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Class Notes 16 Nov 2017

December 10, 2017

Ichimonji no Kata

Every time I revisit the kihon (basics) I try to add more depth for my long term students to study. Sometimes the insights are prepared (sometimes in lesson plans done weeks ahead) and sometimes the good stuff comes from following the inspiration of a spur-of-the-moment comment or movement.

This lesson was one of the spur-of-the-moment things. I wanted to work on how to deal with people blocking omote shuto, but ended up working more on how to block the omote shuto better in the first place.

Confessions of an #ADHDteacher

1) Timing of the step

You know by now I do not believe in stepping first then moving the arm for jodan uke. You get the best results by timing them together. Once you have the coordination in place, work on moving only when the opponent has committed himself, instead of the instant he starts moving.

We started working on this with uke feeding us a standard o tsuki (lunge punch). This makes it easier for us to begin catching the correct timing. We will refine our grasp of this later on, when we get better!

2) Kyojitsu in the jodan uke

For senior students: after the jodan uke, move the hand back towards the centre. Not a large movement, just a small one. It just has to be big enough to disturb the opponent subtly, to give his mind something to pay attention to. The more you can flood his perceptions, the less he is able to actually handle what you do.

I showed you the timing by using my punching arm to nudge your jodan uke. This not only makes the timing clearer for my students, this also simultaneously wires into my brain the tactile and visual cues I need to defend against a jumonji style/range strike.

Side Point

In the tori-uke training method, we often see the uke mentally drift during training, because they think “this is my turn to lose”. Tori also knows that this is not realistic, therefore will usually freeze when they need to apply the techniques under some form of pressure. Many instructors only know to say “Uke is training too!” but don’t give any details or specifics after that.

Me using my punching arm to nudge the jodan uke is an example of uke getting training also. The more of these little tips I can learn or create, the more I overcome the inherent problems of the tori-uke system.

3) Using doko no kamae to block the omote shuto

Blocking the omote shuto is not as easy as one might think. Without thinking hard I know of two of our kihon we can flow into if the omote shuto is blocked. Therefore it behooves us to train our shuto defense in a way that keeps us safer.

One such way is to position our rear arm in a doko no kamae (putting that hand on our head for more structure if necessary) and to rotate a split second before the omote shuto lands. The rotation is what I suspect Hatsumi Soke means when he talks about Chihayaburu (千早振) and done correctly will cause the shuto to just bounce off our arms.

Basically we are forming a crab shell against the opponent’s attack.

Adopting this during training gives us two huge benefits.

i) Tori is able to train using taijutsu to properly generate and apply force via the omote shuto. Being able to effectively generate force is not something to take for granted. Train, and use the training to discover where you are making mistakes in your force generation. Because if you mess up even in class, what are the odds of you getting it correct when your life depends on it?

ii) Uke does not develop the unnatural habit of just letting the omote shuto land. Attacks along the omote shuto vector could also include a swinging arm (a la my epic slap of doom) or even a knife slash to the throat. In my opinion, it is foolish to train without keeping such possibilities in mind. Critics of the Tori-Uke training method have said that at least half the time the student is training to lose. Not guarding your neck and throat against shuto is not training to lose, it is training to die at the hands of an armed opponent…

4) Handling a crabby opponent

The crab shell is remarkable versatile; when done with a spinning movement to deflect incoming strikes, it can deflect MANY types of attacks. Some people make it a core part of their strategy: they do double crabs when you try to strike them. Or they use it to protect their heads as they close the distance for a wrestling/groundfighting take-down.

So if the opponent does a double crab, close the distance, pry the shell aside (switch from omote shuto to ura shuto) and strike with elbows. You need to get very close to the opponent to do this effectively, but when your opponent goes double crab he is not able to attack you during that moment. Make good use of that opportunity.

Moral of the story: the double crab isn’t a safe place to stay for long. Natural human instinct is to cower and hope the enemy eventually gets tired of bashing you. Remember, hope is NOT a strategy! Therefore we have to train and train diligently to overcome the natural human instincts that will not help us survive in a real life-or-death situation.

5) Enlarging your crab shell

In my class, we don’t look at techniques as only techniques per se. Training to block an omote shuto, for example, also inculcates in you some defensive response against arms wildly swinging down at you along the omote shuto vector.

If the opponent bashes you 2-4 times and realizes he cannot get through your crab shell, he may just change his attack from jodan (upper level) to gedan (lower level). At the arm-swing range it is too close to do a full gedan uke, so we practiced just dropping our weight to use the elbow to block his arm. After that you can follow up with your own shuto (more blessed to give than to receive, I always say).

6) Yui Gyaku (Takagi Yoshin Ryu)

Some people take this kata as a defense against omote shuto. The key points are the same as how we did it in the lesson on 02 Nov 2017, just that if the omote shuto is launched from very close (and the opponent did not need to step in for it) or if he drew his right leg back when you did ko uchi gari, attack his left leg with uchi mata.


My sensei used to do lessons like that. One question about a kata from the Tenchijin Ryaku No Maki would lead to an entire lesson that he structured logically, progressively, on the fly. Part of it was due to natural talent in teaching; he was always passionate about teaching in general, and that led to him trying to apply his pedagogical beliefs to teaching Hatsumi Soke’s Budo. But a huge part of it came from all the training he did. New insights and connections do not happen in a vacuum. To get to this point he needed to attend a lot of lessons and training, as well as ponder the material even outside of class.

My training and exposure has been nowhere as wide as that of my sensei, but I am starting to get glimpses of how he saw taijutsu. That kind of insight comes out during my teaching because I am a hardcore teacher; I look at movement (whether mine or from other people) and ask how it can improve my movement or how I teach my students. I also have been extremely fortunate to have had good teachers in every martial art I have trained in, and I learn teaching as well as martial arts from them too.

It also takes deliberate focus. Because I started out wanting to be the best teacher of the kihon happo I could be, I end up receiving more teaching insights for those than for other areas of Bujinkan Taijutsu. If I want to be good at teaching other aspects it will of course take me serious work. But maybe not as much as what I have put in so far, since the kihon happo are supposed to be the foundations of all budo, right?

See you at the next class!

Junjie 俊傑
Bujinkan Ninjutsu

From → bujinkan

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