What is (My) Taido?

I see Taido as a system of principles which prescribe creativity in movement and thought. In my practice, I focus on health, mobility, and personal development through the exploration of creative movement. And I also hit people.

Freedom is a necessary precondition to creativity. In terms of motion, you are limited in your potential performance (your creativity) by your mobility and strength (your freedom to manipulate your body). Taido will increase your agility, strength, and endurance, as well as contributing to your overall health. Taido can be an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. Despite its sophistication, students of all ages, skill levels, and cultural origins, including those with physical and mental disabilities, can learn Taido.

Taido is based on five types of movement: rotation about a vertical axis, vertical displacement, axial tilt, rotation about a tilted axis, and vertical displacement with rotation about one or more axes. These five movements are deployed through two locomotive methods that act as a framework for strategic development. Combined with various hand or foot strikes, throws, and joint manipulations, the five movements and two methods create an infinite variety of possible techniques. These techniques are practiced in formal chains (hokei) and partnered drills (kobo) that progress in a logical manner from basic mobility to complex combative application (jissen).

I don’t believe that Taido can be practiced as a traditional art – it is a radical art. When Seiken Shukumine synthesized Taido, he intended to take the martial arts out of the two-dimensional world of karate and into the multidimensional universe of Einstein. In fact, he referred to Taido as the “three dimensional art of defense” (though I would argue that it serves us better to think in terms of four dimensions). He hoped to release the full potential of human motion for application to martial science. The result is an athletic style of near-gymnastic combat. Watching Taido, one can easily see how it differs from “traditional” karate.

Since Taido was founded in the spirit of evolution, we are all responsible for continuing to evolve the art to greater levels of sophistication and usefulness. This is as true for Taido theory as it is for technique – meaning: I am not pushing any dogma in any aspect of Taido. I don’t believe in canonizing a technical curriculum nor allowing training methods to stagnate. Taido is about changing with science and society and making its practitioners successful in coping with those changes as well.

Taido is for people who want to evolve and develop as humans. This means realizing our full creative potential in all aspects of our lives. Taido can improve your performance in everything you do, and it all begins with learning how to move.

Note: The first few comments below refer an older version of this post. I have retained them because the discussion clarifies some points that may not be clear otherwise.

10 thoughts on “What is (My) Taido?”

  1. ————“i define taido as an art of movement and creativity that coincidentally takes martial science as its vehicle for sport play and organizational structure. i say this to differentiate between taido and martial styles that emphasize combat or “self-defense.” i do not condone physical (or other forms of) violence. instead, i focus on health, mobility, and personal development through the exploration of creative movement. “—————

    this bothers me quite a bit. To me, you can strip away many things from a martial art and still be able to call it a martial art. But, the one thing you cannot take away is the fighting part of it. Now, if you want to train something without any expectations of being able to fight, that’s fine-but dont call it a martial art. Fighting when trained with proper attitude is not violence in the traditional sense. When you can get punched in the face and smile about it, and say “good shot, man!” then you are fighting with the proper attitude. There are so many things to be gained by fighting with realistic force. One of the most important things is it keeps your ego in check and keeps you thinking realistically. If will you notice all the people who believe in throwing fireballs and flipping people with wristlocks never have trained with non-compliant partners (that is they have never fought). At the very base of it I see Taido as a fighting method that strives to protect the practitioner, and utilizes creative motion and tactics to do so.

  2. corey:

    you are basically on the money. my purpose in stating things the way i do is to say that taido is not only a fighting art; though i had not hoped to diminish the martial aspect of our training. as you say, such training has much to offer. i would never suggest that we “strip away” any part of what taido has to offer us. i do think a reframing of our intentions is in order to prevent confusion.

    if you’ll remember my last trip to atlanta, i think you may recall that the entire focus of the last class i lead at tech had to do with drilling “combative application” against a partner of varying compliance. my intention is to have such practices comprise a much larger portion of our classes. authentic martialism is one of the things i want to increase, not diminish.

    however, i don’t limit this to “fighting” because i don’t think modern society has much place for fighting in a non-sporting atmosphere. i don’t think most people want to be fighting very often. martial play against non-compliant partners is not fighting. it is practice, and i think it is quite enjoyable and benficial. on the other hand, fighting is not fun – it is traumatic and (unless mitigated by outside forces) results in injury. combative exercise is healthy; fighting in injurous. that is the distinction i wish to make when i say that taido is not “about” fighting.

  3. “perhaps the biggest obstacle to our growth is the apparent difficulty of taido’s advanced applications. many without prior martial arts training (and quite a few with) can’t imagine being able to perform the tumbling and twisting movements that form the basis of taido. they could not be more wrong. since i first began as an assistant instructor in 1990, i have taught students of all ages, skill levels, and cultural origins, including those with physical and mental disabilities. they were all capable of practicing taido and benefiting from their participation. the only people who cannot learn taido are those who either have unrealistic goals or negative attitudes. ”

    I have thought about this a little and have a few comments..

    When I started taido it was very hard. Just after first belt test I had 3 months pause in training, and after that, even simplest techs felt very unstable and bad (and at that time, I had too much of that realistic combat and real life self defence nonsense in my head). So, I tried out some other arts, mainly ITF Taekwon-Do, which was a lot easier, trained it for 4 years. Shortly said it was (is) a fine art but teacher changed and so changed the focus of training and it wasn’t anymore anywhere near the kind of training, I so much appreciated. Swapped back to taido.. After 4 years of tkd, taido seems a bit easier; it’s not anymore very hard, it’s just very challening. ;) I actually have to think how to do different techniques and I’m getting small enlightments every week.

    In tkd I liked most advanced sparring kicking techs (and combos), like ax kick, sliding turning reverse kick and 360° turning kick (=sentai kaijogeri with jump) and taido seems to be full of that kind of stuff. Well, no ax kick or twisting kick.

    Back to the point, hardness of taido. Like I said, I have practiced some other arts and compared to them, taido is hard. But it is not only technically hard, there is also much more stuff in first belt test (being such a beginner, I can’t say anything about later ones). In my blue belt test, I had to do sentai no hokei, some kobo, and unsokuhappo. Now, in other martial arts, if there’s a form, it’s usually just few different blocks and punch to centerline in short and simple pattern. Wouldn’t describe sentai no hokei simple and short.. Step sparrings are also common, but they usually include just one to three steps in straight line and a one block and punch. Compared to kobo, well, needless to say.. There were few easy steps in aikido, but it feels bit far fetched to compare them to unsokuhappo..

    Most people still get their blue belts, although the amount of technical stuff in first belt test is big compared to other arts. But, on psychological side, in tkd it was nice to be good at something. That wasn’t hard to accomplish, because the stuff was easier and there weren’t so large amount of it in the beginning. Perhaps I could have learned more stuff in the beginners course, but wouldn’t have felt so comfortable doing that stuff. After all, which is more motivating; being good at something or being not bad at something?

    Now, after tkd, it sure feels great that training gets straight to the point, although I just have still a blue belt.. But then, I have practiced very much basics, which are bit different but there are also much the same.

    But it may as well be, that taido stays small art because people don’t even give it a try, not because it’s bit harder than other arts. I don’t know if making the beginners course easier would have any effect on quantity of practicioners.

    “it is the third most-popular martial art in finland.”

    Not anymore, as far as I know (kukki-tkd, itf tkd, wrestling, boxing, judo and hanmoodo are bigger). It’s fairly big still, but I think it has much to do with the fact that taido was brought to Finland in 1972, being seventh martial art brought to Finland, now the total number of different arts is a little below one hundred. Nowadays it seems that beginner courses are not very big, when I started, there was just two of us in the course and last year there too were only two. Supports the theory that people don’t think that they are physically good enough for taido. But then, capoeira is quite popular..

  4. thanks for your comments, juha.

    i especially resonate with your experience of losing interest in training tkd when the teacher changed. one of the things i’ve learned by working in a school is that a good teacher can make any subject fascinating, and a terrible teacher can ruin a fascinating subject. in martial arts, we can find many examples of this phenomenon.

    in one dojo i know, there are some very good teachers and some mediocre teachers (who have earned high ranks because of their technical ability). it’s often interesting to notice that the same students will perform better when the good teachers are watching them – not even teaching, but just watching. as a teacher of taido, i often consider that, despite taido’s strengths, it is my responsibility to convey those strengths to my students.

    i believe that this is why reality-based self-defense course are so often “nonsense”, to use your terminology. it’s not that the systems are based on flawed theory (though i would argue that it’s not a very mature or healthy theory); the problem is usually that the instructors of these classes typically have the interpersonal development of a high school athlete. they are usually overly aggressive in manner, defensive in speech, and just not very fun to spend a lot of time hanging out with. they may be very intelligent, passionate, strong, and have excellent skills, but this does not make them good teachers. thus, we see many people signing up for their classes, but very few people getting very much out of their classes.

    with regards to the apparent difficulty of taido, i see your points. before i came to japan, i taught for several years in a university club. many other martial arts classes shared our practice space, and we were often able to watch classes and compare curricular content, among other things. one thing i noticed early on is that the “basic skills” for taido are indeed much more complicated than they are for most arts. in fact, i often lost students during the first two weeks of class. i would see these same students a few weeks later and find that they had already been awarded two or three belts in some other club.

    i think part of the problem is that taido is based on an entirely different manner of thinking than most arts. this mind-shift is difficult for beginners. although the techniques themselves are sophisticated and the routines are more complex, it is the conceptual side that gets people (in my own opinion). you mention that unsoku 8po, sentai hokei, and kobo are very complex compared to beginner requirements in several other arts, and i agree with this. but think about the quantity of information you deal with each day in your job. i don’t know what you do professionally, but i’m sure it requires accessing and manipulating a great deal of information. you can do this because you have trained yourself to do it, and in some respects, you have been trained to function in a working environment since your early school days.

    however, very few people come to taido with much experience applying analytic geometry to their immediate environment (perhaps tennis players would have en edge here). very few people come to taido with a background in improvisational movement (though dancers tend to do well, especially hip-hop and break-style dancers). very few people who start out in taido are used to dealing with the specific kind of physical complexity that they find in taido. the level of complexity is not beyond anyone’s capability (children can learn taido), but the type of complexity is often unfamiliar to people starting out.

    in light of the above, i can see arguments for a simpler beginning curriculum. it would allow beginners to build their comfort level with these types of complexity at a gradual pace, and may result in losing less beginning students. in fact, in american taido, most students spend their first few months practicing what is effectively a mix of karate, taido kihon, and basic tumbling. we don’t introduce unsoku, hokei, and kobo until a little later.

    i’m still working on formulating my own ideas for an improved curriculum for taido. i have experimented with several models in the past, and have been studying a lot lately about learning, skill development, and sports training. when i return to university taido later this year, i plan to try out a few changes based on my studies, but i cannot yet say kind of success or failure i’ll realize.

    finally, about taido’s (apparently declining) popularity in finland: i was actually told this by an instructor in finland of another martial art, so i had assumed it to be pretty accurate. thank you for setting me straight – i have made the correction above.

  5. Yeah, taido is hard … and that’s why I love it. I hope we never resort to “dumbing it down” to try and accomodate the general population. In seeking to take a martial art, I purposely did not even consider taekwondo or karate because I figured, because of their mass popularity and commercialization, I just wouldn’t be getting the most out of what I could do. Granted, how hard I practice is always up to me no matter what art I take, but taido FORCES me to train hard. You can’t be good at taido without hard practice, it just won’t happen.

    That being said, encouragement is always a more powerful motivator than anything else. I’ll use Bryan and Corey as examples since I’ve had the most experience being instructed by them. They both have a great way of telling you what you need to work on, or showing you your mistakes without making you feel incompetent. They tell me just enough to make sure I don’t get complacent, but not so much that I feel like I’m still at square one. And whenever I show even the most marginal signs of improvement I usually hear about it.

    Now, I’m not advocating we stroke people’s egos; all I’m saying is that encouragement is a way of helping people feel like they are progressing. So my 2 cents: keep the beginning hard, just make sure people know you see they are working hard and that, if they keep at it, they will improve. Realistically, if we all had the will power to train endlessly in solitude with no encouragement, then … well … we would, and we would have no classes. Most of us prefer the motivation of positive human contact and the satisfaction of having accomplished something, no matter how small it may be.

    I for one enjoy our ‘low population’ and I hope we never get so big that the quality of our instruction has to be watered-down for the consumer population. Honestly, some people are just down-right lazy; they want to take a martial art to spice up their workout life, but they don’t really want to work too hard. Well, that’s fine, let them leave – they can find some generic martial art school that will give them what they want. Let it be known that when you join taido, you’re not going to be slacking off.

    Ok, enough on that (for now). What is taido to me? Well, I don’t have a well thought answer for this so I’ll just stick to the basics. First and foremost, taido is an avenue for me to have a fun and intense workout and learn new and creative ways to hit stuff ;) It is an art that adapts, not only in the way you execute techniques, but also in the very techniques we decide to teach/practice. It trains you to use every axis of your body to it’s fullest potential in one fluid motion to accomplish a desired goal, whether it be to strike or escape … or both at the same time. Also, taido works better for me when it is part of my life instead of just something I do – can’t really expalin that right now because my lunch break is about over, but I’m sure you can figure out what I mean.

  6. “I for one enjoy our ‘low population’ and I hope we never get so big that the quality of our instruction has to be watered-down for the consumer population.”

    Yes, in smaller smaller classes one gets more personal time from teacher that’s a good side. But there’s good sides on getting population too, like having more different sparring partners which is very important for getting better in jissen. And there’s more people at same skill level, like in my club there isn’t so many who are at same level, although many people ells that sparring with those who are better is best for advancement, I like much more matches where both are giving their best and it’s even.. And more people means more income to club, which means better training facilities and better training equipment, which can lure people. And it makes the spreading of taido more likely, because it’s higher propability that some higher rank moves to another city and starts club. More people practicing the art means also that overall quality increases.

    Personally, I like more ten person classes than 50 person classes, which weren’t so uncommon in tkd. But I like more taido than tkd, so that’s maybe not so good comparision.

  7. good comments, guys.

    andrew, i fully agree that there should be no dumbing-down of taido. though taido itself has the potential to be for everyone, it won’t necessarily be the case that every dojo will suit every potential student. i travel four hours each way to go to a dojo i like. there are different ways to teach, and class atmosphere/personality is as much a factor for most students as the art they practice. some people won’t be interested in the type of practice at a particular dojo, and some people may not be at an appropriate stage in their development to benefit from taido.

    doing good taido is priority one. since taido is complicated and difficult, students will have to develop their capacities for complication and difficulty. as an instructor, i feel that it’s my responsibility to teach them how to do this. this doesn’t mean that i have to teach less taido, it means that i have to teach taido better.

    there are advantages and disadvantages to growing a club. the advantage of larger numbers of students is… numerical. more students means more of all the things that juha mentions above. the disadvantages are logistical. it can be difficult to handle the administrivia with a large group of students, and there are times when students may not get enough individual attention. especially in a situation where most students are beginners, it can be a real challenge for instructors to teach the basics accurately while also challenging the more-advanced students. this has been a challenge for me in the past when i was teaching almost solo.

    we sometimes tend to think of smaller groups as having more “soul” and larger groups as sell-outs. reversing the perspective, larger groups appear “successful” and smaller ones give the impression of being unprofessional, unreliable, and flaky. these are stereotypes that rest on long-standing traditions from a wide range of our experiences. they stem from heuristic polarities such as scarcity/abundance, quality/quantity, morality/popularity, etc. most people learn from society that it is necessary to make a choice between their desires (thinking big) and their values (thinking right).

    if we think well, we can achieve both. i see no reason that a club cannot have a large enough number of students to benefit from the variety and strength that numbers afford, without losing the individual attention and quality we associate with smaller classes. this can be accomplished by adopting a collaborative framework rather than the traditional hierarchical organization. responsibilities can be divided among teams within the larger body. cells can operate semi-autonomously while still being a part of the larger whole.

    on the macro-level, i see a major challenge for the future of taido here: the shift from dependance to independence to interdependence. we (the taido associations that have been operating for longer than a few years) are currently in the second phase, establishing some level of independence from japanese taido (and it’s easy to see that the younger groups are still heavily dependent on japan). we are moving from a dominance model (political hierarchy) to a competition model (egalitarian/pragmatic), but the ultimate goal is partnership.

    on the micro-level, beginning students are very dependent on the instructors. mid-grade students can begin to work independently on tasks. advanced students can benefit from working in small groups and learning how to teach. here again, we can see group dependence, individual struggle/achievement, and collaboration/contribution. i should also mention that a lot of research suggests that these cycles are both nested and iterative in societies, organizations, families, and individuals. i outlined some training applications of this in my “wheels within wheels” article.

    however, on the practical side of things, it still comes back to my earlier statement – i have to teach better. meeting these challenges is the job of a manager/instructor. by finding better ways to teach things that are complicated, i can make difficult concepts accessible to more students. by finding better ways to manage resources such as training time/space and available assistance, i can get the most benefit out of whatever numbers of students and instructors happen to be members of my club.

    the real key to me is optimizing – working towards what bucky fuller called “ephemeralization”, or doing more with less. the active agent of ephemeralization is synergy. from an organizational perspective, synergy manifests as collaboration; from a training perspective, it’s achieved by intelligent balancing (and cycling) of methods. building a structure that supports these functions is my project for tech taido for 2007.

    taido will always be hard, but it’s also very easy when done correctly. the better we get at applying taido to itself, the less we will find ourselves struggling with traditional debates like quality/quantity. taido is all about oblique strategies to problem solving (hengi, anyone?). it’s going to take a little bit of mental-unsoku practice, but we can use our practice to discover solutions – it’s really only a matter of aggregating to a higher level of application.

    1. Hey Brian, there’s not much Taido in the US. Currently, there are dojo in Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale, and at Mississippi State U.

      I have, in fact, heard of tricking.

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