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Class Notes – Koto Ryu Combo!

January 20, 2014

Class Notes – Koto Ryu Combo

To refresh your memory, people, here’s the vid on my mind at the beginning of class


As I was saying, I don’t believe in that. There comes a point when too much of the same thing gives you diminishing returns – less results for the same effort. After about 1000 reps of a particular movement, the next 300-400 or so won’t make you very much better. It’s time to move on to what stresses you, what confuses you, what shows up the flaws you didn’t know you had or so far didn’t have to fix.

(“JJ, that sounds like a typical lesson with you…” I can hear people say)

The pacing of my lessons, especially for the experienced people, is very influenced by the concept behind this blog post

“If, say, a student clearly has the kinaesthesia and motor skills of a second dan in our system, it would be pointless to waste the student’s time with sequences intended to teach white belt kinaesthesia and motor skills.

Generally speaking, students need to be learning something that advances them – not merely something that satisfies a pedagogic (bureaucratic) criterion.”

And that is where the two Atemi Tanren (当身の鍛錬)from Koto Ryu come in.

The First – Shakoken with switch-stepping.

You start from Hoko no Kamae and step forward with a shakoken. Then you step back with that side and step forward with a shakoken on the other side.

There are two ways to step: either you bring the lead foot to the back and step forward with the other, or you bring the next foot to the front and bring the earlier foot back. The first is vastly more comfortable than the second, but I consider the second one much more important to practice.

Why? Because the second is useful when your opponent has crowded you and you are frantically fighting for space to react. Notice how hard it is to use your body movement to generate power at that distance. Also, one of the hardest things to do is to get into the range when you can properly shakoken your opponent’s face. If you have already closed that distance, you want to stay there and keep making his life miserable. If you back out, you are giving your opponent breathing space, and the chance to punch you in the face when you come back in again.

I think we subconsciously know that danger, and that is why many of us find it difficult to close that gap. So if you somehow manage to close that gap or your opponent closes the gap for you, stay in there!

The Second – Fudoken – Shukiken – Ura Shuto, all with the same side.

Do you step, do a half-step shuffle forward or just strike while staying in place? That depends: did the target move closer or further?

This combo is best practiced on the heavy bag, and the bag is ready on the next lesson we will try it out there. In the meantime, we worked on the fudoken and shukiken, then the shukiken and ura shuto. When you are practicing at home and just striking the air, you can do all three one after another, without having to split them up.

The Pads

For both of these we drilled them the best we could with the pads. Sometimes I’d close the distance so you are struggling to get a good solid strike, sometimes I stepped back so you had to chase the target. I could only work with you guys one at a time, and while you were waiting for your turn you could see how everybody’s kamae just went out the window once they had to strike something and adjust to a moving target.

It is not about kamae for kamae’s sake. When your back was against the wall (literally), many times you would shakoken before your back foot was in place and pushing forward. If you didn’t coordinate the step and strike properly your shakoken would be quite powerless, and you could tell. Under the heat of hitting a target and adapting to the changing distance, your kamae started disintegrating very quickly. And that is before you have to worry about an opponent hitting you back!

The purpose of all this is not to make you guys feel bad, it’s to turn up the heat and boost your learning again. If we get to do this next lesson, you will find that you will do a lot better, even if you didn’t practice at home in the meantime (of course I hope you do!). If that happens, it will be time for me to turn up the heat a notch further, so that you get to accelerate your learning once again!

Here’s something I wrote earlier that might be useful:

Final Note:

A lot of the taijutsu we need for all this striking is already familiar to us. They are embedded within our standard lunge punch (stepping forward) and within our chi no kata. That is why I am firmly convinced that chi no kata is NOT meant as a combat technique. It is too lame to be used in combat. I see it as a kamae and conditioning exercise, meant to teach basic coordination, distancing and body structure.

If you try to make it more practical for combat application you will miss out a lot of foundations chi no kata can teach you. I’ve seen people do that by adding in stuff like our typical offline footwork or blocks. That is fine for those who already have good taijutsu. But for beginners it is too confusing to add in footwork when kamae is not stable yet. Only when they can step back AND forward properly, maintaining good kamae through out, should a beginner move on to the offline footwork and blocking (as in sui no kata).

That’s enough talk from me for now. In the meantime, you guys who turned up for the lesson know what you need to work on. Those who didn’t, keep working on sanshin no kata, and be prepared to put it to the test the next lesson!


俊傑 (Shunketsu)


From → bujinkan

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