At last month’s private seminar for 15 friends at my personal house dojo, I explored 3 specific open-ended topics the high rankers in To-Shin Do will focus on this year.
First, we are challenged to translate a late 1500s Japanese martial art into relevance in 2016 in America and Europe. I wrote about this challenge in the last newsletter.
So second, we need to make the training as viable and appropriate as possible for our students at each phase of their training. What is covered in a Level 1 class must be absolutely useful and high in relevance in students’ minds. We selected 12 of the most likely civilian defense situations and provided an answer for each. The answers in Level 1 are admittedly not the most sophisticated or the most advanced in terns of ninja taijutsu body dynamics. You’d need to be a Black Belt to truly make advanced taijutsu work reliably and effectively. But we are focused on a beginner’s beliefs and capabilities in Level 1. Our answers need to look like what a Level 1 person expects to find.
As we move students through Level 2, we add footwork related to positioning and timing. This is the exploration of Water and Fire elements, and the techniques acknowledge advancing skills. This is a big step for the average student, however. We lose intimidated people here, so what’s a better way? How can we move people from confidence in Level 1 to increased confidence in Level 2? How do we pick the right techniques for advancing skill? We need to focus on techniques that work and are practical, and at the same time set the stage for future growth.
In Level 3, we look at evasive strike counters, joint locks, chokes, and throws, with an eye towards what a smaller less-strong person might do to defeat a tougher adversary. This is the Wind element, where we avoid an aggressor’s strengths and hit them where they are unsuspecting. Granted, we’ve had to let go of some old favorites from the ninja taijutsu collection. But we did this out of a commitment to making our martial art realistic and useable. Some of what possibly worked in the 1500s in Japan no longer fits a US or European setting.
Now we have a complete martial art of hitting and kicking, countering strikes,locking, throwing, choking, and weapon counters — the complete arsenal for street self defense, as taught incrementally to a given person whose skills advance and change as she or he puts in the years.
This is my second commitment to offering the most relevant self-defense system we can.
(Read about An-shu’s third commitment in future issues of Ninja Now!)