Mar 18 2012

Conditioning, Waza and other thoughts

Published by at 12:08 pm under Bujinkan Training Drills

The topic of what is practical fighting technique vs what is movement exercises has come up on more than one occasion.  I often get a bit miffed if during training people attack me putting themselves in a position that makes the technique far too easy to preform.  At a Shawn Gray seminar in South Dakota we discussed certain training habits in length.  I will do my best to summarize the learnings from this conversation.

I am very much of the opinion that when we (North Americans) started training in the arts of the Bujinkan, we did what we expected to see.  What I mean is many visitors had a few weeks maybe twice or three times a year to train with Hatsumi Sensei and the shihan.  They brought back what they could (and I thank them for that), and trained what they remembered diligently until the next visitor could make the trip.  The problem is that to fill in the gaps many relied on previous experience in other martial arts.

I do not by any means begrudge them for this, we are learning a martial art to defend ourselves, as a result it is good to have a more complete set of skills until you can fill in the gaps with Japan knowledge.  There is however a pitfall that I have fallen into for far to many years.  It’s only over the last few years that I have been climbing my way out of this trap.  The real danger is creating our own system based on what we want to see.

As someone who has trained in several martial arts, for years my previous martial arts experience prevented me from looking past certain habits to see what was being done in Japan.  Also there are many things that I did based on training done in the past (Bujinkan and otherwise) that I saw completely contradicted on my Japan trips and instead of accepting that this is the way that things are supposed to be done, I passed it off as that’s what I will do when I reach a higher level of proficiency.  What was the point of going to Japan if I didn’t go to learn?

I have to apologize to all of the teachers that I trained with in Japan who tried to teach me what I was doing wrong only for me to ignore the lessons because of my foolish notions of what I wanted to do.  There is no end to the amount of material available to us now, take a look at what Hatsumi Sensei and the shihan have been doing for years and see if it has really changed all that much.

There are certain things done for the sake of body conditioning.  Moving in what I would call “odd” kamae that doesn’t seem like it would have much of a combat application.  I was given an exercise by Seno Sensei in October of 2008, just a simple punching drill which made my body ache when I did it.  He told me afterwards that if I practiced it for a year that I would develop a body able to properly do the techniques of the Bujinkan.  Do not confuse junan taiso with waza, there are some exercises we do just to free up our bodies for future movement and technique.  If I could pass on a bit of advice for beginners it would be this.

  • When you first start training work on taihen jutsu (ukemi and happo sabaki)
  • Continue on the San shin no kata to co-ordinate your body
  • Begin the Kihon Happo to learn to defend yourself (use omote tsuki no oni kudaki)

If you work through this method your Budo will be on the right path.  I also encourage you that if a teacher in Japan takes interest in showing you their version of a basic technique, work on it find out how to do it their way not yours. You have chose to take the time and money to go learn in Japan, take that final step and take the effort to learn their art while you are there.

Your Life is on the line, practise well.

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