I recently came across this essay by David Lowry on bowing in the Japanese martial arts.

In our small dojo, we are not very formal on a day to day basis and tend to let the finer points of etiquette slide. I suppose we have the poor manners of a bunch of barbarians in a garage, which is what we are. Nevertheless, it is important for us to know etiquette both to put our art in its proper context and to know how to behave in public.

This article is of note for both the historical context it gives, which I did not know to that level of detail, and as a reminder of the proper forms.

For example, the formal bow from seiza in our school is exactly what he describes as the “Ogasawara style seated bow that was used in certain situations where the person to whom one is bowing might have hostile intentions”:

[Kneeling in seiza with] hands on the thighs, the left hand moves down to the floor first, then the right, then comes a bow with one’s forehead placed approximately over a triangle formed by the thumbs and forefingers of both hands spread out. Coming up from the bow the order is reversed; the right hand moves back to the thigh, then the left.

This essay is an excerpt from his new book about the history of martial arts traditions, “In the Dojo”. While the arrogance Mr. Lowry often displays in his writing can rub me the wrong way, he certainly knows his stuff and is a good writer. Assuming this essay is indicative of the new book, it looks to be worth a read.


Prof. Rick Clark Seminar

On Saturday October 21 and Sunday October 22, my school, with the assistance of the U.C. Davis Hapkido Club, will be hosting a vital point striking seminar with Prof. Rick Clark.

This will be the second time that I’ve hosted Prof. Clark for a seminar in the Bay Area, and the first time, I believe, he has ever taught in the Sacramento area. In my opinion, out of the handful of instructors who travel around the world teaching the art vital point striking, Prof. Clark is one of the very best.

While Prof. Clark’s comprehensive and technical knowledge on the topic of vital point striking is unquestionable, it is his practical, no-nonsense,
non-esoteric approach to teaching the material I really respect. Unlike many vital point practitioners who explain the art by comparing/contrasting vital point striking to the Chinese medical practice of acupuncture, or the relation between vital points and internal energy such as chi, Prof. Clark simply shows the practical application of vital point striking techniques.

Of course to categorize his seminars as just “vital point-striking” wouldn’t be accurate. He teaches so much more. Clearly, Prof. Clark does teach specific points of the body to strike, many which can cause tremendous pain. However, he does not stop there. Prof. Clark also teaches joint manipulations, takedowns, groundwork (grappling), and pins—all of which, of course, focus on using proper anatomical weaknesses of the body.

By teaching the various forms of vital point striking—pressure points (nerve plexus), blood-gate, and joint manipulations—Prof. Clark’s system compliments any style of martial arts. Many of the techniques he teaches can be found within the forms practiced in the arts of Tae Kwon Do, Jujutsu, Karate, and Kung Fu.

However, while the techniques may be the same, Prof. Clark teaches them on a deeper level, a level many practitioners are never exposed to. He teaches a level of adeptness which, when learned properly, often makes these techniques of self-defense more effective, efficient, and easier to utilize in the real world.

As a vital point instructor myself, I have heard the controversy over whether vital points work or not, especially in reference to death strikes and “delayed death strikes.” I’ll be the first to say there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding in regards to these topics. The same can be said for no-touch knockouts.

Nevertheless, vital points do exist, and they are effective. The problem is most people never learn to use them properly in a systematic manner. Just poking someone in a specific place isn’t going to work.

In addition one must learn the proper methodology of attacking specific points, especially when it comes to applying them on a person who is attacking at full speed.

No one seminar can teach a person to fully utilize vital point striking, but attending a seminar such as the one taught by Prof. Clark can start one on the road to examining the potential of the techniques they already know. Clearly, Prof. Clark’s seminars are designed to expose one to the original intent inherent in the old fighting methods.

My martial art philosophy is that THERE ARE NO SECRETS, there is just information one hasn’t been told, been exposed to, or discovered yet. No one teacher, no matter who they are, what rank they hold, or how many systems they have studied, has all the answers. Those who wish to discover the deeper meanings within the martial arts, the true essence of what martial arts were intended to be will eventually seek out this information.

For those on the path of searching for these deeper meanings, and the old life-protection skills often overlooked or lost in many systems, now you have the opportunity to train with someone who will openly share this information.

I truly believe anyone attending Prof. Clark’s seminar will gain valuable insights into the nature of traditional martial arts, and leave with a renewed desire to search for even deeper understanding of the arts they practice.

Of course my students, and fellow martial artists who know me not only come for the valuable information, but also to witness Prof. Clark demonstrate his techniques on me. OUCH!! I hate finger locks.

For biographical information of Prof. Clark, or information on Ao Denkou Jutsu go to

Vital Point Striking Seminars with Rick Clark 10/21 and 10/22

Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei and U.C. Davis Hapkido Club

Prof. Rick Clark
Ao Denkou Jutsu: Vital-Point Striking

Saturday, October 21 and Sunday, October 22, 2006

Professor Clark’s Ao Denko Jutsu, based on the use of vital points, enhances striking and grappling techniques of any given system or style to achieve maximum effect. Many of his techniques are developed through analysis of traditional forms, uncovering effective applications hidden within them.

This world-class instructor has taught martial artists all over the world how to increase the effectiveness of their techniques and gain a better understanding of traditional forms they practice.

Saturday 10/21
10:00 – 3:00
998 Geneva Ave
San Francisco, CA 94112
Sunday 10/22
11:00 – 4:00
1501 North C Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
* Space is limited at San Francisco seminar.
Cost: Pre-registered – 1 day $55.00 / both days $85.00
Day of event – 1 day $65.00 / both days $100.00
To pre-register: Checks should be payable to: Spencer Burns
Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei
Attention: School Treasurer
3440 20th Street, #101
San Francisco, CA 94110
For more information contact:
Gary Moro, Kyoshi Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei (415) 821-1902 /
Bob Sarason, U.C. Davis Hapkido Club (530) 752-3737 /
Or visit

What Does it Mean to be Aiki[ju]jutsu?

We usually refer to the art we practice as aikijutsu or aikijujutsu as a way of saying that we do subtle traditional jujutsu and weapon arts. Sometimes use these words to describe the whole art and sometimes for specific parts of it. It’s hard to describe to people what these terms mean. In fact, I’ve read a lot of angry opinions on what aiki arts are and who has the “right” to use the word aikijujutsu.

Traditionally, marital arts were not called aikijutsu/aikijujutsu. These are modern (well, post-Edo) words for very subtle jujutsu either coined or popularized by the art of Daito-Ryu. However aiki is a much older word for certain principles of the martial arts.

Defining aiki is not easy; nobody quite agrees on a definition. I like to use the term “misdirection”; aiki techniques are ways of tricking your opponent’s body and mind into betraying him. Many Aikido folks use metaphysical—or even magical—concepts of ki to define aiki. The simplest tongue and cheek definition is: any technique you can do to a piece of furniture is jujutsu, any technique you can only do to a human is aiki. The important thing is that techniques accomplished with aiki are very subtle and require little mechanical force. The reams of essays that Gary is in the middle of writing for this blog give some indication of how deep the study of aiki is.

But as for “aiki-jutsu” and “aiki-jujutsu,” some controversy abounds. Is any jujutsu accomplished using aiki aikijujutsu? For that matter, is Aikido (which is descended from Daito-Ryu) a form of aikijujutsu? Does only Daito-Ryu have the right to call itself aikijujutsu?

By my own observation, when a school claims to teach aikijutsu or aikijujutsu, it usually means one of four things (in descending order of legitimacy):

  1. The school is related to (or part of) Daito-Ryu.
  2. The school teaches an old and subtle style of jujutsu and uses the word aiki[ju]jutsu to distinguish itself from harder or more modern jujutsu styles.
  3. The teacher has learned both Aikido and jujutsu and is combining them, possibly trying to resynthesize more traditional aikijujutsu.
  4. The school teaches straight-up jujutsu with little aiki but is using the word to stand out from other schools.

Of course, getting an honest answer from an aiki[ju]jutsu school about which they are teaching is hard. Certainly, many schools who are in #4 spin lineage tales to claim a connection to Daito-Ryu, even if they use little aiki (bringing back the question of “what is aiki?”). After all, everybody always wants to be a little more special.

The current consensus (on the English speaking Internet at least) seems to be that only category #1 can be “aikijujutsu” and that category #2 can be “aikijutsu.” I do not know if that makes sense or not, but as we are in #2 I’ve tried to be politically correct in public and only use the word “aikijutsu” on our website. In private, we say aikijutsu and aikijujutsu pretty interchangeably.

This position is probably best articulated in this post by Toby Threadgill. It is worth noting that his art (Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin Kai) is referred to as “jujutsu”, even though aiki seems to be a core part of the art.

The most illuminating thing I’ve read about the usage of the word “aiki” outside of Daito-Ryu is this passage from an interview with Kuroda Tetsuzan

Kuroda sensei does not use the word aiki. When this word was becoming popular his grandfather Yasuji felt that all jujitsu should be that subtle and there was no need for a word to describe it.

Well said.