Growth And Change In Budo

 

I
was talking with a student and teacher of classical Japanese martial
arts, and the all too-common myth – that the teachers and students of
these centuries-old ryuha practice exactly as their creators taught
them in the first generation – came up.  We both laughed. It’s
a compelling story, but it’s a myth – one that is dangerous for the
students, and for the arts themselves. Whether you do something
called a way ( “do”
).
An art (“jutsu”
),
or a style or school (“ryu”
)the
story is the same.



These
are all arts that have survived centuries of use and application. The
thought that hundreds of years ago someone discovered a principle and
created techniques for applying it that were perfectly formed and are
still perfectly suited to the world they are in credits the founders
with a level of genius that I cannot imagine. I can imagine them
realizing principles that can be applied to an ever-changing
environment, but I can’t stretch that to the founders also creating
techniques that perfectly apply that principle no matter how the
world has changed.



Principles
don’t change. That’s the nature of principles. They are
fundamental ways of understanding the world and how it operates. In
budo, sometimes principles are expressed and learned through physical
practice, such as that discovered by following the Shinto Muso Ryu
directive “maruki wo motte suigetsu wo shire “
丸木を持って水月を知れ””holding
a round stick, know the solar plexus”. Others are clearly expressed
philosophical concepts, such as Kano Jigoro Shihan’s “seiryoku
zen’yo”
精力善用
(often
translated as “maximum efficiency, minimum effort”), which is the
short form for “seiryoku saizen katsuyo”
精力最善活用
best
use of energy”.Jigoro Kano, Mind Over Muscle, Kodansha, 2005).
Usually shortened to “maximum efficiency minimum effort,” Kano’s
maxim  refers to  a broader principle than just the
physical technique. It’s about the best use and application of
energy, mental and physical. These core principles of different arts
haven’t changed since they were first expressed.



Principles,
by their nature, are universal. If they can’t be applied
universally, they aren’t principles. I can apply the principle
implied by the jodo maxim
maruki
wo motte shigetsu wo shire

in
a variety of ways and situations. I can even apply this principle
without a stick in judo randori, to pick an example outside of Shinto
Muso Ryu. Kano Jigoro was an evangelist for the idea of
seiryoku
saizen katsuyo

and
its usefulness outside the constrained world of the dojo. He wrote
extensively about the principle and why everyone should apply it,
whether they practice judo or not. These principles haven’t changed
since they were first understood.

 

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How
they are applied and expressed changes all the time however. 
Not because the principles change at all, but because the environment
in which they are being applied changes. Judo is nearly 140 years
old. Shinto Muso Ryu has been around for more than 400 years. For all
of these arts, the world has changed dramatically since they were
founded. The world of combat in Japan slowly changed as weapons and
tactics evolved, and then was transformed by the introduction of
firearms in the 1500’s, followed by the enforcement of peace by the
Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603. Shinto Muso Ryu, essentially military
police tactics, was born into the first years of unsteady peace
during the Tokugawa Era. The samurai class was still on a war
footing, with the Tokugawa victory only a few years earlier. Weapons
of war and people skilled with them were everywhere.



A
little over 250 years later the wearing of swords in public was
banned. Clothing styles in Japan changed from traditional kimono and
hakama to European dress. The tools of combat increased in number and
power. People still study Kodokan Judo and Shinto Muso Ryu and other
koryu arts. The arts are still seen as relevant to this age that
would have been unimaginable when they were created. 



The
people who study Kodokan Judo still practice many things that Kano
Jigoro laid down as part of his art. They do a lot of things that he
didn’t include in his pedagogy for the art. I find Kodokan Judo
principles being applied not just in competitive matches with people
wearing traditional dogi, but in no-gi matches and even professional
MMA fights. More interesting to me is the way Kodokan Judo’s
principles continue to be applied in and out of the dojo. It’s
still seen as an effective form of physical education, and the
principle of
seiryoku
zen’yo
,
along with the principle of
yawara

(softness,
pliancy, flexibility, suppleness), is taught as having far more than
just martial applications. The whole of Kodokan Judo manages to offer
a very complete set of principles for interacting with the world
physically and intellectually nearly 140 years after its founding. It
hasn’t stopped growing and adapting. In addition to the official
kata of Kodokan Judo, many practitioners develop their own,
unofficial, kata to practice and explore the principles in situations
that are not focused on in the official curriculum.



The
proportion of waza practice versus randori practice versu kata
practice is something judoka never stop arguing about, and every judo
dojo has a different answer to what the proportions should be. I see
people working out new techniques based on the classical principles,
and practicing in new ways. It’s not uncommon now to see judoka
train without dogi so they can prepare for no-gi tournaments. Do they
stop doing judo because they take off their dogi and fight in
competitions that aren’t using IJF rules? If you’re applying judo
principles it’s still judo, regardless of what you’re wearing or
what you’re doing. Judo is, after all,
yawara.
It’s
soft and pliant. It can change its shape to fit the situation.



Shinto
Muso Ryu reaches further back for its origin, another 270 odd years
past Judo. The relevance of a stick that was intended to be used to
subdue people with swords in a world of guns and IEDs is difficult to
imagine, especially when you see the people studying it wearing
clothes that have been out of date for centuries and practicing
against people armed with swords. Relevant in the 21st century? It
looks more like Live Action Role-Playing to most people. However, the
principles haven’t changed, even if the practical applications have
had to evolve. 



Throughout
its history Shinto Muso Ryu’s students haven’t been afraid to add
new lessons to the art. Kata were added steadily over the centuries,
and tools were added to the practitioner’s kit. An art that started
out with just a stick and a sword now teaches students to apply the
principles to sticks of nearly any length, as well as chains (and in
some lines even bayonet length blades!). The real principles about
movement, timing, spacing and rhythm are still useful not just in
combat situations, but everywhere in life. I’ve only been doing
Shinto Muso Ryu for 28 years, but in that time I’ve watched
teachers tweak kata and change what they emphasize. Looking back
before my time, to the films that survive from the last 90 years or
so, it’s clear that people have been tweaking and playing with the
kata since long before I showed up. Considering all the recorded
changes that have been made to Shinto Muso Ryu over the centuries, no
one can seriously claim that they do Shinto Muso Ryu just like Muso
Gonosuke Katsuyoshi did it.  It’s been changing and adapting
from the day he started figuring it out for himself.



[that
sentence undercuts your argument that such a practice is even
possible] Budo practices are paths to follow, not fossils.  You
have to adapt to the terrain. If you never change anything, and never
learn anything beyond where the founder began, you would be
preserving an artifact that has no relationship to the age you live
in. I fully expect the arts I practice and teach to grow and change.
The principles will still be there, but I sincerely hope my students
learn new ways to train, new ways to teach the principles, and new
ways to express the principles. Anything less than that is a
discredit to everyone who has gone before us.




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It All Comes Back To How You Stand And How You Breathe

 


Your
shoulders aren’t over your hips.”



Don’t
forget to breathe.”



As
martial artists we chase strong, powerful techniques, and we strive
to use our muscles effectively. Many of us spend time in the gym
lifting weights and doing physical conditioning. I do squats and
curls and sit-ups and push-ups. For all that, I can’t think of any
time I’ve heard someone say “Use more muscle.”  Instead we
hear people talk about things like relaxation and
kokyuroku
呼吸力
(breath
power). 



Muscle
is great, but no muscle works in isolation. Weight training often is
about isolating specific muscles to develop them. Budo is about
integrating muscles and bone and sinew, and that all comes back to
how you stand and how you breathe. What we’re doing in the dojo,
whether it’s kata training or randori, is movement. All that
movement, though, starts in stillness. 



Standing
there, doing nothing, what are you doing? You’re standing and
breathing. So obvious it feels foolish to say, but most of us don’t
do a very good job of doing nothing. Standing still is difficult to
do right. I was surprised as a beginning judo student to learn that
one of the skills on the first rank test I ever took was standing
still. Oh, it got a neat Japanese name,
shizen
hontai
,
but that just breaks down to “natural, basic body.”



   It
didn’t take too much practice to be balanced and relaxed enough to
pass the shinzen hontai item on that 6th kyu test. What experience
keeps teaching me is how important everything on the 6th kyu test is.
If it’s on the first test you take, it’s because that will be
essential to everything you do after that test. I’m still working
to get shizen hontai right. What passed on the 6th kyu test, however,
failed to be good enough for me not long after the test.



That
natural, basic body is the body with no unnecessary tension; no
muscles tensing when they aren’t needed. Everything as natural and
loose as a small child. Small children fall down and bounce back up
in part because they are so loose and natural. They don’t tense up
or freeze when they start to fall. They just go with it. Getting back
to something like that natural state without unnecessary tension is
part of shizen hontai.



Unnecessary
tension impacts how you breathe. If  you carry stress and
tension in your shoulders or chest it constricts how well you can
expand your chest and take in air. Babies have incredible lung power,
as anyone who was holding an infant when they started screaming can
attest. A large part of that is the fact that there is no tension
inhibiting their breathing, so they use all of their lung capacity. 


 


  
To
breathe well you have to use all of your natural capacity. At this
moment, I’m doing two things in particular that inhibit that
natural capacity. The first is my lousy posture while sitting at the
computer. My shoulders are slumped forward, my chin is sticking out,
my back is slouching. To use all of my natural capacity I have to
free my body to work at its best. That means I have to sit up
straight and let my shoulders fall back instead of rounding them
forward. This opens my chest and stomach so my lungs can expand to
their full capacity.



The
second thing I’m doing wrong is carrying all the tension from a
lousy day at work in my shoulders and chest. I drain the tension out
of my shoulders and they settle down where they belong, instead of
being up near my ears. My chest and back are tight and constricted
from sitting in front of a computer all day. Not getting enough
activity to loosen the muscles won’t  allow my breathing to
flow naturally. Those tense muscles fight to keep my chest tight and
restricted, preventing me from taking a full breath. When I get rid
of the unnecessary tension and breathe using my diaphragm to expand
my lungs and pull air into my lungs to their fullest, I get the best
breath I can take, allowing my lungs to function at their optimum
exchanging carbon dioxide and oxygen.



Good
breathing circles around and impacts how you stand. You can’t stand
properly if you’re breathing wrong. If you’re breathing with your
shoulders instead of your diaphragm you are throwing your balance
back and forth with every breath. It’s a small thing, but I’ve
seen people take advantage of poor breathing in judo regularly.
Breathe from your diaphragm and your balance remains stable. You can
drop your weight through your hips to the floor and let your body’s
natural structure carry your weight for you. Instead of having to
work at staying balanced, you just are.



Pick
a technique that you are working to polish. Try doing it with your
shoulders up by your ears, your back slouched and your chin stuck
out, then correct your posture and try it again. Much easier to do
right, isn’t it? After that, try doing the technique while
exhaling. Quite possibly the most common mistake I see is people
forgetting to breathe. Now that you’re breathing, take a moment and
make sure you’re doing it right, and then do the technique again
while exhaling properly. It sounds easy. Stand and breathe, then do a
technique. It becomes difficult when you add “properly” in front
of “stand” and “breathe.” Standing and breathing are very
complex activities to do correctly. Moreover, when we are learning
anything new, the first thing we tend to do is hold our breath while
we concentrate on the new stuff. I’ve done it, and every student
I’ve ever had has done it. The more you practice good breathing and
good standing, the less likely you will be to forget about those
things when you have to focus on other things – like good technique.



It
really doesn’t matter which budo you are doing. Koryu. Gendai.
Western. Eastern. Good budo always comes back to how you breathe and
how you stand. If these two elements aren’t right, nothing is. Take
a moment and let yourself be aware of your body, of how you’re
breathing and how you are sitting and standing. You don’t need a
teacher to tell you when you are slouching or breathing with your
shoulders. These are things you should figure out and start fixing on
your own.  

 

Special thanks to Deborah Klens-Bigman for editorial support.




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Corallary To The Budo Law Of Conservation Of Movement

 


A while back I wrote a post about The Budo Law Of Conservation Of Movement.
Effective budo systems don’t waste time and mental space teaching a hundred
ways to do the same thing. Instead they teach one way to do a hundred things.
There is a corollary to law which is

 The smallest movement that is effective is the best
movement

 Budo is about conflict, fighting, combat. Do
you want to waste any resource in a fight, including your energy?. Strength and
stamina are finite resources; no matter who you are, they will run out. How
long will the fight last? Is there likely to be another one soon? These are
unknowables, so any wasted effort reduces what you’ve got to work with down the
line. Don’t waste energy.

 Look at any classical budo. Koryu budo are
almost dull in the way they do things; there’s nothing flashy or decorative in
their movement.  All the fancy movement
and dancing that you see in movies is notable for its absence in classical
budo. Or even watch competitive judo – there’s no unnecessary movement. Really
good judoka often make for rather boring matches to watch. The competitors are
there to win and move on to the next match. 99% of the action is in movements
so small you can’t really see them. High level judo matches have so little
excitement in their 5 minute spans that the rules are juiced to make them more
interesting. These matches require a serious attack to happen every few seconds
or a penalty can be awarded by the referee for stalling. In a tournament, a
judoka might end up fighting 6, 7, or more matches in one day. Skilled judoka
know they can’t afford to waste any effort because they will need it later.

 Conserve your motion. Conserve your energy.
Don’t make a big movement when a small one will do the job.

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 The other thing about using the smallest
movement to do the job is that it protects you. It’s not good to throw your
energy around unnecessarily. Any movement you make affects you as well as your
opponent. Bigger movements mean committing more energy. Any energy you put out
there can be used by your opponent against you. I love countering techniques in
judo because they turn an opponent’s attack into their defeat. The more energy
an opponent sends out the more I have to work with. The bigger the movement you
commit to, the harder it is to change trajectory once it’s started.

 Overcommitment to a technique backfiring can
happen whether it’s in an unarmed situation like a judo match, or weapon versus
weapon. Learning to control your movement and take advantage of moments when
your adversary is over-extended is fundamental. Watch a kendo match. The
kendoka jockey for control of the center with just the tips of their shinai.
Movements are just big enough to evade being controlled by the opponent and use
just enough energy to do the job and no more. Openings are created when someone
moves further than is needed or puts too much power into their shinai and can’t
recover their position in time to prevent the attack.

 All good budo is efficient. Wasting energy is
foolish. So is giving your adversary anything to work with. Any excess
movement, any unnecessary movement, creates an opening for your opponent.
Overextend an arm on an attack and it can be locked or used as a lever to throw
you. Too big a movement leaves a window for a strike or an entry. Therefore

 The
smallest movement that is effective is the best movement.

 

Special thanks to Deborah Klens-Bigman for her wonderful editing work.

 

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“There is no East or West” Really?

 

Before you pick a fight, make sure you know what you’re getting into.  (Video copyright Peter Boylan 2020)

 

“How
many westerners studied in Japan for a significant amount of time?
Few. In fighting, culture means very little. Step into the ring and
put your fists up. There is no east or west.”



Someone
posted this comment in a discussion I am involved in. It seems like a
pretty straightforward idea. In combat arts all that matters is what
happens when you step into the ring. Everything in a combat art can
be decided by getting out there and facing off with someone.



However,
stepping into a ring is not the same as a street fight or close
quarters combat. The rules are completely different. The rules in the
ring are about both people coming out with all of their teeth and no
permanent damage. Outside a sporting ring there are still rules. The
other people in the fight might not bother to tell you what the rules
are, but they have them. What rules do you expect? 



Fighting
in a ring is dueling. It’s only 2 people, everyone gets the same
equipment, and even when there is no referee, everyone including the
spectators know if someone breaks the rules. Dueling is great for the
ego.  I love doing randori in Judo. One on one with someone
trying to throw me, choke me, pin me or make me submit to an arm lock
is just about as much fun as I can imagine. When the world is not
threatened by a plague, I try to do it a couple of times a week for
as long as my stamina holds out.



Japanese
classical budo of the Tokugawa Period (1604-1868) could be brutal
stuff. Ambush and surprise attacks were considered quite acceptable.
It wasn’t about arranging a nice formal duel if someone besmirched
your honor. It was a vendetta and very little was off limits. Many of
the classical systems that have survived include teachings about
setting up an ambush or a sneak attack. These aren’t friendly
dueling arts. These are arts of killing without getting killed.
Forcing someone from a very different cultural tradition to fight so
you can “see who’s better” is a risky affair. You may think
you’re having a friendly duel, and the other guy may break your
fingers right off the mark because that’s accepted in the culture
he comes from. He may not know about the rules you follow in a
friendly duel. This is not something you want to find out the hard
way.

 

Get a collection of my favorite essays in digital or paperback!



What
I do in a judo dojo fighting with my friends is vastly different from
what I’ve done the few times I’ve had to do anything in “the
real world.” Sport dueling is fun, but it really only proves who’s
better at dueling under those particular rules. Classical Japanese
budo arts have long traditions of fighting that aren’t about
dueling in a *fair* environment. They assume that nothing is going to
be fair and that everyone will use whatever is available to ensure
that they are the one(s) who walk away. People who train for this
sort of encounter really aren’t prepared to fight by your rules.
Their trained reactions and instincts are not to go for the
submission by arm bar, or to win by throwing you cleanly on your
back. Their reaction is to snap the elbow or wrist the instant they
have it, or to throw you on your head so that you get a concussion
and maybe a broken neck.



Every
culture has different expectations. In war in Europe and North
America there is the Geneva Convention,  whereby if your unit is
getting slaughtered, you can surrender and your enemy will take you
prisoner, treat you decently and eventually trade you back to your
side in exchange for prisoners your side has captured. Disregarding
the Convention leaves a warring nation open to charges of
international war crimes, when the conflict inevitably ends. European
and North American rules of engagement are assumed to be followed
everywhere.



Except
that, historically, they have not been. Japan has a long tradition
across a thousand years, not of taking prisoners, but of
taking
heads
.
Soldiers were rewarded based on how many heads they took and rank of
the people who lost those heads. Surrendering and being taken
prisoner was not an honorable thing to do. If you tried, you’d be
so looked down upon for lacking the courage to fight to the last or
take your own life that you would be tortured before they took your
head from your shoulders.



These
different ideas of what was honorable in battle didn’t clash
significantly until 1941 when Japan began invading south east Asia
and wresting control of European colonies from the British, Dutch,
French and Americans. The Japanese had no tradition of capturing
prisoners. They didn’t know what to do with all European and
American P.O.W.s they suddenly had to deal with. They treated them
with all the respect their centuries of tradition taught them a
prisoner of war was entitled to: none at all.



On
the other side, the Japanese were exhorted to uphold tradition and
die an honorable death rather than be taken prisoner and abused by
the enemy. Japanese soldiers who were captured were often shocked to
be treated according to the western customs of the Allies.



In
sports, there are still a lot of classical judoka in Japan who feel
that having weight classes in judo competition is a sign of weakness,
not a matter of fairness.  For them, the best judoka is the one
who wins against everyone.  I’m really not prepared to fight
in an open division with the heavyweights and super-heavyweights. For
decades in Japan this was the only way competition was done.  In
sumo, for example, though there are many rules and traditions of
competition, there are no weight classes, only rankings according to
where competitors stand in regard to their opponents.



If
you’re going to fight, make sure you know the local rules. When I
first moved to Japan I had a hard time understanding the local
judo rules. I’d done judo for 4 years by that time and had fought
in many competitions under International Judo Federation rules. I’m
thick and slow. It took me a while to get it through my head that
people in Japan don’t automatically use the IJF rules to run local
shiai. “Local rules” is a real thing. If you’re getting ready
to fight, make sure you know the local rules. Fighting, like most
things we humans do, is a cultural activity, and if you don’t know
the culture, watch out. What you don’t know can hurt you.

 

Special thanks to Deborah Klens-BIgman for editorial support.

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“There is no East or West” Really?

 

Before you pick a fight, make sure you know what you’re getting into.  (Video copyright Peter Boylan 2020)

 

“How
many westerners studied in Japan for a significant amount of time?
Few. In fighting, culture means very little. Step into the ring and
put your fists up. There is no east or west.”



Someone
posted this comment in a discussion I am involved in. It seems like a
pretty straightforward idea. In combat arts all that matters is what
happens when you step into the ring. Everything in a combat art can
be decided by getting out there and facing off with someone.



However,
stepping into a ring is not the same as a street fight or close
quarters combat. The rules are completely different. The rules in the
ring are about both people coming out with all of their teeth and no
permanent damage. Outside a sporting ring there are still rules. The
other people in the fight might not bother to tell you what the rules
are, but they have them. What rules do you expect? 



Fighting
in a ring is dueling. It’s only 2 people, everyone gets the same
equipment, and even when there is no referee, everyone including the
spectators know if someone breaks the rules. Dueling is great for the
ego.  I love doing randori in Judo. One on one with someone
trying to throw me, choke me, pin me or make me submit to an arm lock
is just about as much fun as I can imagine. When the world is not
threatened by a plague, I try to do it a couple of times a week for
as long as my stamina holds out.



Japanese
classical budo of the Tokugawa Period (1604-1868) could be brutal
stuff. Ambush and surprise attacks were considered quite acceptable.
It wasn’t about arranging a nice formal duel if someone besmirched
your honor. It was a vendetta and very little was off limits. Many of
the classical systems that have survived include teachings about
setting up an ambush or a sneak attack. These aren’t friendly
dueling arts. These are arts of killing without getting killed.
Forcing someone from a very different cultural tradition to fight so
you can “see who’s better” is a risky affair. You may think
you’re having a friendly duel, and the other guy may break your
fingers right off the mark because that’s accepted in the culture
he comes from. He may not know about the rules you follow in a
friendly duel. This is not something you want to find out the hard
way.

 

Get a collection of my favorite essays in digital or paperback!



What
I do in a judo dojo fighting with my friends is vastly different from
what I’ve done the few times I’ve had to do anything in “the
real world.” Sport dueling is fun, but it really only proves who’s
better at dueling under those particular rules. Classical Japanese
budo arts have long traditions of fighting that aren’t about
dueling in a *fair* environment. They assume that nothing is going to
be fair and that everyone will use whatever is available to ensure
that they are the one(s) who walk away. People who train for this
sort of encounter really aren’t prepared to fight by your rules.
Their trained reactions and instincts are not to go for the
submission by arm bar, or to win by throwing you cleanly on your
back. Their reaction is to snap the elbow or wrist the instant they
have it, or to throw you on your head so that you get a concussion
and maybe a broken neck.



Every
culture has different expectations. In war in Europe and North
America there is the Geneva Convention,  whereby if your unit is
getting slaughtered, you can surrender and your enemy will take you
prisoner, treat you decently and eventually trade you back to your
side in exchange for prisoners your side has captured. Disregarding
the Convention leaves a warring nation open to charges of
international war crimes, when the conflict inevitably ends. European
and North American rules of engagement are assumed to be followed
everywhere.



Except
that, historically, they have not been. Japan has a long tradition
across a thousand years, not of taking prisoners, but of
taking
heads
.
Soldiers were rewarded based on how many heads they took and rank of
the people who lost those heads. Surrendering and being taken
prisoner was not an honorable thing to do. If you tried, you’d be
so looked down upon for lacking the courage to fight to the last or
take your own life that you would be tortured before they took your
head from your shoulders.



These
different ideas of what was honorable in battle didn’t clash
significantly until 1941 when Japan began invading south east Asia
and wresting control of European colonies from the British, Dutch,
French and Americans. The Japanese had no tradition of capturing
prisoners. They didn’t know what to do with all European and
American P.O.W.s they suddenly had to deal with. They treated them
with all the respect their centuries of tradition taught them a
prisoner of war was entitled to: none at all.



On
the other side, the Japanese were exhorted to uphold tradition and
die an honorable death rather than be taken prisoner and abused by
the enemy. Japanese soldiers who were captured were often shocked to
be treated according to the western customs of the Allies.



In
sports, there are still a lot of classical judoka in Japan who feel
that having weight classes in judo competition is a sign of weakness,
not a matter of fairness.  For them, the best judoka is the one
who wins against everyone.  I’m really not prepared to fight
in an open division with the heavyweights and super-heavyweights. For
decades in Japan this was the only way competition was done.  In
sumo, for example, though there are many rules and traditions of
competition, there are no weight classes, only rankings according to
where competitors stand in regard to their opponents.



If
you’re going to fight, make sure you know the local rules. When I
first moved to Japan I had a hard time understanding the local
judo rules. I’d done judo for 4 years by that time and had fought
in many competitions under International Judo Federation rules. I’m
thick and slow. It took me a while to get it through my head that
people in Japan don’t automatically use the IJF rules to run local
shiai. “Local rules” is a real thing. If you’re getting ready
to fight, make sure you know the local rules. Fighting, like most
things we humans do, is a cultural activity, and if you don’t know
the culture, watch out. What you don’t know can hurt you.

 

Special thanks to Deborah Klens-BIgman for editorial support.

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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.

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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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