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9/20/2004 12:35pm,
We just finished an annual weekend camping/training event. Got in about 16 hours of training in the great outdoors, including some interesting stuff in low light conditions. Looked mostly at Shinden Fudo ryu dakentaijutsu and Koto ryu koppo.

I got about 5-6 hours of video footage that I'm in the process of editing, and thought I'd share some stuff here. This first one is some light randori we were using to get a feel for the attitude of Shinden Fudo ryu. I'm the guy in the grey shirt.


Just as a disclaimer, my partner (in green) is a 6 or 7 kyu so we obviously weren't going full on, there is a designated initiator/attack, and we reset when the "defender" blatently loses control. There are a few times we should have continued on the ground but it wasn't really important to the exercise.

9/20/2004 12:42pm,
I found the lack of flying shuriken and bitch slapping appalling.

9/20/2004 2:50pm,
Some drills and kata from Koto ryu:


9/20/2004 3:04pm,
*Not a Troll*
Do you consider your training "alive"?

Also you seem to badly need a better training partner the guy in green seemed to be falling all over the place.

9/20/2004 3:33pm,
are you guys ninjas or something? it looks like the unholy child of wing chun and aikido.

9/20/2004 3:33pm,
Heh, we're still working on him :) His movement is greatly improved from last fall, he struggles with flexibility and an ankle problem which both affect his balance. Even so I actually like working with him because he is suprisingly strong, he's a carpenter so its very difficult to apply wristlocks unless you nail the timing, and he loves to resist stuff (but the above issues hamper his ability to do so very well). He doesn't go down if he doesn't have to (at least I'm doing something to cause his falls :cool: and won't exaggerate anything, which is refreshing compared to some partners I've had in the BJK.

I think we do a decent job keeping things "alive," especially compared to some TMAs and other Bujinkan dojos. The biggest roadblock is probably a lack of experience amongst the students, most of them are mid to low kyu grades and simply don't have their recieving and control skills developed enough to train this stuff at a realistic level.

There's also a difficult balance to be sought between "hard" and "soft" training in my opinion, as both are valuable for study with this system... these videos definately lean more toward the "soft" side. I'd like to show some examples of dan grades in randori sometime, it would be a better showing.

If there's one thing I want to do more of, it's throwing in strikes from outside our system, or at least training with people from boxing backgrounds, etc. We address this from time to time and it mostly just brings the timing down to a smaller scale, but it would be nice to see more of. I'm also really trying to stop people from leaving their punches hanging out there and not following up. I smacked the guy's elbow pretty well in the first video when I shouldn't have been able to :confused:

9/20/2004 3:45pm,
It's funny you say that, Jen, Shinden Fudo ryu is divided into dakentaijutsu which is striking purportedly derived from chinese boxing, and jutaijutsu which uses blending locks and throws.

9/20/2004 4:04pm,
You look like you have some real skill in your movements. I'd love to hear about you making it to a throwdown.

I brought up the "aliveness" question because of something that even you mentioned. Many of the Ukes seemed to really leave their arms out there. Usually if they are really trying to avoid the lock or don't know which one is coming this won't happen.

Traditional Tom
9/20/2004 5:16pm,
I was just going quickly through the video and I heard a motorcycle (or just one very loud vehicle), the great outdoors! hehe. Nice video though, Ill look at it more extensively later.

9/20/2004 5:24pm,
Definately. It's sort of a crutch for beginners, the lunge punch, a pause allowing the partner to strike the arm or lock it, whatever... it's done that way for the purpose of illustrating some mechanics. The punch itself can be shortened up and is a very strong attack, it just requires good timing. A little more dynamic approach involves sizing up the right angle and time to throw the opening punch.

Eventually you should progress to other timings; simultaneous to almost preemptive where the specific kind of attack becomes progressively unimportant. Problem is that many people forget to move beyond the first step, and even here we forget to remind people that it IS a crutch. I'm teaching a basics class now once a week, and am trying to pound this point into people.

You look like you have some real skill in your movements. I'd love to hear about you making it to a throwdown.

Thanks man! I've been wanting to make it to one as well, I'm sure it will be eye opening. Dunno when I could make it during the school year, though.

Traditional Tom
9/21/2004 6:14am,
"Dunno when I could make it during the school year, though"
my problem exactly, damn highschool!

Matt W.
9/21/2004 7:07am,
Hey, first of all, PROPS for putting a video of yourself out there on the net. I always think it shows guts for an amatuer/hobbyist to put a video of themselves on display since there can be so much criticism, and some of it very personal. Please keep that in mind as I say the following...

Not impressed. I'm sorry but the drills you were doing in the first vid looked weak. Frankly, I thought it looked like bad aikido. Standing wristlocks and throws done on, what seemed to me to be, overly cooperative opponents. And the footwork was all over the place. Kind of like you were all just milling around.

All this leaves me wondering, why are you practicing "Taijutsu" anyway? If you want grappling, locks, chokes and the like, there are obviously far better ways to go about doing it. Besides anything having to do with "ninja" just seems silly to me.

If you like what you're doing, more power to you. But this is my feedback for you... for what it's worth. ;)

9/21/2004 11:19am,
Appreciated, Matt. I understand the criticism. In that vid, we were looking at a ryu that we've only examined a few times, and hadn't actually looked at any technique yet, it was more about playing with how the attitude/philosophy of it comes out in the movement.

It has no actual fighting postures (you are always in shizentai), and from what I understand it should feel as if you are complacently walking around without paying much heed to the opponent, rather than getting locked in a "fight." Technique is almost incidental. When I've been demonstrated on with this ryu, it seems sort of like running through a forest at night being whacked and tripped by the trees, but the guy doing it is just casually (almost passively) walking around like I'm not there. There's something unnerving about it.

So that's sort of an explanation for my "milling about." In my case, I took that casual-ness to the point of being lazy or half-hearted some of the time, which is why my footwork sucks in a lot places. I wouldn't call that partner cooperative by any means, but its true he isn't fighting back very well... although strikes in Fudo ryu seem to often be powered by the opponent running into them, so ironically it got more difficult when he restrained himself. Earlier that week I'd connected with a kick like that and he had to sit out of class for a while. Perhaps if we actually put on some pads we could get a better feel for it all.

Thanks for the feedback, though.

9/21/2004 11:44am,
Spunky - could you give your definition of 'Alive' training?

Also could youe explain what you mean by 'Randori'? I think often this can mean different things in different systems - for example Judo Randori is basically sparring, and Aikido Randori is defending against an attack that has not been pre-determined - but the attacker does not resist.

Thanks for putting the clips up - I really like the idea of training outside but very rarely do it (looks like you guys all had a great time).


9/21/2004 12:39pm,
Hmm, that's kind of a loaded question :) There are many components of "alive," training, it can be many things, but I think most important aspects come down to adaptability, attention, and intention. Getting caught up in any one way of doing things is not alive, IMO.

Are you free to change and adjust, both on a small technical level and in your overall learning approach? Are you grounded in the present moment, or are you lost in a fantasy of what's going on? Can you acknowledge your weaknesses and other methods of accomplishing the necessary? Are you injecting an appropriate amount of intensity into your technique? Are you aware of the WHY behind everything you do? Are you exposing yourself to real physical danger and confronting what real violence feels like? Are you infusing your training with elements of suprise (hidden weapons, different environments, etc)?

None of these are actually yes or no questions, it's more like a spectrum. So I think what's most important is being aware of WHERE in the spectrum you are, and always taking it into consideration. Full contact, no-holds-barred sparring is one point. Soft, compliant, partnered kata is another. If you can't learn from both you aren't training "alive."

That said, I think randori was a poor word choice. It literally means capturing (dori) chaos/war (ran), so its controlled simulation of real combat. Control can vary, as you point out between different arts. In this case it started with a predetermined attack, free response, and light resistance.

9/21/2004 12:42pm,
So I think what's most important is being aware of WHERE in the spectrum you are, and always taking it into consideration. Full contact, no-holds-barred sparring is one point. Soft, compliant, partnered kata is another. If you can't learn from both you aren't training "alive."

Compliant partner Kata is in no way alive it is one of Matt Thorntons most commonly mentioned Dead patterns.