Kamae is not just a posture to move from or to but more importantly a manifestation of mental and spiritual power. There is intention and energy that is projected naturally. Part of the process of mastering Kamae is first to feel this natural projection, then to intensify and finally to hide or give a false sense. It is extremely dangerous in the world of real martial arts for your opponent to immediately and clearly see what your intentions are. For a trained fighter this is what exposes the weak points. To understand each Kamae takes time to settle into the frame, to not only study the posture and the way your body feels but to reflect on the reason we move into and out of each frame while practicing Kata. When first learning Kamae I would hold the posture in upwards of 12 to 15 minutes in order feel the weakness in my body. I studied what muscles were being strained, how was my balance and what corrections did I need to make to my posture to correct poor balance. Could I move easily into another Kamae, how must I shift the weight in order to move smoothly? These are the questions you must ask yourself first. After 30 minutes you are able to perceive natural intention. Before deep understanding of Kamae, your martial arts will have no spirit.
In order to apply technique correctly there are many points of study which are actually much more important to understand . In fact the technique is only another form or frame with which we can study the application of these concepts. Although many metaphors transcend the physical it is a primary way that we can communicate and come to understand and transfer knowledge. For example when we speak about flexibility most beginning students of the martial arts may think the reference is to the body only. Flexibility in thinking may be more practical in aiding someone to flow then a limber body. A foundation is critical, but to deviate from the foundation or form is art. Through the practice of technique and the proper understanding of the application we ultimately learn how technique is developed from the fundamentals. It should be the ultimate goal of any martial artist to forget technique after it has served its purpose of exposing and allowing the practice of the fundamentals such as listening with the body, following your opponent’s movement by sticking to ultimately lead to the application of technique. These concepts are difficult to explain without metaphor, technique and forms training. The transmission of this knowledge is non verbal and so almost impossible to describe without a reference point.
In Zen the process teaches, not in words but direct pointing or engaging in a game with ourselves in which the only answer is a new level of consciousness. And so just as in Zen, martial arts training is a game of insight where we can discover who we are underneath the masks and roles that we call personality as well as finding our way to the core principles.
As a student of Budo one can chose to just memorize technique or find the source. Understanding the source is the difference between being and artist or painting by the numbers. Both will get you a nice picture to look at but in Budo could get you killed. I am talking about the deconstruction of technique rather than the focus. In order to build new mental pathways we must practice form. We learn concentration and awareness as we become conscious of our physical transformation. One of the core areas of study is the concept of Juppo Sessho.
Movement like good calligraphy should continue with the mind. We do not overextend our body but as we regain balance we must also be concerned with momentum of the body, mind and spirit. Being rooted can be a good place to strike from but can lead to an inability of flow. So how do we balance and root while sticking and following? How do we find the tempo so we may change the timing to leading by following? Ko means tiger and Ryo means dragon, so in some ways this term means combining the physical power of the tiger which is known for its powers of prediction and hunting prowess along with the non-physical or spiritual world of the dragon. We have an image of these two worlds coming together as the world in which we live and the world that permeates us. If you look at koteki as the way a tiger strikes with total abandonment living in the moment, and ryoda as the dragon capture, this combination is a method of interchange between two realms, as the battle that exists within us all of truth and falsehood.
This video was done a few years ago by a local TV show.
Because of our martial heritage the techniques and applications have already been set down for us by the great masters of the past. We do not need to reinvent the wheel only discover how to use the wheel for ourselves. Striking can be done with many parts of the body from the head to the toes. Whether we are kicking, punching or chopping the movement includes borrowed power from our opponent plus issued power starting from the ground transmitted through our body. Proper striking requires that our posture allow for a stacking of bones so we do not rely on muscle power and an acceleration of inertia as we accelerate through our target to maximize the force. Depending on the strike there is a sequence that must happen. Starting with the letting go and allowing the strike to happen we must also be shifting our weight, turning our waist and feet as if we were throwing, whipping or shaking.
With beginning students of martial arts they are usually concerned with punching and kicking harder. As the student progresses they realize that just like chopping down a tree striking is an accumulation of applications which allow for the finalizing action. One of the applications that must be understood is compression. This occurs when we strike someone in a way that causes them to root which allows for a target that has stopped moving away from us. This is related to loading up a leg by pulling down on the gi before a throw. One of the best ways to compress someone is a focused strike to pressure points as taught in Koshijutsu. As an example picture a thumb strike or boshiken to the side of the neck just under the ear. A typical reaction is the raising of the shoulders and leaning away from the poke. This is compression and allows for the finalizing strike to drop or knock out our opponent. Another name for compression is sealing and if you have ever had the wind knocked out of you then you are familiar with sealing the breath.
Soke Hatsumi has spoken about one of the highest arts as Koppojutsu. Koppo sometimes referred to as bone breaking art but in reality is the way of unbalancing by displacing the bones. When I think of Koppo I think about multiple bouncing strikes that cave a person down on themselves like one of those toys where you press on the bottom and it just collapses on itself. As you strike the body reacts to the strike, bouncing naturally to the next target and so on will accumulate many small strikes which will again in the tree analogy allow it to fall. In my class I have several students who are at least a foot and half taller than I am. By first striking their legs or floating rib I can always bring their head down to a level where it makes sense to then hit them there. There is also something much deeper going on when you start to collapse someone with Koppojutsu. As the body bends it compresses nerves that branch out from the spinal cord through the spine out to the limbs. As the neck bends it compresses on nerves feeding the arms and makes them weaker, much easier to manipulate, so even if planning on a joint reversal a good way of entering is with Koppo or Koshijutsu. At the very least a well placed punch to the inside of the shoulder will weaken any incoming or possible strike from that arm for several seconds. Bouncing off the shoulder up under the jaw will force the head back and compress the cervical vertebrae possibly keeping that person from stepping backward and allowing a kick to the inside hip causing rotation. The progressive sequence of strikes will topple even the most solid and formidable oaks in the forest.
Do not use strength. If strength is used then the back and neck will be stiff and no energy will flow to the top of the head. If the energy does not flow and the blood does not circulate freely then the spirit cannot rise up. Using strength allows you to easily be manipulated. Use your mind instead of strength. If you can relax the whole body it will help you to avoid being clumsy. Being relaxed also allows the unrestricted flow of blood and energy. By using mind instead of strength we can rely on the connective tissues allowing our movement to be more light, circular and spontaneous.
Avoid expanding the chest. If you expand the chest then energy will be held in the upper body and cause you to be top heavy. Allow the back to raise and that is where you will issue power. When you avoid expanding the chest then you can sink your weight lowering your center of gravity.
Relax the waist. The waist is one of the most vital areas. If power is lacking look to the cause usually being in the waist movement. Once the waist is relaxed you can have a strong foundation but the feet will still be able to move. Relax your shoulders and keep your elbows down. This will allow you to relax your whole body. By relaxing we can deliver much more force in our striking. This may be one of the most difficult things to accomplish especially in during a fight. Relaxation requires release of all tension.
Try to feel the difference between full and empty. Do not allow all the weight to rest on one leg. Being double weighted also keeps you from being light, nibble and effortless rather than heavy and stiff. This principle is very important for balance.
Unify the entire body. The root is in the feet; it is issued through the legs, controlled by the waist and expressed in the hands. There must be a continuous flow of energy throughout the entire body along with a synchronized movement. This unification is also of the body, mind and spirit. Allow the spirit to command the body by raising the spirit and opening the mind. Every movement should be complete, continuous and circular.
Find the stillness in movement. Be patient, slow down and allow the breath to be long and deep. There is a quiet place where we enter when we surrender. Time slows down and allows you to see what your opponent is about to do or is doing. It is this stillness in the movement that allows us to have grace. When we move our posture should be balanced, upright, uniform and even. Stick and follow as a conscious movement by forgetting yourself and not separating from your opponent but rather joining with him.
Remember that energy and force are not the same. Energy comes from the connective tissue and force from the bones. Energy is a property of being soft, flexible and alive. Force is a property of hard and inflexible. Learn to distinguish the difference. When you issue energy it should be like shooting and arrow. The arrow relies on the elasticity of the bow and string which allows delivery of power. Also understand the difference between pulling and repelling. When you pull it should be in the direction of force, and when you repel it should start with the following of energy and then a deflection. Do not use your own force but borrow it from your attacker. If you add too much you will be unable to escape or release and give your opponent momentum to pull you with him.
A dynamic flexibility creates unitary power by not focusing on relaxed flexibility Rather focus on specific points that are not relaxed for greater extension alone. These points can be connective or bone structures that improve extension and power. We are not stretching but strengthening the body’s springing power. Being relaxed and loose does not mean feeling weak. It means that the body can have proper alignment and stability. Once we are relaxed the energy we were born with and inherent can be utilized. Depending on varying degrees of consciousness, mental focus and efficiency using the principles of physics this energy helps us apply proper issuing of both muscle and mind power.
Other methods of delivering power require a compression or storage of energy. By having strong ligaments and the ability to focus using proper strategy, timing and advantageous positioning we can compress and release like a spring. We can also store energy by twisting to create a more penetrating strike as we drill or unwind. There is also a wave like method which is loose and springy. You can compare this energy to the way a wave moves through a whip to its tip. Understanding and the use of these energies are two different things and we gain proficiency only after much perseverance and practice.
By perseverance and practice we can awaken qualities without intellectual pursuit. A few of these goals can be patience, attention, endurance, stamina, ease and will power. Budo is a synthesis of opposites as well as of similarities. Just like finding the stillness in activity we seek a state of being and becoming. We quiet our mind to be more alert and allow no distinction between transient, flowing or arrested time.
Whole body power is where the body acts as a single unit. By delivering your strike through the waist you can accelerate this movement. In addition, the weight of your body should also be used. This movement is a pouncing action coming through the hips. When all the muscles of the body work together in harmony there is an internal opposing power that develops similar to the action of drawing a bow. In other words when the whole body is used the power generated is a release of the opposing power of the muscles. By adding continuity you can then follow your opponent’s movement and continue attacking. You never stop changing and redirecting this power. Think about a tiger who pounces and misses, he will pounce again and again so the pray cannot get away. You must not only understand the martial technique but only by employing these qualities will you master Budo.
Our training must strengthen the connective tissue as well as the muscles or the body. What good is all the other more esoteric training without a strong body able to withstand blows as well as issue all the power you have learned how to develop? So have a good bumper as well as a good engine. Your engine will allow you to keep up with your opponent even if nothing else is working. By training your forms or kata as well as the basics, you can strengthen the body as a bumper and develop the energy needed to fuel your engine.
Be heavy when you engage or when someone contacts you. Employ spring and shaking exploding natural power when you strike. Think about how a dog shakes water off instead of just striking. Do not lose your opponent when they change direction. Even if you knock them down you must stick with them not just watch. You must make your body a part of their body. Be loose not stiff while being heavy. Make sure that all parts of the body are interlocked to become one unit and spiral your movement. Work on increasing your range of motion to allow for extension of the joints. This will keep the weight out of the knees and into the hips. Do not be afraid of experimenting with the movements to make them your own.
Also keep in mind that once you start thinking about what technique you are going to do your opponent can sense this. So let your body work by itself. If you do not know what you are doing than neither can your opponent. To apply these same ideas to your teaching requires you to stop trying to teach but instead show a natural way of movement which your students can then steal for themselves. Manipulate the perceptions of truth and falsehood in order to deceive an opponent. You must force your opponent to draw false conclusions, so that instead of knocking them down you can let them fall down for you. Appearances are deceptive so be aware that when you think there is nothing there is always something.
As we follow our opponent’s energy we must find a way to neutralize or deflect then change or reverse their attack. We do this with the 10 keys of control. Most people think of physical direction. There is up and down, left and right or any angle in between as well as forward and backward. If we add in the dimensions of space/ time, and creation through intention we approach a level of control of any situation that transcends blocking, punching and kicking to rudimentary and vulgar forms of interaction. Juppo Sessho is a means of training our awareness to be everywhere, linking our physical body to the universe. We must first receive our attack from a neutral place of no mind. Being soft we adhere to our opponents raising energy with automatic motion and peripheral awareness. We relax and allow our waist to turn, our joints to sink and a unity to form. As we follow the intention of our attacker we appear and disappear with artistry and precision, stepping consciously with peaceful or wrathful gaze. By borrowing and sinking we momentarily root to deliver power of central equilibrium. Using the energies of spiraling and explosive force we uproot and open, we split and we interrupt. The transference of power is only after drawing in your opponent both mentally and physically we borrow their strength and as if shooting an arrow or like a dog shaking water, strike, throw, or cut case by case.
Professor Leon Drucker
Myofu An Budo Dojo
Most Martial Arts of today have drifted away from the combat realities of the past, and have become focused on specific areas of study. Bujutsu, however, continues to cover a wide range of skills relating to personal protection. The origin of Bujutsu stems from our need to protect precious life, what we hold valuable, and bring about righteousness through the techniques of perfecting the mind and body.
The goal of training in Bujutsu is to increase your odds of surviving any and all types of threatening situations. Being prepared for a wide range of possible threats requires more than just memorizing and practicing and a list of mechanical moves. In Myofu An Bujutsu the technical training, while quite effective on the physical level, serves a greater purpose as a means of developing appropriate physical and mental attitudes and approaches for dealing with all manners of problems, predictable or sudden. Bujutsu does not refer to a specific style, but more to a group of arts, each with a different point of view expressed by the individual Ryu or school. Bujutsu includes the study of both unarmed and armed combat live techniques, strategy, philosophy, and history. The main principles learned are posture, distance, rhythm and flow. By learning these principles you will not only learn to defend yourself but will instill a sense of calm and confidence that will radiate through all channels of your life in a positive way.
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