On our current situation: I know some of you may disagree with my decision to curtail our dojo operations for now. The fact is, I do not have enough data to make any other decision than the one I've made. Believe me, isolation is the last thing I want. Our dojo is one of the things that keeps me going during this very difficult time in my personal life. However, the minute you step into the dojo you are my responsibility and that is something I will never take lightly. Furthermore, I have to think about the patients that I have sworn an oath to care for. If I happen to pass this very contagious virus on to one of them because of my own personal decisions, I could never forgive myself.
Truth is, I've seen the way some of you go through TP and I'm down to one roll.
Ok, enough of that.
When all this is over (and I believe it will be soon) the dojo will resume. And guess what...there will be changes. I know, I know, we never seem to change anything but that's about to change.
If you looked at the schedule page (as I asked you to in my text message) you see we've added Tuesday nights. Here's the short version: I love teaching and training in karate and aikido and I've always believed they should be taught separately but never had the time to do so...well now I do.
Karate = combat, strength, conditioning, focus and self-reliance, character.
Aikido = grace, fluid movement, suppleness, character, Budo. All aikido students regardless of rank will wear a hakama to class as soon as they able to purchase one. No exceptions.
How will karate change? You are expected to learn kata and I will make videos to help you. Karate will focus on strikes, kicks, takedowns, joint locks and weapons.
How will aikido change? You will see larger movement (Aiki Kai), ground work, (suwai waza) more sword and jo training. If you were here 10 years ago, it will look a lot like that.
Why? That is a sake (or other spirit) conversation.
Syllabus: There will be a unique one for each art - I'm working on it.
Rank: You keep what you have - you've earned it. Where you go (karate, aikido or both) is up to you.
Tests: On hold right now, of course. Tests will be somewhat easier because I won't need to see as much from you. However...testing for Nikyu or Ikyu (brown) will be a huge challenge. Testing for shodan (black belt) will damn near kill you regardless of the art. You know me well enough by now.
You'll note class times are shortened by 15 minutes. That's because we are adding more classes and I will need to pace myself. PLEASE try to be dressed and ready for class when it starts (yes, we are back to 7:00 on weeknights to accommodate everyone's work schedules.
Hoping to get some new tatami mats but we'll have to see where our finances are when all this is over.
Keep training. Text or call me if you have questions or concerns. I'll let you know when I can load the videos.
Traditional martial arts are known for the use of a training uniform, the "gi." The founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano is credited with its creation along with the belt ranking system (kyu - lower grades and dan - black belt grades). The keikogi (kay koh gee) or dogi (doe gee) is actually an augmented under garment similar to a pair of long-johns that is designed to withstand the rigors of martial arts training.
For example, judo students wear a quilted gi meant for being grabbed and pulled because of the many throws and joint locks in the art whereas a karate gi may be single layer of cotton or and a bit less constructive to allow for punches and kicks. The jacket is held together with a belt that represents a students rank and status similar to pre WW II Japan.
There are a growing number of marital arts schools that do not use a gi and prefer to have students in shorts and t-shirts or street clothes because it allows for greater movement as well as a more "realistic" approach to fighting. And while it's true that the gi has only been around for a little over a hundred years, there are some great benefits.
Mental Focus. Anyone who have served in the military or is or has been a first responder understands that once he or she dons the uniform, their focus must be on the immediate task at hand. This is also true of traditional martial arts uniforms. Wearing a gi is a reminder to everyone (in the dojo) that the environment is one of mutual respect and discipline.
Cleanliness. People sweat a lot. A gi absorbs a lot of that sweat (and blood) that would otherwise end up on somebody else. Of course, those of us who practice grappling arts accept that fact that we are going to swap sweat with other people, but a gi will keep this to a minimum and help to keep the training mats from getting overly saturated.
Discipline. One of the most important aspects of traditional martial arts is discipline. Depending on the type of art you study, there is typically a formal way to wear, fold and care for the gi. In traditional Japanese martial arts such as aikido, jujutsu, Iaido and kyudo, the hakama or pleated pants are a part of the training uniform. The process of folding the hakama after class is just as much a part of the martial discipline as the art itself.
Our students wear a gi for training in our dojo for the majority of our classes. Some times we will have class with t-shirts and sweat pants or street clothes just to mix things up a little bit. One thing that I've noticed over the years, having had classes with and without traditional uniforms is that attitudes are visibly different when folks are not wearing a gi. What do you think?
During my second week of basic training for the United States Air Force, one of the guys in the barracks asked our training instructor (TI) when we would learn how to shoot the M16. The training instructor's reply went something like this: "You don't even know how to fold your *&@)& underwear yet! How do you expect to learn how to fire a *&(@% M16?
Anyone with basic military training experience knows that trainees have to perform all kinds of mindless chores such as folding underwear into six-inch squares, making hospital corners, spit-shining boots, etc. Failure to perform these simple tasks perfectly resulted in severe punishment. Why? Details.
If a trainee does not have the capacity to learn the simple tasks, how can he or she learn the important ones like loading, cleaning and firing a weapon, following an aircraft tech order or applying a tourniquet to stop bleeding? They cannot. All of these things require attention to detail. If you neglect the details in simple tasks, how can you expect to learn the really important, potentially life-saving ones? Martial arts training (Budo) requires the same discipline.
If a student is not willing hone foundational skills such as ukemi (rolling), stance, posture, footwork, etc., he will never master anything. It takes a long time -- perhaps a lifetime to learn such skills but it all starts with mundane basics. In the Bible, Jesus tells us to build our homes on rock rather than sand. Matthew 7:24-27. It takes much longer and it's lot more work, but a solid foundation is well-worth the time and effort.
As a young karate student, I never appreciated kihon (basic strikes and kicks) or kata (forms). All I wanted to do was fight and I became really good at sparring but really lousy at karate. I didn't really understand karate until I lived in Japan and found aikido...and budo. Karate is budo; aikido is budo. Judo, kyudo, iaido...all budo. Budo is roughly translated as "The way to enlightenment through warrior training." Training for war is far more rigorous than just learning how to fight; it involves strategy, planning, logistics...details. The way we line up before and after class, the bow, the way we fold our uniforms after class, kihon, kata, bokken training...all details.
Real budo training is rigorous and demanding because it focuses on details that could potentially save your life some day. Mundane, boring details...like folding underwear, making hospital corners and spit-shining boots.
How much are you required to know to challenge the shodan test in Jissenkan Dojo? A lot, but not as much as you may think. Yes, you have to be able to switch modes and demonstrate distinct differences between karate, jujutsu and aikido. You may believe this is a bit unrealistic considering some of the "newer" training methods we've added in the past two years.
Fact is, aside from kata, we aren't doing things a whole lot different than we were before. We have always used karate techniques and conditioning as a part of our training; we've always used (non-aikido) joint locks, chokes, throws and take-downs. And the standard for shodan has always been the same; you need to know 4-5 variations for aikido techniques, you need to be able to participate in Kumite, negotiate various weapon attacks, get through the shugyo part of the examination and demonstrate grit and determination during Randori. And, you have to do all this while maintaining a collected mindset.
You may be surprised to learn that we have omitted many complicated, ritualistic techniques that were not applicable to a hand-hand combat situation. Furthermore, while we expect you to demonstrate proficiency with a wide variety of techniques, our curriculum has far fewer demands than other systems. For example:
In short, we want you to have a very thorough knowledge of basic techniques from the arts that comprise our karate system. Once mastered, these simplistic forms can be used in practically any combination or separately as needed.
As always, testing is for the individual, not for the teacher. It is a measure of your progress as well as a chance to inspire others.
Finally, the Shodan test should be rigorous, demanding, painful, exhausting, difficult and above all, exclusive. You have to earn an opportunity to challenge the test. This includes demonstrating commitment, self-training, self-discipline and a thorough knowledge of the basics. If you cannot adequately convey basic concepts when called upon to teach a given technique, you have not trained enough to have it become a part of you...and you will not test. If you have not taken your fitness and/or training seriously, if you are unable to challenge the test due to physical deficits within your control, you do not understand Budo discipline...and you will not test. If you whine, complain or question the wisdom behind the manner in which you are taught in a dojo that is completely free, you most likely don't realize what you have here...and you will not test.
There is absolutely no reason why any student who trains here cannot obtain shodan and beyond. I leave you with this question: There are 24 hours in a day, 10-12 of which we must dedicate to work/school, around seven hours for sleep. That leaves approximately five hours for other stuff. How are you filling those hours?
Dojo Cho, Jissenkan