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Concepts, Principles, and Techniques

Something I will be emphasizing in seminars this year is the differentiation between concepts, principles, and technique instructions. If our students know the concept of good taijutsu and know the principle being taught, it may help them do their techniques more correctly.

A CONCEPT is an overarching description that applies to everything we do. “Rely on body momentum to deliver power (instead of rigid stance and muscle power)” or “Sink with gravity on flexed knees to increase leverage (instead of rising and tightening)” or “Fit into the attacker’s movement to overtake him (instead of ‘beating him to the finish’)” are universal concepts that lead to effective self-protection the way we do it. Everything in To-Shin Do taijutsu (and bojutsu and kenjutsu etc.) follows each of these concepts. They work across the board.

A PRINCIPLE is a specific lesson to be gotten as to why techniques work. “Use bone structure, not muscle and joint tension, to stop an attack” or “Move the body part the attacker aims to control faster than he moves” or “Turn his attacking move into its own vulnerability” are specific principles that lie at the heart of To-Shin Do training techniques. Not all techniques will emphasize the same principle. Principles are complimentary, but not universally observed no matter the technique. Also, principles usually need a collection of techniques to be clearly understood; just writing them out by themselves may cause more confusion than clarity.

In theory, any given art should have only a few principles taught through a compact collection of techniques. The classical way is to continuously drill only a few reliable things until they become your given go-to when your brain crashes in a surprise attack. But along with teaching effective self-protection, it is true we are also running To-Shin Do classes that need to stimulate and continuously engage students. We may have a bit of an abundance of principles we teach in To-Shin Do. But then the student can choose which principles to rely on for him or her.

A TECHNIQUE is a specific way of carrying out To-Shin Do as self-protection. “Keep your back straight and twist to throw him” or “Jam your hip into his center to move him off balance” or “Flatten his palm parallel with the floor to lock his wrist” are specific mechanical instructions for effectively carrying out the techniques of our self-protection method. We usually teach Level 1 and Level 2 techniques as techniques, and only identify the principles as a student progresses in the training. Maybe we should change that?

All techniques should embody all of our CONCEPTS.

Certain techniques should teach certain of our PRINCIPLES.

Specific instructions lead to correctly completing our TECHNIQUES.

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