Last weekend I had the chance to train in DaitoRyu Aikijujutsu. DaitoRyu is a branch of the jujutsu family and was developed by Takeda Sokaku. One of the most famous students of Sokaku was Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido.
During our training the instructor presented us with various self defense situations, and from time to time would ask us to show him how we would react. During each event I did my best to apply solid techniques as quickly as possible.
Eventually the instructor said to me, “That’s good, but you’re making a lot of assumptions aren’t you? You’re thinking he’s going to stand that still, be that loose, and let you do these techniques without a rough struggle? You gotta hit him hard. bang! Loosen him up, then apply your technique.”
At first I was a little embarrassed because an aikijujutsu instructor had to remind me, a karate guy, to do some hitting. But then I realized that he wasn’t providing advice from a stylistic perspective, but from real-life experience, having dealt with conflict most of his life through law enforcement in the Bronx.
The Value of Striking
The art side of martial arts can be a bit ensnaring. With a skilled, cooperate partner, it’s easy to come up with extremely impressive techniques. Over years of practice, we can develop an almost “magic-like” effectiveness as we learn the exact buttons to push on our fellow practitioners. Unfortunately, this cooperation also leads to bad assumptions about how violence and struggle actually takes place.
When dealing with true conflict, you can never be sure of the physical or mental state of an opponent. An assailant could have steely arms which make wrist locks useless. They could be tweeked on mind bending drugs, nullifying any pain-inducing techniques. Their nervous system could be just a bit different than you expect, making your vital point strikes inefficient.
In unpredictable situations, you want the most reliable and simple techniques possible – and in most cases those techniques are going to begin with hard striking.
Starting With Strikes
The problem with beginning your self defense with wrist locks, escapes, throws, or other maneuvers is that you haven’t done anything to disrupt the mental rhythm of your opponent. As you move, there is nothing stopping them from adjusting and moving with you. Of course, your technique might still work, but you’re relying on the inability of your opponent to cope rather than utterly stopping their ability to cope.
A hard strike to a vulnerable part of your opponent’s body will immediately shift their train of thought from attacking you to dealing with the injury you’ve inflicted. As their brain is being fed alert signals from the damaged part of the body, you can swiftly move into your jujutsu, judo, or aikido technique since the overall strength and tenacity of your opponent is temporarily nullified.
The Importance of Location
Striking just anywhere isn’t going to do it. There are some individuals who are in such great shape that you can slam them as hard as you want in the pecs, abs, arms, and thighs and they won’t be slowed down by it. Instead, strikes have to come quick and hard to vulnerable locations like the throat, eyes, ears, groin, and joints.
Even for opponent’s who are enraged or on drugs, a balance inhibiting box to the ears or blinding jab to the eyes will give you an immediate advantage.
A Practice Tip
When learning self defense, even at a beginner level, always utilize some sort of distraction. Even if you are trying to learn a specific joint lock or throw, start off with something that will freeze your opponent’s mental state. Good self defense comes from good practice, and if you drill distractions into your routine there is a much better chance they will be there when you need it.
For non-striking practitioners such as aikidoka or judoka, stick to your curriculum but try to learn from other styles that do utilize striking.
Perhaps next we can discuss the other weapons in the arsenal besides striking, and their place in the self defense cycle…
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Have you ever seen Labyrinth, starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly? It’s a 1986 movie that features the combined talents of Jim Henson and George Lucas. The film is weird, remarkable, and freaky…in a good way.
In the movie, a young Jennifer Connelly (Sarah) is aggravated with her life and role as perpetual babysitter to her younger brother (Toby). She wishes the Goblin King, a character from her favorite fairytale, would come take him away forever. Unfortunately for her, the Goblin King (Bowie) hears the request and obliges.
In order to save Toby, Sarah embarks on a long adventure through the Goblin King’s Labyrinth to save him.
Very early on in the labyrinth Sarah becomes befuddled. No matter how far or fast she runs, she can’t find any turns in the maze. It just seems endless and straight. She resolves to solve this puzzle by running even harder and faster down the corridor.
After what seems like an eternity of running, Sarah becomes flustered and stops. While agonizing over her fate, she hears a strange voice…
At first Sarah’s journey seemed pretty simple – all she had to do was run as hard and fast as possible and she would eventually find the solution. However, she quickly realized the limited scope of her progress as she simply ran the preset path without thinking.
Eventually she paused…and met someone who was able to change her perspective. It turns out the improvement she was looking for miles down her current path existed right where she was standing.
In fact, had she been a little more patient, she could have learned even more.
In your training you can bang full steam ahead as long as you want, but there’s no guarantee it will get you where you want to go. The walls will dictate you if you let them.
Always listen to a humble worm when it’s trying to show you other perspectives. Talk to as many worms as possible. Listen for as long as possible. Become a worm yourself.
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The dojo can be a perplexing place. Everything is different – the clothes, the atmosphere, the terminology, the etiquette…it truly is a whole different culture. Why then are we expected to jump in without any knowledge of what to expect? Even experienced students get tripped up by the intricacies of the martial arts.
Every dojo has its own way of operating, but over the years I have found certain foundational concepts that lead practitioners to success and longevity in their training. I have also noticed some very common pitfalls that trap students in ways they never saw coming. It is my goal with this ebook to give students of all ages and ranks a deeper understanding of how to prosper in their chosen art.
Who It’s For:
This ebook is for traditional martial artists of all styles and experience levels. I start at the very beginning in order to help prepare individuals who have never stepped foot in a dojo. I move on to explain how to achieve continued success for current students, and end with advanced advice for people who are black belt and beyond.
Parents who are starting their kids in the arts can also benefit. As a parent, it is critical that you have an understanding of what is normal and abnormal behavior in a martial art school. Furthermore, you’ll want to learn how to deal with problem students, teachers, and other issues that could arise. You can also pass this ebook on to your child (depending on age of course) as it is written in a very accessible manner.
Here is a small sampling of the info covered inside -
- Achieving a beginner’s mindset
- Learning the martial arts uniform and belt
- Taking care of yourself and avoiding pitfalls
- Stretching and effective practice
- Handling problems with teachers and other students
- Fighting and self defense
- Dealing with rank and hierarchy
- Shuhari and lessons in being advanced
How To Download and Spread the Word:
To download the ebook, click on the above link or right here. If you are having trouble viewing it, make sure to install the latest version of Adobe Reader (which is also free). The ebook will likely open in a new window – from there click the little disk in the upper left hand corner to officially save it to your computer.
If you’d like to link to the ebook and tell your readers about it, here is some html (you can actually win some cool prizes by linking in):
<a href = “http://www.ikigaiway.com/2009/students-dojo-survival-guide/”>Free Martial Arts Ebook – Student’s Guide to Surviving a Traditional Dojo</a>
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I hope you enjoy the book, and if you have any comments please leave them in the field below. I’m always looking for feedback or thoughts on what you think I should write about in the future.
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