Archive for February, 2011

London Ju Jitsu Martial Arts Tip Of The Week:So what happens after black belt?

February 26, 2011

The months after gaining black belt can be difficult ones for some martial artists. After many years of hard training to get first Dan there are suddenly at least two years before they can go for second Dan and so the training lacks some of the intensity it did before for a little while. For some the lack of a goal on the immediate horizon is a little deflating and some even stop training at this point. To me this is a real shame. Let’s not forget that first Dan means first step and getting your black belt just means you’ve learned the basics!
At London Ju Jitsu the 1st Dans are encouraged to teach the Kyu grades. I believe it is honour to teach and I also believe that you owe it to your club to pass on some of the knowledge you’ve learned. Also as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, teaching improves your skills. The important thing here is not to be passive whilst teaching. Instead of teaching the technique and just watching, you should teach and then practice as hard as the Kyu grade is practising! Of course this will keep you fit and sharp but there are other benefits too. As an example it’s probably been at least four or five years since you passed your first grade. Now you have so much knowledge you should put all of that into practice and become as good as you can be at that first grade. In life we don’t get to relive our youth with the bonus of experience but in martial arts you can and you will become better for it! By the time you’ve mastered all of the kyu grades again and began to train in earnest for your second Dan, you should be much better. If first Dan is first step, the step up in class when taking second Dan should be a big one!

London Ju Jitsu Martial Arts Tip Of The Week:Every action deserves an equal and effective reaction

February 19, 2011

Recently a student at one of our clubs ‘resigned’ from London Ju Jitsu as he thought one of the techniques I was teaching was dirty and not worthy of the budo tradition. The offending technique was a head butt, and as I grew up in Liverpool and spent the first 13 years of my martial arts study in Dojo’s there, I was quite shocked to learn that a head butt was considered dirty! I always thought it was just one of your best weapons! If you’ve ever been on the end of a real Scouse (or Glasgow) kiss you’ll know why. Funnily enough I was teaching the same technique in the leafy suburbs of Surrey many years ago when one of the students, Lindsay Comens (now 3rd Dan Daito Ryu Aiki Jutsu) said
“Excuse me Sensei, but how exactly do you head butt somebody”. Up until that point I’d never really thought about it, but once this question was asked I realised that there were good techniques for this just like any other move. People from Glasgow, Liverpool and any other inner cities must have these techniques in our DNA!

So what constitutes a dirty technique? Is it breaking fingers, head butting, eye gouging, fish hooking or something else? In my opinion there is no such thing when it comes to self defence and a lot
depends on the situation. It’s better to have all of these things in your armoury in case you have to use them. Of course I wouldn’t advocate breaking someone’s arm because they’ve stolen your sweets! But what if they’re trying to kill you? In the case of the offending head butt the technique being demonstrated was a defence to a strangle. You can of course be strangled to death so in my opinion anything goes once someone’s hands are on your neck! Also saying some techniques are dirty implies that there is an acceptable level of violence which I don’t think is true.
There is a wider issue here of course and that is what does bushido actually mean and what is its place? There are lots of Hollywood films that romanticise bushido of course. There are also books such as Hagakure  that eulogise the Samurai way and their code of honour. This code of honour largely came about during the Shogunate era when nearly four hundred years of peace caused the Samurai to look for some meaning to their lives. Before Tokugawa Ieyasu became the first Tokugawa Shogun there were many times when a Daimyo (lord) would order his troops to change sides during battle. Does this sound honourable to you? One of these times was at the Battle of Sekigahara which led to Tokugawa taking power. Before this the Samurai would often use poison, assassins, kidnap and many other less than honourable means to ensure one thing and one thing only, victory over their enemies. There was no imaginary line they wouldn’t cross to achieve this. Honour to a Samurai meant one thing only and that was obeisance to your master. Even then you can judge for yourself to what extent the threat of execution for a samurai and his whole family played a part in that obedience. I’m not saying that the virtues advocated by the various writers on the subject if bushido are wrong. In fact I largely agree with them and aspire to being honourable myself. I also think that a lot the world is moving forward slowly towards a more caring civilisation and long periods of relative peacetime has brought that about. What I am saying is that there is no such thing as an acceptable level of violence. Luckily most of the serious martial artists I know aren’t violent people. They are capable of defending themselves, sometimes with extremely brutal techniques but that is not what they wish to do. They understand however that it’s easier to achieve peace from a position of strength. If you aren’t prepared to at least match the violence inflicted upon you then you’ve already lost.

London Ju Jitsu Martial Arts Tip Of The Week: Remember the word ‘art’ in martial art.

February 10, 2011

Sometimes there is a misconception that the martial arts are rigid. That a technique must only be done in a particular way or only used in a particular attack or defence. This is partially because of the way the techniques are taught. For example you may have been taught a strike or throw as a defence to a punch or kick. Remember that the way a technique is taught may not be (and probably isn’t) the only way it can be applied. It would be impossible to teach every application for every technique. None of us live long enough for that!! So the techniques are taught in a drill but that drill is only a method of teaching that technique. It is not a mathematical formula as in x + y = z.

Also there may be subtle differences in the way each technique is best executed due to the height, build or strength of you or your opponent. So try and think of each technique you learn as a tool to be added to your box of tools which can be used in lots of different ways. The balance, strength and movements that your body learns while training are also part of that toolset. Once you’ve mastered these techniques and movements it’s up to you how they’re implemented and in what situation. When you can begin to do this that’s when you become an artist in your own right!

London Ju Jitsu Martial Arts Tip Of The Week: It’s good to ask questions

February 2, 2011

When your instructor is demonstrating a technique you shouldn’t be afraid to ask a question, as long as you ‘re respectful when asking of course! I am always happy to take questions about the execution of a technique, the possible counters to it, and also the situations when you might use it in addition to the one being shown. If it’s a throw
or takedown sometimes it’s good to ask for advice on the best way to breakfall, especially if you’re struggling to land without injuring yourself. I’ve often learned something new about a technique following questions asked by even the newest of beginners. These questions sometimes challenge me to address something I may not have thought about before. In this way the technique can be refined and hopefully taught better in the future. As I’ve mentioned before we must always strive to improve otherwise we stagnate and indeed go backwards! At other times the question may force me to look at something I just do naturally after all these years of practice. That again brings my attention to a detail I may not have noticed before and that in turn can help my own technique and/or the way I teach it.

Just a reminder to be respectful when asking though, otherwise you can be sure the instructor will show you how it really works!! 🙂