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Teaching Differences

September 6, 2014

A friend from another martial art told me about a blog by Brian Fine, a fellow Bujinkan practitioner, and this blogpost caught my attention.

At his post he included the following pic and explained when would he use these 3 different types of straight punches


Besides Mr Fine’s point about differing reaches, I also have my own opinion about when those punches can turn up in training – at different stages of the student’s development.

Beginners Again

I said before in a previous post, beginners need to learn kamae, get conditioning and build up their coordination. If they do not have these elements in place from previous martial arts training (i.e. they are really beginners) they need to spend more time working on these elements before they get to train in the more combat-applicable material.

Here is a quote from my earlier notes, when I talked about combatives:

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.

The long, extended punch allows the teacher and student to see if all the necessary elements for generating power are in place. More importantly, it allows them to check if the mistakes, what reduces the power generated or compromises the kamae, occur. Especially for the extended punch, I would look out for:

1) whether the shoulders have been turned to the maximum (correct) or twisted beyond that point and are now out of alignment;

2) whether the hips have been fully rotated or twisted beyond that point and are now out of alignment;

3) Shoulders raised (sign of too much tension).

4) Tailbone tucked in (correct) or butt sticking out (wrong)

5) Hand-strike landing after the hips/thighs/feet have fully moved. (wrong)

I have talked about the tailbone before, but it bears repeating – if your tailbone is sticking out, there will be a fundamental disconnect between your upper and lower body. You are not fully coordinated. And that means your legs do not help to power your blows, all you have is just arm/hand strength for your strikes. As I said before in this post: “This is fine if you are a burly, strong, strapping young fellow with loads of strength and speed to spare. This is NOT fine if you are injured, weaker, older but need to have all your taijutsu in order to generate and deliver force into your opponent.”

This applies whether we are talking about our fudoken tsuki (punch) or gedan uke (downward block), or even kicks. I know that there are shihan who do not tuck in their tailbones in their kamae or movement. Yes, maybe their taijutsu works for them. That’s great! For me I know too well how much difference tucking in my tailbone has made to my power generation, my balance and my overall body coordination, that I cannot imagine not teaching that at all.

I teach the extended punch (or a corresponding movement) only by the 2nd or 3rd lesson, after the foundations of kamae and stepping have been taught. And if I spot any of the above mistakes, it usually means the student has to go back to the earlier drills, because the proper coordination has not been learned yet.

Once we can get the coordination in place, the student is better able to adapt to the shorter punches, because the hip, shoulder and hand coordination is already in place. On an even more advanced level than this, the student will be able to execute the shorter punches WHILE stepping forward or back. As many of my students have discovered, striking while stepping back requires serious coordination between hand and the feet, or else all you would have are wimpy arm-power-only strikes.

Why do I keep belaboring all these points over and over again? Because i want to get them myself, and i want my students to get them too.

There are good fighters out there who are lousy teachers. They demolish other people easily in fights through oftentimes little more than courage and determination, and because they do not need that developed a level of technique they don’t train their students with that much attention to detail. They attract a lot of students because of their track records, but their students seldom come anywhere near the teacher in results.

On the other hand, there are also good teachers (just about as rare as good fighters, i guess). These folk know how to communicate the essence of their art to their students, AND in a way that gets the students to grow too. I hope to be one of these guys!


俊傑 (Shunketsu)
Bujinkan Ninjutsu

From → bujinkan

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