. When they are ready, they are going to reach out and grab you.

With correct timing, as this happens, you move off the angle of attack, and put yourself in a position so they can not continue on to grab you.

This teaches a VERY important martial arts skill- when something is coming at you, be it a grab, punch, kick, etc. get out of the way. 

Take yourself off the angle of attack, and using footwork, distance, and timing, put yourself in a place where you can not be attacked again.

Always keep moving.

This also has many advantages on a tacitcal level, in that a moving target (you) is harder to hit, and in always keeping moving, it allows one to use the leverage of the body (taijutsu) for effect, and proper kamae to control the situation.

That would be one of my most important martial arts skills.

Each week we aim to post training highlights from recent classes as a way of sharing the expressions of budo, while giving those interested in pursuing training insight into some of the movements and philosophies explored in each class.