Instructional Method


Most Jujutsu systems and or ryuha (systems) have between one hundred to two hundred unique waza (techniques within their curriculum), as does our dojo.  If you include variations and or differences in attach (e.g. katate-dori vs. yokomenuchi) the number can climb into the thousands (i.e. Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu  has in excess of 2800 recorded techniques).

The issue at hand is that most dojo base the foundation of their instructional method on repetition and rote memorization. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this method, and in fact it has produced many exceptional budoka (marital artists). 

The primary limitation of this method is that it puts the burden on the student to internalize the movements of the waza, and to infer the interrelationship and dependencies associated with the different techniques.  If these interrelationships and dependencies and not realized by the student, then the student will be limited in their ability to instinctively respond to an attack—limited to only the attacks that they have explicitly trained for.  By way of analogy, this is comparable to being taught (5 + 5 = 10), (4 + 3 = 7), and (6 + 8 = 14)--but never learning “addition.”  In this situation, you would only be able to answer the specific “addition” question that you have been taught. 

When learning basic mathematics, it is best to understand and grasp the “principles” of mathematics (i.e. addition, subtraction, multiplication, order of operation, etc), so that you are able to solve any problem that you’re presented with.

My belief is that Jujutsu (and in fact all martial arts) can most effectively be taught in the same way—based on “principles.”  There are between 30 to 40 basic principles that provide the foundation for all jujutsu techniques (including all variations).  By understanding the principles the student is able to intuitively understand “what makes the techniques work” and is able to make real-time adjustments, when necessary, to effectively execute a defense—regardless of the attack.

Understand that it is still necessary to learn the individual waza mentioned above, but the focus is on learning the technique to understand the principles.  Once the principles have been absorbed, the specific techniques are not as important.  Also understand that any specific technique (waza) may only utilize a small subset of “principles,” usually one or two; there are no techniques that I am aware of that utilize more than five or six principles.

From a purely quantitative perspective, it is much easier to learn 30 to 40 items than it is to learn 100 to 200 items (let alone more then a thousand).

I believe this approach to teaching based on “principles” is one of the primary differentiating factors of the instruction provided by the Mizukan Dojo (though there are other dojo and systems that utilize a similar approach).

A question that is frequently asked is, “Don’t the ‘principles’ represent the ‘secrets’ of the system?” The idea of passing on kuden/hiden (or oral/secret teachings) only to advanced students has always been a trademark of traditional Japanese Bujutsu .  The idea being that the system was being taught to the bugei (samurai) of the prefecture for use to protect and defend the lord of the prefecture.  It would be unwise to teach the “secrets” of the system to someone that was actually a spy that might use the information to go back and develop defenses against the system, so students were required to “prove” themselves over period of time before the intricacies of the system would be passed on.

The kuden or hiden were not necessarily “principles” but we’re more like variations; for example, a student may be taught to apply a metsubushi (destracting atemi to the eyes) as an initial atemi before executing a technique, but the kuden would identify a very detailed target and method for the strike, possibly a pressure point; or a student may be taught a specific method of grasping an attackers hand when applying kote gaeshi, but the kuden would identify a new, more effective (or devastating) method of grasping the hand.  Basically, kuden represented subtle differences or changes that increased or sharpened the effectiveness of the techniques.

Technical Evolution

Jujutsu incorporates the following overriding principles:

These principles are synergetic and interdependent on each other.


The principle of Ju tends to be the easiest to learn and comprehend.  The application of this principle is straight forward, and appears to have the fewest subtleties.  Aiki falls at the other end of the spectrum.  Aiki is extremely subtle in its application, and requires a high level of skill to apply effectively.  Goshin or self-defense requires a break from the traditional method jujutsu instruction, mostly because the focus is on modifying classical jujutsu techniques to modern street defense situations.  Though these situations are foreign to the core curriculum of jujutsu, they are a logical out growth of the training and application in today’s society.

As a training progression, a student will begin training by focusing almost exclusively on utilizing Ju is the application of their techniques.  Once a student has developed a basic understanding of this concept they will be placed in a more “street-oriented” situation and begin to develop and apply techniques with the emphases on goshin.

As the student advances and their timing and distancing improve they will begin to experience the application of aiki.  For many techniques this requires no outward changes to the technique itself.  For other techniques, certain subtle changes are required to incorporate the principles of aiki.

As a final evolution the student then begins to apply aiki in their responses to self-defense situations.   The ultimate goal is for a student to be able to apply technique and respond to situations with little to no conscious thought.  The student to strive to control a situation with a little physical effort as possible—utilizing only the amount of effort and force necessary to control the situation.

Defenses applied by less advanced students tend to appear more violent then a comparable defensive response by advanced students.  



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