Friday, May 20, 2011

Revelations - There are no 'single' techniques and the circle of learning.

Over the last little while, we've been working on perfecting our technique.  My Sensei has spent quite a bit of time going over the finer points of fairly basic techniques.  In recent posts, I've discussed how I've discovered easy and obvious (now at least) ways of improving the effectiveness of techniques that I thought I knew inside and out.

We've spent a lot of time 'connecting' everything.  This involves having your entire body involved in the executions of a technique, and flowing into the next available option seamlessly.  My Sensei always says he's thinking 3 steps ahead.  I never really understood what that meant.  I thought I did, but I didn't. I mean, you can't necessarily know exactly how your opponent will react so how can you know the next move?  Proper technique makes it likely, but combat is unpredictable.

I've taken on my own interpretation of what he means.  We were working on a variation of a Z-lock.  This can be from a lapel grab, a wrist grab, or a punch. First we did a z-lock, then we transitioned into an elbow break/shoulder lock and ended in a complete lock up of the shoulder behind our opponent's back. From there we could take down or sweep.

Here's what I discovered watching Sensei demonstrate.  He went into the z-lock portion of the technique and then into the elbow break and then into the lock up without pausing.  It was then that I realized that there weren't actually 3 separate and distinct techniques.  It was all one.  I realized that while we practiced each section, they were all part of what I now think of as a 'complete' technique.  Complete techniques come to a logical conclusion of some sort based on your movements.  So yes, in extreme circumstances, you might break the wrist and the elbow at the same time while separating the shoulder all in one fluid movement.

3 steps ahead doesn't necessarily mean 3 unconnected moves. The beauty of this is that all 3 happen simultaneously, and if any one part misses or fails to produce the desired effect, the other parts still work. A triple threat, of sorts.

The next discovery, or revelation, was that some disconnected training returns to martial arts study.  As a beginner, you practice each stage of a technique. There is a start and stop to each part of a defense, or any series of motions in a string of self defense techniques.  This is natural and it helps beginners learn the actual mechanics of a technique, as well as control.  

With continued study, we strive to remove these pauses, and develop smooth, continuous flow.

Now, something strange is happening.  I am getting much more proficient in a few 'basic' techniques that I am now perfecting (Sensei's words, not mine).  All of a sudden (or so it seems), my techniques have become downright dangerous.  They've always been (that's why I love Jiu Jitsu), but now my ability to execute them effortlessly and effectively puts my training partner in real danger of  accidental injury.  One of the things that drew me to Jiu Jitsu is that it doesn't take strength.  For years, you 'muscle' techniques, but they don't need to be to be brutally effective.  In fact, using strength can actually hinder you in Jiu Jitsu study.

Now I have to re-insert the stops in the techniques to make sure I don't break my partner.  When done correctly, some of these techniques have surprised me.  My training partner was tapping like mad and I didn't think I had even 'put it on' yet.  Once again, I have a whole new respect for my art and my Sensei.

I imagine in time, I will be able to phase out the pauses as I learn the new control required to prevent injury to my partner.  And so the circle of learning repeats.

So I've discovered there are very few lone techniques in my chosen art.  Each technique involves a connected sequence of movements.

I've also discovered that sometimes you have to insert artificial breaks or pauses in advanced techniques to be safe in training.  You also need to realize that we are quite capable of causing serious injury with little or no effort.  So respect your teacher, your art and your training partners.

"I am often awed by the sheer awesomeness of Jiu Jitsu"  - poorly worded original Journeyman quote.

"If I never teach you another technique, you've already got too much" - my Sensei.

Train well, there's always more to learn.


  1. It's a great feeling when we suddenly have these little Eureka moments or the pieces of the puzzle just fall into place. There is no substitute for circular learning - we learn something new every time we sweep around the circle. Glad your training is going well.

  2. It is a great feeling. It's also interesting to be back where you started in a sense. The circle of learning never ends. Occasionally, I think I won't have many new moments or discovery. Then, when I do, I realize how little I actually know. That's not a negative statement, it's just a testament of how we can always improve and learn, and refine. It's actually exciting to know there's always more around the next bend.

  3. The Z-lock is that Ni-kyo? looks like!!!

  4. Now that i read your piece. ;)
    And as you advance further You will see that Ni-kyo is many more tech than that. Even if you miss all three tie ups (or just the first) you can still use the movement to the outside to create an opportunity to strike, kick, step on his foot to create a chance to throw off his balance.

    Same goes for Go-kyo and San-kyo, even if the throw or hold doesn't take, the inside movement can result in you gaining the opponents back or side in a very commanding position.

    Study the Ten-kan (not sure of spelling) movement in Aikido or the Hap-Ki steps in hapkido. These are excellent.

    We are on an Awesome journey, I love this page and am glad you share your thoughts here!!!

    Warriors of the mind


  5. Ernest,

    One of the things that has always fascinated me about Jiu Jitsu is that there are so many options. You can sometimes have dozens of options from a single 'base' technique. Tenkan, when done properly, is very effective and can really lead your opponent where you want them to go. I assume it is the same for Hap-Ki as Hapkido and Jiu Jitsu have many similarities.

    Thanks for the compliment. We are on an awesome journey!