Thursday, August 25, 2011

More about the Author

I study Danzan Ryu Jujitsu, which translates into Hawaiian Style Jujitsu. The system I study was assembled by a Japanese man named Henry Seishiro Okazaki who emigrated from Japan to the Hawaiian islands during the 1930's who received primarily Japanese training, but was influenced by Chinese Gung Fu, Hawaiian Lua, Filipino knife-fighting, Okinawan Karate, and western boxing. I will be examining before a board in California this December for my black belt, so I am not very advanced as of yet. I have been profoundly fortunate in the instructors that have revealed themselves to me, and have tried to utilize them as much as possible. I have been training anywhere from 6-10 hours per week for the past 4 years.

Our curriculum includes rolls and falls, hand techniques (joint locking and escaping), throwing arts, ground techniques (pinning, joint locking, constriction of nerves/blood flow/chi flow), pressure points, precision striking, classical weaponry, meditation, massage, healing and resuscitation arts, and even basic anatomy and sports medicine. We are very well-rounded and are a "complete system" in that we cover all aspects of combat, in-depth.

One feature that makes our system unique is that students are trained to fix what they break; how to reduce dislocations, tape sprained joints, and give full massages (our massage program is 24 months long all together). This is one of the many ways that our system exemplifies the yin/yang duality - we teach how to kill and how to heal, because, contrary to intuition, they go hand-in-hand. Many times the exact same set of motions, applied with a different intention or at a different time, can hurt or help an individual.

If you'd like to know more just ask, but I will not be focusing on myself any further in these discussions.

Empty the Cup

A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor's cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. "It's overfull! No more will go in!" the professor blurted. "You are like this cup," the master replied, "How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

Completely Impossible

Making wild tigers cower in fear with nothing more than an intense gaze

Walking barefoot on the naked blade of a samurai sword

Carrying boiling hot cauldrons with the bare skin of the forearm

Being able to perceive the opponent's intention of striking before they even move

These are only a very small sampling of some of the claims made by traditional martial arts systems that their practitioners have accomplished, or claim to be able to train you to do. But how can these things be possible? How can this chi mumbo jumbo even have the slightest shred of credibility if it doesn't match up with the scientific method? How can I measure chi, intention, kiais, or anything else? Again we come back to apples and oranges. All of the claims made by Eastern martial arts are based in their world view, not ours. To them, they are not dealing with electrons and protons, but yin and yang. Rather than gravitation and magnetism, they concern themselves with concentration and non-attachment.

First we can address the primary issue most people have with taking the "superhuman powers" martial arts can give you at face value: why don't we see people doing these things on a regular basis? Why aren't people using these abilities to their advantage or to gain money or impress others? The answer is quite simple; only the most advanced and dedicated students can ever hope to manifest these skills, and after investing so much time into their art, two very specific things occur: first and foremost, they have become philanthropic, compassionate, others-centered people due to their training. So any impulse they have to use these capabilities for selfish gain is greatly diminished. Secondly, they now have a vested interest in their art form, and want to make sure it is disseminated to responsible students! Imagine training a skill for 40 years to utter perfection, and then just giving it all away in a 10-minute Youtube clip. These individuals intentionally stay out of the public eye, lest their information and techniques fall into the wrong hands.

And yet how convenient that this answer blankets any need for proof. As it has been said, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe." The arts are there simply to better you as a person, not to give you exceptional abilities. If you approach a school demanding proof and evidence, what can the teacher give you? You already have your opinions and viewpoints, and are simply looking for anything to support them. If you cannot empty your cup, the teacher can give you nothing. Ultimately, a dedication to these types of arts come down to one thing: a leap of faith. (Of course, being poked and prodded by your sensei or sifu along the way)!

Ground Rules

So here you are, reading an article about martial arts. It would therefore be safe to presume you have at least a faint interest in them, but what are they? If you were to walk up to a typical media-exposed American and ask them this question, they will probably start talking about Brock Lesnar and Chuck Liddell, and look at you strangely if you drop the names Jigoro Kano or Ueshiba. To me, there is a distinct difference between the newer trend of Mixed Martial Arts and the East Asian origins from which they come, which I can simplify with just two words: sport and philosophy.

While MMA is fun to watch, can get you in great shape, and its practitioners could easily dominate the untrained person in hand-to-hand combat, classical martial arts go much deeper. Their intention was not only to teach its students how to fight, but literally how to live their lives every moment of every day. The intention of MMA is similar to that of professional boxing (or olympic Judo, or any similar sport environment of combat): to win the match based on the rules and parameters set forth by the judges and referees. I have absolutely no problem with sport, and please do not misinterpret me to be bashing or belittling mixed martial artists. To the classical martial artist they are simply apples and oranges.

Traditional martial arts are found all over the world, from Brazil and China, to Greece and India. The ones which these articles will be discussing are primarily originated from China and Japan. Culturally, these societies have incorporated Buddhism and Shinto into their lives for thousands of years. These systems of philosophy brought about a way of looking at life and the world around us in a very different way than their Western counterparts. In Asia, everything is interrelated, part of a greater system, while in the West, everything is a distinct separate entity. Therefore when designing their systems for hand-to-hand combat, these world views influenced and biased the way it was structured. Classical martial arts often discuss the interrelationship between attacker and defender, the strike and its block, the throw and the subsequent fall.

With these things in mind, for the purpose of the discussions herein, we will view 'martial arts' as systems with goals such as self-discipline, empathy for one's fellow man, moving in harmony with nature, enhanced awareness, and perfection of character as their primary goals, with combative prowess being nothing more than an added bonus.