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Class Notes – Ku no Kata, Kyojitsu and Combatives

March 3, 2014

We have been working through the Sanshin no Kata in class. For the newer people it’s for laying the necessary foundations, for the seniors it’s for seeing how the principles and ideas can apply in different ways. We have so far spent two weeks on Ku no Kata.

Here’s a video

One major difference between what we do and the video – we actually put the hand aggressively towards the opponent’s face to draw a reaction from him. Can the version in the video work? Yes, especially when done by people like Noguchi-Sensei. Sadly, I am not at that level of skill yet…

Ku no Kata in its basic form is a defence against a low punch. We can also do the same kata against a mid-low level sokuyaku geri (stomping-down-the-door kick). The distancing might change a bit, but we are using essentially the same movement.

We can also adapt it against a jodan tsuki (face-level punch). Instead of a gedan uke (low-level block) we would use a jodan uke (high-level block) instead. The rest of the movement remains the same.

It will look something like this:

Next, we then had to do Ku no Kata when we didn’t know what attack our partners were going to launch, the jodan tsuki, gedan tsuki or sokuyaku keri. As you discovered, the uncertainty added to the stress, and some of you found yourselves messing up. That’s to be expected, and you will get better and better at it when we work more on this.


Another concept we looked at during lesson was kyojitsu tenkan ho. It is translated by many people as using deception, but it actually refers to switching between empty and full. That idea kept turning up during class as we worked on the waza. For example, many people do the hand to the face in a way that does not draw out any reaction from the opponent at all. It is too empty, so no reaction was drawn out. That means that the opponent is more stable and better able to deal with the kick you are launching next. And that is why I tell you guys to make that hand to the face move real. If the opponent does not react to that, you can face-palm him before you kick him.

Likewise, you guys saw that when my kicking leg was grabbed I let that become empty, while my upraised hand became full, substantial, as I fell on you with an ura shuto. The same principle also came out when you guys kicked at my chest/abs and I shrugged your kick aside, letting my core become empty while my arms became full so you would crash yourself against them.

Of course there is a lot more to this concept than what we saw in class, even I haven’t begun to plumb the depths of this core concept of Bujinkan training yet. But at least you are more aware of it now, and you can begin to recognize it when it surfaces again, whether in my classes or in classes taught by other Bujinkan instructors.

Combatives vs Martial Arts

At this point of your development, we still need to be doing large, full-range movements in class. That means moving back into a proper kamae, with the full blocking movement, the full hip turn while keeping your spine straight, and the other moves that follow. Yes, you can effectively do a ku no kata with all small movements: a well-placed elbow and well-timed shrug to ward off the attack, and you are close enough to your opponent to face-palm him without needing any hip movement, then follow up with a quick kick to smash his knee.

End of story. “Next!!”

But doing the full-movements helps us to build kinaesthetic awareness, a better sense of distance (spatial awareness) and maintain our joint mobility in the long run. One clear-cut sign of aging: our joints lose their range of motion, and that messes up with our mobility and health in our old age. Practicing our basics in the traditional way helps us stay healthy even as we grow older. Also, all these large movements also help us perfect the coordination needed to generate and deliver power into an opponent.

This is something that distinguishes martial arts from combatives. Combative systems, such as Krav Maga or various modern army unarmed systems, emphasize more on technique that is immediately usable and relatively simple to learn. A full step back into our ichimonji no kamae or shoshin no kamae is wasted movement to combative practitioners. They are not that skilled with power generation, but on the whole they compensate for that with strength and aggressiveness. And it works very well for them.

So if you want to be ready for combat in the shortest period of time, you may find that Krav Maga or Kapap will be more to your taste. I can also teach Bujinkan in a combatives training style, but that will mean leaving out a lot of the finer points of leverage and control, and using fitness and aggressiveness to compensate for what gets left out. And if I do that I am not sure I will dare to face my sensei or Hatsumi Soke to answer for how I have mangled what the art I am supposed to represent!

Of course we will do more combat-oriented versions of our Bujinkan techniques as we progress in our training. But there are many lessons to be learned from our basic versions of the techniques, and I will continue to explain more during the lessons. That’s enough for now, see you at class!

俊傑 (Shunketsu)


From → bujinkan

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