Kobo Drills for Jissen

In Japan, Kobo is not a practice method – they are a testing requirement. Nobody here practices kobo with the intention of improving their skills or building their technical base for jissen. Instead, most students spend a portion of the two or three practices preceding their exam to memorize the required kobo and perform it well enough to pass. What a waste.

Kobo means “offense and defense,” and it can be a good way to train attacking and defending in jissen. It can also be used as a kind of mental conditioning to rewire a few of the less productive habits some students tend to develop in jissen.

The posts linked below do not constitute a course in jissen. They are presented as tools for troubleshooting and improving various aspects of your jissen game. None of them are necessary, but all of them are useful.

The Drill Articles

So… Um, those are the drills

Well, not all of them, of course, but these are some of the more versatile ones. Even if you totally disagree with my logic (or my humor), please try these drills out and take from them what you can.

I would also love to hear about any drills you create or ideas you have. So please, enjoy and feel free to comment below.

The Bottom Line

Practice is specific, but life is unpredictable. Working a variety of drills with a variety of partners is the best way to adequately prepare yourself for the challenges you may face.

Series NavigationA Working Definition of Kobo

12 thoughts on “Kobo Drills for Jissen”

  1. i think this is way too much. drills are very important, and slow movement sparring can be eye-opening, but it looks like by your method you would never get to the actual sparring. i think people’s time could be better spent actually sparring. Drills should be general in my opinion. A prime example would be focus mit training in boxing. Here are your weapons, ok, lets go through some combo’s. Ok, go apply them. Or, for jissen: Here is a simple setup to make someone chase you, ok go try it. People are creative, give them some basic ideas, solid techniques, and make them try it out. They will come up with their own style and ideas. Allthe ineffective martial arts in the world all have one thing in common. They work off FAITH. “My teacher says this will work, and he says that he is a bad ass, and my friend says he saw teacher do some crazy shit.” They drill compliantly, they at best point spar, they talk theory, and they say they are too deadly to actually use their techniques. Problem is they never test all their nice conceptions of how fighting should be. Now, I know that i’m off-topic but its going to connect here shortly. You talked about getting beaten by a lower level guy because he acted differently from what you expected and were used to. Hey, that is what taido is supposed to do to other martial arts. The problem I see is that a lot of taido people i’ve met from around the world look at jissen as a game. Fine, i understand and agree with the friendly nature of it. However, i see it as a place to evolve and experiment with your taido-specidic fighting. When people get too attached to jissen, and try to become the best at jissen the lose the benefits of it. As you stated, their are heavy limitations in jissen, which i whole heartedly agree with. I’ll stick with boxing as an example (not because i like it, actually i quite hate many things about it, but let’s move on). Boxing has lots of rules too. But, as a result of these rules, lots of great techniques have been created because there are not as many things a fighter has to worry about (that is, you need only worry about developing your hand techniques, and need only worry about defending against hand techniques). Now, many of these techniques have been seen and integrated by other arts. So, yes, heavy rule sets can be beneficial. But, you must keep in mind the broader picture. People get focused on jissen and forget that there are a lot of things in a real fight that are missing from it. As a result, they lose the benefits that are gained by taido-style fighting. What happens is exactly what happened to you, but amplified 10 fold. People who have only fought other taido people are mistified by a kyokushinka or boxer or judoka or brazilian ju-jitsu practitioner’s way of fighting. The more i fight, the more i realize how right Uchida sensei has been. Here in the US (i dont know about other places) training starts with basic punches and kicks(nothing uniquely taido really). Its a base from which taido grows out of. The same is true for taido fighting. The base should be simple fighting more inline with the way most people fight. That means hands up closer range, lots of punching(especially to the head), a few maegeri’s and mawashigeri’s tosed in, basic takedowns, basic ground striking and position holding. Once they can grasp this basic style of fighting, you add in taido foot work and the most basic taido techniques. My favorites are untai no tsuki/keritsuki, and sentai no tsuki/maegeri/kaijogeri. Have them work with this. Let them attack the head and legs (oh, this is you getting hit by the way, not with one another yet). Once they can stay out of punching range and deliver basic taido techniques in conjunction with standard fighting tactics decently well, then you start jissen. Now they have a concept of what they are developing techniques for. They definitely dont need to go into an “anything goes” situation throwing shajo-geri without first developing a since of speed and timing inside of jissen. Anyways, what occurs, is as a taido practitioner you are comfortable with whomever you are fighting, but they are mistified by how you fight. So, in trying to make a descent arguement out of this jumble of words i give this progressive training method:
    -drill basic techniques
    -make people apply them in sparring against another person who is also trying to hurt them
    -drill footwork and basic taido techniques
    -make people apply them against people not using any taido
    -make people do jissen
    -make people apply techniques from jissen against non-taido fighter
    -give advice on the transfer of techniques between jissen and fighting
    -rinse and repeat (everyone must be a taido and non-taido fighter regularly)

    im leaving for japan may 17th, i’ll be in fukuoka for a month, then im in tokyo until july 5th. coming back just in time for summer camp.

  2. corey:

    as always, thanks for the insightful comments. however, i would like to point out that, if you read the beginning and ending sections of this article again, you’ll see that i’m not advocating a specific drill process for learning jissen. the drills presented here are examples of progressive sets, portions of which could be used to troubleshoot and correct weaknesses in students’ jissen skill sets. phrased another way, this is a protocol – not a curriculum.

    “i think this is way too much.” well, it would be if you were supposed to do all of it as written.

    specifically, i wrote “remember that this article is not about a process for learning jissen. it’s an example of how to build drills around your current weaknesses”. in other words, these drills are not prescriptive. i know the ordering and the “having done the preceding, we can now move on to…” business makes it seem that way, but i couldn’t think of a better narrative device to convey the importance of using a progressive drill series (as opposed to a single drill).

    one liability one has when writing lists of practice ideas is that readers will tend to “collect” the techniques and exercises while ignoring the macro-methodology that describes their application. martial artists are notorious technique collectors, just as gym rats are notorious for collecting exercise methodologies. we see this all too often in the arm-chair trainers who never seem to add weight to the bar, as well as in the too-deadly “masters” you mention. this article isn’t about drills; it’s about using them better.

    of course, doing jissen is the best way to learn jissen. this is correct, but the best way to get better at jissen isn’t necessarily to simply do more jissen. it can be immensely helpful to periodically take a step back and design a drill series that takes us, in baby steps, back up to, and then beyond, our current level. in such a manner, we can correct problems that we may even have difficulty in diagnosing.

    when a person is fatigued and feels ill, we don’t tell them to work harder. we say “take it easy. rest a bit, and see if you can figure out what might make you feel better.” then we can try to determine whether the person has eaten something odd, been in emotional distress, had difficulty sleeping, or perhaps has a cold. stepping back allows us to troubleshoot, and only then can we decide the best method for helping that person become effective.

    why do i have so many specific drills? to show that minute changes can be made to practice around weaknesses. i’m not saying that everyone should do all of them, or even that any one is requisite for any other. they can each be very useful to students at any level, but nobody will require all of them. my point is that, when a student seems to require one of these drills, that student could also benefit from some of the other drills that form whatever portion of the progression.

    of course, if students can take a general drill suggestion, progress organically through variations, and increase sophistication without making conscious stepwise divisions, that’s great. that’s the way many of the best students learn anyway. but if we look deeper, we will see that there is an incremental progression inherent in the process. it may not be explicitly decided upon, but skill development passes through stages, and these stages cannot be skipped. the transitions are often so smooth that we don’t see them, but all transitions are progressive, not spontaneous, events. some students will seem to glide effortlessly to higher skill levels, while others will seem to grow in spurts. still, they will all pass through the same stages.

    let’s make a personal example: when you started practicing at tech, bryan told me how surprised he was at your skills. he hadn’t seen you practice but a handful of times since you were maybe a green belt and and still couldn’t drive a car. of course, mitsuaki would not have been similarly surprised by your abilities, because he witnessed your simultaneous transitions from green belt to (then) shodan and from cute kid to athletic young man. nonetheless, both bryan and mitsuaki would agree that you did make such transitions. improvement in jissen skills works the same way (and if you use good training protocols, in much less time).

    now, i also want to be certain that i don’t seem to suggest that kobo is the ultimate training method for jissen. it isn’t. too much practice of poorly designed kobo results in hypersuggestibility. it also takes away the “reality” of sparring. i share your concerns over viewing jissen too much as a game (though i do feel the word accurately describes most of the jissen i see lately). however, we can’t take it too far the opposite direction and confuse jissen with something that even remotely resembles a fight. i totally agree that attachment to jissen defeats the purpose of even practicing it.

    this all begs the question of exactly how “real” we need jissen to be. lately, i’m tending to work under the assumption that quite many taido students look at their taido experience as sport play (recreation) with some benefits to their personal evolution and growth. of course, martial arts also draw plenty of folks who are attempting to secure the bottom few levels of malsow’s needs hierarchy. these are just two very broad hypothetical classes of students. of the two, only the second group craves “reality”. the first hypothetical group doesn’t care about fighting.

    with regards to fight training, the everyone-knows-how-to-punch-and-kick method you describe is sound. building on those reflexes is much easier than attempting to reprogram them. gradually integrating taido techniques into this schoolyard framework (with a brief pit stop in kickboxing) will get students good at fighting and ok at jissen really quickly. with regards to taido, i worry that this method may leave them in a protracted mediocrity, unless there are some skillful interventions along the way. how much of a problem you perceive this to be depends on to of which of the two above-mentioned hypothetical groups you happen to belong.

    of course, none of this is to say that a similar protocol couldn’t be used to train for fighting. so long as the implementation is corrective, and not prescriptive, the notion of building incremental drill progressions around existing strengths and weaknesses is sound. though, the specific drills used would look very different from those mentioned above – in particular, they would have to account for a vastly different set of rules (which would realistically have to be expanded to include social/legal rules as well – there is no such thing as “no rules”).

    i think fight training can be very enlightening, but ultimately, i practice it for my own development, and in that respect, i also value the greater sophistication of jissen. in some ways, i almost wish i had been trained in the manner you suggest (i certainly prefer it to the japanese method). however, it’s easier to add something simple to a sophisticated framework than vice versa. so i’m ok with the years i spent sucking at jissen until i finally figured it out, because i now know that i can integrate some old-fashioned scrapping into that metasystem (having also confronted my own pain threshold and fear of conflict doesn’t hurt either).

    i do have one issue with your “progressive training method”, and this is only a personal thing. you mention drilling basics. that’s a standard method that i happen to be against. i’m not going to go into much depth here (i’ll work on a full article explaining my ideas later), but i feel that kihon are outdated as a useful method of education (and this comes as much from my interest in pedagogy as it does my taido experience). i prefer the notion of improvised response from an intelligently designed platform to any curriculum based on a predetermined canon on techniques. it’s beyond the scope of this discussion, but in short, i feel that the martial arts (and taido, in particular) are in need of a paradigm shift away from any reliance on kihon.

    that said, i really like this bit: “make people apply techniques from jissen against non-taido fighter” for the serious students, but don’t believe that this: “everyone must be a taido and non-taido fighter regularly” is feasible for most students. in either event, this: “give advice on the transfer of techniques between jissen and fighting” is a really important point all-too-often neglected by instructors. thanks for bringing it up.

    my one objection (to kihon, not really to what you wrote) aside, your method is probably a good curriculum for learning to become a “taido fighter”. i do not disagree with that. just understand that the purpose of this article was to present a protocol for troubleshooting and correcting weaknesses in the game/sport of taido sparring. i don’t believe we are at odds so far as we recognize that distinction in purpose.

    so, just for the sake of conclusion, i’ll emphasize once more that the protocol exemplified above is not intended to constitute a curriculum for learning to fight, or even to play jissen. it’s just a way to spot-fix problems as they arise.

    “im leaving for japan may 17th, i’ll be in fukuoka for a month, then im in tokyo until july 5th. coming back just in time for summer camp.”

    that’s awesome news, and soon! when you’re in tokyo, you’ll have to visit negishi and i in yokohama. on june 25th, you can come watch me “play” in the tokyo tama-area tournament too. i’ll mail you my “local” contact info. i’d love to make summer camp – maybe you can arrange to bring an extra-large suitcase we could fit me into…

  3. ok, i have a better idea of what you were saying. Probably, there would have been less confusion had i read the whole article, but i got about 1/3 of the way in and gave up.

    Drills for fixing, improving, and re-learning. I give that a thumbs up. As for people just beginning to do taido, well….

    I await your article on kihon.

    and i also think that after a short time of jissen or whatever sparring they do, they need to be thoroughly thrashed to keep their ego in check and make them understand the stresses involved in fighting.

    How to deal with students who have different goals. Well, this to me is actually more a question of what am I willing to teach. Personally, I cannot conceive of teaching things that are not going to work, or be beneficial in the process of becoming working techniques. I’m slowly realizing that people are very trusting and gullible, and many would rather live in a fantasy world where flying 540 kicks work than in a world where fighting isn’t so pretty. That being the case, you can teach utter crap (and ask bryan about it at tech, its ridiculous the crap that is taught here), and pretend that it works and people will wholeheartedly buy into it. I’m also realizing that if you explain things logically, and support it with biomechanics, etc. people start thinging logically. So, for me personally, I can only teach techniques and tactics that will work. Some people don’t want that type of training. Fine, I don’t make anyone do something they don’t want to. Case in point, whenever we do drills that are inherently dangerous i allert people of the danger and ask if anyone wants to sit it out. Some people drop the class and go do wing-chun so they can pretend like they are a deadly chi-sao master. Hey, i dont want that kind of thinker poisoning my class anyways. Bottom line for me is that i rather have rational thinking students (whether or not they can kick ass) than a collection of people dancing around thinking that they are the end-all be-all of martial arts.

  4. you only read about a third of it? yeah well, that would appear to have hindered your ability to adequately comprehend the point of the article before responding. ok, enough about that.

    “Drills for fixing, improving, and re-learning. I give that a thumbs up. As for people just beginning to do taido, well…”

    that’s really cool. i hope you can use some of these or similar drills with good results. fixing and improving are important because we have yet to create the perfect one-size-fits-most curriculum that will give students what they need without gaps or redundancy. of course, i’d love to hear any ideas that bring us closer to that goal. having taught as many students as i have, i’ve come to anticipate that i will make many mistakes with many students. as a result, i value corrective practices very highly.

    yeah, i, too, await my article on kihon…

    uh… there are better ways to keep egos in check than thrashing students. by making clear the limiting factors of practice that keep them safe (and periodically altering, or even temporarily removing, certain of them), we can convey to our students the differences between practice and “fighting”. with skillful instruction, we can prevent ego problems before they begin.

    as taido instructors our expertise begins and ends with teaching our students how to perform taido. sort of. in any case, the highest level of stress arousal we should be addressing is going to be quite a bit lower than what would occur in an actual ill-intended physical altercation. if you wish to work at a higher level of stress, you should be doing so as a representative of a law-enforcement/personal-protection institution, possibly teaching a “self-defense” course. doing too much of that sort of thing in a “martial arts class” could be considered negligent.

    i’m glad you want to teach things that work. taido is designed to be rational and practicable for combat (and other stuff). the general level of sophistication of taido’s techniques is more than simply “tricky” – it’s fucking genius. the better you understand it, the better it works. i guess i could say something about various kinds of tools here – like wrecking balls versus modern blasting techniques – as an analogy to how taido works in fighting. taido (like imploding a building) is much more complicated and difficult-to-learn than simple punching and kicking. it’s worth it.

    you say that people are gullible. yes. we all are. too often we tend to make such statements about others without remembering how true they are of ourselves. i was going to call your response to my only-partially-read article ignorant until i remembered that i am exposing my own ignorance a little more thoroughly with each article i write.

    ha. you don’t have to tell me about crap being taught at tech… i signed up for all but two of the martial arts classes at tech when i was a freshman. bryan and i were talking about starting a club, so i did my field research. ask bryan about the “kung-fu boy” who used to try and crowd the mats when we were having classes. yeah, there’s a lot of crap, and judging by the listings on the crc website, it’s only gotten worse. i can’t wait to meet the self-defense ninjas in person when i return.

    i totally agree with what you say about explaining things rationally to students. this is what we’ve always tried to do at tech, and it’s a big part of our club, i think. by treating students as intelligent adults (rather than peons, inferiors, or retarded children) we can create a culture of rationality that shapes every aspect of our practice. this rational culture gives us a lot of strength to resist the factors that cause problems in lesser clubs. rationality is integral to my vision of future taido practice. it’s one of my excuses for creating this website.

    i’m glad you give students the option to make choices for themselves. that’s important, because that’s the only way they can learn the reality of their choices. john okochi once told me that any practice he told me to do was useless – it would only help me improve if i told myself to do it. some students cannot accept the responsibility for their own development. you are correct in saying that we do not need such students.

    however, it still seems as if you are creating a false dichotomy between your version of “taido fighting” and “things that don’t work”. taido (as described by its creator) is an art of systematic creativity that strives for harmonious coexistence. granted, many of the practices common in taido do not result directly in improved fighting ability. that’s ok because they don’t need too – there are other goals. things that don’t work for fighting may work for other things, such as improving health or teaching a thought process that may help us to avoid unnecessary fights.

    it’s also true that many methods with high efficacy in fighting application are absent from taido practice (though taido is a complete meta-system capable of addressing any method). this is also ok, because taido was never intended to be limited to the sphere of personal combat. rather than worrying as you do about teaching things that don’t work (for fighting), my concern is teaching fighting tactics at the exclusion of things that will be everyday useful to students over the course of their lives.

    for example: we breathe constantly, and though we also breathe while fighting, it would be silly to assume that combat-specific breath techniques are adequate or healthy for use while eating, driving, and dealing with our bosses at work. taido has methods for each of these and more. if we focus exclusively on breathing for energy accumulation and force delivery, we are going to end up with a lot of excess tension and inappropriate neuro-transmitting chemicals stored in our tissues, leading to disease (at least in the etymological sense) and premature aging.

    there is more to taido than combat, and there is more to combat than taido. i want to reduce the truth of the second part of the preceding statement without reducing the truth of the first part. sound fair enough?

  5. hey dude, my intention is not to cut out things that aren’t combat applicable from taido. Far from it. There was a good 4 years of my life that were very formative in that i was under huge stresses continually. (i wont go into much detail but it was mom had breast cancer, dad got sever staff infection that he was supposed to die from, dad got into severly bad biking accident) And had it not been for those other aspects of taido I know I wouldn’t have dealt with it as well or made as good decisions as I did. So I am definitely for the side aspects of taido. I am against those being more important than the basic elf-defense aspect. If they are for you, fine. Just don’t call it a martial art if you can’t defend yourself from another person. And understand self-defense goes beyong simple combat, it goes into proper diet, wearing your seatbelt, etc., etc. But, these are aspects of PSA’s as well. I’m saying once again, that you can not lose the fighting aspect and call it a martial art.

    Then, why would I teach backflip or hangetsuate to someone I know is never going to be able to implement it? I geuss what I meant was that I refuse to teach untai-no-tsuki to someone who can’t even punch properly. By that rationale, i refuse to teach ebi-geri to someone who can’t punch well(and ebi-geri is my favorite technique). I refuse to teach you sentai kaijou if you can’t do mawashi geri. Personally, i agree with you on your analogy of just blowing a building up with a bunch of explosives, versus placing them intelligently. However, you still need the explosives. That is, I see taido’s movement into a technique/set-up to a technique as unique, intricate, and fucking genius. But the final piece is the same as most other martial arts. Example, untai____(insert technique) is only taido until just before the technique, then it’s just another punch or elbow or grip ( etc.,etc.). Another example, ebi geri is unique in its movement and final position, but the kick itself is essentially a back kick (i’m sure you can appreciate this, i’m saying the muscle groups firing and the order they are firing in and the basic geometry they are in are the same). So, I teach people the basic, make sure they can do it, then i teach them the more sophisticated.

    As for thrashing students. Think of it as this, I make them understand their current limits. Let them work something, get pretty descent at it, but don’t let them think they are the hottest thing since sliced bread. It was done to me periodically throughout (and still) through my training. It was never violent, never unwanted, always humbling. So maybe your imagination of what i’m talking about is worse than reality. Its really just giving a student a peak at the next level or two up from where they are.

    I will say though, that not giving your students a taste of real combat is just as negligent if not more so than over-doing it. False confidence, and imagined understanding of what a fight is like is very dangerous to develope in someone. Case in point: every tae kwon do student at tech. I’ll bet 100:1 you put any one of those people in against a similiarly sized aggressive frat boy and they are going to get hurt badly. And that’s not an arbitrary number, i thought about it.

    As for gullibility, i tend not to just believe things that i’m told. And when it comes to fighting, i would say i am not gullible. I have tested my ideas about fighting in the past, and had them proven wrong. So, yes I could be gullible in the future too. However, i find that my emphasis on practicallity, testing, and retesting of fighting techniques/tactics and so on makes me very astute as to what works and what doesn’t when it comes to fighting.

    once again my lack of time has constrained my ability to give you a coherent piece of literature. So, i will try to summarize.

    -Yes, there are many things to taido. Don’t let the side issues corrupt the ability to fight.
    -Make sure students understand fighting is not pretty or nice, do it at the correct pace for the student, the best way is to give them a taste of real fighting that they are ready for.
    -Make sure you contantly test yourself outside of your comfort zone and test your ideas so that you don’t becomeabsorbed in minor tasks.(hey, the whole kitchen is dirty, don’t worry about arranging the spices in alphabetical order)

  6. damn, you’re fast. ok, so here’s what i think:

    well… good! i’m glad you don’t want to cut out the “side benefits”. of course, i would argue that self-defense ability is actually a side benefit of such things as mobility, awareness, creativity, and the others of taido’s five principles. i say that developing these five valued-attributes is the real goal of practice. being able to apply them to fighting and other things is the benefit. we all get to choose how we use our tools. i’ve also used taido concepts to become one hell of a badass bass player and a great lover. i value these abilities just as highly as my ability to receive and deliver impact.

    i hear what you say about fighting being a vital component of martial arts. however, i feel that “martial art” is a terrible translation of budo, which, like all “do”, is a practice for reconciling your internal opponents – we could just as easily call it “yoga” since all these words are really getting at the same idea. fighting proves to be only a very small (though i agree, necessary) part of the greater overall work. you and i disagree on this point, and as you say, that’s fine, but for the record, i only use the phrase “martial art” because it is the standard, accepted idiom in american english. perhaps the alchemists’ “great work” is a better description of how i perceive taido’s utility.

    and since you mention it, i can, in fact, defend myself. my last “physical encounter” was during my dark period (which i also won’t describe in detail), at which time i pissed off a date’s large and angry methed-up ex. about an hour after jumping me from behind in the bathroom, he paid my bar tab. i’d say i came out ahead (considering that i only drank tanq10 during that period…). the bloody stuff on similar nights before that wasn’t defense because i used to go looking for it.

    since then, self defense means the PSA stuff you mentioned. i haven’t been sick since early 2003. i’m almost out of non-education debt. i manage not to get hit by all the terrible drivers over here. i negotiated through a recent town-merger with less work to do and more disposable income. i hope to keep things going this well. staying alive and healthy is a daily process, and training for it requires awareness and adaptability as much as it does intelligence or skill.

    so now that i’ve defended against what seemed like the implication that i can’t, i’ll move on to more interesting matters.

    learning to backflip offers many benefits to the student, whether they would use it in a fight or not (i won’t say i never would, because anything is possible, but i have really great flips, and i rarely even use them in jissen). backflips are one of the most fear-transcendent physical movements one can perform (and gainers push it even further). the fears of being upside-down, moving backward, falling, and of having little control over your relationship with gravity must be overcome to perform a backflip. it’s also a a wonderful demonstration of good biomechanical synergy making incredibly easy something that appears very difficult. i love teaching backflips to students. a student who can do backflips believes s/he can learn to do anything.

    i like your point about taido techniques being unique primarily in their delivery of the same weapons as any other art. shukumine’s claim to uniqueness in taido was specifically in the strategic use of the unsoku and sotai to translate between the kamae and the strike. it can really make all the difference. it’s also liberating in that we can freely add more weapons to our existing delivery framework without requiring a theoretical upheaval (though taido actually does need one for different reasons).

    a few years ago, a student at tech asked bryan why we broke the techniques into five categories; he thought it seemed arbitrary. i can’t remember the exact words he used, but bryan explained that the five sotai are simply different modes of transportation for the actual kicks or punches, which are just like any other punch or kick. of course, given the anatomical limits of human physiology, there are only so many potential bodily weapons. as eric clapton told us, “it’s in the way that you use it”. i’ll also be expanding on this in another article currently on the back burner.

    i must say, i think that you and i are going about this whole thing from opposite ends. what you say about teaching a punch before an untai punch is responsible. that’s a solid way to do things. and yes, you still need the explosives, but if you set them correctly, you need quite a bit less explosives than it might first look like. lately, i haven’t been thinking of the punch so much. i’m focussing on the untai and letting whatever happens after that just happen. there are dozens of ways to punch, so i try not to worry so much about which one to choose until i get there.

    and i think that’s also indicative of the approach to curriculum-building i hope to articulate in yet another future article. some background can be found here. if the student is the hardware platform, we will do well to build that platform to a minimum performance level before even installing the taido software. simpler software may run on a crappy machine, but taido demands certain levels of mobility. most machines can be upgraded to run taido successfully. when we do this installation, we should work from gross to subtle movements, and from micro to macro applications.

    in my current concept, we would start with general physical preparedness (basic mobility, strength, and breathing skills), then specific physical preparedness (sen, un, hen, nen, ten, unsoku, unshin), then we can move on to sport-specific training (punches, kicks, throws, submissions), and finally mental training (kobo, jissen, fighting). this is only a very general gloss of a complex progression that also owes a lot to ken wilber’s AQAL model. the actual curriculum i hope to build works through several “spirals” of development simultaneously.

    i recognize that this approach won’t meet anyone’s immediate self-defense needs, but i honestly don’t believe that’s a very big deal for most of industrialized society, certainly not for the segment of society that has the free time to spend on such hobbies as martial arts practice. this is just my opinion though, and defense contractors would rather you support the patriot act. we will all perceive what we believe to be out there waiting for us.

    anyway, it’s not going to be easy for me to explain without a little more organizing and possibly a few graphics. i promise i’ll get on it, somewhere in my backlog of twenty-something half-finished articles and even more ideas in my notebooks.

    and i’m glad your definition of thrashing isn’t what it initially sounded like (insert sound effect: “sigh of relief”). i agree with most of what you say about that, especially the tech tae kwon do club (all 100-or-so members). i’m also relieved to hear that you aren’t gullible when it comes to fighting. remaining so is a process – not a condition.

    and in closing, i’ve always liked that thing about arranging the spices in a dirty kitchen. it’s pointless, yes. i prefer the idea of remodeling to create a neater workflow and furnishing with stainless and other easy-clean surfaces. remove the spices altogether and use flavorful ingredients from your own organic garden. be sure that whatever meal you prepare, you make it with love.

  7. i do teach backflips and hangetsuate. It was an example of techniques with side benefits that are really important. Important enough to teach the technique, even if the person is never going to be able to use it in sparring, much less fighting.

    i see the benefits you speak of in paragraph 1 of your latest post as coming from the training itself. Like you say, with proper teaching we can develope these things. So why not develope them in an atmosphere where they are also learning to apply their techniques.

    as for martial art. yes, i think its a horrible translation. And, re-reading my posts I realize its mainly rant directed towards wushu people walking around like badasses, jiukido-jiujitsu people saying i shouldn’t head kick(literally 7 seconds later i knock out someone with a head kick), and so on and so forth. often i use a hypothetical “you”, applying to anybody. so don’t take it personally. apologies.

    i dont understand this about your latest post though. You say you are more worried about the untai than the actual punch or kick. Then you go to say that we need to build a base before we go to more complex things. I agree, I contend the base is simple striking and grappling ability. That stuff is very simple compared to taido, but its also very important. Its great if you can set-up someone for a elbow using your unsoku, but if your elbow is weak then all that work to get there was wasted. Its like trying to demolish a building with perfectly placed firecrackers. Ain’t gonna happen. So develope some plastic explosives and then you dont have to use all of your power, but you aren’t limited by it.

    finally, its not that i think terrorists are hiding behind every corner and rapists are waiting in yur closet. Its that i see what has happened to arts that put fighting on the back-burner, and its makes them crap. Show me an art today that doesn’t spar relistically yet its practitioners can fight. Show me an art today that puts emphasis on meditation or whatever other aspect yet still has a realistic grasp on fighting. If realistic sparring is not a part of the art it goes down hill. Come on, there are a million examples. Jujutsu and Judo, classic example. I dont want taido to be that way.

  8. thanks for clearing up the first part. i’m glad you see the benefit of teaching advanced movements, even when students may not “use” them. teaching them with an “effective attitude” is part of taido – it’s just not always easy.

    i think we both find ourselves saying “you” when we really mean “some people out there whom i have seen”. now i understand what you were saying.

    returning to the untai analogy… i see the movement as the base and the strike as the more sophisitcated portion. the reason is that the movement initiates from an internal event. the motion spreads outwards from the body. the strike occurs farthest from the center and contacts a target. i view techniques as occuring from the center, radiating outward to the target, so i think to worry about the weapon before the movement puts the cart before the horse. i’ll try to expand on this some other time.

    i agree that arts that down play the importance of combat practice are doing a lot of crap now. but you only have to look the other direction to see scared military-looking guys in weightlifter pants teaching people how to be “street-tough” and sucking just as badly in a different way. i want to avoid both traps. so while i applaud your desire to keep things realistic, i don’t like the thought of developing fight-myopia.

    it’s just a matter of which one bugs you the most i guess.

  9. “returning to the untai analogy… i see the movement as the base and the strike as the more sophisitcated portion. the reason is that the movement initiates from an internal event. the motion spreads outwards from the body. the strike occurs farthest from the center and contacts a target. i view techniques as occuring from the center, radiating outward to the target, so i think to worry about the weapon before the movement puts the cart before the horse. i’ll try to expand on this some other time.”

    look, i think we are talking past one another here. At least…i hope so. I am not saying punching is simple, I know how complex a punch is, how hard it is to get really good at a punch. But, in the order of difficulty a jab or a cross or any punch is going to be simplier than untai movement plus that punch. The movement is the unique part to taido. You don’t find untai or sentai movement taught elsewhere(although its starting to pop up in mma interestingly enough). But the movement is just a way to set up a punch (or whatever strike we are talking about). The untai movement was a waste if your punch doesn’t do any damage. However, a good punch without the untai movement is still going to cause damage. This is why you learn how to punch or elbow or knee or kick by itself, in its simpliest form to develope a solid technique. Then you add in extra stuff to help you get your punch to land. Whether it be footwork and combo’s in boxing or untai and sentai in taido, its all the same. Different tactics to get the same punch to land. That is unless you are doing silly wing chun type chain punching, in which case you are working off silly tactics to try to land silly “punches”.

  10. ah, corey. you’re calling me out on some things i wasn’t planning on writing about yet, but i’ll try to give a digestible preview here without totally blowing my conceptual wad. if some of this doesn’t quite connect in its current form, all i can really say is “wait”. i’ll get to conveying this better a little later on.

    “look, i think we are talking past one another here.” i disagree. at least, i know that i’m writing this directly at you. if it’s going past you, i can only assume that to be a consequence of some preconception you have.

    you say that a punch is simpler than untaizuki, and you are correct. however, you neglect that the actual ascent/descent of the hips is a far simpler thing than even the most basic punch. you say untai is a waste if the punch is ineffective, and you are correct (in an isolated system – in other words, only if you stop there). however, you neglect that the punch is also a waste if the movement that precedes it is ineffective.

    if the untai (or other sotai/movement) sucks, the punch will have no base. the movement is a mechanical precondition for the strike. the delivery and the weapon are not like legos; they are fused together like a chemical bond, and both are altered in the integration. the strike works specifically because of the motion that makes it happen. this no chicken/egg argument; one must precede the other.

    i’m suggesting that our practice emphasis should follow the naturally occurring order of movement before weapon. practicing static punches teaches you how to do static punches. you can see this clearly when you teach untaizuki to students who have good punches from fudodachi. their punches fall apart, and they have to learn them again form the new movement (as opposed to the prior position). i’m saying “save yourself a step and teach movement first”. then, all your weapons will have a base for effectiveness.

    notice that nowhere am i saying we shouldn’t teach punches.

    movement is foundational to technique. sen, un, hen, nen, and ten are simply body movements. they require no more “technique” to perform than walking. we can create techniques around the movements that allow us to deploy certain weapons (which are also techniques in themselves), but only if we have the movement base to do so.

    “This is why you learn how to punch or elbow or knee or kick by itself, in its simplest form to develope a solid technique. Then you add in the extra stuff to help you get your punch to land. Whether it be footwork and combo’s in boxing or untai and sentai in taido, it’s all the same. Different tactics to get the same punch to land.”

    the above is simply incorrect. i can’t say it any more nicely than that.

    an unzuki and a senzuki are most certainly NOT the same punch. some people perform them the same, but these people have shitty punches in both techniques. punches and kicks are like different shells you can load into an untai shotgun. the shell is useless without the gun and many factors about the gun will affect the way the shell fires. put the same type of shell in a sentai gun, and you will see a different spray pattern on the target. the “extra stuff” you mention initiates – creates – the weapon.

    unless you view the human body as an erector set, you have to see that each part of our physiology effects and is effected by every other part. thus, thinking in terms of parts is silly. we have to be holistic. a quarterback with a sprained ankle cannot throw well. by the same token, a “solid technique” that is disconnected from its base will fold like a wet towel. understanding how biotensegrity works allows us to craft more effective techniques from movement to weapon deployment – from the inside, outward.

    by placing your premium on the strike, you set up a fixation. not good. we need to be adaptable. you can’t adapt a punch that you’ve drilled a thousand times, but you can easily change movements you’ve developed. how do you change a movement? keep moving. how do you change a punch? you have to start over and try again.

    i’ll give you a real example from jissen: i notice where the guy is and how he’s moving; based on that information, i choose to approach with sentai; as i spin, i watch his reaction and position and see that he’s too far to punch or grab; so i begin to bring my rear leg around for a kick, which he notices and begins to jump; still watching, i adjust and kick with the other leg. unsoku, sotai, seiho, kimegi. the movement creates the technique.

    in this example, the connecting kick resembles hangetsuate. a really good hangetsuate, but the funny thing is this: my hangetsuate sucks. my hangetsu form sucks, but lately, i am hitting everyone with it. why? because i have stopped thinking about the the punches and kicks. i simply move. above, i started in sentai, transitioned to hentai, and finally scored with nengi. my thought process was simple: “he’s there, so i want to be here”, but the external result was a complex combination that my opponent did not expect.

    thinking in terms of movement is not what you are used to, so i can see why you resist it. it’s not the way we taught you. i was a contributor in the design of the current teaching methods employed in american taido, and here’s a flash: these methods were originally chosen for teaching children. we started using them for adults when mitsuaki and brendan (who originally only taught children) grew up and started teaching adults. i used to teach adults differently, but some of them would get confused when their taido didn’t look the same as their kids’ taido.

    when teaching kids, we always broke everything down to components so it would be easier for them to understand the form: “start with the basics and build to harder techniques”. then we would home in on details as they progressed. the problem is that we have all these techniques, and the student has to learn each one from scratch. kids are good at this, but it takes a long time for adults (though it’s still faster than the methods by which i was taught).

    the technique fixation is not helping us be creative and adaptable in our taido. to move beyond this obstacle, i suggest that we focus on the movements rather than the individual techniques and strikes. work form general to specific concept, gross to fine movement, and internal to external focus.

    if we take the things that all techniques have in common (the sotai) and practice that, then we are actually practicing all of our techniques at one time. then it’s an easy transition to change details like the choice of weapon. it goes without saying that foundation comes first. what i’m doing is simply redefining what constitutes foundation.

    this is an idea that many people will find uncomfortable and counterintuitive, but it’s the only way to teach the values in the 5jokun, which is what actually defines taido. if we can teach students the right values, they will never have difficulty discovering the correct technique for their specific applications. this way, in addition to simply showing them how we fish (to pervert a popular analogy), we will be giving them the basic principles of ecology and food cultivation. then they can find suitable nourishment in any environment.

    anyway, as i said above, i’m aware that this explanation isn’t totally satisfying, but i trust you are clever enough to look past the surface strangeness and see the principles for what they are: useful. if not, then perhaps the series of articles i’m planning on technique will clear things up. however, i also still have (i think) two more kobo articles in the works before i get to that point. be patient, and i promise to construct a cohesive argument around these ideas soon.

  11. i’m going to wait as you ask to respong fully. however, ill give you this to chew on as you make your articles.

    I look to develope the understanding and then natural ability to create power in techniques. i do this through the most basic version of techniques. The punch at the end of untai no tsuki is a combination of the drop-step punch and a lead straight. DUH, sentai is not the same punch. Come on, you think more of me than that, right? What i mean is the the ways to make power in punches already exist in basic boxing ability. yes, there are differences leading up to the punch, but as you have stated, there are only so many ways to move.

    anyways, illl wait.

  12. “Come on, you think more of me than that, right?”

    well, yeah. otherwise i would just delete your comments and continue trying to sound important in the absence of any contrasting opinions/methods. knowing that you teach at my club gives me more motivation to respond as fully and convincingly as possible. i’m confident that you’ll all be able to feel the “magic” upon my return later this year, but in the meantime, i like knowing that you’re thinking about this stuff.

    of course, you know that senzuki and unzuki are different, but i think the difference goes deeper than the “duh”-level. i think a reconceptualization of movement, “technique”, and method in taido can give us some sturdy levers for shifting these heavy ideas around in more useful ways.

    and on that note, i’ll also wait before saying anything more on the subject. your comments here will certainly shape the development of my next(?) series of articles as they have helped me get a better look at how i’ll have to go about explaining ideas.

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