Chapter 1 The special characteristics of budō and the practice methods of jū jutsu

What are the special characteristics of Japanese budō? It came to be said that diligent efforts to improve one’s “waza” was character building for the “kokoro” (心) (soul). The disciplined practice of budō moved from the “waza” of olden times to the “michi” (道, way) of today. However, refining “waza” to polish the “kokoro” now falls under the remit of contemporary sports. As for the special characteristics of budō, deeper consideration is necessary.

If we take the “ki tō ryū ten no maki”2 (Heavenly Scroll of ki tō ryū jū jutsu) of jū jutsu and the “go rin no sho”3 (The Book of Five Rings) of ken jutsu, as the quintessence of budō “waza”, it is possible to reduce the practical principles down to finally arrive at “mu gamae” (no posture) or, in other words, “shi zen hon tai” (natural posture). This can be further understood through “mu shin” (detached emotion) as the pursuit of knowledge regarding the “kokoro” (heart). There are several terms that describe “mu shin”, such as; “fu do shin” (still heart); “mu jū shin” (non-resident heart); “jū nan shin” (soft heart), and; “hei jo shin” (steady heart). These terms are all used to describe the same heart, and it can be agreed that to attain this state is the goal of all religion and morality, both old and new, Eastern and Western. In the case of the quintessential nature of old jū jutsu, there is an expression that describes it:

“Natural posture is “mu shin no kamae” and softness overcoming hardness is the basic principle of “jū” (yawara)4.”

The founder of Kodokan jūdō, Kanō Jigorō shihan (1860-1932) explained this principle as the guiding principle of jūdō (“jūdō gen ri”) so that his contemporaries could understand it easily. That is to say, he extrapolated and analysed the following three principles:

Shizentai no ri (concerning posture) How the posture should be able to easily move between defence and attack, regardless of the type of attack encountered. Jū no ri (concerning one’s position for defence) Rather than going against the strength of an attack, regardless of that strength, making that strength ineffective by moving the body (tai sabaki). Kuzushi no ri (concerning the placement of attack) Disturbing the balance of an opponent and also creating opportunities to seize victory when the opponent is momentarily immobilised.

He (Kanō Jigorō) taught two methods of “shu gyō” disciplined training5 – “kata” and “randori” – as practice methods that demonstrated “waza” according to these principles. He showed that “nage waza” (throwing techniques) and “katame waza” (pinning techniques) are placed within the discipline of “randori” and many of the “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza” are placed within the discipline of “kata”.

In order to study “shin jitsu no chikara” (real power) of jū jutsu in a struggle with an opponent and to experience its “jitsu ri no kaku shin” (real essence), one cannot stop at “kata” practice as in the olden days. It is necessary to have a “randori” practice system that is above all safe, as a practical methodology for contemporary times.

One must admire the vision of Kanō shihan who taught this.

However, irrespective of the fact that through “randori” practice “nage waza” and “katame waza” have made great strides, when we reflect on the progress of Kodōkan jūdō over the last hundred years , we can see that “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza”, through only the practice of “kata”, are clearly lagging behind.

We can explain this by the following:

There was no reorganisation of the classification of material pertaining to “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza”. There was no character analysis of “atemi waza” or “kansetsu waza” using “jūdō gen ri” (the basic principles of jūdō). A systematic practice method for “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza” was never established.

Within the old schools of jū jutsu in the Edo period, great importance was placed on “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza”, but since the Meiji Era they had been all but formalised and consequently fell into decline. At that time, dai to ryū aiki jū jutsu, left by the former Aizu clan and being revived by the elder gentleman, Takeda Sokaku6 (1860-1943), and inherited by his principle deshi, Ueshiba Morihei7 (1883-1969), was highly commended by Kanō shihan.

The aforementioned two figures are held in great regard for their meritorious services within the history of Japanese budō. Ueshiba Morihei dōshu (head of school), who was a spiritually devoted man and believed in enlightenment through the unification of the gods and man, changed the name of aiki jū jutsu to aikidō8, and at the beginning of the Showa Era (1926-89) established a dojo in Tokyo to disseminate his ideas. He was particularly skilled in “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza”, which are today synonymous with the term “aiki”9.

Aikidō practice methodology is still defined to this day by the diligent practice of “kata”. But if we take the viewpoint of contemporary educational budō, aikidō should include a “randori” practice system to compliment the practice system of “kata”. It is an essential part of budō training, both physically and mentally, that young people pass through the intense and rigorous trials of both “randori” and “shiai”. Also, there must be robust study of the key principles of the wide sphere of “waza” that do not appear in the midst of “randori” practice methods. To reach the strict training of “mu shin” (detached heart) that penetrates into the concealed mystical aspects of “mu gamae” (shizen hontai)10 (natural posture) is to follow the “michi” (road/way). If we compare the “atemi waza” or “kansetsu waza” with “nage waza”and “katame waza” their powerfulness and skilfulness are not insignificant. The disciplined study of “kata” as a lifelong physical education is also suitable for older people and women11.

I would like to explain, practically and historically, why it is necessary to have both “kata” and “randori” together as a unified method of disciplined training for aikidō in the following dissertation.

  1. Kanō shihan learnt ki tō ryū jū jutsu (see “People”).

  2. Miyamoto Musashi wrote The Book of Five Rings (see “People”).

  3. Tomiki sensei’s parentheses.

  4. shu gyō (修行) is a disciplined practice in the same way as say, a medical practice, that takes years of study. It is a term used to describe the dedicated actions of the likes of ascetic monks and requires deep study.

  5. Ueshiba Morihei’s dai tō ryū aiki jū jutsu teacher (see “People” in the Appendices)

  6. The founder of modern aikidō (see “People”).

  7. Kanō Jigorō is recognised as the person who introduced the (道) character instead of (術) to imply a road and a journey rather than a skill or a trick in learning combat. Ueshiba Morihei was obviously aware of Kanō’s thinking.

  8. The term “aiki” is still used in dai tō ryū jū jutsu and has the meaning of “kuzushi”.

  9. Tomiki sensei’s parentheses.

  10. See translator’s notes on Women and Budō in the Appendices.