Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Grasping Budo By More Than One Corner

A opinion piece on training as if your life depended on it, and the limitations of some styles' training for the "real world."

[Budo definition: The word "budo" is the translation of characters used in the Japanese language (originally adopted from Chinese). "Bu" means military, or related to the military, or martial. "Do" means path, way or method. Budo thus refers to post-1600 generations of Japanese fighting systems based on former arts, but which emphasize "do" -- personal, ethical and spiritual development as the ultimate goal of training. See

Some excerpts:

When you study a single art you are often confined. It is sort of like the old saying, "when your only tool is a hammer, you just see nails." This is not to say that studying a single art is wrong, but it does suggest that by studying other arts, a student's perspective and experience is broadened so that his understanding and practice of his original art greatly benefits too.

... In Buffalo, my house mate Joel was a full contact grappler and UFC veteran. In my garage, which had been modified into a training center, we often sparred. I still remember the first time I lifted my knee to block a low roundhouse kick. Bam, I was on the floor on my back and wondering what had happened. I quickly learned that a low roundhouse kick was the perfect set up for a take down. I learned to adjust my fighting tactics.

The same lesson holds for self-defense situations. Too many karate-ka never experience actually being attacked to the head. It makes sense for safety reasons not to make contact to the head with punches during karate practice, but this also creates a problem for the same karate-ka if they find themselves in a real fight with someone trying to take their head off. Here again a little cross training adds a lot.

The same problem is even more evident in Aikido and in many jujutsu systems. In Aikido, for example, attacks are done slowly at first, with increased speed and intensity with experience. The emphasis is on cooperation with your partner so you can both learn. But, too often practice is never taken beyond this point. There are teachers who have never had any combat experience, either from karate, boxing or other arts. While their technique may look good, they can unfortunately be at a disadvantage if they had to actually use their art in a real self-defense situation.

A friend Oscar Ratti, best known for his book "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere," related to me a tragic story of a New York City black belt in Aikido he had known. This person returned to his van after practice one night to find someone rummaging through the back of the vehicle. The friend pulled open one of the back doors to challenge the individual. What he got, however, was unexpected. The robber leaped out from the back with a knife in his hand and thrust it out. Unfortunately the Aikido-ka, with countless years of practice of avoiding punches and practice knife stabs with a pivot during practice, did not do so in this instance. It might have been the surprise, or fear -- no one knows. But the result was tragic. He lost his life. Ratti commented, "So many in Aikido just don't train with combat intensity." In this case it resulted in a loss of life.

Judo-ka too often are not introduced to striking arts. This is not important if Judo is practiced only as a competitive sport. But if their skills are to be used for self-defense, some striking and/or kicking practice adds a great deal to their training. The same can be said for Brazilian Jujutsu. While the art definitely demonstrated to much of the martial arts world that traditional arts lacked necessary skills in grappling, the art has its own limitations. Similar to Judo, Brazilian Jujutsu exponents can greatly benefit from learning punching and kicking skills.

... The Japanese warrior of old practiced many arts - the sword, knife, Bow and arrow, naginata (curved spear), yari (straight spear) -- often combined with battlefield grappling skills, plus horsemanship and other arts. He was thus well rounded.

It is only in comparatively modern times that martial artists have confined their training to a single art. But many of the masters who founded those arts in fact trained in several. While you may never seek to become a master yourself, you can still be enriched by the concept of cross training that was once the hallmark of the classical warrior.

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