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The Dojo: A Deeper Look at Martial Arts Self Defense

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The idea behind the methodology of Shoshin Ryu’s goshinjutsu (self-defense) is to give the practitioner a “starting point” for learning how to move one’s body as well as the body of another. A new student may look at a rear choke attack and ask “who would grab you like that?”, while the attack itself may be statistically uncommon, the motion of dealing with extended arms attaching to you from behind, be it one or both, is learned through this particular technique. The same motions used to defend yourself in a rear choke can be applied for one hand on a shoulder, two hands on a shoulder, rear hair grab, someone grabbing your shirt from behind or someone grabbing your neck from behind. Rather than train all those techniques individually and therefore bogging down the student, the student can practice just rear choke, and once proficient, can apply the same motions to any number of attacks.

Each technique taught in the self defense classes at the dojo can be applied to several situations, not necessarily just the one attack. These techniques are taught to adults as well as in the kids self defense classes. There is a saying: “from 1 thing know 10,000 things and from 10,000 things know 1 thing”. This is a concept understood by more advanced students at the dojo. By the time a student has learned the core curriculum through Shodan (1st degree black belt), there are very few, if any, situations that one cannot relate to something they’ve practiced 100’s or 1000’s of times over the course of their martial arts training. The same technique used to escape from a collar grab will have countless applications for other attacks. It may be the initial move, the finish or something in-between that can be utilized to defend yourself. By dedicating your body and mind to Shoshin Ryu martial arts training, the attack really becomes less important and the reaction becomes the focus. There are only so many ways someone can attack you (empty hand or with a weapon). Each rank in Shoshin Ryu adds core techniques that will equip you with the tools needed for successful defense. While the tools may not be specifically designed to handle that specific attack, there is a technique in your toolbox that can be applied that will allow you to put yourself into a position of familiarity and increase your odds of defending yourself.

So, instead of questioning the attack itself, think more of how you are moving, is it efficient, are you optimizing your power, are your eyes soft or are they scattered and unseeing? Are you moving from center or are you compromising your structure and making yourself vulnerable to counters? These are the things students practice at a higher level, not so much to say “If someone chokes me from behind I know how to get out” but rather knowing yourself, knowing how to move, knowing how to move others…these are the things that separate beginning students from more advanced students.

Technique vs Strength: An Article From “the dojo”

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In order for a smaller person to defeat a larger person, solid technique must be implemented. Technique is emphasized because regardless of one’s personal strength, technique puts a person in position to utilize larger muscle groups against an attackers smaller muscle groups. If one depends entirely on muscle and strength they put themselves at a disadvantage if defending themselves from someone who is physically stronger. As we age, our strength weakens. Thus, training with only the mind set of trying to overpower a person will become less successful the older we get. Technique on the other hand, can be cultivated and refined as one grows older. As technique matures in a martial artist, the motions and application of strength becomes smaller and less important. One can think of technique as being like a stone sculpture. As you define the sculpture, the artist removes the parts that are not needed to define the end result. You don’t add to a sculpture, only remove. Same with your technique. As you train, one finds the parts that are unnecessary and you refine the motions to be most efficient. This will allow you to spend less energy and cuts down on inefficient motions. This increases one’s speed as well.

For Shoshin Ryu practitioners at the dojo, this must be at the forefront of the mind. If you find yourself needing to use muscle in order to make a technique work, chances are you have missed a key principle within the technique and rather than forcing your way through, it’s better to start over and find the piece that is missing. The word Jujitsu means gentle application. Think on this while training and ask yourself periodically if the motions you are using in your technique are truly the most efficient. This will often lead you to discoveries about how you move. Less is more. The Judo maxim of “Minimum Effort, Maximum Efficiency” sum this up quite well. Most traditionally trained martial artists will find that their peak will come much later in life compared to someone who counts on strength and physical ability to defend themselves. Longevity in your training comes from this mindset.

To look at it a different way, compare how a lower mudansha (ranks below black belt) works through a kata compared to a yudansha (black belt). If both perform 10 kata in a row, the yudansha will be less exhausted and will maintain a constant flow so that all the kata are done the same way, with equal speed and power whereas the mudansha will taper off as they progress through the 10 kata. The speed and power will be less as each kata is done. This is because the yudansha has learned over years and years of training that efficient motions not only allow you to move with less effort, but actually increase the power one can deliver through less tension and faster, more efficient and fluid motions. When you find this for yourself through constant refining and drilling, you have taken a critical step forward in your training and progression. This is a never ending path, a path that’s destination is one of absolute efficiency, using only what is necessary to achieve the objective. Couple this with the aspect of mind speed and mushin (no-mind) and you have a highly skilled Shoshin Ryu practitioner.

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