Jump, Swing, Jump. Pitfalls

Beware The Rabbit Holes. I would like to talk about the pitfalls of martial arts training. Training troubles. Waza woes, if you may allow me. I guess that it is mostly students have this problem. Teachers might also have this issue.

There is a problem of, What am I doing? Why am I doing it?

I was asked, “How do you draw the katana with the left hand if you can not use your right hand due to it being damaged in battle.”

It is good to ask the questions; “what am I doing,?” “…and why am I doing it?”. For example, when I do nukitsuke (drawing the sword) there is a reason I grip the sword like this or that and not like this etc. etc. What happens to many people, however, including me at times, is that you can easily get drawn into rabbit holes and go crazy with contingencies within techniques. For example, here comes the attack, ok. I am supposed to move this way and draw the sword here. Or another example, I am supposed to lock down the sword here and draw my wakizashi etc. Ah…! But what if..what if, what if.

Most historical techniques don't have a plethora of contingencies. There are some techniques you learn and later on, you learn counters to those techniques or expand on them. That is true. What happens is that if you're a martial arts student or even teacher and you get into these debates you just veer off the path and you forget what you are training for.

I would argue that there are combative attitudes and ideas and ideals and mindsets which are behind the techniques. We of course, have the unique techniques of the tradition. Some people often try to expand the techniques and boast they have 400 waza.

If you are throwing numbers into your school as a marketing ploy I believe you are doing it wrong. You shouldn't be using it as a selling point. It might be good if you are a true sogo-bujutsu  ryu ha and doing kenjutsu, sojutsu, kyujutsu hojojutsu..etc. etc. Thats good. If you train one technique and do that over and over again you expand the essence of the warrior mindset and elements used in combat. You don’t expand the amount but you expand the quality.

When you actually do the waza correctly you are understanding what the combat is about. It is not just the technique. I don't need to have a contingency or backup plan in my head. what if he doesn't strike this way, or what if I don't have the smaller sword.

There might be another waza where I do this or that. That action is available in my tool box. Thats what you are doing. You are putting things in your tool box. Trying to say, what if what if.  Its important to understand that if you have all these what if questions then you aren't training correctly.

You do need to have questions. I am not saying question nothing. If I approach someone on the ground, for example, why am I bending my leg etc? Branching out from that, however, and saying what if, what if. In my opinion it's immature training. Its fantasy sword training etc.

Do you think having contingencies and planning for everything is real bujutsu? If he comes this way and I have a damaged leg I can do this or that because I trained as if I had a damaged leg.

Looking at modern combat resources the military doesn’t train for thousands of contingencies. They train to respond. There are some techniques but the larger aspect is combative mindsets and psychology. That is, in essence, the same thing that we are doing in Koryu bujutsu. We are training to respond correctly. You are training yourself in the waza to perform correctly under duress. In the beginning, it is light and easy. Slowly the instructor adds duress and variations and exploits your weaknesses. Then you can understand moving this way or that is bad or good. Its not a linear A B C D E F G type of training.

samurai sword stab

People go off to martial arts training and ask what if. What if I have no arms, what if I can not move? What if I have no swords?  Going back to the original question of some one asking me how one would draw a sword with the left hand due to an injury with the right hand.

This kind of question is good to ask but not to ponder deeply and follow. If you have an injury to your hand, then what is the injury? Are the extensors cut? Are the flexors severed? Is it on the back of the hand?

In my idea, it is martial arrts foolishness to chase down these contingencies. it is a waste of important practice time.  There are all kinds of techniques that your school should be teaching to help you deal with such things.

So i am in a situation where my right hand is unusable. It is a silly idea because your wakizashi or tanto is in your belt.  When presented with this the student says, but what if you don't have that sword?

Can you see where this is heading? Its heading right down a rabbit hole.

Those contingencies are pure fantasy. You think you are creating a wholistic bujutsu. The techniques arent present in your school. Why are you not happy with training within your system?  There is a reason why some things just don't exist. First, why is there no secondary sword?  My question was met with a simple, “well there is none.”

So it is these fantasy situations that really don't propel the art or your practice further along.  If my art doesn't have a technique (mental or physical) to deal with this then making one up is not the answer. Now you could if you have a lot of years under your belt, try to form something new. Yes, of course! But if you have to ask these why why why questions, then  I would argue you are not at the level you need to be to be creating new techniques.

You really don't want to train in these fantasy scenarios. It doesn't make your budo better than other schools or the best you can be. If it doesn't elevate your martial arts training then throw it out.

Anyone that has kids knows well that ‘whys’ never end.

Hone the real skills that are in the school.  For example, I do a technique where someone grabs my weapon. can I do the technique if they have a death grip on it? Does it still work? Or what if I change my block from this to that? In my opinion, that kind of question is worth asking. They pertain to the waza and make you understand why you are doing it.  But to ask questions like what if I don't have a sword or what if I can’t move to the left etc.  If it’s not taught in your school just let it go. Perhaps join another school or work within that school.

The other aspect of this is the combative attitude. There is a psychological game. Not just physical techniques. There are attitudes and philosophies. Thats what makes your system. Taking things from this scroll or that scroll, this school or that school doesn't really make a complete system. Though there are systems that have some things combined into the system but there is a cohesiveness to them and they fit.

Be prudent with your desire to learn. Be patient and stay put and observe longer. There is a lot for us to explore in martial arts training.

©2018 S.F.Radzikowski