Thinking Out of the Box?

I know who Yoshinori Kono is. I have seen his videos and articles. Yesterday, I saw a clip I have not seen before. Take a look :-

I like that he thought out of the box and did research into the old styles and reached certain interesting conclusions in how the samurais of old moved in that they have :-

i) no building up

ii) no twisting

iii) no bracing

I admire his intelligence in looking beyond his own style to discover these conclusions. However, I have seen different schools of Koryu too and what Kono discovered is not anything new. I have also see the same things in traditional Chinese martial arts.

My conclusion is that just because you have not seen it does not mean that it is not practiced by others. So we should be careful when making generalized conclusions.

Let me give you two examples :-

1) At 2:40 he demonstrated why its important to get the entire body out of the way. In Tai Chi when I teach my student to defend against a pole splitting attack getting out of the way is a must because a strong splitting attach will hit you if you don’t step off the line of attack. Its a no-brainer and nothing new, not in Koryu, not in Tai Chi, not in many other martial arts.

2) At 3:32 – Kono demonstrates how to attack right away the moment the attacker initiates an attack. As long ago as in the mid-80s I read in a book on the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-Ryu that basically says that if you have time to block a sword attack you have time to strike back; so why even block when you can counterattack.

The Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-Ryu is one of the oldest school of bujutsu that still exists in Japan. It first came to the world’s attention when it was featured in an old BBC documentary, The Way of the Warrior, in the episode The Samurai Way.

If you take a look the video below particularly at 3:01 – 3:03 first you would see what amounts to be a blocking technique. However, this is misleading. The actual interpretation for this “blocking” is shown earlier in 2:52 – 2:54 where it is revealed to be a training method for learning how to step and strike at the moment the opponent delivers his blow. So you see, what Kono claimed to have rediscovered has been there all along. The only question is whether you have the fate to learn it.

Moving on, the demo at 4:44 in Kono’s video is interesting. When I want to play pole indoors I have to use a jo to avoid accidentally hitting my TV so in researching the question of how to move the jo faster I actually reached the same conclusion as Kono. Also, if you have ever watched some of those old Shaw Brothers martial arts movies particularly ones where the baddies are Japanese and played by Hong Kong calefare actors you might notice that the way some of them hold the katana is like what Kono said is the classical budo way.

However, this principle is only good if I continue to use a jo; not so useful when applied to a long, solid, hard wood rat tail pole which is what I normally use. Still if I use a jo I do not use this principle. Why?

Its one thing to know how to attack someone. What if the other person borrows the same principle that you use and attack you back? Can you defend as well using this grip? I wonder and unfortunately, Kono did not go into it on that clip. Let me illustrate what I mean :-

i) At 4:44 in the video on Katori Shinto Ryu above do you see a clockwise motion using the katana? How would such a motion be possible using the type of grip that Kono advocated? Grab a short stick, try it and you will see what I mean – you just cannot get enough leverage with your hands if they are too close together. I don’t know if Kono uses this type of circular movement in his techniques but in the Ngok Gar pole that I learned I do use it.

ii) At 4:46 (Katori Shinto Ryu) did you noticed that the swordsman took his right hand off the katana’s handle to avoid getting cut. Now if he had held both hands near each together this escape would not have worked because his left hand would also get cut. Its only because both hands are held apart that the counter measure worked. Take a look at 9:48 and 10:20 also.

As an interesting aside in the pole method that I learned from Grandmaster Cheong Fook we have a similar counter when our front hand is being attacked; not exactly alike but similar in principle.

I read somewhere once that if a principle is good chances are it will be discovered by someone else in another style, another culture, another country. As I said just because you have not seen it does not mean that it does not exist. Sometimes to Master Tai Chi Today the answer lies within rather than outside it, not so such as having to rediscover it but having the luck to learn it within your chosen style.

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