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Menu of Resistance

April 10, 2017

Menu of Resistance

It’s very encouraging. I see that more and more Bujinkan practitioners are growing in their understanding of the Tori-Uke method of training. It used to be that many people thought it meant compliant training, just being jelly so that your partner doesn’t need to get the technique correct in every aspect before it works. Cooperation does not necessarily mean compliance, and these days teachers are encouraging their students to give each other increasing levels of resistance so that we grow in our understanding of how to make things work.

And that is great!

However, we still have to give some thought and guidelines into this. The last thing we need is to have a class descend into chaos, or students injuring each other (or themselves) because they don’t actually have a clue as to what they are doing. So for the reference of other teachers, here is a menu of options a student can use to raise the level of resistance we train to deal with.

  1. Maintain kamae – if the partner does not deliberately disrupt our structure before attempting the technique, then we just keep our kamae on. Many techniques will fail just at this point alone.
  2. Use the other arm – if the partner tries a technique on one arm but stays in range of the other, use the other hand to tap him on the shoulder. This is a good reminder to get the distance and angling correct.
  3. Step – if you are pulled forward or pushed back too strongly, step to regain your balance. But please step appropriately. Don’t step into a position where you can get our arm broken within seconds.
  4. Changing angles – sometimes it just takes a small change in angle to not only make the technique useless but also begin your own counter.
  5. Antagonistic force – if you pull on one arm, your partner tries to pull that arm back. If you push him backward he steps forward. That’s the general idea. Please don’t try this one, or ANY of these ideas, for that matter, unless you really know what you are doing or your teacher has instructed you to do so.

IMPORTANT – what keeps this from becoming a free-for-all? Providing for your training partner just ONE type of resistance, just one move, just one factor, for him or her to deal with. And keep it the same until the teacher tells you to move on or until your partner understands how to deal with things.

Be especially wary of stepping or changing angles. Do so only with the teacher’s permission. Don’t get creative, you may just break your own arm, or you may just keep your partner from getting the whole point of the teacher’s teaching.

Example – Sometime back I attended a class that was working on Renyo, among other kata. One of the key points was flipping the gyaku, going from ura gyaku to omote gyaku. The teacher isolated that aspect and had us all working on it.

  • Tori ura gyaku, Uke steps to neutralize it;
  • Tori flips to omote gyaku, Uke steps a different way to neutralize it.
  • Tori then flips back to ura gyaku, and the whole cycle repeats.

I was paired up with a judoka who would rather do judo than what was taught (why did he turn up for the class then? I don’t really know). Instead of stepping to deal with the ura gyaku, he quickly retracted the grabbing hand and grabbed with the other. He could step to deal with omote gyaku easily, but he just kept changing his grabbing hand whenever I did ura gyaku.

To be honest, I was getting seriously pissed off, almost to the point of using an ura shuto instead. I felt as if he was just trying to embarrass me in front of someone else’s class. I could have wrenched out his shoulder with a vicious onikudaki (start the technique, let him step and twist the wrong way, and just when he thinks he has escaped, I use a Shinden Fudo Ryu approach to destroy the shoulder), but that would have made ME the aggressor, guilty of deliberately causing hurt. And it wasn’t justified, yet. Thank God I managed to keep my temper!

In the end I went for a big onikudaki to turn his elbow one direction, and when he twisted his elbow up in a huge movement to escape my movement, I captured that into a Te Makura throw. It seems that most judoka aren’t really that familiar with that one. That ended that round, we swapped roles and I kept my resistance to the gyaku to just stepping, as per the teacher’s instructions.

Yes, I am fifth dan and STILL follow a teacher’s instructions. Why? Because, maybe, just maybe, I don’t know everything there is to know? Or even if I did, I should be following instructions anyway to help my partner train, right?

The important point – the teacher is in charge of introducing all these different forms of resistance. If you want to try any of these out, check with your teacher first.

For us teachers, we need to always be aware that every one of our kihon waza leads to a number of predictable responses, and has certain inherent vulnerabilities. If we want our students to be capable of providing intelligent resistance, we have to look out for these ourselves and teach them to our students. Sometimes resistance is about making use of mistakes, such as an ura shuto done at the wrong distance. Sometimes resistance comes from countering, such as a cross punch when people step in with an omote shuto.

The point is that we need to be aware of the core of each technique. For me, omote gyaku is about moving the opponent’s wrist away from the hip. Onikudaki and musha dori are about drawing a circle with the opponent’s elbow, and there are ways to both do that better and to counter it. When you take this approach to everything you teach, you are the one actively bringing up the menu of resistance for your students. And that way they get to understand any specific waza at a deeper level.

If you want a more specific example, take a look at how I explained ganseki nage in this older blog post. This is something you can apply to other basic techniques and see what you come up with. Of course, always be aware of everyone’s safety, right? Enjoy!

https://shunketsu.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/digging-deep-into-ganseki-nage/

Junjie 俊傑
(Shunketsu)
Bujinkan Ninjutsu
Singapore

 

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