Nin 忍

Nin 忍 Calligraphy by Kiyama Hiroshi, Copyright 2019

 

Nin
()
is a Japanese term that is not often heard standing alone. Outside
Japan it is most commonly encountered in the term
ninja
(忍者). 
Nin
has
nothing that directly ties it to spies and assassins though. Nin is a
character trait that may be the most important generic lesson in
classical budo. Every ryuha has its own essential character that
makes it truly unique: they all teach nin.  



In
dictionaries
nin
is
usually translated as “patience”. Patience nails a piece of the
character nin (
).
As with so many things though, to simply say “nin (
)
equals patience” is to miss a great deal. Nin is not regular
patience, but the patience that quietly endures suffering and trials.



There
are the obvious trials in budo, like how much your knees and feet
ache from doing the first iai kata for an hour, continuing even after
you’ve worn the skin off your knees.  Or the never-ending
torture that is the posture known as
tatehiza.
Learning to endure physical discomfort with quiet stoicism is the
beginning of nin (
).
Anyone who sticks with budo for any length of time learns to do this.
It’s just part of the physical territory. Everyone in the dojo
hurts and no one is interested in hearing you whine about it.
Everyone went through the pain of learning to take good ukemi, even
if taking ukemi for Sensei can knock the wind out of you. 
That’s the physical side.



The
other side begins when Sensei says “Shut up and train.”  In
that moment it becomes time to patiently endure not just the
discomfort and stress of training, but also your own curiosity and
desire for answers. This is the time when your questions will only be
answered by your endurance of training with doubt and
misunderstanding and ignorance that gnaws at your heart. I come from
a background where I was taught to always ask a question if I didn’t
understand something. Ask a question and get an answer. In budo
though, most often the best answer to a question is not an
explanation, but more training.



It
took me years to understand that my teachers were trying to tell me
that the answers to most of my budo questions were to be found in
training, study and contemplation. I asked Hikoso Sensei about foot
sweeps in judo one evening, and I can’t imagine a more rudimentary
answer. I was looking for a deep explanation of the timing and how to
understand it. He showed me the proper way to move my foot when
sweeping.  That’s it. The answer was that I needed to train
more to understand the timing.  No amount of explanation would
ever give me that. I had to put up with not understanding the timing
until I did understand it, and I had to to do it knowing there was no
guarantee that I would ever get it. 



Nin
is about patience where you hold your tongue even though the most
satisfying thing in the world would be to respond to someone’s
unkind, callous or outright mean comment with a righteous comeback.
Wisdom, discretion or simple maturity demand that you let it go.
Without escalation, there will be no conflict.  Without nin no
one would have been able to abide by the rules laid out in so many
keppan
(training
oaths) not to engage in fights and duels until you mastered the art.
If you wanted to keep training with Sensei, you had to master your
emotions and learn to forebear not just the little slights, but the
big insults as well. Once you joined a ryuha, everything you did
reflected on the ryuha. If you got into trouble because you couldn’t
hold your tongue or control your anger, it could bring the wrath of
the government down on everyone in the dojo.



Nin
continues to be an important component of what makes a good person in
Japan. From the salarimen trudging through their endless days or the
school kids spending their days in regular school and their evenings
in cram schools dedicated to getting them into even more rigorous
high schools and colleges. Nin can be seen in today’s dojo in Japan
in the near complete absence of talking during
keiko.
Everyone is focused on the training. Talking is something for
elsewhere. In kendo dojo it may seem like there is too much yelling
going on for conversation, and in an iai dojo the quiet can be
complete except for the swish of
a sword through the air.



Nin
is sitting in seiza with a smile while sensei forgets that everyone
is in seiza and launches into a long story. Nin is sitting in
tatehiza with the appearance of relaxed comfort. Nin is mastering
present desires for long term ends without letting anyone know about
the desires or the ends. Nin is the quiet patience and endurance of
the mature martial artist.


Special thanks to Deborah Klens-Bigman, Ph.D. for editorial support.


 If you enjoy the blog, get the book!


 

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Practice Makes Permanent

 

 

Wayne Boylan,  1938-2019


Dedicated to my Father, Wayne Boylan 1938-2019


I
was talking about doing some
suburi
(repetitive
sword cut practice) with a friend and he mentioned that one of his
teachers says you shouldn’t do 100 suburi.  You should do one
good cut.I have to agree. Mindless repetition doesn’t make for good
practice. If you’re just cranking out repetitions to hit a number,
you’re not paying attention to the quality of what you are doing.
You’ll be sloppy and rushed.



Practice
doesn’t make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.” My Dad was
a teacher – music – not budo, but he knew more about how to teach and
learn skills than I ever will.  And it’s true. You’re only
as good as your practice.  Doing thousands of suburi will only
ingrain your mistakes if you’re not consciously trying to make each
one better than the last. Real practice is as mentally hard as it is
physically tough. When you’re practicing effectively you engage
your mind as much as your muscles. You’re aware of what you’re
doing and always looking for flaws.



I’ve
had the same satisfaction with my budo for the last 30+ years. I’m
consistently satisfied with less than 10% of everything I do. Whether
I do 100
kirioroshi
(sword
cuts) or 100

hikiotoshi
uchi

(jo
strikes) or 100
harai
goshi

(a
judo throw), if I’m happy with 10 of them it’s an unusually good
day.  I use too much right hand or not enough left. I tense my
shoulders (that one really ticks me off about myself). I don’t
engage my koshi enough. My stance is too narrow. Weak
te
no uchi
.
I muscle the cut, My angle is off, my tip bounces. I’m off target.
I do a chicken neck. My movement is small. There are days I could
write an entire essay just chronicling the different mistakes I make.



One
of my goals is to never make the same mistake twice in a row. If I do
that I’m not being aware and correcting myself. In practice I have
to be aware of what I’m doing so I can consistently correct
mistakes. Practice is about fixing, correcting and improving.
 It’s
not about repeating what you’ve already learned. Suck, yes, but as
my friend Janet says, “Suck at a higher level.”  Be aware of
what you’re doing and make it a little better every time. I know
flaws won’t go away with one correction, but at least make sure
that you’re not repeating them.  



The
hardest thing to fix is a flaw that you’ve practiced. My iai has a
flaw where my stance is too shallow. At some point I decided that
what I was doing was good enough, and then I did thousands of
repetitions with that shallow stance. Now that is my body’s default
stance. Any time I’m not consciously extending my stance, it
shortens up.  Practice makes permanent. Whatever you practice is
what you’ll do. I practiced with a shallow stance and now it will
take even longer to correct because the mistake has been drilled into
my body.


Enjoy the blog?  Get the book!


I
have to build a whole new set of neural pathways and polish this
deeper stance until I’ve overwritten the old training. That’s
going to take time. I’m going to have to be sharp and watch my
stance whenever I’m training. I will have to do more repetitions
with a correct, deep stance than I’ve done with the flawed, shallow
stance. That’s no fun, but it’s what I get for practicing a
flaw. 



The
good news is that good practice isn’t difficult to do, and it’s
more interesting than bad practice. With good practice you’re
constantly aware and tuned in to what you’re doing so you can fix any
flaws you spot. This is much more interesting than doing a hundred or
two hundred mindless reps just to get in some reps. As in so much
else, it’s the quality, not the quantity. 



Just
as in music, it doesn’t do any good to rush through things just to
say you’ve done it. Maybe do the whole kata once. Pay attention to
what’s weak, then go back and just work on the parts that are weak.



Good
practice makes for good budo. Poor quality practice makes for poor
quality budo. Pay attention to what you’re doing, and to what you’re
not doing. Practice the stuff you’re good at, and practice the
things you’re bad at even more. If you don’t practice, things won’t
improve; but if you practice badly then things will stay bad.


 

 Thanks Dad.

 

Special thanks to Deborah Klens-Bigman, Ph.D for her editorial support.

via Blogger https://ift.tt/3jupdQk

Practice Makes Permanent

 

 

Wayne Boylan,  1938-2019


Dedicated to my Father, Wayne Boylan 1938-2019


I
was talking about doing some
suburi
(repetitive
sword cut practice) with a friend and he mentioned that one of his
teachers says you shouldn’t do 100 suburi.  You should do one
good cut.I have to agree. Mindless repetition doesn’t make for good
practice. If you’re just cranking out repetitions to hit a number,
you’re not paying attention to the quality of what you are doing.
You’ll be sloppy and rushed.



Practice
doesn’t make perfect.  Practice makes permanent.” My Dad was
a teacher – music – not budo, but he knew more about how to teach and
learn skills than I ever will.  And it’s true. You’re only
as good as your practice.  Doing thousands of suburi will only
ingrain your mistakes if you’re not consciously trying to make each
one better than the last. Real practice is as mentally hard as it is
physically tough. When you’re practicing effectively you engage
your mind as much as your muscles. You’re aware of what you’re
doing and always looking for flaws.



I’ve
had the same satisfaction with my budo for the last 30+ years. I’m
consistently satisfied with less than 10% of everything I do. Whether
I do 100
kirioroshi
(sword
cuts) or 100

hikiotoshi
uchi

(jo
strikes) or 100
harai
goshi

(a
judo throw), if I’m happy with 10 of them it’s an unusually good
day.  I use too much right hand or not enough left. I tense my
shoulders (that one really ticks me off about myself). I don’t
engage my koshi enough. My stance is too narrow. Weak
te
no uchi
.
I muscle the cut, My angle is off, my tip bounces. I’m off target.
I do a chicken neck. My movement is small. There are days I could
write an entire essay just chronicling the different mistakes I make.



One
of my goals is to never make the same mistake twice in a row. If I do
that I’m not being aware and correcting myself. In practice I have
to be aware of what I’m doing so I can consistently correct
mistakes. Practice is about fixing, correcting and improving.
 It’s
not about repeating what you’ve already learned. Suck, yes, but as
my friend Janet says, “Suck at a higher level.”  Be aware of
what you’re doing and make it a little better every time. I know
flaws won’t go away with one correction, but at least make sure
that you’re not repeating them.  



The
hardest thing to fix is a flaw that you’ve practiced. My iai has a
flaw where my stance is too shallow. At some point I decided that
what I was doing was good enough, and then I did thousands of
repetitions with that shallow stance. Now that is my body’s default
stance. Any time I’m not consciously extending my stance, it
shortens up.  Practice makes permanent. Whatever you practice is
what you’ll do. I practiced with a shallow stance and now it will
take even longer to correct because the mistake has been drilled into
my body.


Enjoy the blog?  Get the book!


I
have to build a whole new set of neural pathways and polish this
deeper stance until I’ve overwritten the old training. That’s
going to take time. I’m going to have to be sharp and watch my
stance whenever I’m training. I will have to do more repetitions
with a correct, deep stance than I’ve done with the flawed, shallow
stance. That’s no fun, but it’s what I get for practicing a
flaw. 



The
good news is that good practice isn’t difficult to do, and it’s
more interesting than bad practice. With good practice you’re
constantly aware and tuned in to what you’re doing so you can fix any
flaws you spot. This is much more interesting than doing a hundred or
two hundred mindless reps just to get in some reps. As in so much
else, it’s the quality, not the quantity. 



Just
as in music, it doesn’t do any good to rush through things just to
say you’ve done it. Maybe do the whole kata once. Pay attention to
what’s weak, then go back and just work on the parts that are weak.



Good
practice makes for good budo. Poor quality practice makes for poor
quality budo. Pay attention to what you’re doing, and to what you’re
not doing. Practice the stuff you’re good at, and practice the
things you’re bad at even more. If you don’t practice, things won’t
improve; but if you practice badly then things will stay bad.


 

 Thanks Dad.

 

Special thanks to Deborah Klens-Bigman, Ph.D for her editorial support.

via Blogger https://ift.tt/3jupdQk

The Budo Law Of Conservation Of Movement

Tendo Ryu. Photo copyright Peter Boylan 2019

Most
people don’t know it, but there is a  Budo Law of Conservation
of Movement. Budo is conservative at its heart. We want to conserve
movement, conserve energy, conserve time. The Budo Law of
Conservation of Movement is:

One
movement to do a hundred things, not a hundred movements that
accomplish the same thing.

Why
learn a hundred ways to do something when one will do the job? There
are a number of different ways to cut with a sword, but I don’t
know any classical art that teaches more than one of them. The same
with sticks. There are lots of ways to swing a stick, but I don’t
know of any martial art that teaches more than one (to the Shinto
Muso Ryu people who are raising your hands to object, all those
different strikes utilize the same body mechanics. There’s really
only one strike and one thrust in Shinto Muso Ryu).  

Each
koryu has its own way of doing things, and a real student of the
ryuha imprints that way into their mind, their muscles and their
bones. This is true whether you’re doing Shinto Muso Ryu, Katori
Shinto Ryu, Kashima Shinryu, Sekiguchi Ryu, or any other koryu. You
won’t find classical systems with an overabundance of techniques or
principles to master. Each
ryuha
takes
a few basic concepts and teaches you to apply them to a variety of
situations. Again, look at Shinto Muso Ryu. It’s commonly taught
that there are four strikes in SMR, but all of  them are
variations on the same strike. That’s it. One strike. Add one way
to thrust and one trap and you have it.

Each
ryuha has one way of doing things. Shinto Muso Ryu and its
fuzoku
ryu
incorporate
jo, tachi, kodachi, jutte, tanjo, and kusarigama.  That’s a
wide variety of weapons, yet the principles and movement are the
same. The student isn’t learning six discrete weapons. She is
learning to apply one set of principles to a variety of weapons. Once
the principles of movement, spacing and timing are internalized, it
doesn’t matter what she picks up. She’ll apply the principles she
learned on the jo the first time she picks up a tachi. Working with
the tachi deepens the understanding developed while training with the
jo. By the time she picks up a tanjo or a jutte, the teacher doesn’t
have to teach her how to hold the weapons or how to swing them. She
already knows the principles. She just needs a little practice to get
used to the specific spacing and timing required by the new weapon,
along with the specific patterns of movement that make up the kata.
By the time she’s practiced with all of the weapons, she can pick
up just about anything and intuitively understand how to use it
applying the principles of Shinto Muso Ryu.

At
that point the techniques just happen. The student has soaked herself
in the principles of the arts. There isn’t any thought.  To
move in a manner other than that of Shinto Muso Ryu would require
concentration because by that point the Shinto Muso Ryu principles
have been absorbed so deeply that they have become part of  her
natural movements and responses.

The
same thing can be found in any effective koryu. There will only be a
few active principles that have to be mastered to apply to every
scenario imagined by the founders and their successors. A friend of
mine does a sogo budo with a strong jujutsu element. They use a
different technique for cutting with a sword; a tighter motion done
closer to the body than I’m accustomed to. My first thought when I
saw it was that they were giving up some of the potential range of
the blade– a reasonable comment on their sword work.  They
don’t take advantage of every centimeter of reach that the blade
has to offer, but this isn’t necessarily a weakness.

Cutting
while using a tighter motion may not be  considered a weakness
because the sogo budo group doesn’t just do sword work, or even
just weapons work.  They also do a lot of jujutsu. In their
jujutsu they use the same principle for throwing and joint locking
that they use for cutting with a sword. They are conserving the
number of motions and principles they have to learn. They have just
one movement that is applied in their weapons work and their empty
hand techniques. No time wasted learning different principles for
weapons and another for jujutsu. One and done.

Training
time is precious, even for people who are training full time. Their
training time is valuable, and they need to get the most out of it.
The highest return in training is to have a few principles you apply
to everything, instead of many different discrete techniques that can
be applied to the same thing. It takes thousands of hours of training
to master any budo. Where is the good sense and efficiency in
increasing the time it takes to master your training by having
different principles for different activities and multiplying
required training time as you add discrete principles and skills?

It
makes no sense for a ryuha to have different principles for different
activities or weapons. It would be a tremendous waste of time, and
few people have the time to develop more than one body. If you have
not absorbed the set of principles so deeply that they’ve stained
your bones you’ll never express those principles under pressure.
You’ll always do what has stained your bones.

Koryu
training, real koryu, is about absorbing the principles of the art
into your body and mind so that they color the core of your being. A
key to how koryu do this is by reducing the essence of the art to a
few powerful principles that can be applied to any situation. No
unnecessary movements or ideas. 

One
movement to do a hundred things.


Special thanks to Deborah Klens-Bigman Ph.D. for her editorial support and contributions.

via Blogger https://ift.tt/31SuknH

The Power Mistake

Structure versus power    Photo Copyright Deborah Klens-Bigman 2020

We want powerful budo. Powerful budo is effective budo. Powerful budo is good budo. So how do we make our budo powerful? We make it stronger. The stronger someone’s budo is the more powerful it is. How do we make our budo stronger?

Usually we add muscle. We do push-ups and sit-ups. We train with weights to increase our bench press and our squat. Then we throw this additional muscle into our budo so we can hit harder, throw bigger, cut deeper. It makes our budo more effective and more powerful so we can beat the big guys. This is the way to powerful budo. Or is it?

None of the people whose budo I strive to emulate do muscular budo, yet all of their budo is powerful and dynamic. When they cut or strike or throw, the movement is solid and crisp. Nothing is done that isn’t essential to the movement. The cuts look like they could slice through stone. The strikes look, and feel, like getting hit with a truck. Throws hit you with the force of the planet. All of this without being muscular.

My teachers don’t need to be muscular to generate power. They have a combination of structure and technique that creates power and lets them direct it to where it will be most effective. Correct structure allows you to harness all the power of your body, not just a few big muscles. Precise technique puts all that power exactly where you want it for maximum effect.

If your structure isn’t right, even loads of muscle won’t make your budo strong.

There is always someone more muscular. I used to train with a guy who was a good 15 cm (6 inches) taller, 80 pounds heavier, and able to lift me off my feet without using any sort of judo technique. He was powerful and he could throw people around, but he wasn’t doing judo. His raw muscular strength got in the way of him learning good technique. He could jerk people so hard they were off balance from the force of the pull and then he would throw them by manually lifting them into position, but that wasn’t budo.

What frustrated this guy was that even though I was 80 pounds lighter and significantly weaker, he couldn’t throw me but I could throw him, hard. He was strong enough to pick me up off my feet, something I could only do to him with the help of winch, and yet I was the one doing the throwing. I used good structure to hold my partner off without getting tired. If I tried to go muscle to muscle with any of the big guys, I’d be exhausted and beaten in moments. Power doesn’t come from strength, it comes from structure and technique. If I let my structure absorb their power and redirect it into the ground, I can still go many rounds with the big 20-somethings in the dojo.

Just as a building with a flawed structure will quickly collapse under pressure, a person with bad structure is quickly demolished by an adversary. Good structure is not only the key to withstanding pressure, it is fundamental to projecting your power outward. You can only project as much force as your structure can support. Exceed that limit and you will crumble rather than your target. Boxers wrap their hands and wear gloves to improve the structure of their hands so they can deal with the forces they generate when punching. Take off those gloves and all the wrapping and boxers would be breaking the bones in their hands with the power generated by their technique.

If your structure can’t handle the forces you are generating, then your technique will never be able to generate power. Building a good structure is the first step to generating great power. Build a good structure and you build and project power effectively. Good structure also neutralizes other people’s power. That’s how you deal with bigger, stronger and faster. You have a structure that is stable under attack.



Good structure is necessary, but it’s not enough by itself. Technique multiplies your strength using the platform created by your structure. Arm locks, throws, punches, attacks with sticks and other weapons all start with a good foundation. The techniques multiply whatever muscle you have. That’s why a small judoka or aikidoka can manipulate and throw much larger, stronger people.

A 157 cm (5’2” in) person, even if unusually strong, is not going to have the strength to go toe-to-toe with someone twice their size. Yet anyone who spends time around a judo, jujutsu or aikido dojo will see goons like me being tossed to the ground by people half our size. It’s not their raw strength they are using to launch us airborne. It’s technique supported by good structure.

When we are first learning techniques the temptation is to try and force the technique. The more raw strength you have, the more powerful that temptation is. Every time we give in to that temptation we make it harder to learn good technique. Every time we force a technique we reinforce the habit to use strength instead of technique, and we make it harder to learn good technique.

All that technique we practice works to make strength unnecessary. Good technique is as clean and precise as a scalpel. Whether it is uchi mata or ikkyo, good technique will apply your power where your partner is weak. It’s budo, not arm wrestling. We’re going to use every advantage we can find. That means weaving around our opponent’s strength to apply a technique where it can’t be countered, not crashing into their strength. Technique done well feels effortless. When I’m thrown well I don’t feel the thrower’s strength. I don’t feel much of anything as the floor disappears from under my feet and reappears to smack me in the back.

Strength doesn’t do that. Technique does. The technique undermines my ability to stand up and then redirects me at the ground. I know I’ve done a throw well because I’m looking at the person on the ground and wondering why they jumped for me; it feels that easy when the structure and the technique are there. It’s that way for everyone. My jodo students know that they’ve done hikotoshi uchi correctly because their partner’s sword just vanishes without any feeling of having been there.


Strength erodes over time, but time seems to empower technique. As my teachers age they feel more powerful, not less. When he was 80 I watched Sugi Sensei completely dominate a powerful and experienced kendoka 60 years his junior. He didn’t do it with strength and fire, he did it with a structure that was solid, impenetrable, and smooth technique that was everywhere the junior’s strength wasn’t. Sensei’s technique was clean and simple with no wasted energy or motion.

That’s the combination of structure and technique that make budo work. It’s never about raw muscle. Structure gives you access to all the strength you have, and technique multiplies the power of that strength by using it in the most effective way possible.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that muscle equals power. Strength is nice, but powerful budo is supported by structure and propelled by technique.

Special thanks to Deborah Klens-Bigman Ph.D for editing this.


via Blogger https://ift.tt/2TJmlop

The Power Mistake

Structure versus power    Photo Copyright Deborah Klens-Bigman 2020

We want powerful budo. Powerful budo is effective budo. Powerful budo is good budo. So how do we make our budo powerful? We make it stronger. The stronger someone’s budo is the more powerful it is. How do we make our budo stronger?

Usually we add muscle. We do push-ups and sit-ups. We train with weights to increase our bench press and our squat. Then we throw this additional muscle into our budo so we can hit harder, throw bigger, cut deeper. It makes our budo more effective and more powerful so we can beat the big guys. This is the way to powerful budo. Or is it?

None of the people whose budo I strive to emulate do muscular budo, yet all of their budo is powerful and dynamic. When they cut or strike or throw, the movement is solid and crisp. Nothing is done that isn’t essential to the movement. The cuts look like they could slice through stone. The strikes look, and feel, like getting hit with a truck. Throws hit you with the force of the planet. All of this without being muscular.

My teachers don’t need to be muscular to generate power. They have a combination of structure and technique that creates power and lets them direct it to where it will be most effective. Correct structure allows you to harness all the power of your body, not just a few big muscles. Precise technique puts all that power exactly where you want it for maximum effect.

If your structure isn’t right, even loads of muscle won’t make your budo strong.

There is always someone more muscular. I used to train with a guy who was a good 15 cm (6 inches) taller, 80 pounds heavier, and able to lift me off my feet without using any sort of judo technique. He was powerful and he could throw people around, but he wasn’t doing judo. His raw muscular strength got in the way of him learning good technique. He could jerk people so hard they were off balance from the force of the pull and then he would throw them by manually lifting them into position, but that wasn’t budo.

What frustrated this guy was that even though I was 80 pounds lighter and significantly weaker, he couldn’t throw me but I could throw him, hard. He was strong enough to pick me up off my feet, something I could only do to him with the help of winch, and yet I was the one doing the throwing. I used good structure to hold my partner off without getting tired. If I tried to go muscle to muscle with any of the big guys, I’d be exhausted and beaten in moments. Power doesn’t come from strength, it comes from structure and technique. If I let my structure absorb their power and redirect it into the ground, I can still go many rounds with the big 20-somethings in the dojo.

Just as a building with a flawed structure will quickly collapse under pressure, a person with bad structure is quickly demolished by an adversary. Good structure is not only the key to withstanding pressure, it is fundamental to projecting your power outward. You can only project as much force as your structure can support. Exceed that limit and you will crumble rather than your target. Boxers wrap their hands and wear gloves to improve the structure of their hands so they can deal with the forces they generate when punching. Take off those gloves and all the wrapping and boxers would be breaking the bones in their hands with the power generated by their technique.

If your structure can’t handle the forces you are generating, then your technique will never be able to generate power. Building a good structure is the first step to generating great power. Build a good structure and you build and project power effectively. Good structure also neutralizes other people’s power. That’s how you deal with bigger, stronger and faster. You have a structure that is stable under attack.



Good structure is necessary, but it’s not enough by itself. Technique multiplies your strength using the platform created by your structure. Arm locks, throws, punches, attacks with sticks and other weapons all start with a good foundation. The techniques multiply whatever muscle you have. That’s why a small judoka or aikidoka can manipulate and throw much larger, stronger people.

A 157 cm (5’2” in) person, even if unusually strong, is not going to have the strength to go toe-to-toe with someone twice their size. Yet anyone who spends time around a judo, jujutsu or aikido dojo will see goons like me being tossed to the ground by people half our size. It’s not their raw strength they are using to launch us airborne. It’s technique supported by good structure.

When we are first learning techniques the temptation is to try and force the technique. The more raw strength you have, the more powerful that temptation is. Every time we give in to that temptation we make it harder to learn good technique. Every time we force a technique we reinforce the habit to use strength instead of technique, and we make it harder to learn good technique.

All that technique we practice works to make strength unnecessary. Good technique is as clean and precise as a scalpel. Whether it is uchi mata or ikkyo, good technique will apply your power where your partner is weak. It’s budo, not arm wrestling. We’re going to use every advantage we can find. That means weaving around our opponent’s strength to apply a technique where it can’t be countered, not crashing into their strength. Technique done well feels effortless. When I’m thrown well I don’t feel the thrower’s strength. I don’t feel much of anything as the floor disappears from under my feet and reappears to smack me in the back.

Strength doesn’t do that. Technique does. The technique undermines my ability to stand up and then redirects me at the ground. I know I’ve done a throw well because I’m looking at the person on the ground and wondering why they jumped for me; it feels that easy when the structure and the technique are there. It’s that way for everyone. My jodo students know that they’ve done hikotoshi uchi correctly because their partner’s sword just vanishes without any feeling of having been there.


Strength erodes over time, but time seems to empower technique. As my teachers age they feel more powerful, not less. When he was 80 I watched Sugi Sensei completely dominate a powerful and experienced kendoka 60 years his junior. He didn’t do it with strength and fire, he did it with a structure that was solid, impenetrable, and smooth technique that was everywhere the junior’s strength wasn’t. Sensei’s technique was clean and simple with no wasted energy or motion.

That’s the combination of structure and technique that make budo work. It’s never about raw muscle. Structure gives you access to all the strength you have, and technique multiplies the power of that strength by using it in the most effective way possible.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that muscle equals power. Strength is nice, but powerful budo is supported by structure and propelled by technique.

Special thanks to Deborah Klens-Bigman Ph.D for editing this.


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How Stable Are Koryu?

 

Geikinkenkai No Zu by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 1873

 


I
was asked recently how much I think koryu budo has changed over the
generations. After staring at my drink for a while, I answered “I
think it has changed a lot, and not much at all.”  This goes
for most koryu that were founded during the Tokugawa Era (1604-1868).
They had a relatively stable world in which to grow and develop, so
radical change wasn’t required.
Why
would I think that a 400 year old martial art has changed a lot and
not much at all? I think they would change a lot in that successive
generations would add to the arts. In Shinto Muso Ryu, for example,
various
fuzoku
ryu

(affiliated
arts) were attached to the system, and new kata were created. From an
art that started with just staff and sword, it grew to encompass
jutte and
torinawa
jutsu

(apprehending
and binding), kusarigama, and most recently walking stick. That’s a
lot of additions.
So
the original arts didn’t change much, they just had more and more
stuff grafted onto the original trunk.  And if people are really
learning a particular art, it won’t change much. Why is that? Koryu
bugei students are taught using the pedagogy of kata. In sports there
is always room for change. A new way to do the high jump didn’t
make it stop being high jump.  A new ski jumping form didn’t
mean it wasn’t ski jumping anymore. These can easily be changed
because they are defined by the activity and not how the activity is
done.
However,
classical martial arts systems,
koryu
bugei
,
are defined by their principles as much as their techniques. If you
change the principles, you’re doing something different. Not that
this didn’t happen – there were so many
ryuha
(schools)
during the Tokugawa Era because senior practitioners had new ideas
and wanted to develop them.  Generally they didn’t change the
school they were in; they created a new school instead. The
ryuha
that
lasted centuries were the ones whose principles survived the pressure
testing of time and application. Not competition, but application in
combative situations. Shinto Muso Ryu was practiced by samurai whose
function was public security and safety. Other arts were susceptible
to being used in fights and duels as well as to put down peasant
revolts and otherwise maintain order. 
Ryuha
survived
the centuries because their teaching methodology was remarkably well
suited to teaching physical principles and skills, consistently,
generation after generation. The fundamental teaching pedagogy was,
and is, the two person kata. (Solo iai kata are the exception that
demonstrates the rule. Working with live blades is too dangerous for
partner practice, but systems with iai nearly always also include
paired kenjutsu kata as well). In the classical arts, one partner
wins the encounter,
shitachi,
and the other loses the encounter laid out in the kata, the
uchitachi.
Unlike
a sporting encounter where the more experienced player is expected to
win, in classical kata training, the more experienced person is
expected to take the losing side. The
uchitachi’s
job
is to guide the junior, the
shitachi,
so they learn how to do the techniques embedded in the kata without
leaving any openings. 
Musings Of A Budo Bum
Enjoy the blog?  Get the book!

Those
who think that kata training is just repeating rote movements have
never done proper kata training. For example, in weapons kata, If
shitachi
does
the kata incorrectly and leaves an opening,
uchitachi
is
quite likely to seize the opening and put their weapon in it. This
can be a harsh way of correction, but it’s an effective one. 
These lessons are rarely forgotten. Kata are only meant to be done to
their completion when they are done correctly. I know if I leave an
opening for my teacher, he will show me that opening in the simplest,
most direct way available. He will counter my attack. You might think
my teacher is breaking the kata. He isn’t. I’m the one who broke
the kata by leaving the opening. He simply went with the new
situation that I created by leaving the opening.
The
kata that last are robust. They have to be done certain ways or
openings are left and the student gets whacked. Quickly the student
learns to spot their own openings and close them. The kata don’t
change much because they can’t be changed much. They are structured
in very particular ways for good reasons. If you deviate from the
form you create openings that allow counter attacks to succeed. Just
doing the kata is its own test. If you do it correctly it will work.
If you deviate from the principles that are embedded in the kata you
will find your situation changes from victor to vanquished in an
instant.
As
an incorrigibly American student, I can’t seem to stop myself from
experimenting with the kata I’m taught. I always seem to think that
I’ll somehow learn something new from experimenting. I do learn
things. I learn how not to do the kata. I play around with the timing
or the spacing or something on my own, and then my experimenting
surfaces in the dojo and Sensei nails me, then yells “Who taught
you that!!!”  Happens every time.
Since
the kata serve as their own form of checking and correction, they are
exceedingly durable.  I don’t doubt that the kata of Shinto
Muso Ryu or Shinkage Ryu or Ono-ha Itto-ryu swordsmanship are close
enough to the way they were done 400 years ago that a modern student
who found themselves 400 years in the past could walk into one those
dojo and participate without difficulty. Kata are that stable. 
This
stability can also be seen at the various
enbu
held
around Japan. Lineages that split as far back as the 17th century and
had no contact with each other for hundreds of years until recent
times can now be seen and compared in modern enbukai. Besides the
main line of Shinkage Ryu taught by the Yagyu Family, there are
numerous other lines that were founded by their students over the
centuries. When you watch and compare them, it becomes clear that
they haven’t drifted far from each other. The same goes for the
various lines of Yagyu Shingan Ryu, and other arts that have lasted
through centuries. 
The
kata that comprise the core of any
koryu
bugei

are
stable and solid. Upstart students like me are always trying “what
if” experiments and getting clobbered because our “what if”
just isn’t effective. Even when we no longer have a culture of
duels and
taryu
shiai

(inter
ryuha matches) we still have students who want to prove they are
smarter than 400 years of experience. These students cheerfully
challenge how kata are done and the sensei is always ready to show
them that their new idea doesn’t work as well as the one that’s
been passed down to them. 
This
helps keep the kata alive even when we don’t have duels and
challenge matches. However, just because the kata are stable doesn’t
mean that they are fossilized and frozen in time. Different teachers
will place more or less emphasis on particular aspects of the kata.
Even the same teacher, over decades of practice, will place different
emphasis on different aspects of the kata. This leads to students
saying things like “But last time you said do it this way.” The
teacher isn’t changing the kata. They are exploring different
aspects of the kata. The teachers know where the limits of each kata
are, and they don’t exceed those limits.
This
stability means that
bugei
ryuha

can
travel through time and across cultures with their principles and
their form essentially unchanged. Kata practice allows students to
make mistakes and see why their ideas are mistaken. The students
learn the techniques and principles through a small set of kata. The
kata don’t need to be changed. In fact, they can’t be changed
without losing the ability to teach the principles of the art. The
stability of the teaching method means that the
ryuha
change
very little over time. Ryuha may acquire new kata and new weapons,
but their essence remains the same.






Grateful appreciation to Deborah Klens-Bigman, Ph.D. for editing what was a scary mess.


 


 

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Do versus Jutsu; Round 3

I’ve
written
before about the idea of DO versus the idea of JUTSU.

Since
the subject keeps coming up as a topic of discussion and debate, I’ll
revisit the argument and hopefully have something new to say about
it.  To begin with, what is a
do

and
what is a
jutsu
?
What makes them different or similar?



 Non-Japanese
keep trying to make
jutsu
and
do
into
important concepts, such as saying that
do
is
a “way” or “path” for spiritual development and the
jutsu
is
for combat, or that
jutsu
is
for battlefield arts and the
do
is
for peace time arts and sports. When you try to explain these
categories to native Japanese, they just shake their heads in
wonderment that anyone could come up with such a thing. The concept
of
do
is
quite a bit older than the martial arts in Japan.  In fact, it’s
quite a bit older than recorded history in Japan. Scholarship shows
all the ways
DAO
(the
Chinese pronunciation for
do
)
was conceived of and argued about in ancient China a thousand years
before there was a written language in Japan.



   Interestingly,
the Kodansha Online Dictionary lists this meaning for
jutsu

as
“a
means; a way.” So if

jutsu
means
“a way” and “
do

is
a way, then what really is the difference? The truth is there isn’t
one in this area. I’ve seen great classical swordsmen use the terms
“kendo” and “kenjutsu” interchangeably in the
same paragraph. I know some lines of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu that
call themselves iaijutsu, and others that call themselves iaido. What
is the difference between the two?  They are the same art, the
same syllabus, the same kata; just different suffixes added to “iai”
(which by the way, is perfectly capable of standing alone without any
suffix; just as one of the popular names for jujutsu
柔術
and
judo
柔道
was
yawara
,without
any suffix at all. 



 Let
me add a quick aside here. As Michael Hacker, the author of
The
Language Of Aikido
,
has pointed out,
jitsu
じつ
() isn’t
a term that is related to this conversation. It’s the result of a
mis-transliteration of the correct suffix “jutsu”



 One
of the greatest, most refined, and storied martial arts in Japan,
with a history going back more than 450 years and still going strong,
doesn’t use either suffix, yet it’s famous for the depth of its
philosophy and the writings of various headmasters. Yagyu Shinkage
Ryu Heiho
 柳生新陰流兵法.Heiho
means
strategy or tactics. I don’t think anyone would argue that Yagyu
Shinkage Ryu Heiho is not a sophisticated system that aims to develop
not just skill with the sword, but a better human being as well.
Shouldn’t its name include

then?
Only if you’re a pedantic
gaijin
(foreigner).
Do

and
jutsu

are
not meaningful categories in Japanese language.



 A
do
is
a way of doing something; and a
jutsu
is
also a way of doing something. There are many ways of expressing this
in Japanese. Across the 500 years or so that various forms of
bugei
(warrior
arts) have been practiced in Japan and around the world, a lot of
different terms have been used to describe martial arts. There have
been lots of words used to describe other practices that are seen as
“ways” as well. Tea Ceremony was known as
Cha
No Yu

for
centuries, long before the description “
sado
(Way
of Tea) was applied to it.

Get the Bum’s book!

 



 I
think the real villain in the
do
versus
jutsu
argument
is our own ego. Many of us would like to think that the art we
practice is somehow superior to other arts. Some people feel that
emphasizing the philosophical aspects of their practice makes it
better than those that emphasize more prosaic skills. Some feel that
emphasizing the physical skills the art teaches makes it superior to
those that talk about the philosophical aspects. Both sides are
letting their ego talk them into something that isn’t true.
Developing the mind and the philosophical aspects of understanding
doesn’t make one superior to those who focus on physical skills.
Emphasizing the development of physical skills doesn’t make one
better than those who put more effort into developing their mental
and philosophical abilities. Both have their place.



Practicing
bugei
is
a journey, not a destination.  This is a cliché, but one that
is true. When you begin training, all of your focus is on the
physical skills. It takes all your concentration just to follow what
sensei is doing and produce a rough approximation of the technique or
kata that is being shown. Later, after you have internalized the
movements, you begin working on the mental aspects of training. I
used to think that Kodokan Judo was obviously better than classical
jujutsu systems such Yoshin Ryu or Tenjin Shin’yo Ryu because Judo,
being a “
do”
art,
was obviously more philosophically sophisticated than simple jujutsu
systems that predated it. Being a
do,
I assumed that it must have a more principle-based curriculum than
any mere technique based
jutsu.



 I
was also an arrogant idiot. The idea that Judo is more sophisticated
or superior to Tenjin Shin’yo Ryu or any of the various styles of
Yoshin Ryu just because it has the suffix
do
in
its name is ridiculous. It’s as silly as saying that Aikido is
clearly superior to Daito Ryu because Ueshiba made his art a
do
and
Takeda didn’t. None of these arts is superior to any other because
of the name or what the art emphasizes. I have real trouble with the
idea that any
bugei
art
is superior to any other. All of them have strengths and weaknesses.
What makes an art superior or inferior is how well suited it is for a
particular situation or person. For a philosophically minded kid such
as myself, Judo and Aikido were great arts. 



 For
someone whose primary interest is physical skills, then arts with too
much talking about the philosophy won’t be suitable. Arts are
superior for what they can do for their practitioners, not because
they are better for learning fighting techniques. Who is going to
make the call as to whether Ono-Ha Itto Ryu or Yagyu Shinkage Ryu is
the better art?  Better for what? The only question where
“better” should show up is in “Which art is better for me at
this time and place?” That’s the only “better” I can think of
being at all meaningful.



 I’ve
got more bad news for folks on all sides of the
do
versus
jutsu
discussion.
You can’t make real progress in any art without both the physical
skills and the mental/philosophical development. The nice thing about
bugei
is
that they are lifelong studies. You never cease learning new things
from them. I do Shinto Hatakage Ryu Iai Heiho, a style of
swordsmanship which has only 22 kata in the curriculum. I’ve been
studying it for more than 22 years. You might think that with more
than a year of study for each kata I have learned all there is to
learn about them and I am bored with them. You would be wrong. The
individual kata still teach me things about movement and balance and
how to optimize my physical self. I also learn more about quieting,
controlling and directing my mind and my self.  Some days
practice is all about the physical techniques. I’m not sure I will
ever fully master the chudan kata
Tobi
Chigai
.
Other days are all about the mental state. I’m sure I will never
fully master my self.



 I
don’t know of any bugei that has come from Japan that has not been
heavily influenced by the concept of
do
of
michi
道。The
concept permeates the culture so thoroughly that it is inescapable.
There are even a number of styles of
soujido
(掃除道

that’s
housework, folks!). Arguing over whether something is a
do
or
jutsu
makes
no sense. If we have time to argue about this, we aren’t practicing
enough. We’re much better off spending more time practicing the
particular
bugei
that
is best for us where we are.




 


References
for further reading


Disputers
of the Tao

by
A. C. Graham, 1999, Open Court Publishing – this looks at not just
the Daoist idea of the way, but also how Confucius, Mozi, and many
others conceived of the Way in ancient China.
 
The
Language of Aikido: A Practitioner’s Guide to Japanese Characters and
Terminology

by
Michael Hacker, 2017, Talking Budo. Hacker does an excellent job of
introducing the multifaceted world of Japanese characters and
language, and how it all serves to enhance, and sometimes confuse,
our practice of Japanese martial arts.





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Do versus Jutsu; Round 3

I’ve
written
before about the idea of DO versus the idea of JUTSU.

Since
the subject keeps coming up as a topic of discussion and debate, I’ll
revisit the argument and hopefully have something new to say about
it.  To begin with, what is a
do

and
what is a
jutsu
?
What makes them different or similar?



 Non-Japanese
keep trying to make
jutsu
and
do
into
important concepts, such as saying that
do
is
a “way” or “path” for spiritual development and the
jutsu
is
for combat, or that
jutsu
is
for battlefield arts and the
do
is
for peace time arts and sports. When you try to explain these
categories to native Japanese, they just shake their heads in
wonderment that anyone could come up with such a thing. The concept
of
do
is
quite a bit older than the martial arts in Japan.  In fact, it’s
quite a bit older than recorded history in Japan. Scholarship shows
all the ways
DAO
(the
Chinese pronunciation for
do
)
was conceived of and argued about in ancient China a thousand years
before there was a written language in Japan.



   Interestingly,
the Kodansha Online Dictionary lists this meaning for
jutsu

as
“a
means; a way.” So if

jutsu
means
“a way” and “
do

is
a way, then what really is the difference? The truth is there isn’t
one in this area. I’ve seen great classical swordsmen use the terms
“kendo” and “kenjutsu” interchangeably in the
same paragraph. I know some lines of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu that
call themselves iaijutsu, and others that call themselves iaido. What
is the difference between the two?  They are the same art, the
same syllabus, the same kata; just different suffixes added to “iai”
(which by the way, is perfectly capable of standing alone without any
suffix; just as one of the popular names for jujutsu
柔術
and
judo
柔道
was
yawara
,without
any suffix at all. 



 Let
me add a quick aside here. As Michael Hacker, the author of
The
Language Of Aikido
,
has pointed out,
jitsu
じつ
() isn’t
a term that is related to this conversation. It’s the result of a
mis-transliteration of the correct suffix “jutsu”



 One
of the greatest, most refined, and storied martial arts in Japan,
with a history going back more than 450 years and still going strong,
doesn’t use either suffix, yet it’s famous for the depth of its
philosophy and the writings of various headmasters. Yagyu Shinkage
Ryu Heiho
 柳生新陰流兵法.Heiho
means
strategy or tactics. I don’t think anyone would argue that Yagyu
Shinkage Ryu Heiho is not a sophisticated system that aims to develop
not just skill with the sword, but a better human being as well.
Shouldn’t its name include

then?
Only if you’re a pedantic
gaijin
(foreigner).
Do

and
jutsu

are
not meaningful categories in Japanese language.



 A
do
is
a way of doing something; and a
jutsu
is
also a way of doing something. There are many ways of expressing this
in Japanese. Across the 500 years or so that various forms of
bugei
(warrior
arts) have been practiced in Japan and around the world, a lot of
different terms have been used to describe martial arts. There have
been lots of words used to describe other practices that are seen as
“ways” as well. Tea Ceremony was known as
Cha
No Yu

for
centuries, long before the description “
sado
(Way
of Tea) was applied to it.

Get the Bum’s book!

 



 I
think the real villain in the
do
versus
jutsu
argument
is our own ego. Many of us would like to think that the art we
practice is somehow superior to other arts. Some people feel that
emphasizing the philosophical aspects of their practice makes it
better than those that emphasize more prosaic skills. Some feel that
emphasizing the physical skills the art teaches makes it superior to
those that talk about the philosophical aspects. Both sides are
letting their ego talk them into something that isn’t true.
Developing the mind and the philosophical aspects of understanding
doesn’t make one superior to those who focus on physical skills.
Emphasizing the development of physical skills doesn’t make one
better than those who put more effort into developing their mental
and philosophical abilities. Both have their place.



Practicing
bugei
is
a journey, not a destination.  This is a cliché, but one that
is true. When you begin training, all of your focus is on the
physical skills. It takes all your concentration just to follow what
sensei is doing and produce a rough approximation of the technique or
kata that is being shown. Later, after you have internalized the
movements, you begin working on the mental aspects of training. I
used to think that Kodokan Judo was obviously better than classical
jujutsu systems such Yoshin Ryu or Tenjin Shin’yo Ryu because Judo,
being a “
do”
art,
was obviously more philosophically sophisticated than simple jujutsu
systems that predated it. Being a
do,
I assumed that it must have a more principle-based curriculum than
any mere technique based
jutsu.



 I
was also an arrogant idiot. The idea that Judo is more sophisticated
or superior to Tenjin Shin’yo Ryu or any of the various styles of
Yoshin Ryu just because it has the suffix
do
in
its name is ridiculous. It’s as silly as saying that Aikido is
clearly superior to Daito Ryu because Ueshiba made his art a
do
and
Takeda didn’t. None of these arts is superior to any other because
of the name or what the art emphasizes. I have real trouble with the
idea that any
bugei
art
is superior to any other. All of them have strengths and weaknesses.
What makes an art superior or inferior is how well suited it is for a
particular situation or person. For a philosophically minded kid such
as myself, Judo and Aikido were great arts. 



 For
someone whose primary interest is physical skills, then arts with too
much talking about the philosophy won’t be suitable. Arts are
superior for what they can do for their practitioners, not because
they are better for learning fighting techniques. Who is going to
make the call as to whether Ono-Ha Itto Ryu or Yagyu Shinkage Ryu is
the better art?  Better for what? The only question where
“better” should show up is in “Which art is better for me at
this time and place?” That’s the only “better” I can think of
being at all meaningful.



 I’ve
got more bad news for folks on all sides of the
do
versus
jutsu
discussion.
You can’t make real progress in any art without both the physical
skills and the mental/philosophical development. The nice thing about
bugei
is
that they are lifelong studies. You never cease learning new things
from them. I do Shinto Hatakage Ryu Iai Heiho, a style of
swordsmanship which has only 22 kata in the curriculum. I’ve been
studying it for more than 22 years. You might think that with more
than a year of study for each kata I have learned all there is to
learn about them and I am bored with them. You would be wrong. The
individual kata still teach me things about movement and balance and
how to optimize my physical self. I also learn more about quieting,
controlling and directing my mind and my self.  Some days
practice is all about the physical techniques. I’m not sure I will
ever fully master the chudan kata
Tobi
Chigai
.
Other days are all about the mental state. I’m sure I will never
fully master my self.



 I
don’t know of any bugei that has come from Japan that has not been
heavily influenced by the concept of
do
of
michi
道。The
concept permeates the culture so thoroughly that it is inescapable.
There are even a number of styles of
soujido
(掃除道

that’s
housework, folks!). Arguing over whether something is a
do
or
jutsu
makes
no sense. If we have time to argue about this, we aren’t practicing
enough. We’re much better off spending more time practicing the
particular
bugei
that
is best for us where we are.




 


References
for further reading


Disputers
of the Tao

by
A. C. Graham, 1999, Open Court Publishing – this looks at not just
the Daoist idea of the way, but also how Confucius, Mozi, and many
others conceived of the Way in ancient China.
 
The
Language of Aikido: A Practitioner’s Guide to Japanese Characters and
Terminology

by
Michael Hacker, 2017, Talking Budo. Hacker does an excellent job of
introducing the multifaceted world of Japanese characters and
language, and how it all serves to enhance, and sometimes confuse,
our practice of Japanese martial arts.





via Blogger https://ift.tt/2PbGUIs