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Class Notes – Hitting Stuff

August 24, 2012

What have I been doing in class recently? Getting the guys to hit stuff.

I bought a pair of thai pads and started getting my students to hit them. It was really great, because:

  • Now they get the actual experience of hitting something; AND
  • They discover, firsthand, problems with their taijutsu.

I always knew that we had to do this in class. Hatsumi Soke once wrote “the purpose of a strike is to stun or knock down an assailant, and the only way to develop a consistently reliable strike is to work at actually striking a target over and over again repetitively.” (Ninjutsu, History and Tradition, Unique Publications Inc. 1981)

And I know my skills solidified and consolidated after a season when I would go down to a gym near my home and hit a heavy bag regularly. Of course I would prefer my students actually practice all that by themselves, but I’d also like to check on their hitting form first, to make sure they don’t hurt themselves during their self-training.

How did it go?

Their form went haywire. Not to say that it was pristine before, but it got even worse. Well, it was good that it happened in front of me, so I could help them fix it. Besides, I had already expected that it would happen.

Common Problems

Many people, once they know they have to hit something, they wind up their strikes more to get more power. Problem with that is that it slows them down, warns the opponent what is coming up next, and often turns their strike into a push, rather than a proper strike.

This comes out in many forms. I had them first get used to hitting with a shako ken strike (safer for the hands than a standard fudoken). Then we did chi no kata, ura shuto and omote shuto. At one point even kikaku ken came out (I can’t remember how. If you think an ADHD student is bad, try an ADHD teacher!). For the hand strikes, people would draw their hands back for the shako ken and wind up their bodies either outward or inward too much for the shuto.

And for the kikaku ken, some would even pull their head first before launching themselves forward and snapping their heads down. Quite funny, actually!

The very root of this problem is a lack of confidence in the taijutsu. Because people don’t believe good taijutsu is enough to create and deliver loads of force into an opponent (and in a way that counts), they end up compromising their form to get more force. Because they use more effort, they believe that they have generated more force.

That ain’t always so!

The 3 essential elements for generating and delivering force into an opponent are range, structure and body movement. Good taijutsu maintains all of these 3 elements. If you mess up any of the 3, especially structure (kamae) your efforts are wasted. And in my experience, kamae is usually the first thing to go out the window!

So therefore

Train, train and train some more. Train your basic sanshin no kata, and watch your form throughout. Then train sui no kata and ka no kata against a tree or a sturdy pole at about 30% of your maximum power until you know your form is still correct.

And one day, when I bring out the thai pads and feed you the movement and targets for those, you’ll whack ’em and realize that you’re doing fine enough without having to try any crazy antics to get more power.

And that is one great feeling to have, believe me! 🙂


俊傑 (Shunketsu)

From → bujinkan

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