January will be my 25th anniversary teaching taijutsu. My teacher, Mark Davis, had me start a training group for some people, who couldn’t make it to Boston, in New Hampshire in January 1992. I can honestly say I didn’t have a clue what I was doing as a teacher at that time. It was okay though because I was honest with my group and explained that if they were willing to experiment with me I would share what I knew but that it came with the condition that it was my understanding as of that point in time.
It’s funny twenty-five years later I often tell my students the same thing, I’m showing you this based on my understanding at this time, it could change. How amazing is our art that I can say that? This martial art we train in has so much in it, so many levels of understanding and so many levels of teaching.
I hear many people say that they want to teach our art some day. And I see so many people trying to help in class by teaching to lower ranked students what they have learned but after twenty-five years of doing this I believe you should be cautious before you teach someone. Just understanding (to my current level at this time) the different levels of taijutsu has taken me half a lifetime.
When I first started studying taijutsu I didn’t realize that my teacher wasn’t teaching me kata or techniques, he was using the kata and techniques to give me very specific corrections in order for me to experience taijutsu. He would tell me things to do with my knees or back and when I started teaching I assumed that everyone needed to do those same things.
It took me quite some time to understand that there is a generic, if you will, taijutsu. The understanding of this is when you understand how and why bodies react the way they do in gravity while dealing with a violent situation. This first level of understanding is needed for you to be able to teach different people properly, for you to be able to give them the specifics they need to experience taijutsu within the kata.
Beyond this generic understanding you can then look back to the historical ryu-ha to understand their kihon, their basic movements. Each of the historical ryu-ha used taijutsu according to the needs of their time and situation. Clothing, weaponry, armor, social settings, and more played a part in the development of the historical ryu-ha movement. They all used taijutsu but they did so in a way that met their needs.
Once you understand how each ryu-ha moved you can look into the kata and techniques from each to understand the strategic use and applications that they created from the taijutsu. Looking at history and why each school moved as they did broadens your understanding of the unlimited possibilities of taijutsu. You begin to see the pattern of application that can be used appropriately for whatever situation you find yourself in.
Finally after years of training and teaching and based on your understanding of the natural physical concepts of taijutsu, the adaptive potential of taijutsu to fit any situation, the historical battle tested lessons of its use, you could create a system that would translate these concepts and be appropriate for your culture in your time in history. You might even call it To-Shin Do.
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