Sunday, September 13, 2015

Organizing The Body For Budo


The fundamental skill of budo is not particular kata or even special techniques. Those are built on something else. The techniques and kata of a budo ryuha, ancient or modern, are the teaching syllabus and the textbook. The practice of those techniques and kata are the way one acquires the fundamental skills of the ryuha. 

If the techniques of a ryuha aren’t the fundamental skills being taught, what are they? The fundamental skills of a ryuha are all the things that make the techniques and kata possible. The essence of any ryuha is how the body and mind are organized. These are the fundamental lessons driven and learned through the practice of all those kata.

The kata provide a framework for learning to organize our bodies and minds. Kata only happen when the fundamental techniques are solid. Techniques are solid when the body is properly organized. That organization is what makes everything happen. How do you grip the weapon (or your opponent if it’s unarmed)? That’s a start. If the structure of your grip isn’t good, if the bones and muscles of the hand and arm aren’t well organized, the grip will be weak and the techniques ineffectual.  

How the feet, legs, hips, torso and head are organized is the true foundation and the fundamental teaching of any art. In koryu arts, this is a core secret. For Kodokan Judo though, this is open knowledge, though not even everyone who practices judo understands it. The majority of people doing judo do competitive judo and rarely train in the kata, where Kano Jigoro and his senior students encoded the essential lessons of the art.

In contrast to the low, solid, heavy stances common to in judo competition, the body is organized higher and lighter in the kata. This reflects the fact the Kodokan Judo kata are intended to teach how to handle a variety of combative situations including grabs, strikes, and weapons, as opposed to the narrow range of attacks permitted in the competitive arena. How do you organize the body to handle all of these different possibilities?

The way the body is organized for competition is optimal for conditions in a tournament where attacks come from the front. No one ever tries to strike you, No one carries any weapons. The problem I had initially with training in the kata was that the body is organized quite differently than for competition. The low, stable, immovable stance that is so ubiquitous in randori is exchanged for an upright, light, mobile posture that can quickly adjust and react to the wide variety of attacks presented by the kata.


With so many more possible ways to be attacked, and from so many more distances and angles, the body has to be organized differently. Instead of organizing my legs and hips to be able block out a throwing attack and then counter it, I have to be prepared to move to a new location quickly to avoid a punch, kick or weapon, or to enter inside the attack to deal with it. The knees will be slightly bent and the core engaged to take on the weight.  Instead of energy and strength being focused forward to meet an incoming throwing attack, the focus is more diffuse to allow quick movement in all directions.

Contrast this with way the body is organized for ZNKR Kendo and Seitei Iai. Instead of the low, solid posture common to competitive judo, or the light, upright posture of classical Kodokan Judo, for iai the posture is very upright, but with the body pressing forward, ready to surge into action the moment a foot is released. There is tension between the legs, so that movement happens the instant a foot is lifted. No time is wasted shifting weight, everything is ready. The koshi is kept engaged to provide a solid platform while the arms are light and relaxed to swing the sword quickly and effectively.
Beyond competitive martial arts, every koryu has its own way of organizing the body, and this is a core secret of the art. Historically, keeping information about this secret was one reason members of a ryuha would avoid training with anyone outside their ryu. If you understand how someone organizes their body, you know a lot about what they can and cannot do. Modern systems like judo and ZNKR Seitei Iai lay everything out in the open.

The way an art conceives combat, the situations envisioned, and the strategies employed all come together to determine how the body is organized. For something as specific as competitive judo or kendo, very specialized postures and organization develop. Budo that assume many more options have to organize that body differently. Rather than very specialized techniques only applicable to one situation, they require physical organizations flexible enough to adapt to the myriad of situations that can develop.  A good competitive bodily organization will maximize the potential within the narrow confines of the arena. Sogo budo 総合武道 (general budo) have far broader potential applications and need a body that isn’t organized for one specific match.

The more specialized the art, the more apparent it is in your body.  I was visiting a friend’s judo dojo for the first time a few weeks ago, and as I walked up to a young man I said “You’re a wrestler, aren’t you?” The way a body is organized for wrestling is a bit different from that of judo, enough that I could see that he was a wrestler even before we started working together. Karateka and competitive judoka are easy to spot too. The way we learn to organize our body is something we carry with us everywhere. It’s not something that turns off when we leave the dojo. It’s so apparent that we can learn to see it in the way other martial artists stand and walk.

How we organize the body for action is at the heart of every budo. It is basic, fundamental, and very difficult to get right. Mastering the body mechanics of an art is literally half the battle. Until the body is properly organized and moving in accord with the basic principles of the art you’re studying, none or the rest will be correct. No technique, no punch, no cut, no strike, no throw can be done correctly until the body is organized to create the platform upon which the technique occurs. Until the techniques are right, the kata don’t stand a chance of coming together with the right spacing and timing.  It all starts with how the body is organized. ( I might deal with organizing the mind another time, but that’s more difficult to describe.)

27 comments:

Joseph Tomei said...

I like the phrase 'how you organize your body'. One observation that my aikido teacher in Eugene, Daryl Berlie, made to me was that when you look at the pictures of early tournament judo, from the 50's, you see them standing straight up, not hunched over and he suggested that it was because they were still thinking about the possibility of atemi. I found the programs for the 56 and 58 world championships, and all of the action photos, you can them standing straight up.

This video of Mifune is interesting,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-Zrx8vN5rU

He takes on four judoka, and the middle 2 (from 0:45) are foreigners, French Gureru(?) and British Palmer. You can see how the foreigners are starting to push the envelope of engagement, especially when Palmer tries a knee drop (2:25) and the quick grab (2:40) tai-otoshi.

Draven Olary said...

Good article but I beg to differ on ZNKR. It is nothing laying out open, it is just un impression. Otherwise all would be 6 Dan after a short period of time. Deeper you go, you might realize that when something was created based on koryu, to get it, you need koryu mindset. Your last paragraph in a way contradicts your assumption regarding Seitei since you can't do one set with a mindset and koryu in other mindset. Are both sets iai or not?

The Budo Bum said...

Joe,
I agree completely about the evolution of competitive judo. I was watching some world championship matches, and everyone is bent over and stiff. The modern competitive judo posture is only good for competitive judo.

The Budo Bum said...

Draven,
Just because it's all out there doesn't mean it's instantly mastered. There are no secrets in football or basketball or music or painting, but it still takes years of practice to master the physical skills.

As for the mindset, I would emphatically say that you must do Seitei and koryu with different mindsets. They are different systems and each requires the mindset appropriate to itself. Within the various koryu, the mindset is different in each koryu. I love Ellis Amdur's description of Araki Ryu as "predatory." In contrast, Niten Ichi Ryu has a mindset that is arrogant and confident. Shinto Muso Ryu's mindset is dominant and controlling. Each has it's own nuances and assumptions, and these must be respected, otherwise you're not really doing that ryuha. You'll be doing something else. This includes ZNKR Seitei Iai. It's a different animal from any of the koryu, and that is clear in the way it is done.

Draven Olary said...

How can you show Seme without the koryu mindset? How can you fake zanshin in seitei and not in koryu?

Draven Olary said...

All empty handed martial arts train you wiser stances in the beginning and they prepare you for short stances (close to natural stance) of a real combat. Those guys were fighting in old times, now they compete so points you give away are costly - forget fight, try to not lose points.

The Budo Bum said...

You seem to be implying that there is only one koryu mindset. This is certainly not the case. Seme (攻め)is simply attack and offense. There many ways to show an attacking mindset, whether the attack is predatory or dominant or arrogant or controlling. These are all different mindsets for seme.

Zanshin is just remaining alert. The quality and feel of that alertness varies from ryuha to ryuha. No one's faking it, but we are doing it with different mindsets.

Draven Olary said...

Zanshin in empty hands is a state of mind when you are aware of what it happening around you. I see no reason to change this definition for the sake of a sword. When you finish the kata in seitei what remaining spirit means to you? Not the kanji or definitions. I say are many koryu from technical point of view but one single fighting mindset.

The Budo Bum said...

I'll have to disagree with you on this one.

Draven Olary said...


In seitei as in Koryu your actions kill a man* - this is what you are actually doing. I can't have two different mindsets for one same action. When doing martial arts, even without being in dojo, you can train your zanshin - actually I see it just an expression without real meaning if I can't grasp the benefits for me in a fighting situation. Texts of Seitei katas start with "detecting a harmful intention" = you were already in that state of mind, not something 'remaining from the fighting that just ended". But this is how I understand martial arts.
We can agree to disagree :)

* politically corectness aside

Jay Cougar White Cloud said...

Darven,

Please forgive me, but I believe you are missing many of the subtle points that Peter is trying to illustrate and confer in this post. Further, I am sensing a very "black and white" perspective on this topic from your linear shared view of it, that may well be, but is not the the overall perspective at its full depth.

To illustrate your point metaphorically by suggesting "killing a man" is very strong in nature, and yes you can have not only two different mindsets for the same action but many different mindsets all at once. This is what often separates a beginning student from a master of a discipline. "Mindsets" are simplistic in the "young student" and further matures and reaches complexity in the older student/Master.

I mean no disrespect, however if you view 残心 (zanshin) as just an "expression without real meaning" then you have not only failed to embrace much of what 残心 is, but the layered nuance of Asian (et al) cultures in general that developed the many Martial Arts forms. "I don't know mind" is 残心...and so much more.

To your next point, "detecting a harmful intention," again you illustrate a parochial grasp of the depths to this subject. Yes a master of a discipline can very well have a "state of mind," that a "fight," as you put it, has already ended...even before it has begun.

In closing, I can appreciate "how" you "understand martial arts," but would respectfully suggest that there is much you are not understanding fully.

There is nothing to disagree on...it is a levels of understanding and depth of awareness...

Draven Olary said...

PS Regarding that parochial grasp of understanding iai, you can't finish the fight before it started like in a duel since the attack was unexpected and your reaction is "mindless" so to speak. I don't talk about that situation when you know the guy wants a piece of you, and you are using your capacity to read body language or the capacity to send him the non-verbal message to him that is better for him to avoid taking out the sword. I talk about those specific situations reflected in kata when you are forced to react. If you tell me that you can finish the fight before started in fraction of seconds and knowing the outcome in these situations I will like to know how is possible. As someone who knows that nobody knows everything, I am open to learn new things.

Draven Olary said...

May I have posted the answer before my PS? Thank you.

Draven Olary said...

The message that was before PS

Jay, thank you for the comments but please show me where I said zanshin is useless. I said zanshin without knowing what it is, is useless. I heard too many times : zanshin is what you show at the end of kata' and I am wondering what this really means if he did not get it that zanshin can't be "remaining alert' per se 24/24 since you will end in hospital sooner or later. It is just something you achieve by training, to pay attention to your surroundings wthout expecting that someone is going to cut/hit you. It is almost the same with above, but not quite. Ask "why I have to look down past the fallen attacker?" And you will get the answer "because it says so" . That's wrong in my book. Regarding the mindset, I said it is just one - it was a confirmation of an old discussion with a high level Sensei. In both, seitei or koryu you are supposed to show focus and combative spirit in both. You should be capable to see and show the opponent to others. It is true that these are demands for 5-6 dan and up, but you can't judge something based just the level someone has. This is the mindset for me, same in both. The rest are just interpretations of combativeness. Kishimoto Sensei said he failed 7dan if they show the ego in a kata, and he is right. Why? It is another story, not related to the subject.

Jay Cougar White Cloud said...

Hello Darven,

I am glad you are open to learning new things. This is good. Keeping "I don't know mind" is a good place to always be. I have spent a lifetime trying to maintain "I don't know mind."

It is very possible, on many levels of "mindset" and "organizing the body" to finish a conflict or physical act (what you call "fight") before it has even started. I would suggest however that this "understanding" is (if you follow some form of "belt system") in the upper realms of the "black belts" or perhaps hirer. An aggressor has already lost any altercation with one that has attained a homeostasis between "mind/body." That is a very difficult concept to teach and for most student to grasp. I believe, from what I have read of Peter's posts, he either has attained this level of "mind/body" understanding or is very close to it.

There is no such thing as "unexpected," at the levels that Peter is training to, and of which I now write. There is "aware" (mindfulness) degrees around this. "Mindless" is too often the place to many in the MA seem to operate. They are trying to attain a state of "instinctive reaction." This is "Western thinking." We are born enlightened, with instincts intact, and forget most of it very early. We are born mindful, and very aware, but become dull rapidly. Most MA training as found in the original and traditional schools of Asia are about "Mindfulness," "I don't know mind," "Empty mind"...NOT MINDLESSNESS. The mind/body concert of homeostasis is everything.

IF a "guy wants a piece of" me, he may either have it, or not...either way that mentality has lost him the upper hand in any conflict before it even begins. You are training from a perspective that I do not teach, or train to or for. Only a students "body" will attain some limit measure of value for such undertakings.

If we are speaking of a "match" between students, Master/disciple, or other, then again, the mind must look past the "match"....That is part of Peter's point and what I teach in SD. There is not "conflict" accept those that bring their own with them, ego is not present, empty mind only. If one is "ego engaged," and your mind is not empty...you lose even if you win...or start...

Your words seem to reflect being "stuck" in the "body" and "mechanics," of MA. This discussion and post is about moving past that and into harmony of "mind/body," of MA. Unless I am mistaken and I will accept Peters feedback where I am remiss.

If someone "knows the body" they know nothing but the "body"...This may take them far in many conflicts, matches and other physical altercation. If they come up against a "mind/body" person who has attained awareness (enlightenment if you will) of this concert between mind and body, they will lose before they even begin. I feel perhaps, you "think" too much (or too deeply?) into only "mechanics/body," and how it should perform in a given scenario/kata.

Perhaps I should close with validation, that you have probably trained well and hard and mastered many kata within your "body." Yet is seems you are stuck in the "body," only? I left MA, and even competitive fighting because of the "ego engagement" and over emphasis on "body." I came back to my original teacher's message. The "mind/body" concert of which we speak (or try to) offers those with it a very different perspective and ability. I feel that is the simple message of this post..

Draven Olary said...

Excuse me Jay, but the debate was about mindset. I should have started with "what mindset is for you?" First. For the rest of comment, thank you but you are saying things already knew. Regards

Jay C. White Cloud said...

There is not debate Darven. I sense strong ego in your words...There is no need, and it is counterproductive to beneficial discourse.

I am in no position to redefine "mindset," and fully accept the given definition as it is set forth in the English language as an idiosyncratic cognitive bearing that governs inference and reply to stimuli. There is no other definition here or in this conversation than the common one, in its most basic context.

If what I was saying is already..."known"...then we wouldn't be having this discussion and you would not have disagreed with Peters foundational elements in his post on this topic...

You state willingness to learn, but take very strong positions that seem to be...not incorrect...just narrow in view and scope.

Draven Olary said...

Jay, assumption is the mother of all mistakes - is the first lesson taught by my sensei long time ago when I asked about 'expect the unexpected' that is so used in the west. He told me to expect nothing, just be in the moment. And I may say you are off the moment from the beginning to the end.
If you would have read what I said, not what you thought I said, this conversation was not even started. Regards

Jay C. White Cloud said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay C. White Cloud said...

At no time did I perceive an "assumption" made on either Peter's part, nor my own. I tried to read and understand well the meaning and intent of your comments. Then simply responded to points raised and what level of cognition presented with each, be that as they are...

Darven, like Peter, I leave you to your views....

Draven Olary said...

Jay, your assumption was made when you started to talk about me. You failed to recognize my very first post where I was saying my opinion about Peter's topic. You failed to show me where I said that I don't know what zanshin is. You failed to understand and recognize why I was not on same page with Peter regarding something very specific in iai - meaning you have no training in iai, but you have opinions. *
That is why for me it was not a discussion, was more like a monolog from both parts.
Now, if you want to start it over and have a real discussion on Peter's topic, please do.

* A good topic for Peter's blog can be regarding the transferable competences between different MAs.

Jay C. White Cloud said...

Draven, again there was no assumption...nor did I "fail" to read everything here including your very first post...and...Peter's response to it.

We both simply responded to "your opinions" as you stated them...

Nobody said your understanding of 残心 was incorrect...It was suggested that it may be limited in scope and understanding...Peter tried to explain this, and again, you disagreed...

Why would you presume I have no training in 制定 居合道 ..???

I grant you it is very limited and many decades ago, but again it seems you have a very "black and white" perspective of the Martial Arts, and make assumptions much more than I, or others have. I have been a student/teacher in SD and MA for over 47 years in one limited capacity or another. It may not be a focal point of my life, but it is a central core to my being and spiritual belief system.

Draven, I will leave you with the last word, as I'm sure you will reply. Yet there is nothing to have a discussion about. I understood Peter's post and agreed with it. I have found you unwilling to see from others perspectives. Your comments are "close channeled" and you have made entirely more assumptions thus far than anyone...

I leave you to your views...

Draven Olary said...

I will answer you - as you assumed - just to fulfill the assumption.
My main debate with Robert was regarding the different mindsets between seitei and koryu while doing katas - which I admit, it was out of the scope of his article. It happened, my mistake here. My error was to not ask what 'mindset while doing katas' meant for Robert. For me it represents 2 things: focus and combative spirit.
You can't perform correctly a kata without those 2. If Peter was not agreeing, it is ok. I don't have to convince someone, but I can express my disagreement.
My single black and white perspective on martial arts is that are internet-sensei and real sensei. For the rest of your comments I pass, I leave you to your views.

Draven Olary said...

PS Peter, not Robert. My apologies

Jesse Nichols said...

Peter: My Sensei, Kushida Takashi, defined Zanshin as retaining the relationship after the technique is finished. We used various hand forms to represent the action in space that is created when unbalancing uke. These hand forms are unique in Aikido and Yoshinkan or Yoshokan Aikido has by far the greatest number. Under my Sensei they were specific and were used to represent effectiveness and esthetics.

As far as training Budo through kata, tandoku or kumi, it still basically comes down to Shu-Ha-Ri without mosquito training.

With respect.

Jesse

Jesse Nichols said...

Peter: My Sensei, Kushida Takashi, defined Zanshin as retaining the relationship after the technique is finished. We used various hand forms to represent the action in space that is created when unbalancing uke. These hand forms are unique in Aikido and Yoshinkan or Yoshokan Aikido has by far the greatest number. Under my Sensei they were specific and were used to represent effectiveness and esthetics.

As far as training Budo through kata, tandoku or kumi, it still basically comes down to Shu-Ha-Ri without mosquito training.

With respect.

Jesse

Jesse Nichols said...

Peter: My Sensei, Kushida Takashi, defined Zanshin as retaining the relationship after the technique is finished. We used various hand forms to represent the action in space that is created when unbalancing uke. These hand forms are unique in Aikido and Yoshinkan or Yoshokan Aikido has by far the greatest number. Under my Sensei they were specific and were used to represent effectiveness and esthetics.

As far as training Budo through kata, tandoku or kumi, it still basically comes down to Shu-Ha-Ri without mosquito training.

With respect.

Jesse