The Role Of Competition In Budo

 

Final of All-Japan Judo Championships in 2007   Photo Copyright Gotcha2. Used under GNU Free Documentation License.

There
is a continual discussion in budo about the importance of
competition. The argument for competition has two prongs. The first
is that you have to learn to perform techniques under stress, and
competition is the best way to pressure-test technique.  The
second is that you have to learn  to deal with the unexpected
and the only way to do that is in a competitive situation. I agree 
that you have to be able to perform under stress and that you have to
be able to deal with the unexpected.  If you’re not learning
to do things when you are stressed, and you’re not learning to deal
with the unexpected, you’re not learning budo.



I’ve
heard a lot of people expound on the stress benefits of competition.
The desire to win ramps up the stress, and in judo or full contact
karate, the fact that effective technique can hurt, and may even
leave you unconscious, ramps it up further. Add the frustration that
builds when your adversary prevents your technique from being
effective and the stress level can get pretty high. You can certainly
learn something about stress in competition.



I
know that for most of the time I was competing I found competition
stressful. I would get anxious and it would become harder and harder
to stay still and not fidget as the match approached.  I had to
learn to apply breathing and relaxation techniques in order to
control the stress so I didn’t become tense and lose my ability to
move flexibly and quickly. 



Once
the match starts the tension can get worse. The more skilful the
adversary, the more frustration and stress. It’s a quick check on
students getting cocky about the strength of their technique. It is
one thing to practice a technique on a partner who isn’t resisting,
and another thing to try to throw someone who is trying to throw you.
The experience of learning to flow from technique to technique is
great. The dynamism and volatility of competition are excellent
experiences for many people.



As
Rory Miller so eloquently points out in
Meditations
On Violence
,
every training methodology includes a fail. That is, there is always
a way in which what you are doing fails, and specifically doesn’t
mimic the real world. In competition, it’s that fact that there are
rules limiting what you can do, and what your partner can do to you.
The possibilities are artificially limited so people can compete with
a reasonable expectation that they will be safe and healthy at the
end of the competition. Just think of all the techniques that are
excluded. Or the protective gear that is worn. Then there is the
referee who is there to award points, but also to make sure no one
does anything harmful.


This
is a safe environment to train in. And the stress level never gets
too high because we know it is safe going in. As much as it is a
pressure-testing experience, the fact that we don’t have to worry
about someone taking a shot at our throat or eyes, or attempting to
destroy our knees or elbows means that we’re not experiencing
anywhere near the pressure of dealing with someone who genuinely
wants to harm us.



There
are different kinds and levels of stress. I’ve never seen evidence
that competition can rise to anywhere near the level of stress and
fear and adrenaline dump that a confrontation outside the tournament
area and outside the tournament rules produces. When someone swings a
knife at you, the feeling in your gut is quite different from the one
when someone is trying to pound you with the ground or choke you
unconscious in a tournament. The fear and the adrenaline hit you 
much harder. That doesn’t make competition useless; we just
shouldn’t think it can do something it’s not specifically
designed for.

 


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One
of the best things about competition is that it is fun. We enjoy it,
whether it’s a friendly match in the dojo where no one is keeping
score, or it is a national level tournament, we enjoy competition.
Competition is so much fun that people will come back to train again
and again just so they can have the fun of competing, both in
tournaments with medals and trophies, and in friendly bouts in the
dojo. Competition is a great motivator for many people, but it’s
not combat preparation and we shouldn’t pretend it is. 



There
are lots of ways stress can be induced in training. I know the most
stressed I’ve ever been in the dojo wasn’t some sort of
competition. Some of the most intense stress I’ve experienced was
the day my teacher swapped out his wooden sword for a metal one
during jodo practice. I’ve made plenty of mistakes during practice
that resulted in me getting whacked with a wooden weapon. Some of the
bruises have been spectacular. When Sensei swapped out the bokuto for
a metal blade though, I broke out in a sweat. If I screwed up, the
consequences could have been a lot more severe than a nasty bruise. 



Other
ways stress can be induced: Train into exhaustion. Ramp up the speed.
Increase the intensity. Yes, even compete. Don’t imagine that any
of these comes close to combative stress. The closest I’ve come to
feeling stress equal to what I’ve felt in real confrontations was
in kata practice. Paired kata training as is done in koryu bugei has
consistently generated the most stress-filled training I’ve done.
It can range from very gentle walk-throughs to adrenalin rush
inducing intensity. It all depends on what your partner is giving
you.



My
koryu teachers have never given me more than I can handle, but they
have been more than happy to give me more than I
thought
I
could handle. They ask me to put as much as I can into practice, and
sometimes that includes dragging me past the edge of what I perceive
as my ability into frightening new territory. That’s part of their
role. In koryu the senior is responsible for taking the losing role.
It is the senior’s job to control the speed and intensity of training
so the junior gets as much from the training as is possible.



One
of the complaints that people make about kata training is that you
know exactly what is going to happen. In good training that is, and
isn’t, true.I was strongly reminded of that recently. I was working
with a senior teacher who would attack into any opening I left while
doing the kata. I got whacked on the head with his fukuro shinai in
places where it’s not called for in the kata. It was good kata
training. He showed me openings I was leaving as I did the kata. In
most instances I was too focused on one aspect of the kata and he
attacked where my awareness wasn’t. 



Talk
about inducing stress! My stress level went well above what I have
felt in competition. It was a lot like randori because I never knew
when he would spot an opening and fill it with his sword. Thank
goodness it was a fukuro shinai; a bokuto would have left colorful
bruises in a number of places.



This
way of practicing kata is a great one, and it provides the same sense
of uncertainty that competition does. In koryu kata practice, your
partner is supposed to be trying to kill you. It makes sense that
they would attack any opening you leave, not just move with the
choreography of the kata. Uchi’s intention to attack you anywhere
they can is important for making the kata practice as effective as
possible. In koryu kata the role the junior person takes is the
winning side, and the choreography of the kata on their side is the
optimal set of techniques for the situation. That doesn’t mean the
senior, in the role of uchi, should just go  along and forget
about any attacks that are specified. In good kata practice, uchi is
always looking for additional opportunities to attack. If the junior
does a good job, there won’t be any. Since the junior is in the
process of learning, they will make mistakes, leave openings, and get
attacked. If you practice kata correctly, the planned actions are the
logical ones. If you don’t, other options present themselves. 
Or not.



The
element of unpredictability and spontaneous action is what gives
competition its real value, but the  stress level of competition
isn’t any greater than many other exercises. Competition involves 
learning to see openings and to close them. Learning to deal with
unexpected attacks and how to prevent them. Learning to flow from one
action to the next without pausing and without leaving openings.
That’s where the real value of competition is. I just don’t think
that it’s the only way, or even the best way, to learn these
things. 



The
rules that make safe competition possible also limit its value for
learning to deal with spontaneous action. Too many options are
artificially eliminated. Judoka get used to nothing coming at their
faces and not having to worry about strikes. Karateka don’t have to
worry about opponents closing with them. No one learns to deal with
weapons attacks. No one learns to deal with asymmetrical situations
where people are armed differently.



In
competition everything has to be fair.  No one would show up for
a competition where you don’t know if you or your opponent will be
armed or unarmed, or even armed similarly. That wouldn’t be fun,
and it wouldn’t be a fair comparison of skills. It would be much
more realistic though.  And more dangerous!



I
think that too much concentration on competition will render one
blind to everything that is not allowed in competition. A little
competition for the purpose of learning to be spontaneous and flow 
isn’t bad. Too much focus on competition and you risk training the
things that aren’t allowed in competition right out of your system.
If you ignore all the stuff that isn’t allowed in competition, very
soon you aren’t doing budo. You’re only doing sport. Kata
training can fill in some of the gaps. Budo training doesn’t need
competition to be effective.

 

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

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So You Want To Be Samurai

 

So
you want to be a samurai, eh? When I ask people who revere the
samurai “What is it about the samurai that you find so great?”
The most common answer is that they are impressed by the bushido
code. There is a lot of good stuff found in what is termed the
bushido code.
Most
of it predates the bushi by 1500 years or more, and the rest was
added in the early 20th century when the term “bushido” was first
widely used.
 Most
of the stuff about sacrificing oneself for one’s lord other such
more extreme was only added in the early 20th century.

The
parts of “bushido” that weren’t added by fascist military
promoters in the 20th century are quite good. It’s just that they are
basically
the
5 virtues of Confucius
.
I have a piece of calligraphy in my living room done by my budo
teacher, Kiyama Hiroshi Shihan, that lists them in this order:

智 
仁  義  礼  信

In
Japanese they are read:

Chi

or
“wisdom”.

Jin

or
”benevolence”

Gi

or
“righteousness” 

Rei

or
“ritual propriety”

Shin

or
“Trust”

 

 These
all seem like really good virtues, especially if you understand a
little about Confucian thought. I can’t think of anyone who would
argue that
chi,
or wisdom, is a bad thing. Developing wisdom requires having some
understanding of the world, so study and learning is encouraged as a
means of acquiring wisdom. This includes active, lifelong studying
for self-improvement. Once you have some wisdom and understanding,
you have to act on it. Wisdom without action isn’t really wisdom.

Jin,
or “benevolence” can be a tougher sell for some people until they
begin to understand the context.
Jin
includes
acting in a way that makes the world better for everyone, not just
for yourself. It’s not giving charity blindly. It’s actively
making the world around you a better place. In some situations that
may mean giving charitably. In others it may be buying a quieter lawn
mower so you don’t disturb your neighbors when you cut the grass.
It could be volunteering to help kids with their homework or to just
give them a safe space to be kids. Take a CPR class. Begin
composting. Donate blood. Take an art class and improve yourself.
There are infinite possibilities for benevolent action.

Gi,
or
“righteousness” sometimes makes people uncomfortable because they
associate righteousness with self-righteous people who already have
all the answers and know exactly how everyone should behave.  In
this sense though, gi is about doing what is right in any situation
rather than what you want or what benefits you as a person, and it
has almost nothing to do with telling others how to behave. It means,
and this was critical for the samurai, doing whatever you have to to
fulfill your responsibilities and duties in society. This is
something that is usually overlooked when talking about the samurai.
The samurai were all about meeting their responsibilities. 
Ideas of personal rights would have been considered the ultimate in
selfishness. Choosing to do the right thing has always been
difficult. Confucius and the philosophers of ancient China were
debating what is right and how to do right 2600 years ago. For
Confucians, being righteous has always been about right action first
and foremost. The samurai was expected to be quiet and demonstrate
his righteousness through action. 

Rei,
or “ritual propriety”
,
in
Confucius’ time could be read as literally meaning “rites” as
in ritual actions. Confucius used it in that sense, but in a much
broader sense as well. He was not only talking about religious rites,
or formal ceremonies of state. He was also talking about the proper
etiquette you have learned and should use in each situation. These
are
rei
as
well. Saying “Good morning” when you walk into the office.
Shaking someone’s hand in a way that is neither trying to crush
them nor just making a show of touching their hand without any sense
of connection. It’s remembering to announce that you’re home so
no one is surprised because they didn’t know you were home. It’s
helping clean up the table after a meal instead of rushing back to
your game. It’s etiquette, but more than just the formal bits. It
is also seen as a means of self-cultivation. By behaving according to
propriety, you learn to guide your heart/mind to propriety so that
the ritual ceases to be ritual. It becomes sincere action.

Shin,
or trust, is about others being able to trust you. In the dojo that
means your partners can trust you to do the exercises that are being
practiced that evening, and not suddenly go off and do your own
thing. In kata they are confident that you will do the kata correctly
so they can get the maximum benefit from the practice. You don’t
overwhelm those who are less skilled, and you do your best when
working with the seniors. You can be trusted to keep your word and to
honor implied agreements like the agreement in the dojo that no one
tries to hurt or injure anyone, that everyone helps each other to
learn to the best of their abilities.

These
are the real samurai values. They are at the core of nearly
everything that was written and believed about how samurai should
conduct themselves. The best of samurai embodied these values in how
they lived. The samurai were as human as anyone else, and they had
all the faults and shortcomings of humans. The more you see leaders
and thinkers of the samurai writing about the value of a particular
virtue, the less likely you were to find that virtue being displayed
at that time. Throughout the civil wars leading up to the Tokugawa
shogunate, loyalty was praised loudly. It shouldn’t be a surprise
that betrayal was common. None of the Confucian virtues are easy.
Virtues never are. I know I fall short of anything like being a wise,
righteous, benevolent man of proper action and trust. These values
are worthy goals, but they don’t belong just to the samurai.
Confucian scholars began promoting them in China 2600 years ago, and
the Japanese recognized their value.

Rather than just parroting the
virtues, I suggest studying them a little.  For an enjoyable
introduction to Confucius, try
Confucius
Speaks
.
It an excellent introduction to Confucius by Taiwanese cartoonist
Tsai Chih Chung. Two good places to go a little deeper are
The
World Of Thought In Ancient China

by
Benjamin Schwartz and
The
Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About The Good Life

by
Michael Puett. There is also a
free
class you can take with Puett

about
this at EdX.  These two cover more than just Confucius, but they
both start with him. Everything else they go into was also important
in any discussion of values and ethics by the samurai. 

Samurai
values weren’t platitudes. They weren’t (usually) jingoistic.
They were values and ideas that real people struggled to understand.
How should these values be manifested in the world? People struggled
with living up to what they found was good and right. If you really
respect the samurai and their values, find out what things they
studied and study them yourself. You can do worse than by starting
with
what
Confucius had to say
.

What
does all this have to do with budo? If you’re really learning any
form of Japanese budo, but particularly koryu budo, these values
shape everything within the budo world. Koryu budo ryuha are built on
Confucian values. That’s part of why you can’t learn koryu budo
without a teacher. Part of being a member of ryuha is learning the
behavior that is expected and the responsibilities that go with being
part of the ryuha. The techniques and kata are the physical part, but
there is much more to be learned about relationships,
responsibilities and right action. That is all part of koryu budo.
It’s not just about how to win a fight. It’s about learning to
fulfill your duties in the ryuha and society so that perhaps fighting won’t be
necessary.

My thanks to Kevin Tsai, PhD. for his assistance in expressing the Confucian values accurately in understandable way. Any errors are mine.

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The Emperor Has No Clothes

 

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“His technique surpassed human ability.”

“This is exactly how ****** Sensei did it. We want to do it
exactly as he did.”

“Nobody can ever equal ******* Sensei.”

“My karate teacher’s teacher was the best ever, that’s why our
system is the best!”

“******* was unbeatable.”

“He was a living kami.”

“If he says it works, it must work.”

 

Teachers who can’t be questioned, for whatever reason, are
dangerous to their students and themselves. They seem to inexorably fall into
the trap of believing their own propaganda. It happens all the time, in all
sorts of arts. As soon as students start going along with whatever sensei does
because sensei’s technique is the ultimate, the perfect, the divinely inspired
(take your pick), teachers are trapped in an ugly downward spiral.

 The problem for the teacher is that since their students always go
along with sensei’s technique, the sensei stops getting honest feedback with
regard to their training and teaching. As a result, the teacher’s technique
inevitably begins to deteriorate. They can’t avoid it. Any time their technique
wasn’t right they would feel more resistance, which would tell them they need
to sharpen fundamental practice and technique. When their students always go
with the flow, the sensei never gets that feedback, and therefore never
experiences a technique working less than perfectly. As a result, the sensei
has no way to know if their skills are sharp or dull.

 The result is the teacher’s technique gradually becomes duller and
duller. However, this can’t be blamed entirely on the teacher. The students are
lying to themselves and their teacher about the quality of the techniques. Without
opportunities to train with people who recognize a teacher’s imperfections, the
only possible result is a slow deterioration of the teacher’s skills. 

 This is sad for the teachers and the students.

 There is a phenomenon in martial arts of students deifying
teachers. It can happen in any art with superlative practitioners and teachers.
In the world of Japanese budo I’ve seen it in both gendai and koryu arts, and
it’s a sad phenomenon no matter where it happens. Budo teachers are human,
maybe especially human.

 To be a martial arts teacher is to have a high degree of
skill.  Being skilled at martial arts means possessing a certain type of
power. Those with skill are seen as being able to subdue, control, or just
plain beat into the ground anyone who threatens them. A few people with bad
attitudes and/or impulse control problems are even seen as being dangerous to
just about anyone because they won’t wait to be threatened. They’ll pick the
fight just because they are confident they can do it without getting hurt
themselves.

 As a kid growing up, the power to physically subdue someone, or
pound them into the ground, was a very attractive power. I was a skinny kid
with allergies and not a clue how to relate to other people, so I was picked
on. A lot. I didn’t realize it then, but later I figured out that I caused a
lot of the issues just by being so socially inept. That doesn’t make the
schoolyard abuse any better, and while I was going through it I fantasized
about having the superpower of being unbeatable. It was a wonderful daydream.

 The temptation to revel in power is strong. I understand that
temptation. When I started training Kodokan Judo in college, the realization
that I was becoming good at grappling was shocking, and the temptation to abuse
this ability was powerful. In my case, my friends and sempai were more than
happy to remind me that I was thoroughly human and quite beatable. As I moved
through the kyu ranks, it was easy to idolize my teacher and attribute more
than normal wisdom to him. He was very human though, and he never implied that
anything he did was perfect or that we should blindly copy his technique or his
life.

 When I see students of any teacher proclaim that their teacher’s
way is absolutely correct and that one should not deviate from the teacher’s
example even a little, I worry about those students and that teacher’s legacy.
When students start idolizing a teacher and idealizing the teachings, I can
only see bad things happening. A teacher who is never questioned and never
challenged in any way is trapped. That teacher can’t sharpen their skills by
practicing with their students.

 Teachers need challenges as much as any student. Any teacher
worthy of respect looks for things and people who will challenge their
technique. That’s how we all progress and improve. We try something we can’t do,
and we work at it until we can. The best budoka don’t discourage students from
giving them puzzles to solve and difficulties to refine their technique against
– people like Kano Jigoro and Kunii Zen’ya come to mind. Most of us are not
undefeated legends like Kunii Zen’ya, but I’ve seen lots of teachers challenge
themselves and ask their students to help them stay challenged. 

 I remember being at a seminar with some of the top people in the
art we were training, folks who could make a strong case for being the best in
the world at what they did. The most senior teacher there chose me to be his
uke when he wanted to demonstrate a strangle using a weapon. He reached in,
placed the weapon and applied the strangle. I didn’t tap. His technique wasn’t
working. It’s not that the technique was bad, just his application of it at
that moment. It was a technique he demonstrated fairly regularly at seminars,
and I think people had been tapping out for him just because of his status. I’m
too stupid to do that, so I just sat there. Sensei stepped back, looked at me a
moment, adjusted his technique and the strangle got better. He played around with
it for a few seconds more, the strangle sank in and I tapped. He never said
anything about my failure to immediately tap. Some of his students seemed a
little horrified that I had embarrassed Sensei with my behavior. He never said
a word, but after that, whenever I was present, he called on me to be his uke
for that technique demonstration.

 I think he appreciated that he had to do the technique absolutely
correctly on me. I didn’t give him a pass just because he was so much senior to
me and in general one of the finest technicians I’ve ever seen. With me, he
knew he would get an honest reaction to his technique, so he could tell how
well he was doing it. People who just go with whatever technique you are trying
to do will ruin your technique. Anyone who wants to stay technically sharp has
to be challenged regularly. I don’t mean they have to do challenge matches.
Rather, they need situations where they have to fully engage to be sure their
technique will work. 

 A martial artist who isn’t open to partners who challenge their
technique isn’t going to be able to maintain that technique for long and will
end up relying on students to take the fall or tap out from the technique. This
isn’t good for the teacher or the students. The teachers find their technique
slowly degrading from the lack of a stone to sharpen it on. The students have
to lose respect for their teacher as they realize that the only reason his
technique works is because they let it.

 It took a child to call out the emperor when he was naked. No
teacher worthy of the title deserves to be put in a situation where someone can
call them out because their students haven’t been giving them honest practice.

 


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Ki Ken Tai Ichi

 

気剣体一致

Ki
ken tai ichi. A student recently asked me about the relationship of
ki ken tai ichi to seitei iai and jo. It’s a fundamental concept in
Japanese budo but it’s not difficult to be confused by it. It
breaks down as:


  • Ki
    :
    Yes, that ki. The one that folks argue about endlessly. In this case
    it is will, intent and energy.

  • Ken
    :
    This ken is read tsurugi when it stands alone. It’s the same ken
    found in “kendo”, and it traditionally refers to a straight,
    double-edged sword common in Japan from about 450 to 950 c.e. that
    was superseded by the curved tachi. In this usage it represents any
    weapon you might use. 

  • Tai
    :
    This character is read karada when it stands alone, and it means
    body.

  • Ichi
    一致:
    Ichi is the difficult bit in this little 5 character phrase. It
    means “to agree, to conform, to be congruent, to be in concert, to
    be united, to cooperate, to be in accord”.



Intent,
sword and body as one. Ki ken tai ichi.


Will,
sword and body in accord. Ki ken tai ichi.


Intent,
sword and body in agreement. Ki ken tai ichi.



Because
the English and Japanese words only overlap as very poor Venn
diagrams, there are  numerous translations. None of them are
100% right, but each captures some of the spirit of the Japanese.
There is no fragmentation;here can be no divisions. Your kokoro
(heart/mind), your body and your weapon must be combined into a
single unit. 

When
you move, do you do it with hesitation or doubt? Is the sword a tool
in your hand, or is it an extension of your body? Can you feel what
is going on in your partner’s body when you cross swords? Does your
body move as a coordinated whole? Does your will and intent express
itself instantly in your body and the sword?

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My
student is quite familiar with ki ken tai ichi from his deep
experience with koryu. However the Kendo Federation has ki ken tai
ichi broken down almost to a science. There are particular markers to
look for when someone does seitei iai or jo that indicate whether or
not the will, the body and the sword are in accord. 



Does
the whole unit reach the conclusion of the movement together without
any separation? This is the central clue. Teaching this concept to
students starts with the mechanics of how to swing the sword. From
there teachers have to backward engineer the timing from the point
where mind, body and sword all arrive at the completion of the
movement together and become as one.



Moving
backwards, the student has to consider that the hands are faster than
the body, but for a sword cut the hands and sword have further to
travel than the body. If the body and the hands begin their movement
together, the body will finish its movement and come to rest followed
by the sword. If the body and the sword are united, the full power of
the body will be transmitted through the sword. If they are not
united then the sword has only the power of the hands when it makes
contact. For the full power of the body to be transmitted through the
sword, the sword tip has to begin moving first and the body begins
moving next so they will complete their action together, united in
power and timing. 



Breaking
down the timing of a sword cut into fine segments makes it a little
easier to explain and teach the outer aspects of ki ken tai ichi. A
little. Students can start work on training their hands and body to
move in accordance with the timing of the sword to transmit the
maximum power through the blade. However, just because a student has
mastered the timing of their movements doesn’t mean they’ve
achieved ki ken tai ichi. This is much harder than simply copying the
timing. 



One
thing you may have noticed that is missing in the above description
is the intent, the will, the ki. Even after you train yourself to
move hands first, then body when cutting,, you still haven’t
achieved ki ken tai ichi. You’ve got the sword and the body, but
the intent, the heart/mind is much more difficult. This is a lot more
like achieving mushin.
You can’t be thinking about anything else if you want to achieve ki
ken tai ichi. Your mind has to be quiet and still so that your intent
comes naturally in the situation and your body moves as the intention
occurs in the heart/mind, so there is no separation such as thinking
and acting. Intention and action become one as body and sword are
one.



Combining
intention and action into one is much more difficult than bringing
body and sword into accord. After you’ve got your body and weapon
acting as one, it takes a great deal of additional, focused practice
to unite the mind with the body. This is an ongoing effort. Any
little thing can disrupt the unity of will, sword and body. A bad day
at work. A fight with a friend. Worry over someone’s health. All of
these and an endless list of other things can knock your mind out of
sync with your body. Mental stillness is difficult to achieve, and
that much more difficult to maintain.



気検体一致
Ki
ken tai ichi.
Intent,
sword and body in accord. First practice until the sword is an
extension of your body. Then teach your body to move so the power of
body and sword are united at the instant of contact and they finish
moving together at the bottom of the cut. At that point  you
have the outer form. Now learn to still your mind so that nothing
separates intention and action. When intent, body and sword are
united, that’s
ki
ken tai ichi.

 

Special thanks to Deborah Klens-Bigman for editing.


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Why I Still Train

A guest post by  

Richard Riehle, PhD 
Judo Godan

Judo — Why I still Train
 
People are sometimes surprised that, at 85 years old, I am still in my judogi in the dojo, still enjoying Judo. Of course, my competition days are in the past. My last tournament was a little over ten years ago at 74 competing with guys my own age.
 
I was never a star competitor. Starting my life in Judo at age 16, I lost far more matches than I ever won, mostly to newaza. I was never an athlete, but I loved learning and participating in Judo.
When I was still a nidan, during one of my many annual visits to the Kodokan, I said to one of the high-dan instructors, “I have been in Judo for many years, but I have never been a champion.” He replied, “I have never been a champion either. That is not the purpose of Judo.”
 
And there we have it! 
 
I have learned that Judo, at its fundamental level, is not about defeating another person. It is not about scoring an ippon against another person. I also enjoy chess, but have been put in checkmate hundreds of times during my lifetime, just a few weeks ago by one of my three sons.
 
True, that there is some ego gratification in scoring a win in a Judo, but as we grow older, we score fewer and fewer ippons in competition. With Judo we eventually learn that our training is not about ego gratification. It is more about learning about ourselves in a unique way, even as we learn more about Judo.
 
Chess is much the same. There is never an end to our learning in either activity
.
Too many of those I knew when I was younger have “retired” from Judo because they believed they were too old to be good competitors, too old to even have a chance to become champions.
“Why bother to continue now that I can longer have a shot at winning a medal or trophy?” or “My best days are behind me!” or “I’m too out-of-shape.” In reality, it’s usually about ego: “I will look ridiculous because I can’t do what I used to be able to do!”
 
And with that, they acknowledge that they never learned the real lessons of Judo. They have learned only about victory and defeat. There is so much more to learn.
 
Jigoro Kano once remarked that it was not important that you are better than someone else. It is more important that you are better today than you were yesterday.
 
This raises the question, “Better in what way?” We each will have our own answer to that question.
For me, “better” means many things. One of them is good physical feeling. Sometimes, better is because I have learned something new. Better might even be because I have been able to help someone else overcome a difficulty of their own. Better will different for each of us.
 
As an older Judo practitioner, I can work at imposing waza that were not my best during my long ago, and brief, competition days. I am working on sumi-otoshi and some other difficult techniques I could never execute successfully in a shiai. I have experimented with Mifune’s tama-guruma. I know of no one who has ever attempted tama-guruma in a contest.
 
We can all learn the deeper lessons from the kata. There are a lot of techniques we would not have attempted in a shiai that we can improve when we no longer need to focus on winning.
 
There is also the fellowship with other “old timers” and the opportunity to share experiences with the youngsters. In the dojo, there is no politics, no religion, no ethnic biases — nothing but improving ourselves through good Judo training. Training, even light randori, after 40, after 50, or even into the 80’s, can be satisfying — even rewarding — when we are no longer worried about earning trinkets for the trophy shelf at home or in the dojo.
 
Finally, I still train because I can. There are things I cannot do: no kata-guruma, no sitting in seiza, no hard falls. Our lifetime of occasional health issues such as weaker bones, injured knees, slower reflexes are all part of that training, but while we can still don a judogi and still train, there will still be benefits in that training.
 
Why do I still train? A life in Judo has enriched my life in so many ways, and my continued training continues to enrich my life. I cannot, at my age, defeat anyone, but there is still the chance to be better tomorrow than I am today using my own ideas of what it means to be “better.”

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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