A Deeper Understanding.
So many things to talk about. What a month! I was away from blogging for longer than I expected, but in hindsight, it was a nice refreshing break. I did actually manage to completely un-plug from all things electronic for over a week. No news, no television, no internet. It was very freeing, and a little unnerving.
I’ve had some great and intense martial arts training and experiences followed by a complete break as well, which is also good for mind and body.
I can’t fit everything into one post, so I’ll touch on one highlight.
I had the opportunity to train with a master of ‘Classical Jiu Jitsu’. Now I often refer to ‘traditional’, but I’ve not often heard of ‘classical’ being used to describe the art very often. I do understand the difference between modern, or ‘gendai’ systems and more traditional ones, and I do know that my own style is heavily influenced by the small circle theory, but I got the opportunity to explore the ‘classical’ side a bit more.
At the end of the day, of course, it doesn’t really matter what you call it, good Jiu Jitsu is good Jiu Jitsu, but I did get to make some interesting observations. In experiencing this master’s style, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of my own style, and that of many martial arts, I suspect.
On the surface, there are some fairly obvious differences in the way techniques are applied. Bigger motions here, smaller ones there, emphasis on this or that, but nothing more than you might see from Sensei to Sensei, or school to school.
Two major things did stand out though:
#1. In classical Jiu Jitsu, the ending of a technique was normally the complete destruction of your opponent. This stems from the very fact that the techniques contained in the classical system are as closely connected to true ‘kill or be killed’ nature of the battle field of feudal times.
Many of the techniques adapted for more modern styles contain more options. You can more easily choose to control first, then break, then maim etc. There is a more escalating scale of options. There are fewer of these options in a more classical style.
The movements also tended to target larger areas, or entire limbs, a throwback to the need to deal with armored opponents, with a focus on the areas that remained vulnerable, such as joints.
So, modern styles may contain more options, and have been adapted to deal with modern realities, which are arguably a benefit, but the classical roots are still there.
Which brings me to my second major observation:
#2. We have altered many more destructive techniques to allow for safer training. This may seem obvious, but it goes deeper than that.
We alter techniques to allow us to apply them to our training partners. That makes sense. You can’t train if you’re injured. Many techniques end with a break-fall, a roll or a tap. What some practitioners may not know is that the ‘original’ or ‘classical’ systems often simply did not contain an opportunity for any of these things.
Many of the throws and techniques illustrated (notice I didn’t say demonstrated) did not allow the opponent to break-fall, or to ‘go with it’. After the illustration, the technique was then adapted, or altered, and demonstrated on the uke, to allow them to, well, survive it.
I realized that this doesn’t just apply to Jiu Jitsu, it applies to most martial arts with classical roots.
I can’t say these concepts are completely new to me, but I’m now realizing just how many areas have been adjusted in modern styles. This is not a criticism, just an observation. Having a more scalable set of options in an advantage in many ways, considering our modern times and legal considerations. Also, this doesn't mean that the altered, or 'softened' techniques aren't effective. They still work.
It is important, however, to understand the original, or ‘parent’ techniques, to obtain a deeper understanding of your chosen art, whichever one that may be.
I hope everyone has had a great summer. Train well.