Full Circle Jujitsu

How to Not Practice Technique Badly

How to Not Practice Technique Badly - Full Circle Warrior Arts | Full Circle Jujitsu

There is something to be said for blocking hundreds of punches, taking hundreds of falls, and evading hundreds of weapon swings every night in a class. Successful technique grows out of balance, timing, and awareness, which grows out of relaxation. If one lives in a tense state, one’s energy will constantly be tied up in tension. Balance, timing, and awareness are vastly improved when one can interact fluidly with one’s environment, unencumbered by tension.

That being said, you are not training precise self defense when you are practicing against a predetermined attack. Detractors of self defense training misunderstand this fact. In fact, many self defense styles don’t understand the method’s purpose either. What you are training for is attributes; attributes that are not feasible or too dangerous to practice against a live classmate. You are conditioning your body to be able to react in the moment when presented with a similar position. Should your body be conditioned to block an oncoming punch, it will react accordingly when presented with one. This assumes “good” training on the practitioner’s part. Phoning in attacks and defenses leads to ineffective technique just the same. Predetermined defenses have to have commitment from both attacker and defender to develop these attributes.

Committed attacks are necessary for developing correct technique. However committed doesn’t mean “all out” or out of control. Rather it means sincere and focused. Many times I’ll have beginners or visiting students punch at me, they will most times either be out of proper distance or they will punch where my head isn’t. To make a point I won’t move. The committed attack is aimed directly towards its target. It should require the receiver of the technique a strong need to react.  

Drilling martial arts, whether it be stance, footwork, or technique, and not understanding context, is the same as trying build a house with just hammers alone; just the tools but no foundation or nails and mortar to keep it together.  

Are You Hypocritical?

Professor Alessandro Ashanti Teaching in 1993

One thing that always haunts me is that the longer your train, the more your view might become hypocritical to an earlier version of yourself. This is much like comparing your current ideology to your own as a teenager or young adult. However, you will be the product of your commitment just the same. You might have thought you had it all figured out only to look back on yourself shaking your head.  This is all natural as humans learn best from hindsight.  It’s not hypocritical because you have merely experienced growth and understanding.  So in the end the best solution is always to train often. 

You have to be satisfied with the results from the level of commitment you’ve put forth with your training. Delusion can exist on either side of this fence. Delusion sets in easy for the civilian martial artist due to the fact that, unlike the warrior, there is no constant feedback for your tactics, strategies, and abilities in actual war.  Ego also hits all of us in the martial arts sooner or later. Sometimes it drives us early on; sometimes intermittently, sometimes consistently. It takes concerted desire to push past its threshold, whether it be high or low.

The most dangerous place to exist in the martial arts is to have one foot in and one out. Train or don’t train. Anything in the middle can have disastrous consequences. You have to figuratively and metaphysically digest your style, lest your practice falls into little more than exercises of pantomime repeated for years worth of time.  Your goals in the martial arts will not line up with everyone else’s goals. You will find others with similar ideologies, but not everyone trains for the same reasons. There is room for all of us in civilian life, from the athlete to the holistic-minded, the fighter, to the self defense practitioner. Some people just appreciate their teacher, and that’s why they keep coming back. Sometimes it’s a combination of many things. Sometimes the reasons change. What drives us to train is a very diverse field of inspiration.



“That Won’t Work in the Street” A Primer on Joint Locking

Kote Gaishi or Wrist Turn | Full Circle Jujitsu | Full Circle Warrior Arts

How many marital art instructors does it take to screw in a light bulb?  One to screw it in and 99 to say it wouldn’t work on the street/ring/cage etc. There’s not a student in the world that shouldn’t heed this advice: Just because you don’t get it, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

I’ve heard it a lot over my years as a student and an instructor: “That doesn’t work.” Whether it’s in regards to a general style or a particular technique, it doesn’t “work.” Most martial artists tend not to believe in technique that their art doesn’t train in. The “that won’t work” factor is a reflex for most.

What if a particular technique doesn’t “work”? My first sensei, Master Zulu always said, “Nothing is guaranteed.” All techniques and training have a point at which they can fail. However, just because one technique has failed, it doesn’t mean your whole arsenal should fall by the wayside. Utilize the practice of flow, and move on. A failed exchange opens up opportunities for new ones. Should I try to apply a basic kote-gashi (wrist turn) and my opponent pulls his hand free, their retreating energy has now given me entrance for a Capoeira Angola vingativa (a sweep that takes a person over your thigh with the aid of an arm or head butt).  

Joint locking itself is a very misunderstood and misapplied art form. No two bodies are the same, hence not all joints are made the same. Many styles attempt to incorporate joint manipulations into their styles, but without proper context or training method, students never develop these skills past a beginning level. Joint lock study should be a daily practice, not just something reserved for when the instructor wishes to add some flavor to the class.

Is your joint lock not working? Relax your shoulders and move from your center. Take the muscle tension out of your limbs. This is the key to all technique. Remove your affectations.  Listen to the feedback your partner’s body is giving you. Some are more flexible than others. If you “listen,” you will know the correct pressure to apply to each type of individual. This takes diligent practice to perfect.  Are you actually relaxed? When a beginner applies a joint lock they tend to hunch their shoulders or put so much tension in their hands that they are effectively working against themselves throughout the technique. Relax completely. This doesn’t mean go floppy; think of the relaxed motion of a horse in full gallop, and move your body unified with single purpose.

Have you eliminated joint slack? Many beginners go through the entire motion of a lock only to find their partner staring at them at the end. This is usually caused by a failure to take up the appropriate slack before entering the throwing phase. The amount (degree) of slack you want to take up is determined by the amount of damage you wish to cause your opponent. Obviously, we only take this so far when training in class.  I’ll go over the slack principle in more detail later.

Are you aware of your surroundings, and most importantly, your partner? Many students grab a hand for a basic wristlock, for instance, and their mind immediately becomes completely focused on that hand. They lose sight that there is a whole independent body connected to the hand! In the dojo this can lead to accidents. In actual defense it can lead to disaster. Maintain a 360-degree awareness at all times.

The First 20 Years of Your Training

Side Kick Professor Alessandro Ashanti 1994

There is a point in everyone’s martial arts career in which they have an epiphany that they don’t know as much as they thought they did. This is a natural process. The five-to-fifteen year student of the arts wears their training like a teenager wears adulthood. They are aware that people know more than they do, but they are pretty sure they’ve figured out a better way just the same.

The bubble burst of this line of thought can feel like one is suddenly in a possession of limited skill. However the truth is that they’ve now reached another level in their practice; there is a clearing of pretence that allows and facilitates further lessons. Those who don’t go through this find themselves repeating the first five to fifteen years of their training over and over again, never advancing to a higher plane of understanding. The cycle, like all cycles, should come full circle and eventually repeat itself, once again clearing the path for the martial artist’s future.

The amount of work to gain relevant insight into the martial arts, I would dare say, takes more effort than becoming a neurosurgeon (not that I can accurately speak to the process of becoming a neurosurgeon.  Bear with the analogy on its own terms.). The neurosurgeon, just like the martial artist, can arrive at a point of great competency, but is in reality just repeating and reiterating their schooling. To own your training takes far more work. I find the ten-to-fifteen year student thinks they’ve arrived at this point consistently. I was no different and no more or less wrong.

In the martial arts you spend most of your first fifteen to twenty years unable to see where you are in your practice. You’ve developed some skills, but you are never in a position to truly see what your next level is. This can lead a practitioner to think their skills and understanding are finely honed. If this person keeps training they will eventually find a whole new level opens up. Their previous skills will apply going forward, but their mind will forever see how much more there will always be to learn.

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