Hakkoryu Jujutsu Seminar
“The three major characteristics of Hakkoryu are: no challenge, no resistance, no injury. With Hakkoryu, for the first time, the eyes of the dragon are drawn.”
Shodai Soke Okuyama Ryuho
Hakkoryu Jujutsu is a humanitarian martial art; its focus is on self improvement. While simultaneously understanding that there are those who engage in violence. Thus, we must protect ourselves and loved ones from that violence. Yet in so doing, we should do all we can to defuse the violent encounter and when forced to act use only techniques which will not inflict injury whenever possible.
This seminar will review basic principles of Hakkoryu as expressed through its fundamental techniques:
Dori – Escaping
Atemi – Striking to vital points
Osae – Arresting/manipulating joints
Nage/Otoshi – Throwing/Dropping
Since we continuously review these principles by consistently practicing the techniques through which they are expressed. We will not spend a considerable amount of time discussing them in this treatise. Suffice it to say practice makes perfect.
However, we will discuss the following concepts more deeply. These are integral to practicing Hakkoryu, although we do not often take time to elaborate on the nature of these additional principles.
These are the additional concepts we will discuss and consider as we engage in today training:
Kamae (combative engagement posture/stance)
Hara/Tanden/Ki (center of gravity, how it may best be concentrated)
Tsukuri/Kuzushi/Kake (preparing/off balancing/executing)
Maai (combative engagement distance)
Sen (combative initiative or “timing”)
Suki (detecting weaknesses/openings)
KAMAE (COMBATIVE ENGAGEMENT POSTURE/STANCE):
The very first aspect of this concept that must be considered is “Situational Awareness.” Situational Awareness should be view from a global perspective; Physical, Psychological, Spiritual, and Emotional. What is your current personal status? What is the status of the person who is posing a threat to your well being? Where and when is the potentially violent confrontation occurring? Without this awareness we may not even realize we are in danger.
Try to turn the tide to your advantage by controlling, to the extent possible, the environmental factors of the situation. For instance; have the Sun at your back; be up hill or up stairs from you opponent; and seize the initiative by attacking first.
Miyamoto Musashi in his famous “A Book of Five Rings” suggested, “You quietly assume the position from which to initiate the attack and then swiftly make the attack with no hesitation.” At first glance this may seem antithetical to Hakkoryu, but if you have recognized you are about to be attack the best strategy to minimize injury to yourself and the opponent may be to strike first.
Relaxation in the mist of a confrontation is essential, if we are to survive. This is particularly true during a surprise/relentless onslaught of offensive techniques or multiple opponents.
The above is just the tip of the ice-burg as it relates to understanding and applying Kamae. The continuous exploration of “combative engagement posture” should occur during the practice of Hakkoryu basic techniques and Henka – self-defense variations.
HARA/TANDEN/KI (CENTER OF GRAVITY, HOW IT MAY BEST BE CONCENTRATED)
“Hara” is not so much an actual place within the body but rather an intention, an understanding. Traditionally, it is referred to a as being below the belly button and inside the pelvic cavity. Employing Hara enhances the power of our techniques, either when executing them or when we cause another to lose their focus on it. The full power of Hara is hidden, like an iceberg most of it is beneath the surface. Like a redwood tree, what we see above the ground could only stand tall because its roots are buried deep into the Earth. When practicing Hakkoryu, we should remember to use our entire being; that which is visible and that which is hidden below the surface.
The center of gravity is not a static site but moves as we move or as the opponent moves. We must learn to feel where it is and focus our attention to find the best moment to seize it. This focus cannot be achieved without relaxing completely and learning to maintain ones composure. We must also be able to sense where the opponent’s center of gravity is and move it to our advantage.
Through meditation we can learn to find our Hara and once found to move it. Keeping ones attention on a single point below the belly button and letting unrelated thoughts pass like waves in the ocean. We can learn to use Hara and then begin to understand “KI.”
KI is a the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word “QI.” It loosely translates to life-process or the “flow” of energy that sustains life. The earliest reference to it is in a book written by a student of Confucius in 479 BC. It can be considered as life’s breath or vital energy.
KI is said to be a natural phenomenon and within all living beings. What needs to be trained is the ability to be aware of it, to experience its flow, increase it, and use it. To enhance its flow the following must be worked on:
These are interconnected and interact, thus one without the others will cause KI to diminish. It is difficult to breathe correctly with bad posture. A strong sense of Hara promotes correct breathing. Breathing correctly from the belly will in turn strengthen Hara. This increase focused on ones center is the source of KI and understanding this will result in good KI flow.
Improving one will improve the others.
This refers to focusing ones energy and intention on a specific point at the right moment. It cannot be accomplished without the understanding and use of Hara and KI. Here too proper breathing and relaxation strengthens ones ability to focus or apply Kime. In other martial arts, such as Karate, it is often passed on to students as follows “one breath one technique.”
TSUKURI/KUZUSHI/KAKE (PREPARING/OFF BALANCING/EXECUTING)
Here we are referring to the ability to break the balance or Hara of the person attempting to harm us. It requires the ability to sense where the center of gravity of the person is and to then lead the person to a position of weakness or imbalance by seizing their mind. This is most important when facing someone who larger and/or stronger. To neutralize this disadvantage one must lead the opponent to a weakened position. Once this is accomplished we must immediately move to a position where we can take advantage of this and leverage our Hara when executing the appropriate defensive technique. It is here that we are using the principle of “Kake,” this literally mean “attack.” These can occur in a sequential pattern or simultaneously. As always repetition leads to perfect of techniques and to their instinctual application.
MAAI (COMBATIVE ENGAGEMENT DISTANCE)
“MAAI” on the most basic level refers to the space or distance between yourself and the attacker. upon further consideration it also refers to the time it take to cross that distance, as well as, rhythm and angle of the attack. For instance, what distance is appropriate to handle a faster or strong opponent; clearly we would want the distance to be greater in this scenario to allow us time to react. While simultaneously, the faster or stronger opponent may not find the greater distance problematic because they can compensate for it.
There are three basic combative engagement distances that must be understood:
Each of these different distances will require a distinct strategy, because the timing and rhythm of the attack and counter-attack will change. For instance, at the closest distance there is very little time to react. Therefore the preciseness and accuracy of the defensive counter must be exact.
SEN (COMBATIVE INITIATIVE OR TIMING)
As mentioned, “situational awareness” and relaxation are crucial to avoiding and/or surviving a violent encounter. Here too, this awareness and calmness is very important if we are to know exactly when to act. If our minds are quiet and bodies are relaxed we should be able to sense when the opponent has decided to strike. Thus, when he moves we move. Better yet, as practiced in several Hakkoryu techniques, we move at the moment the opponent decides to attack but has not actually acted.
“SEN” and “MAAI” are closely related, just as there is short, medium, and long distances in combative engagement. Timing is divided into three levels:
Reactive or Defensive timing, which occurs after the opponent has attacked
Simultaneous Timing, our defensive attack happens the same moment the opponent attacks
Anticipatory (Imminent) Timing, as mention earlier, here the defensive counter happens before the actual attack of the opponent. But clearly, one must be extremely skilled and confident that what is being perceived as aggression actual is.
Sometimes, these are combined in one fluid defensive move, such as in use an initial atemi to both block the opponent’s attack and strike the opponent to distract them before applying a grasping technique like “Osae Dori or Matsuba Dori.”
SUKI (DETECTING WEAKNESSES/OPENINGS)
This principle is closely related to Tsukuri/Kuzushi/Kake (preparing/off balancing/executing). As we study Hakkoryu we often hear “escape through the opening.” When combined with the aforementioned principles we can now see the finding this opening or gap in the opponent’s attack and/or concentration is crucial to successfully fending off an attack. We also need to understand how to disguise our weaknesses or openings in order to prevent the opponent from seizing the initiative.
I hope this short dissertation help you to gain a deeper understanding of Hakkoryu Jujutsu.