Incremental Drills for Jissen

Compared to the various Kobo Drills, the ones on this page look more and more like jissen, and by extension, they look more like the drills you typically use for jissen practice. They are not the drills you typically use. If you do them the way I am suggesting, you will get much more out of them than if you allow your drilling to degenerate into “jissen practice.” Seriously. Take my word for this and do it gradually. Remember the gross drinks Sherri made? Don’t let that happen to your jissen because you’re too lazy to drill properly. I’m warning you…

Incremental Jissen Drills

I’m tired of typing it, and you’re tired of reading it, so here’s a blanket rule for the following drills: start slowly and simply. Whatever the particular multipliers for the particular drill, increase them gradually and only one at a time. OK?

Limited Jissen

Instructors naturally play this game when teaching beginners how to do jissen. They limit the kinds off attacks they will execute and dispense with any “tricks.” You can do this even with similarly skilled partners to allow them to practice one or other aspect of their jissen skill sets. Placing limits makes the game slightly more predictable, which gives both partners a lot of room to experiment.

Some limit examples: no more than two techniques in combination, no jamming (stopping an attack by shortening the distance), no counter-punches (because they’re too easy and often don’t score anyway in real jissen), no (insert notorious favorite technique here), no whatever. In fact, rules are what makes jissen what it is, so practicing with various types of rules will actually make you a better jissen player.

All of the actual jissen rules are simply limiting factors that allow us to play the game in a manner that leads to better utilization of Taido technique and strategy. Rules are what separate Taido tournaments from Tae Kwon Do tournaments and the UFC. Rules are what separate Mixed Martial Arts from real fighting. Real fighting doesn’t have rules. Rules protect us while we play the game of jissen. They also change the way we play.

The rules make the game. Since face contact is forbidden in jissen, most people have shitty face cover (especially in sentaizuki). We can also experiment with changing the rules in ways that make us better at jissen. Be creative with rules that let you focus on the specific practices you need to improve.

Technique Face-Offs

Ever done team jissen? This is the same concept. Each player chooses a technique set he wants to work on and tries to focus on those movements. Conversely, we can ask our partners to attack us with movements against which we have found ourselves to be weak at defending.

Free vs. Punch-Only

In this variation, one partner is relegated to punch-only, while the other is free to do whatever. This can resemble the next drill pretty closely, but it is more limited in terms of movement. Keep in mind though, that punches can be used offensively too.

Free Offense and Defense

In this drill, anything is fair-game for the attacker or the defender, so long as they both maintain their decided roles. To differentiate from punch-only, the defending partner is more than free to use kicks and other movements too. Try one minute matches and switch roles at the 30-second mark. Also do longer sets and switch back and forth several times.

Another interesting variation is to have a third person call “switch” at random points – or – when it looks like the attacker is dominating too much. This is unpredictable and can be great practice for learning to take back the offensive initiative when your opponent is railroading you.

Slow Free Jissen

This is one of my favorite drills for coming up with new strategies. It looks so simple, and it sounds like such a pointless exercise, but this drill alone is easily powerful enough to justify the time you’ve taken to read this article. Try it and find out.

The most important thing you must do is agree that both partners will adhere to the same timing. Things tend to escalate after a few seconds, so I suggest having a metronome ticking away somewhere to keep everyone synced (it really, really helps). In addition to keeping the same timing, partners also have to agree not to do things they can’t do at full speed, such as changing the direction of a kick once it is set, etc. This is important in order to retain some amount of realism.

Of course, you can’t really do flips and such slowly, and falls and slips will be disproportionate to the overall timing, but try to keep the general “flavor” of actual jissen, while moving at a much slower speed.

As I wrote above, this doesn’t seem like much in writing, until you try it and see how much sensory input you miss in full jissen. By slowing it down, you can teach yourself to tune-in to subtle factors of which you would normally be unaware. Having done so, you can speed up gradually and learn to take in much more information during matches than do your opponents. With practice, this adds up to a terrific advantage.

Single-Exchange Free Jissen

As the name suggests, this is jissen that lasts for one single exchange, regardless of whether there is a “score.” Partners move freely until one decides to attack. Either the attack is successful, or the other partner will defend. That’s all. This drill is good for cycling many partners in a short span of time.

Short-Match Jissen

Can you figure out what this one is? Building on the single-exchange model, this drill uses a time limit. The time limit can be gradually extended as players build stamina and skill. Or it can be shortened to increase urgency when players are too passive.

Slow Down – You have plenty of time

These drills can do amazing things for your jissen skills if you let them. Remember the golden rule of incremental progression: if you try to build too quickly, you’ll end up short-circuiting your potential progress.

Take your time. There are enough people now who have been doing Taido for over twenty years, and we don’t mind the company. We and Taido will be around for a while yet to come, so there’s no need to “rush to the finish.” Helping each other work gradually to build our skills over a longer timeline equals having more people who are very good, rather than a bunch of mediocrity and five geniuses. It also starts to look like the fabled “fighting force of extra-ordinary magnitude” after a while.

Advanced Jissen

Every dojo I’ve ever visited has some version of the “Ironman Challenge,” where they make one poor bastard face off against two or three of their black belts simultaneously. Being the visitor, that poor bastard often ends up being me.

In all fairness, this kind of practice can be really great for advanced students because it develops a lot of interesting skills: economy of motion, awareness in multiple directions, simultaneous attack and defense, to mention just a few. However, being thrown into this sort of thing is not necessarily comfortable, especially if you’ve never seen one or more of your partners spar before.

Here are three ways help build your multiple-opponent jissen skiils:

  1. Slow jissen against two or more opponents – Self-explanitory.
  2. Slow three-way jissen – In this variation, it’s every man for himself. Good luck.

  3. Short match against two or more opponents – Begin with single-exchange, and then build duration.

The Only Way to Practice

The above drills are the only possible way to practice jissen. OK, that’s totally not true, and you know it (you clever duck, you).

There are billions of ways to train, and some of them are better than others. These drills are good, but you may know some better ones for a specific purpose. And that’s the whole point of this series of articles, using specific drills to meet specific needs.

Where you find these drills appropriate, put them to good use. I don’t know what aspect of jissen gives you the most difficulty, so I can’t say for certain that these will give you what you need. Still, perhaps you can take these ideas as a jumping-off point for drills that will work into your own training plan. Good luck.

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