Saturday, June 11, 2011

Guest Interview with Danny Da Costa - Founder of Shinjido (video)

Striking Thoughts
This is a guest post by Bob Patterson, of Striking Thoughts fame, a long-time friend of TDA, as well as almost the entire martial arts blogging community, and someone for whom I have much respect. What I like about Bob’s perspective is that he’s one of the most humble and open of any out there. Striking Thoughts is written from the viewpoint of a beginner at all times; Bob shares his observations about his current training, how it fits with his past accomplishments and skills, and isn’t afraid to admit when he gets his butt kicked by a newbie, or as to how he adapts to what he calls middle age. Most sites, like this one, have to choose between being a training diary and specific purpose informational site. Bob has successfully done both. He’s well known for his weekly Martial Arts News, and the scathing commentary on Steven Seagal, criticism of Chuck Norris’ politics, and for sharing why a basic technique is so good, which is refreshing. This is not to minimize his accomplishments, since he’s got what many of us have: experience. His time as a correctional officer (that’s prison/jail guard for us civilians) gave him a chance to face down and de-escalate, as well as physically contain some bad guys that would give the rest of us nightmares. So with all due respect, I’d suggest you check out his site, and learn from him. Anyway, Bob proposed a first for this guest post, which hasn’t been done before on TDA Training. Without further ado, the interview. – Nathan

The Interview with Danny Da Costa of Shinjido

Danny Da CostaSeveral months ago I saw a post at Martial Development titled "An Interview with Shinjido Budo." Included in the post was a link to a humorous video by Danny Da Costa, the founder of something called "Shinjido." At first I thought the video was a gag. However, upon further investigation I soon discovered that Mr. Da Costa has a serious side. In fact, he's a high ranking martial artist who has won many competitions in boxing and holds a 6th Dan in judo, as well as a 5th Dan in aikido. Suffice to say that I've followed Mr. Da Costa's blog and work ever since that fateful day. Fast forward to April 2011 when Nathan Teodoro of TDA Training ask me to author a guest post for his blog.
Back in 2005 Nathan's blog was one of the first blogs that I started to follow once I decided to get back into the martial arts. TDA Training has been a treasure trove of martial arts information and inspiration for me, and I've followed Nathan's work ever since. So, naturally, I could not say no to his request. But what to write about? Should I use this opportunity to author another one my famous "Bob Patterson liberal rants?" Given that Mr. Teodoro is a martial arts instructor who outclasses me and does not share my politics, well, let's just say that discretion (and fear of pummeling!) got the better of me. So what could I do to thank Nathan for all those years of useful information? Then it hit me: How about an interview! In six years of martial arts blogging I've never interviewed a martial artist -- EVER. What follows is my first-ever blog interview and I present it to Nathan and his readers as a thanks.
Bob Patterson: Mr. Da Costa, please tell us about yourself.
Danny Da Costa: I have been involved in martial sports for over 55 years. Time alone does not make you an expert others have done more in fewer years. But as an amateur, providing for the family has taken precedence. I have been twice married, to the same woman. I met Cynthia when she was 15 and I a year older. We have 5 children and 4 grand children. Apart from a brief spell as a sales manager, I have never worked for anyone. I have always run my own business. My ability has been to see opportunities that had been overlooked but I have lacked the Midas Touch and have experienced as many downs as ups.
BP: What is the martial sport accomplishment that you are most proud of?
DD: Probably winning my weight category in the British Team Trials in 1966, every contest by ippon. I was an unknown. To quote from the Judo magazine “Da Costa blasted, battered and finally demolished every one else…..Da Costa overshadows all rivals. He blasted everyone with a tremendous bout of furious fighting, in which he was liable to and did do everything. If he continues to do as well when he meets the Europeans in Luxembourg his name will be long remembered in the history books of Judo”
BP: What is your biggest martial sport regret?
DD: After the British Trials my Judo skill level shot off the graph. My throws seemed unstoppably regardless of the amount of weight I might be giving away. And then disaster struck. I sustained a stretched knee ligament one week before the Europeans and was not allowed to compete. Although I beat both German Internationals in a match six weeks later, I never regained the confidence to throw with abandonment. This plus the responsibility or running a family business dependent on Summer tourists stopped me from competing in World and Olympic Championships.
BP: On your website you acknowledge that you may have not been a judo contender were it not for weight divisions. Do you feel that this same sentiment applies to self-defense? i.e. is bigger really better?
DD: A good big un will always beat a good little’n is generally regarded as true. When I was light weight and Brian Jacks welter weight, I fancied that I had the strength to contain him. Once Brian became a middle weight his power advantage would have been too much. Taking away rules as in self defense does a lot to evens things up. I go on the principle that until you have been struck or grabbed hold off, all things are equal. So for me avoidance and safe positioning is vital and if you know what you are doing a small man can be lethal. Having said that I would love to have been an athletic heavy weight.
BP: You started your martial journey with boxing and then you transitioned into two martial arts (judo and aikido) that put striking in a secondary or tertiary role. From a self-defense perspective what is your opinion concerning the striker vs. grappler debate? Is one better than the other?
DD: These days cross training has become quite common strikers will have some grappling ability and vice versa. If I had to come down on the side of one or the other I would favour the grappler in general. This assumes that the striker would be lost on the ground and the grappler had some ability to avoid, block or take a hit before closing the distance. At the end of the day it’s the fight in the dog not the dog in the fight that counts.
BP: I have had some experience with basic judo-type hip throws. As a tall lanky person who stands several inches over six feet I always struggled throwing someone who is shorter with a lower centre of gravity. What advice concerning throwing do you offer to those who are very tall?
DD: In self defense terms it’s risky entering and turning your back to throw. Besides which, throws such as Ogoshi (hip throw) are what I class as anti gravity throws. My Shinjido follows a principle that I call G.A.P. – gravity assisted power. Sticking with traditional Judo I would say that throws driving off one leg such as Uchimata, Osotogari, (both favoured by the current great Kosei Inoue) Harai Goshi and possible foot sweeps would suit you. But also consider a small man’s throw such as Kouchi Gari where you can sweep or hook the opponent’s Achilles Heal and set them up for a strike.”
BP: You are credited with inventing Shinjido. Can you tell the readers what Shinjido is and why you created it?
DD: Shinjido is the name given to my style by one of my students. Shinji equals Danny in Japanese; so like the Sinatra song “it is my way.” I have always looked for a way to do things that suited me. An early object lesson was when I took up boxing as a teenager. I was winning all my fights by KO, mostly in the first round. I spent a lot of time punching a heavy bag suspended from the rafters in our garage. My jab was heavy handed and when it landed the cross would immediately follow. Then one day I read that the fist should be rotated palm down before striking. I said to my trainer “I am punching all wrong, my fist is vertical.” “I know.” He said “But you are knocking people out, why change it?" With my Judo I was largely self taught and I developed many unusual ground work skills simply through doing randori. My partner would tap out unexpectedly so I would retrace the move. Moving on later with Aikido, I knew that I could stop or counter the moves but it was not a competitive environment. Once I gained 1st Dan I started my own club with the freedom to explore. In due course just about every technique got the Shinjido treatment to make it more efficient for me.
BP: Would you describe Shinjido as a new martial art or as your interpretation of several martial arts?
DD: It is a new martial art that has been influenced by my past experience. I feel that everything I show is of my own invention. However there are bound to be instances where I have reinvented the wheel after all there are only so many ways that you can bend or twist a joint etc. The best known example of developing a new style is Bruce Lee but when you think of it, from a Wing Chung base he added techniques from Karate and Judo. He honed himself into superb physical shape and was undoubtedly a great performer. I do not have the authority to question the efficiency of his Karate moves but his Judo moves added nothing to the original. Everything that I put into the Shinjido bag has to be more efficient than anything that may have inspired it or to my knowledge a completely new move. If Judo and Aikido provide inspiration for my moves then I am in good company. Both Jigoro Kano and Morhei Ushiba would expect to see their arts develop
BP: Shinjido emphasizes throws and grip breaks. Does Shinjido incorporate any strikes or joint destruction techniques? For that matter, besides judo and aikido, what other martial arts does Shinjido draw from?
DD: The throws and grip breaks to some extent have been developed for use in sport Judo. The same applies to joint submissions. Some joint techniques would be illegal in Judo including one that I call the Chub lock, because it locks 3 joints at once. Shinjido includes strikes, ideally from a position that you cannot be struck back. I also encourage strikes that attack the opponent’s weak line which has the dual purpose of knocking them down. Because a fight is not finished until someone is no longer capable of resistance, I encourage going from standing to ground without interruption so that a restraint lock is applied immediately; usually with one hand free to strike if required. Surprisingly in a way, the art that has influenced me to a large extent is one that I have barely practised. I find it stimulating to read Tai Chi books. The concept of “let not a sparrow alight” appeals to me. No doubt purists would correct me but the concept of non resistance is appealing. It is very difficult to hold onto to someone that gives way. In this respect I enjoy reading Peter Ralston (Cheng Hsing) books although I find them difficult to follow. In concept Tai Chi and Aikido seem to have much in common but in practice they look entirely different.
BP: Is there anything else that you'd like to say?
DD: Bob I know that you like to experience different martial arts and that’s commendable. At mixed martial art seminars I will always go on someone else’s mat for the experience. The best martial art of all is the one that you prefer to practice. This assumes that you enjoy your training because it would be a sad world to spend so much time in a pursuit that compelled you to fight in order to gain any satisfaction. My classes and seminars are always fun with lots of merriment. Shinjido is constantly developing. Not being saddled with the burden of competing, allows my imagination full flow. Sometimes I cannot sleep at night because I am visualising a move. I run two small classes a week and perhaps selfishly, much of the time is devoted to experimenting with “my bodies.” It is no secret that I am having a serious health battle with cancer. This has not stopped me doing what I want to do so far but I feel that it will be valueless if it is not recorded. Fighting Films are scheduled to do some filming in June. In due course there will be new DVDs availably and those that have had the mat experience with me on a seminar should with help from the DVDs be able to pass my work on.
Conclusion: I'd like to thank Mr. Da Costa for taking the time to respond to my questions and I'd also like to wish him the best in his latest battle. To close this interview I'd like to share with the readers of TDA a video of Mr. Da Costa. In it you get to experience a taste of this new martial art that Danny calls Shinjido!

Obviously, there’s a lot here to digest. Mr. Da Costa has agreed to a follow-up with answers to any questions that you might post. I’ll take all of them here in comments, and via email (tdatraining at g mail dot com), or email them to Bob at Striking Thoughts by May 17, and we will try to get the answers right back. TDA Comments policy.
Meanwhile, I recommend you check out:
Striking Thoughts for more from Bob – you’ll be glad you did. for more about the interview subject
Martial Development’s interview of Da Costa
Martial Arts Toplist for the best collection of great martial arts writing in the known universe.
And Bob, that $50 for the stuff in the first paragraph was money well-spent! Wow!

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B said...

Me "humble?"

I wonder what $100 will buy me?


Craig Willits said...

I missed my guess as to the subject of this interview by a mile! Right country, though.

An excellent post that more than made up for my disappointment that it wasn't about "grabbling."

Seriously, though, Mr. Da Costa is a very interesting martial artist.

I liked this quote especially: "The best martial art of all is the one that you prefer to practice. This assumes that you enjoy your training because it would be a sad world to spend so much time in a pursuit that compelled you to fight in order to gain any satisfaction."

Patrick Parker just said something similar in a recent post over at Mokuren Dojo.

So true.



P.S. BP, where I come from $100 is good for a guest post on a troll topic of your choice, complete with cross-posting to Reddit, Bullshido, and traditionalfightingarts. Guaranteed to improve your traffic, if not your life, overnight!

Nathan Teodoro said...

OK Bob, there's a bidding war for your guest-posts now. You might make far more as a guest this way. Do one a day at at least $100, and you'll do all right in this "business!"

Agreed, Craig, interesting interview and man. I'm going to email questions to Bob, and you can do the same or post them here.