Chapter 9 Another “randori” practice method

“Atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza” were a major part of all Edo-era jū jutsu schools. For example, in the ten jin shin yo ryū school of jū jutsu, which Kanō shihan studied, it is recorded that there were only a dozen or so “nage waza” and “katame waza” practised in “randori”, but a hundred-and-twenty-four “atemi waza”, “kansetsu waza” and the like practised in “kata” (Ten jin shin yo ryū jū jutsu secret teachings illustration) (The 26th year of Meiji (1894), Yoshida Chiharu, Isomataemon). Furthermore, in the ki tō ryū jū jutsu “koshiki no kata”24, the name of which (Kanō) shihan adopted as a principle focus of Kodokan jūdō, there are no “waza” that use the legs or hips or with a grip on both the collar and the sleeve. Rather, all techniques use “tai sabaki” and “te sabaki” (hand movements) and are essential fundamental applications of “atemi waza” or “kansetsu waza”.

The categories of “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza” in ko ryū jū jutsu correspond to the “waza” of “iai jutsu” (battō jutsu) in ko ryū ken jutsu. They are inseparable and indivisible from each other. The kihon kōzō of ko ryū ken jutsu was a disciplined study that took many years to complete, the “kata” of which included “iai jutsu” and had as its most profound principle the concept of the sword that could adapt to any attack. The highest attainment was the principle of “ai uchi” (“to cut the skin is to cut the flesh”). In order to compete in this way, during the middle of the Edo period shinai ken jutsu was developed. By this method, “true power” could be tested and the “practical nucleus” physically investigated, whilst defending against the corruption of swordsmanship and the prevalence of “hanahō kenhō” (華法剣法).

In the categories of “nage waza” and “katame waza” in jū jutsu, principally the scene was set in the final attack for the two combatants to be “joined” (組) and legs and hips or each other’s bodies would crash together like human bullets. By contrast, the unique characteristics of “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza” mean that an opponent’s punches, strikes, kicks, or cuts and thrusts with a weapon from “distance apart” (離) could be avoided and the opponent controlled with the category of “waza” that includes “takedowns” (倒) and “pins” (抑).

We can see that old “iai jutsu”, today’s “iai dō”, has been separated from modern kendō and is an independent pursuit. Also “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza” deal with the secrets (極意) of those ryū ha schools that used the term “aiki jutsu” in the past, and today we can see that jūdō as “aikidō” has also separated from jūdō. The “i” of “iai jutsu” means the place where the heart resides in the body and, whatever the situation, the heart remains tranquil like the clear mirror surface of still water. In this state, the heart, mind and body can “come together” (合) and respond to an opponent’s attack. (「shin muso hayashi zaki ryū commentary」 Sasamori Junzo, 9th year of Showa (1935), Fables Publications 「Budō Handbook」). So, too, within the “aiki” of “aiki jutsu” is the principle of “jū”. Moshi25 (Chinese philosopher, 372-289 BC) said “intention is the master of energy (気), energy is the fulfilment of the body”.

Issai Chozan26 (1659-1741) wrote “energy (気) is that which generates function throughout the body and encapsulates the heart”.

Both Eastern and Western philosophers have explained that “energy” is the intermediary between the heart and body and works through their interconnection. In other words, the functioning of energy is at the heart of power. If we then take the principle of “jū” as the “coming together” (合) of two forces that are met with a quick response, this becomes the principle of “aiki”. In this way, the elements of “iai” and “aiki” within bu jutsu do not point towards the “waza” but rather reveal a deeper understanding of their underlying principles.

Throughout history, within the transition of the educational perspective, we must consider the problems created by the persistence of traditional culture without change. With the diversification of values in today’s society, when we consider land- and water-based sports, they have all been separately classified and can be selected according to individual suitability and preference.

Jū jutsu has many “waza” and “fighting systems”. When we come to modernise them it becomes necessary to have a practice system where players are “connected” (組) for “nage waza” and “katame waza”, but also another system where players are “apart” (離) for “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza”. The fact that people can select according to their suitability and preference either of the two “randori” systems of practice will facilitate the development of “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza”.

Moreover, in the 15th year of the Tai Sei period (1926), Kanō shihan spoke on the subject of “old jūdō and future jūdō” in a radio broadcast and later, in a lecture given to his pupils in the second year of Showa (1927), he said “Even if we give deep consideration, and continue through trial and error of different devices, to have randori and shiai that includes “to gi” (当技) (atemi waza), it is probably unlikely that a way forwards can be found”. – “Kanō Jigorō” (Kodokan publication, p. 371)

Furthermore, in the July edition of “jūdō” magazine in the 7th year of Taisho (1918), concerning the direction of that practice as the ultimate investigation into the disciplined training of jūdō (Kanō shihan) said the following;

“In my recent reflection on the study of jūdō in its infancy, from the very beginning, with the transition to shinai, and the use of new materials such as rubber (gomu), and cloth, to make swords with air pockets, I was contemplating how to teach a kata where hits and strikes (with a weapon) could be avoided. It would need to be consistent with what is being taught in recent kendō kata. I would like to add such a kata to jūdō practice.”

I know that after more than half a century of the founding of Kodokan jūdō, (Kanō) shihan was heartbroken (that this was not achieved). In order to breathe life into the old traditional culture in the modern era, we must make every effort to bring about meaningful research to this end.

“Is jūdō a sport or not?” is a weighty argument and, because it has brought about the destruction of jūdō kihon kōzō, has caused many debates. jūdō kihon kōzō was born out of the repeated application of the self-defence qualities of the “waza” and is given expression through the use of movement with “shizentai” (natural posture). The progression and dissemination of “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza” strengthens jūdō kihon kōzō and physically tests the broad mechanics of movement with “shizentai” (natural posture). To this end we must establish a “randori” practice method for “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza”.

  1. The Koshiki no kata is the seventh kata. It is also known as the ancient kata and originated from ki tō ryū jū jutsu. Kanō wished to preserve this kata as the most representative of the distant origins of jūdō, of samurai clad in feudal armour and of the martial spirit of Japan.

  2. See “People” in the appendices.

  3. See “People” in the appendices.