The Japanese have a very intricate understanding of timing or hyoshi.
To begin with, responsive timing is divided into three categories: Go no sen (tai no sen), sen no sen (tai tai no sen), and sensen no sen (ken no sen).
Meaning, to counter attack, to attack at the same time you are being attacked, and to attack first.
Most students know what iaido is, the art of drawing, cutting with, and sheathing a sword. Usually performed with a long sword from a kneeing posture.
Few, however, know from where the term “iai” derives.
“Iai” comes from “tsune ni itte kyu ni awase.”
Tsune ni – always, whatever you are doing, whether sleeping, walking, running, or sitting.
Itte iru – wherever you are.
Awasu – be ready or be prepared to recreate harmony or balance.
Japanese martial literature discusses two styles of fencing: the “killing sword” and the “life-giving sword.” A lot of nonsense has been published about these two terms.
Setsunin to, “killing sword.” When combatant uses force of will to overpower, immobilize, and strike down an opponent before he can react: “sword that transfixes or sword that kills response.”
Katsujin ken, “life-giving sword.” Involves drawing out the opponent, inducing him to strike and then going inside his technique, countering it at either the moment of its origination or at the point of its most complete extension: “sword that animates.”
Setsunin to is an egotistical and risky approach to combat, the slightest miscalculation will result in the swordsman walking straight into the opponent’s counterattack. Katsujin ken, by contrast, involves a sophisticated manipulation of the opponent and his actions by means of other selflessness; properly conducted it is virtually undefeatable.
There are three commonly described distances in Chinese martial arts:
Chang ju, long range, when you or your opponent cannot punch or kick without first moving forward;
Zhong ju, middle range, when you or your opponent can reach the other person with a kick, without taking a step; and,
Duan ju, short range, when you or your opponent can punch or grab each other.
All martial arts rely on discerning or creating an opportunity, an “opening.”
The Japanese refer to this as “shikaku,” dead angle or blind spot.
The Chinese call it “kong men,” an open door.
Most of the other martial arts, and street fighting, emphasize kicking. Therefore, you must train against kicks and have some knowledge of how to kick to be able to defend yourself. Even though Black Sword Aikido does not advocate high kicks, it does advocate learning to throw a low kick, low meaning below your opponent’s waist when he is standing, with force and retaining your balance. It must be remembered that a low kick becomes a high kick once your opponent is folded up.
Ueshiba revealed “atemiwaza” to be 98 percent of the art.”
If this is the case, its implications have gone ignored. By a logical inference 98 percent of the art is atemiwaza. The ability to defeat an opponent with a striking technique. More precisely, the ability to strike the anatomically weak portions of your opponent’s anatomy to cause him or her injury or death. Thus, all the rest of Aikido, the beautiful throws, the painful joint locks, are only 2 percent of the art. If this is what the founder of the art said, why are there teachers out there proclaiming that you can subdue your opponent without injuring him or her, that you do not need striking techniques, only the ability to feign a strike to distract your opponent.
Gozo Shioda, founder of Yoshinkan and a Uchideshi of Ueshiba before World War II is of the opinion that Ueshiba was at the peak of his strength before World War II and nothing that he did after World War II can compare. Shioda goes on to describe modern Aikido as hallow and empty on the inside and, consequently, it seems much like a dance these days. He does not believe that anyone other than Ueshiba could ever make soft fluffy movement effective.
Of course, the ethical choice is always to run away or distract your opponent or confuse your opponent or use just that amount of force necessary to dissuade your opponent but, frankly, sometimes the tricks do not work, nor does the magic. Accordingly, you must have the ability to injure or kill your opponent with a striking technique. Given this, you must train in striking techniques. Unless you train in striking techniques, you will not be able to execute them against a real attack.
Accordingly, Black Sword Aikido emphasizes striking techniques.
For a martial art to be able to function in the real world as opposed to only in dojos or on the tournament circuit, it must be composed of certain things. It must have a striking component, a throwing down component, a joint locking component. It must be able to function at far range, medium range, and close range. It must have both the ability to attack and defend. It must have the ability to deal with weapons. As a logical necessity, it must therefore also have the ability to use weapons. Because if one does not understand the potential of a weapon, one cannot adequately defend against it. To call something a martial art and to expect it to defend against a serious attacker intent upon causing serious injury or death without these components, is foolish. To hold out an art that is so defective as a martial art and to allow your students to think that it is more than it is, is criminally irresponsible. You cannot rely upon defending yourself from an attack without the ability to attack. You cannot infinitely retreat from an attack. You cannot count on someone running at you like a bull so that you can effortlessly sidestep the attack and do “the perfect technique.” Most importantly, you cannot hope to defeat an opponent with a joint lock or a throw unless you possess the ability to first stun your opponent or injure him or her with a striking technique.
So I now get calls asking, “Do you teach grappling?”
This reminds me of years ago when I was training in Aikido and one of my dear
friends and teachers, Fred Wagstaff, would get a call, “Do you teach monkey-bite
kung fu?” His response would be, “Sure! Come on down!” I should adopt Fred’s
response, but the follow-up question always leads to the crucial issues, “Do
you, like, roll around on the ground a lot?” My response is usually, “As little
Let’s face it, any complete martial art has to have three components: striking,
grappling, and locking. Black Sword Aikido certainly has a striking component,
atemi waza being the heart of Black Sword Aikido, as it was the heart of Ueshiba
Aikido. The locks are clear, with the restoration of Aikido joint locks to make
them more efficient and the addition of a plethora of Chin Na locks. Black Sword
Aikido prefers to grapple in the upright position and to throw and pin.
Brazilian Jujitsu prefers to grapple in the supine position. The advantage of
grappling in the upright position is that you can deal more effectively with
other attackers, and you won’t have your head kicked in by one person, as you
roll around on the ground with another person. Lastly, it’s dirty down there,
there’s uncomfortable curb stones, broken glass, and dog doo.
Brazilian Jujitsu’s preference for supine grappling is obvious, it’s Judo! World
class Judo, Judo performed by very skilled athletes, but Judo, nevertheless. It
troubles me to see how little respect some of its practitioners have for the
Japanese and how little they attribute their martial art to their Japanese
teachers. I have no problem acknowledging my Japanese and Chinese teachers. Just
as Brazilian Jujitsu prefers to grapple in the supine position, you will note
that it prefers to lock in a supine position, as well. Judo, once again. If you
watch the UFC matches, you will see that the traditional interrelatedness of
striking, grappling, and locking remain constant. The defense to striking is
grappling. The defense to grappling is locking. The defense to locking is
There are, of course, other problems with Brazilian Jujitsu and the UFC. First,
the rules of the UFC prevent biting or eye gouging. This has to be because I
doubt many professionals would risk blindness and disfigurement, nor would
pay-for-view show it. However, the obvious defense to prevent someone with whom
you are rolling around on the ground with from choking you or locking your
joints, is to attack the eyes or bite their arm. In a real life confrontation on
the street, your attacker may not be so kind as to refrain from this. Secondly,
the length of time that it takes to subdue someone by rolling around on the
ground with them. And, incidentally, needless to say, rolling around on the
ground with someone is a one-on-one confrontation and is useless in defending
against more than one attacker. But to return to the time limit, to have as the
basis of your system that it may take twenty minutes to overcome your attacker
is a great weakness. It would be useless in a battlefield confrontation, useless
in a police situation, useless anywhere other than in a pit fight, or a sporting
event. You’ll notice how integral it is to the system that it is anticipated
that it will take a long time to subdue your opponent, that when the time limit
was imposed on the UFC, Rorion Gracie stopped fighting and sold his interest.
You will note that the rules in the UFC have been changed and now the
contestants are permitted to roll around on the ground for only a limited time
and then are returned to an upright position. This is because, from a marketing
viewpoint, it’s boring. This is the same trouble that wrestling had when it was
introduced in the first part of the century and wrestling and boxing were equal
draws. Boxing caught on because there was action. Wrestling did not because the
audience grew bored of watching someone hold another person in a head lock for
two hours. Consequently, the only thing left of wrestling as a commercial
enterprise today is championship wrestling, which is a demonstration with plenty
of action, not a contest.
In any event, the answer is “Yes, we do teach grappling, but not Judo
grappling.” This makes sense because we’re Black Sword Aikido, not Judo.
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