Tagged as: self defense techniques

The Progression of Rank in Shoshin Ryu Jujitsu


People often ask “what is the order of belts in Shoshin Ryu”. In the adult curriculum the order is White, Yellow, Blue, Green, Brown 3, Brown 2, Brown 1 and Black. Each rank has new kata, throws, ground work techniques and added Gojinjitsu (self defense). With each rank there are added requirements in regards to proficiency in previously learned material as well as emphasis on certain types of motion. In the Shoshin Ryu curriculum concepts are interwoven throughout the belt ranks as well.

As a White belt, students are given a set of kihon (basics), a few kata, a throw and lots of gojinjitsu as well as the basics for ukemi (rolls/falls). The goal for the beginning student is to memorize the techniques, not so much to replicate them at blinding speed but rather to “know” the sequence of moves by recalling them from memory. Everything that is learned is used to provide a foundation of general motion. Knowing how to properly execute each technique, be it a strike or a kata, from the very beginning aids in the ease of learning later on in one’s path to Shodan (1st degree black belt).

Once tested and promoted to Yellow belt, the emphasis is much the same as White belt. More kata, throws, newaza (ground work) and gojinjitsu are added. Additional kihon are introduced and drilled. By this time, the student has been training for a significant time and repetition is the focus. All the curriculum learned as a White belt are still practiced with the expectation that the time it takes for the mind to recall the correct move lessens. Techniques are still coming from memory but from the viewpoint of someone watching, it may look like the techniques are instantaneous. Less effort is required to perform a throw, the rolls are more quiet and become more natural. Lines in motion become cleaner, tension is less and as a result, your body moves faster. Students feel more acclimated to the dojo and typically are less apprehensive about learning something new. Yellow belts also learn to become a better uke (attacker) during self defense and provide more realistic feedback for their partner to work with and improve.

Blue belt is when the student starts to see glimpses of muscle memory. When defending against random attacks some of the responses are being initiated before the student realizes it. The ultimate goal is to NOT to recall techniques from memory but to trust reflex. Reflex is engrained by doing the techniques over and over again. At some point, the body just moves to where it needs to be without thought. Blue belts does not necessarily require the student to incorporate reflex in all their motion (this is what brown belt ranks are for), but the student should start noticing that some of the tools they’ve been building are right there when needed. The kata that you are supposed to know are done with less thought about which foot to step with or what hand to punch with but rather how the foot moves and its relationship to center and if the punch is as efficient and powerful as it can be. Students must still commit to memory the new things they learn, but the time it takes for these moves to become more reflexive and less pulled from memory goes down. Everything is done with less effort, less time and with increased efficiency of motion.

At Green belt the student is preparing to be a brown belt. There is a higher standard as it relates to quality of motion and command of all previous techniques. Green belt is the gate-keeper rank for brown belt. Kihon should be crisp, fast and effortless. The student should understand the key points to each basic and be able to explain the details of how the technique works. Self defense is more real-time and should be effective against a real attack. Speed is emphasized as is power. The lower ranks are about where to be, Green and above are more about how to be. Throws are executed with only the bare minimal effort needed for success. Kata is done with more focus and becomes more than just moving through the sequence. Intent is introduced so that each motion is meaningful. Tiatari (blending) is introduced in order to “round out” the corners of your motion and allow you to accept the energy of an attack rather than fight it. Kihon, nage (throws) and newaza start to blend together in seamless transitions allowing for greater speed and efficiency. Green belt has additional kata, throws, newaza and gojinjitsu added on top of all the other curriculum learned up to this point. At Green belt, the student has a large amount of information and part of the challenge is not only keeping it all, but to make it all look and feel better than it was before.

Brown Belt III and II continue the emphasis of Green with more curriculum added. By this time, nothing “new” is really learned. There are more kata and throws and ground work, but the students realizes that if the previous techniques were trained properly, the “new” material is very much the same as what they already know. Things less tangible become more important. The ability to make all your techniques come from muscle memory and reflex is what is strived for. Concepts like Ma (transition) Ma-ai (distancing), breath, soft eyes and zanshin (continuing spirit) are introduced and the kata, throws, ground work and gojinjitsu become a vehicle for these concepts to be practiced. These concepts are introduced with the hopes that they manifest themselves in the students motion by the time they are ready to test for Shodan. The Shoshin Ryu practitioner will begin to understand that all motion is related and judgment about other martial arts systems goes away since there is a core understanding of root motion. The ability to make connections between different motions becomes 2nd nature. Students will choose between two weapons, bo or nitan bo during this time and begin to drill the techniques associated with each weapon.

The last belt of the Mudansha (non-black belt) ranks is Ikkyu (Brown 1). There is little new techniques introduced, the focus is on making sure all your previous training is polished and fluent. Any kata in the Mudansha curriculum can be executed on command. All throws and groundwork is understood at an expert level and be applied in numerous scenarios. All reactions are reflex based. At this point, the student can deviate from the core curriculum and start to create spontaneously without losing effectiveness. All motions are full of intent and nothing is done without a purpose. Lines in motion are direct without any wasted motion. At Brown 1 the student has everything they need to make Shodan and the time at this rank is meant to allow for fermentation of everything they know. When one tests for Shodan and passes, then, and only then, are they considered a true beginner in the martial arts. The student is now thought of as having all the tools necessary to begin learning the curriculum of the Yudansha (black belt).

The Dojo: A Deeper Look at Martial Arts Self Defense

the dojo meridian idaho

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”


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.

Shoshin Ryu Seminar March 2012

the dojo meridian idaho

We are happy to announce that we will be offering a seminar on March 24-25 by Sensei Brian Combo. We are also very fortunate to have Sensei Stephen Coniaris at the dojo that same weekend.

ADULTS: The seminar will take place that Saturday and Sunday from 9am-1pm, then break for 2 hour lunch, and then back to training from 3pm-7pm. At that point we will finish up and meet somewhere for dinner each night. That’s 16 hours of training over the weekend! Cost for the seminar will be $100 for both days or $50 for one day. All aspects of the art will be touched on over the coarse of the weekend. It is such a great opportunity to have these guys here that we recommend committing as much time as you can to training that weekend.

KIDS: We will be having a special class Saturday morning that is open to ALL students in the kids class and is FREE to attend. The class will be from 9am-10am on Saturday morning (had to schedule a bit early in the day to leave time for the rest of the seminar). Again this is a FREE class that is open to all students in the kids class. We encourage all who can make it to attend.

Sensei Combo has an infectious personality and it should be a great time for all with lots of laughs and great training.
Combo Sensei is Senior Most Student (SMS) and a founding member of Shoshin Ryu. This means that he is the head of or president of our organization. Shoshin Ryu does not use terms like “Master”. No one person can know it all and we can all continue to learn and be students our whole lives. Hence the title SMS. Combo Sensei has an extensive background in Martial Arts and has a knack for elevating student’s level of training/understanding as well as keeping classes fun and exciting.

Coniaris Sensei is also a founding member of Shoshin Ryu and a very high level martial artist and teacher. He is currently an ER doctor who before deciding to attend medical school was a National level swim coach. He has a strong skill for teaching and bringing out the best in those he teaches.

We are very excited for this event and hope that you can make it! If you have any questions please feel free to email, call, or hit us up at the dojo.