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.
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.
incorporates the following overriding principles:
principles are synergetic and interdependent on each other.
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
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.
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.
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.
applied by less advanced students tend to appear more violent then a
comparable defensive response by advanced students.
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