Sunday, March 24, 2019

Ken Tai Ichi no Kata and The Core of All Learning

The second chapter in my proposed The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques concerns the 'core of all learning.' The core of all learning is the identification of similarities and differences. Yoseikan's ken tai ichi no kata is a classic example of the core of all learning being adopted in the marital arts.

Ken tai ichi no kata (form of sword and body as one) is a kata that is designed to illustrate the similarities between sword and unarmed defences. The lesson is far more complete if the similarities and differences between sword and unarmed defences are identified through the kata.

It's not just the similarities and differences between the sword and unarmed defences that produce the lessons in ken tai ichi no that produces the knowledge, its also the identification of similarities and differences between the different defences in each class of defence.

For instance, what are the similarities and differences between the kamae (combat engagement position) of each of the sword defences? One is seigan kamae which is a totally defensive position where the tip of the blade is pointed at the opponent's throat or eyes whereas the other four are not. Tactically, this means that the attack in the case of the seigan kamae involves either moving around the sword or moving the sword off the line of attack. With all the other kamae, the attack can be straight down the line. A tacical lesson is learnt through the identification of similarities and differences between the different kamae adopted by the defender.

One difference between the armed and unarmed versions of this kata that is emphasised in Shihan Jan de Jong's adoption of the kata is the use of unbalancing techniques/tactics with the unarmed defences which is not possible with the armed versions. Some of the senior instructors at the Jan de Jong Self Defence School attempted to 'shoe-horn' an explanation in suggesting that the 'brushing blocks' with the sword would slightly unbalance the opponent forward. A basic understanding of biomechanics dispels that shoe-horned explanation.

This lesson is then capable of being applied to other arenas. There are aikido schools that adopt the same position, including the hand position, as holding a sword when unarmed. Why would you position your hands as if holding a sword when you are not holding a sword, a hard, metal, sharp, pointy weapon with an extended reach? This then leads to questions regarding what Donn Dreager referred to as the difference between the focus on self-protection (jutsu forms) and self-perfection (do forms).

Extending this lesson further, why would you adopt the fighting style of an animal when you are not that animal and do not possess their weapons. Drunken monkey or sober monkey - monkey's cannot form a fist. The human ape is the only ape capable of forming a fist due to the evolution of their fingers which were no longer needed for climbing trees. A study that I've referred to before explains how the human hand evolved in order to support prehension and percussion applications. It is one of the things that set us apart from the other apes and put us at the top of the food chain. Why lose that combative advantage for a theoretical principle?

One of de Jong's pet peeves was those martial arts that fashion themselves after animal forms. If you're training a tiger style martial art, as many do, are you going to take an opponent to the ground by biting their rump?

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Happoken no Kata

Shihan Jan de Jong included Happoken no Kata in his jujutsu grading system. The kata is taken straight from Yoseikan Budo. A very good demonstration of this kata is posted on YouTube.

In my The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques, I devote a chapter to the 'core of all learning.' The core of all learning is the identification of similarities and differences. How is the JDJ HnK similar and different to the Yoseikan HnK?

They are similar in that they use the same blocks and strikes, however, they are different in that JDJ uses a staggered stance (zenkutsu dachi) while Yoseikan uses a parallel stance. Insights and understanding arise when analysing those differences.

The first technique is a middle block against a punch from the side. There is no evasive body movement used in the Yoseikan kata, therefore, the purpose of the block is to avoid injurious contact with the body from the attack.

JDJ's initial teaching was to step to the side with the leg closest to the attacker into zenkutsu dachi and block. This means moving across the attack and moving the attacking arm with the block around 45 degrees. An inefficient process at best.

Some of the senior instructors were not happy with this stepping motion and moving across the attack and changed the movement such that the back leg steps in front before turning into zenkutsu dachi and executing the block. This movement is now an evasive body movement as it moves the body off the line of attack, however ... what is the purpose of block? It's not to avoid injurious contact with the body because the evasive body movement took care of that problem.

This is an issue that I continually address in the chapter on blocking techniques in The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques. If a blocking technique of any description is used in conjunction with an evasive body movement, the question always has to be asked: 'What is the purpose of the blocking technique?' It's not to avoid injurious contact with the body because the evasive body movement takes care of that problem.

There are answers to that question. Nakayama provides six possibilities in blocking in Dynamic Karate. One is to use the block as an 'attacking block' or a strike. Another is to physically unbalance the opponent. Interestingly enough, none of the blocking possibilities involves preventing injurious contact with the body. Btw, none of those possibilities would appear to explain this block in these circumstances.

Yoseiken's second block involves the performer turning 90 degrees to execute a low block in response to a punch from behind. JDJ's second block involves the performer turning 180 degrees to the rear, once again stepping across in front of the attack and moving the attackers arm 45 degrees to the side. Also a criticised move but one that no attempt was made to rectify.  There was talk of stepping across with the front leg and turning 180 degrees into zenkutsu dachi, however, the same question re evasive body movements and blocks used in conjunction would then also be applicable.

This low block is followed by a step forward and low punch. This involves stepping into the opponent, unless the opponent stepped backward of course, which would be the only time in the kata that this is assumed.

Why did JDJ change the stance from a parallel stance to a staggered stance? It's because a staggered stance is stronger in terms of stability than a parallel stance when applying and receiving forces from the front. This is a well known fact and is why the staggered stance is the most common stance adopted in fighting activities.

Does this mean the Yoseikan stance is 'weaker' in this situation? Is it less stable and more susceptible to destablising/unbalancing forces (see the chapter on stances and balance/unbalancing in The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques). Yes and no.

Note the stance adopted in the last four techniques in the  YouTube video. This stance and its use is more representative of pasang used by some pencak silat (see right).

Pasang is a wide parallel stance facing the opponent. It is used to gain more stability when friction is less in muddy inland Indonesia. By adopting a wide stance, an evasive body movement is accomplished by moving the body weight over one or the other legs and turning the upper body. Turning the upper body when striking increases range and adds more mass behind the strike. The chapter on injury science and striking techniques in The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques demonstrates that the damage potential of a strike increases in the martial arts by the experienced practitioner knowing how to put more mass behind the strike.

The question then becomes for all the schools currently teaching JDJ's HnK, what do they do with this analysis?

They can keep teaching JDJ's teaching unquestioningly. A not uncommon approach.

They can attempt to shoehorn an explanation if the question is ever raised, as was the case when I raised these questions with senior instructors while I was a student at the school.

They can change the techniques/movements ... there-in lies a valuable lesson.

If you change anything in a technique, defence, or kata, you should always re-evaluate the entire technique, defence, or kata in order to see that it continues to 'make sense.'

Another option is to adopt the original Yoseikan kata with the added understanding and insights provided this analysis with the aid of the theory presented in The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques, which then expands the use of this kata as a teaching tool.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

7th Kyu Nage Waza - First Draft

You will recall my previous post described Shihan Jan de Jong's jujutsu grading system as a first draft. I have also argued that it behoves those who now teach that grading system to study that grading system in order to refine it and to deal with possible errors contained within it.

The 7th Kyu (Red Belt) grading includes a section where the grading candidate has to demonstrate four throwing techniques: (nage waza): hip throw (o goshi nage), shoulder throw (ippon seio nage), minor inner reaping (ko uchi gari), and minor outer reaping (ko soto gari; see image with Shihan Hans de Jong executing on myself).

The Shodan revision grading (kime no kata) requires the grading candidate to select and demonstrate, among other things, five different throwing techniques (nage waza) and five different takedown techniques (taoshi waza) for each of five different wrist/forearm holds.

Chapter two in my The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques is about the core of all learning. The core of all learning is the identification of similarities and differences. Nage waza and taoshi waza are similar in that they are techniques which cause the opponent to fall to the ground. How are they different? The lack of understanding about the differences between these two types of similar but different techniques is explored in another chapter in TSBAFT.

When I was preparing to engage in this grading, I asked my instructors what the difference was between throwing techniques and takedown techniques. I was met with silence from all of them except one. He said that a throwing technique involves both of the opponent's feet being forced to leave the ground whereas with takedown techniques do not. This, as I explain in the abovementioned chapter, is the definitive distinction between these two types of techniques, which I demonstrate in mechanical terms.

When, as a prospective yudansha (black belt holder), I applied that theory to the abovementioned 7th Kyu grading, ko uchi gari and ko soto gari would be classified as takedowns rather than throws. When I raised this issue/question with my instructors, I was told that if the technique is performed correctly then both of the opponent's feet will leave the ground. If that is the case, then not one person in the entire history of the Jan de Jong jujutsu grading system has performed those techniques correctly.

That explanation is a classic case of 'shoehorning.' Forcing one thing to fit another, even though it doesn't fit.

These techniques, the way they are performed in the Jan de Jong jujutsu grading system, are technically takedown techiques/taoshi waza. Having come to that (technically correct) understanding, the next question is, what do we do about it?

One option is to continue to teach the grading system as it was handed down by JDJ (the first draft). An option that is mostly being pursued, albeit with the absence of a knowledge of the error.

Another option is to correct the error, however, so much valuable learning is lost in doing so if the error is not incorporated into the learning some way.

How did JDJ make this error? Firstly, there is no definitive distinction, until my book, distinguishing between throwing techniques and takedown techniques (which makes the abovementioned shodan grading an interesting exercise). Secondly, judo includes those techniques in their list of nage waza, specifically ashi waza (leg techniques). Did judo make the same mistake? Firstly, judo was the leader in classifying martial arts techniques. Secondly, judo includes a category for nage waza but none for taoshi waza. This begs the question - does judo teach taoshi waza? As I demonstrate in my book, judo does teach taoshi waza but do not recognise it as a separate class of techniques, instead classifying all techniques that cause an opponent to fall to the ground as nage waza.

Depending on how judo teaches these techniques, they can be either a throw or takedown as the images above show. The direction of the unbalancing determines whether the technique is a throw or a takedown, as I explain in my book, and the direction of unbalancing and the intended effect of the applied forces are fundamental to the execution of this (and all) techniques, hence, this understanding is no mere academic exercise.

What would you do with this identified error in Jan de Jong's jujutsu grading system?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Jan de Jong's Grading System First Draft

I have completed researching and writing The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques. I am currently in the process of completing the first draft of Fear and Fight: Understanding Our Natural and Learned Responses to a Threat. One thing that I have learned that no matter the amount of research, the first draft is always too long and lacking in focus.

Shihan Jan de Jong developed his jujutsu (and aikido and pencak silat) grading system. It was a first draft, and consequently, it is too long and lacking in focus. JDJ was the embodiment of the spirit of kaizen, continuous improvement. It behoves the instructors that follow on from JDJ to reflect on JDJ's work and improve on his grading system; that is providing that they can.

The namesake school continues to teach JDJ's grading system without any major modifications/improvements. I have been informed that they dropped the grading that examined sword use basics, which makes no sense at all. The basis of effective teaching is to teach basics and then progress from there. That is the underlying methodology of the mon grades that JDJ introduced was to introduced the basics before the student attempted the kyu or dan grades. How effective that was is another issue, however, it conformed to the modern, effective way of teaching as JDJ acknowledged in an interview. JDJ modified/improved his grading system accordingly, which the current incumbents have retreated from in this instance.

Another instructor has done away with the mon grades (see 'interview' above) altogether in order, as he says, to return to the original Tsutsumi (Hozan?) Ryu system. This modification is based on an incomplete understanding of the development of the JDJ jujutsu grading system as all of the grades above the first four kyu grades are heavily influenced by JDJ's Yoseikan exposure.

One instructor has significantly modified JDJ's grading system, changing it totally. While I might challenge the basis of the modification(s), I have to applaud his adoption of JDJ's kaizen spirit with regards to the grading system.

Another instructor has implemented an idea that JDJ had been contemplating for at least three years prior to his passing, even though said instructor was not privy to JDJ's contemplations. He has introduced two streams, a practitioners stream and an instructors stream. Not all yudansha will go on teach and therefore, why should they be required to undertake the instructor's gradings. This is something that JDJ wrestled with for a number of years prior to his passing. An issue that we discussed on many occasions without any resolution. JDJ would be very interested in this instructors efforts, which are in the best tradition of JDJ's kaizen spirit.

The original JDJ jujutsu grading system is a first draft. It is a lumbering, behemoth. The current instructors teaching JDJ's jujutsu grading system can continue teaching JDJ's first draft or they can use what JDJ attempted to provide his instructors' with - insight. The insight will provide for redrafts, until finally a sophisticated, efficient, succinct, and focused grading system is developed.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

De Jong Built the Tracks; I Built the Train

In the brilliant Under the Tuscan Sun, Martini tells Francis: 

Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come.
De Jong developed some grading before the knowledge existed that 'could make the trip.' The knowledge now exists in my The Science Behind All Fighting Techniques.

The first shodan grading is a revision grading. The candidate has to select and demonstrate five joint-locking techniques and five different takedown techniques from five different hand holds. They then have to select and demonstrate five different throwing techniques for hand, hip, and leg throws from any attack. Next is demonstrating three different joint-locking techniques and three different takedown techniques from five selected moving attacks.

How do you choose throwing techniques and takedown techniques if there is no definitive distinction between those two types of techniques? How do you examine a candidates selection if there is no definitive distionction? I audit the martial arts literature in this regard in TSCAFT and demonstrate that there is no definitive distinction in the martial arts. There is now in TSCAFT.

In TSCAFT, I explain how joint-locking techniques are techniques where forces are applied to cause an opponent's joint to move towards or beyond the limits of its range of motion. Why do you want to apply forces to move a joint towards or beyond the limits of its range of motion? The answer to that question is many and varied, including to be used as takedown techniques.

You could select and demonstrate the twenty five kansetsu waza and when called upon to demonstrate the twenty five selected taoshi waza, you could say that you've already done so if you selected astutely in the first case. :)

The kansetsu waza and taoshi waza had to be demonstrated from five different hand holds, however, the nage waza were classified as hand throws, hip throws, and leg throws. Why the difference? It's because the nage waza classification comes straight from the Kodokan Judo classification of techniques and KJ does recognise taoshi waza. All techniques that cause an opponent to fall to the ground are classified as nage waza.

The KJ nage waza classification is flawed. It's a great first attempt but it is flawed. You could have fun challenging the examiners by including techniques in other classes than the KJ classification and make a strong argument for the inclusion.

You could include inner and outer footsweep (ko uchi and soto gari) in both the taoshi waza and nage waza sections of the grading. :) Why? Because technically they are takedown techniques as performed in JDJ's school, however, in KJ they are classified as nage waza and they are technically throwing techniques.

You could then point out that in the seventh kyu (red belt) grading, these two techniques are included in the throwing techniques demonstration section, but in fact the way they are demonstrated they are technically takedowns.

JDJ specifically identified joint-locking techniques as takedowns in the last section of the grading, however, nobody included joint-locking techniques in their selected takedowns in the previous section of the grading. He had an intuitive understanding of the difference between throws and takedowns but it was not developed, articulated or applied.

It is a brilliant grading, one that provides insights, with the aid of the technical knowledge that is presented in TSBAFT. JDJ most definitely did build the tracks before there was a train capable of traveling on them. I've built that train. There is a lot to be learned from this gradings, but a lot more to be learned by its flaws and historical inconsistencies.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Martial Arts and #MeToo

I was one of the main instructors for Jan de Jong and did many, many private lessons with female students. They were conducted in private and with me being the 'attacker' where I would execute a 'bear hug' from behind that would come into contact with their breasts. I would sit on top of them holding their arms down. I would put my hand between their legs to demonstrate a 'scooping throw' and have them do likewise to me when learning the technique. A push on the chest often involved contact with their breasts. A bear hug from the front ... no more needs to be said.

The simplistic (ignorant) anti-PC crew would say that they knew what they signed up for. That it is just a part of training and they shouldn't make a fuss. I can guarantee you that those same people would be the first to object if a man put his hand between their legs, touching their 'package' ostensibly to teach/learn a technique. The simplistic, ignorant anti-PC crew are all 'you can't take a joke' until the joke is on them.

In the late 90s I came to appreciate that women might feel uncomfortable with this physical contact when engaging in lessons. Long before #MeToo, I changed my teaching such that I informed the female student about what physical contact was involved in the technique to be taught and training, and gave them the opportunity of say no. I asked their permission (legally consent).There was no judgment involved ... but it also provided the opportunity to discuss many other issues other than physical defence against a violent attack.

This was not a policy of the Jan de Jong Self Defence School. This was a policy that I developed and adopted on a unilateral basis. It was based on reflection and also because I listened to my female private lesson students.

Three of my female private lessons students were engaging in private lessons because they felt 'uncomfortable' in another male instructor's classes because of the 'attention' that he paid to them. It's so easy for the physical contact to be misconstrued, particularly with the passage of time, however the culture of the times also emboldened those who took advantage of their position of dominance. You only have to read the experiences of those who were abused in an power-imbalanced relationship to see that this is true. However, in these cases, the instructor in question had a reputation. A reputation that was ignored by management.

We had the whole Catholic thing going on in the school because when I reported this 'situation' to management (not Jan de Jong), I was attacked. How could I say such horrible things about the male instructor? Not once did the management person ask after the welfare of the three women involved. And of course the instructor in question continued teaching and still continues to teach today.

What is the lesson to be learned. Most martial arts teachers are amateurs. They have very little concept of occupational health and safety issues. They need to think about the physical contact between students, and between students and instructors. They need to develop, implicitly or explicitly, sexual harassment policies. Think about the student's feelings, from their perspective, and act accordingly.

For those martial arts schools that are attempting to go it alone. This is a marketing strategy that establishes a point of differentiation between your school and others. That you explicitly consider the welfare of students when teaching and training.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Martial Arts Instructors and Students Need to be Auditors

Mindlessly and unquestioningly following the teachings of an instructor is a common feature, if not a corner stone, of the martial arts.

The Jan de Jong school prided itself on not mindlessly and unquestioningly following the teachings of an instructor, including that of Jan de Jong.

De Jong taught principle in addition to tactics and techniques. He was a good teacher; I was a great student. During one black belt class he was teaching a defence that did not conform to the principles he taught. I questioned that inconsistency. I was taken aside by a senior instructor of the school (who now has his own school) and told never to question de Jong's teachings.

As it turns out, I was right. De Jong was focused on one aspect of the defence to the detriment of another which he was teaching in error. Against the senior instructor's 'advice,' I raised the issue with de Jong who acknowledged his error, explained it, and corrected it at the next black belt class.

Martial arts instructors and students need to adopt an auditor's attitude. Management teachings  often look to the martial arts for guidance, the martial arts can benefit from doing likewise.

Auditors must exercise professional judgment, which requires professional scepticism.

What is professional scepticism? It means having a questioning mind, being alert to anything that may indicate misstatement due to error or fraud, and critically assessing audit evidence.

What drives professional scepticism? Personal attitudes and ethical values; levels of education, training, and experience; the actions of the firm's leadership; and the culture of the firm.

It's easy to see why there is a distinct lack of professional scepticism exercised in the martial arts.

How can I boost professional scepticism? Have the self-confidence and strength of character to maintain an enquiring mind; suspend trust, rationally and logically consider all the likely options, not just the one that is put in front of you; resist the temptation to just accept the easy answer.

There are errors in de Jong's jujutsu grading system. Those errors are mostly being perpetuated by the instructors teaching de Jong's jujutsu grading system because they do not exercise professional scepticism for a variety of reasons.

To correct de Jong's errors or not? That is the question.

A GREAT deal can be learnt from these errors. If we lose those errors we lose those lessons.

The next post will explore what can be learned from de Jong's mistakes in his jujutsu grading system. Before the well-intentioned misguidedly leap to de Jong's defence, this exploration is in the best tradition of de Jong's teaching.