The Second Top Ten Principles Of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei – #7 Coupling Principle

Since I first stated that the techniques taught at my school were based on principles, and that we focus more on understanding the principles that makes things work than the techniques themselves, people have e-mailed me asking me if I could explain these principles in more detail.

Last year I spent several months writing about the “Top Ten Principles of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei.” Now it is time to cover the next ten most important principles. Of course, one must keep in mind that while these principles are officially less important than first ten, in actuality they are just as important. The truth is that in many cases understanding and executing them properly is essential in order to make the “top ten” fully effective. In other words, they are just another piece of a very complex puzzle illustrating how sceintific martial techniques really are.

Unfortunately, trying to explain many of these principals in writing is very difficult, since many can’t be explained in words alone. However, I will try my best to describe these principles for the “blog” readers, using words, charts and pictures.

Keep in mind though, that in order to sometimes fully understand a principle you have to also understand other principles that relate to it. Most principles aren’t fully useable on their own, and have to be integrated with others.

COUPLING PRINCIPLE

Generally, coupling means a mechanical connection between two things. In physics, two systems are coupled if they mutually interact. There is another definition from computer programming that also seems appropriate to the art I teach: coupling is a linkage between two parts of a program such that if one part of the program is modified, the behavior of the other part may also be affected.

Basically, the coupling principle is the concept that once a connection is made between two or more bodies, whatever action one body makes will have a direct effect on the other bodies.

In other words, one plus one equals one.

For example, the square and circle below represent two individual objects:

If you move the circle, that movement has absolutely no effect on the square:

Now, let’s say you drive a stick into both the square and circle so they are connected to each other. They are now “coupled.”

If you push the circle down, the square will move also. In this example, the movement will be in the opposite direction as the objects rotate around their common center of mass.

Because they are “coupled,” whatever movement one object makes will affect the other. This is even more apparent when the connection point is rigid, as it is here. Needless to say, this is a crude example of a much more complex principle; but it explains the science that makes this principle work better than any other I can think of, at least in this format.

Maybe a simpler way of thinking about the “Coupling Principle,” is something many of us do outside the dojo–walking a dog on leash.

When I take my dog for a walk on the street we are “coupled” by his leash. Although there is no direct physical connection between our bodies–my hand is not touching the dog–by moving my end of his six foot leash in the proper direction, I can make my dog go left, right, or forward. Or I can make him stop and sit, down.

I don’t have to use verbal commands. If I adjust the tension on the leash the right way, because of proper training my dog knows what he is suppose to do–unless of course he sees a squirrel or a cat, then I’m on the receiving end of the commands and being dragged down the street.

What’s important to understand with this example is that I’m not using verbal commands.  He is responding to non-verbal communication through our couple. My dog reacts to the movements I make that affect the leash.

In this example, my dog he has been trained to respond a certain way to specific movements. But if I don’t move the leash correctly he gets confused and does not know what to do. My movements must be right to get him to behave the way I desire him to.

This is an important factor to remember because one’s opponent in a fight has received no training at all. This means when you use the “Coupling Principle,” your non-verbal communication–in this case “body language”–has to be specific, otherwise the other person’s body won’t know how to respond to your directions.

The basic rule one needs to remember about this principle is that once you’re coupled, any movement, no matter how subtle, has a direct impact on your opponent. Even rotating the head at the wrong moment can move one’s opponent inches off their original position. This is one reason why so many martial art styles emphasize the theory of “no wasted motion.”

Avoiding wasted motion is even more important when practitioners try to execute projections (throws), especially projections that rely on exacting alignments. Sometimes even the slightest, almost imperceptible movement can have drastic consequences.

This of course means that in order to execute the “Coupling” Principle at the higher levels one must learn “cause and effect.” In other words, one must know exactly what wll happen when any given part of the body is moved.

Example: Rear Shoulder Projection


Photo 1 – Two individuals with no connection to each other.

Photo 2 – As the uke (attacker) grabs the tori (defender) they become coupled. Even though the point of contact is small (tip of shoulder) a connection is made and tori can affect the ukes’ centerline.

Photo 3 – The tori lifts his shoulder (the shoulder only) and rotates slightly to the rear by rotating at the waist. Since both subjects are coupled, the lift and rotation pushes the uke off balance to his rear. If done correctly, uke’s hips come forward, creating a hole for the uke to fall into.

Photo 4 – The tori continues his rotation to the rear until the uke is totally off balance.
The shoulder is then quickly dropped straight downward causing the uke to fall into the space that was created during photo #3.

In addition, one must also learn the differences such things as turning the hand versus turning the forearm versus rotating the upper arm can cause. Try it; you’ll be surprised at the results.

Example


Photo 1 – Uke grabs tori by the wrist.

2. Tori rotates his forearm (forearm only) towards the ukes’ arm. Since the tori and uke are coupled at the wrist, the rotation of the forearm causes the uke to come forward and downward. Note how the uke’s wrist has rotated around the forearm. (See below photos.) Also note that nothing has moved from the original position. The only movement was the rotation, everything else remained the same.

Learning all of these intricacies of controlling an opponent through coupling can take years, if not a lifetime to fully master. Add this complexity to the fact that in a real life or death fight numerous movements are taking place within milliseconds, each with the potential to change how one must apply the “coupling principle,” and one can start to see how difficult utilizing this principle actually is.

Fortunately, many of these issues are addressed in the techniques most of us are taught, though one must keep in mind that techniques taught in class often tend to illustrate ideal situations. That’s not a bad thing; it just means it pays to experiment. Nothing beats trial and error.

Oh, and if all of that isn’t difficult enough: how about coupling techniques that involve weaponry? Yes, even that sword on sword blocking action observed in so many styles is a form of coupling, which if the practitioner is skilled enough can be used to create a projection.

Just one more facet to think about.

The Second Top Ten Principles Of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei – #6 Marriage to Gravity

Since I first stated that the techniques taught at my school were based on principles, and that we focus more on understanding the principles that makes things work than the techniques themselves, people have e-mailed me asking me if I could explain these principles in more detail.

Last year I spent several months writing about the “Top Ten Principles of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei.” Now it is time to cover the next ten most important principles. Of course, one must keep in mind that while these principles are officially less important than first ten, in actuality they are just as important. The truth is that in many cases understanding and executing them properly is essential in order to make the “top ten” fully effective. In other words, they are just another piece of a very complex puzzle illustrating how sceintific martial techniques really are.

Unfortunately, trying to explain many of these principals in writing is very difficult, since many can’t be explained in words alone. However, I will try my best to describe these principles for the “blog” readers, using words, charts and pictures.

Keep in mind though, that in order to sometimes fully understand a principle you have to also understand other principles that relate to it. Most principles aren’t fully useable on their own, and have to be integrated with others.

MARRIAGE TO GRAVITY

When I started training with Yachigusa Sensei, 30 plus years ago, he would yell at me all the time about my posture. I was always either too slouchy or too rigid, too soft, or too hard. I leaned too much this way or that way. It seemed no matter what I did, or how hard I tried, my posture was never good enough.

Yachigusa Sensei would yell, he would scream, and he would even forcibly move me into the proper position–and I mean forcibly, with whatever he happened to have in his hands at the time, which was often a wooden cane.

Unfortunately for me no matter what he did to correct my posture during my first years, none of it seemed to work, at least from his perspective.

Now, I don’t know if my problems with posture were due to my age, the fact I didn’t understand Japanese and he spoke terrible English, my poor coordination, or if Yachigusa Sensei expected instant perfection; but things must have really gotten bad because the next thing I knew I was doing all my solo techniques with a book balanced on my head.

If you’ve never tried this, it can become quite frustrating very quickly-especially if there are consequences when the book falls. These consequences were usually harsh and unpleasant. However, balancing a book on your head is a great training tool, and after several long months of “book learning” the frequency of posture related yelling decreased.

I had slowly, unwittingly, been introduced to the principle of “Marriage to Gravity.”

After my teacher’s death, I started to attend various seminars where numerous Aikido, Jujutsu, and Judo practitioners often accused me of being extremely rigid. In other words they couldn’t capture my center, displace me, or project me. Of course, instead of examining their technical ability, they just assumed I was countering them. In a way they were partially right, but I didn’t do it intentionally. Without even realizing it, I had learned to spontaneously apply the principle of “Marriage to Gravity.”

I guess all of Yachigusa Sensei’s lambasting paid off.

Over the years I have heard this principle described in numerous ways, ranging the gamut from the supernatural to the scientific. Its been called things such as sticking, grounding, rooting, sinking, and even body dropping.

It is clear that this principle is done in numerous martial art styles, and from my experience every teacher who tries to explain it does so in a distinct, often stylistic manner. Unfortunately, these stylistic approaches often perpetuate myths and tricks over true technique.

This is a trick often used to show one’s ability to “root.”
I won’t explain here how it is done, but it has to do with physics, not Chi.
My student had five minutes of instruction before he posed for the photo, and was able to do the technique fairly well. With some practice he could fool a lot of people with his “mystical powers.”

Another famous trick to show one’s rooting ability.
Once again it’s all about physics, not Chi.
This technique is a little harder to learn than the one above.

Often the ancient mystical explanations for this principle, especially those propagated in Chinese arts, are exquisite and definitely appeal to many people’s desire to transcend normality via some ancient “secret.”

However, as much as I can respect these peoples’ desires and beliefs, I’ll forgo the usual metaphysical explanation–which normally relates to externalizing ones’ Chi and projecting said energy into he ground thus rooting a person to the earth–for something a little more tangible.

Basically, the principle of “Marriage to Gravity” refers to a postural alignment that unifies one with their centerline. It is nothing more than having the skill to align the feet and torso in a manner were force is transferred efficiently into the ground, allowing for maximum balance and stability.

Yes, you guessed it…. It’s all related to posture.

A major difference between the principle of Marriage to Gravity,” and methods often referred to as “Rooting,” is that “Marriage to Gravity” is not static. The principle applies to both bodies at rest, and bodies moving at full speed. Though I’ll be the first to admit, one is easier to do than the other.

To be honest teaching this principle is not easy. It takes a lot of time, and one on one interaction. Having taught for over fifteen years now, I can clearly see how frustrating it must have been for Yachigusa Sensei to teach me this, especially with the language barrier between us.

I know I’ve experienced times where students have simply driven me crazy, and I’ve felt I must be explaining things in some foreign language they can’t comprehend. While I’ve never resorted to striking any of them, (okay, one or two), many have endured the ancient “Yachigusa Ryu Book” method of training.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any way to teach this principle in this medium. Like I said, it takes a lot of one on one interaction to get people to do it right. Even practicing this principle in front of a mirror is inadvisable since moving the head to see oneself can often change alignments.

While I can’t teach this principle in writing, I can give some anatomical background, guidelines, and a few things for readers to try.

1. Basic Posture Rules

Standing – Normal Posture

  1. Always hold your head straight with your chin in. The head should never tilt in any direction.
  2. Keep your shoulder blades back.
  3. Keep your knees straight.
  4. Tuck your stomach in but do not tilt your pelvis forward.
  5. The arches of your feet should always be supported.

Martial Posture

  1. Always hold your head straight with your chin in. The head should never tilt in any direction. The head only moves split seconds before any turning action.
  2. Keep your shoulder blades back, yet relaxed.
  3. Keep your knees straight. Straight does not mean locked-out. There should actually be some give, an almost sinking sensation towards the ground. Just make sure your knee never ever passes the toes when moving; that puts a lot of strain in your knees.
  4. Tuck your stomach in but do not tilt your pelvis forward. Hips and waist should always be over the weight bearing foot.
  5. The arches of your feet should always be supported. One method I employ which is related to the principle of Marriage to Gravity, is placing my weight on three points of each foot. These points are the base of the big toe, the inner part of the ball of the foot, and the inside side of the heal portion of the foot. I then think about pushing the ground with these three points, concentrating my focus on the ball of the foot area.

At first, when this is done correctly one should feel their thigh muscles doing a substantial amount of work to maintain stability. That feeling should go away with training. However once this is learned, one’s stability should feel stronger.

Another benefit with this type of stance is that one will be able to execute stronger and faster turning motions. This has to do with the nature of the stance itself, which controls the action of the thigh muscles, which in turn control the upper torso.

A point to remember is that the thigh muscles don’t really have the ability to rotate without moving a least one foot. If you don’t believe that try executing a proper round kick without shifting the foot.

2. Balance

Balance is something we humans use all the time, but literally take for granted until we lose it. After all, good balance is necessary in order to independently perform acts of daily living and to avoid constantly falling down and injuring ourselves.

The definition of “balance,” is “the ability to maintain and control the position and motion of the total center of body mass relative to the base of support.”

Sound familiar?

It should. However, in martial arts, this is often described more metaphysically. From a martial arts perspective, this center of mass is normally located three finger widths down from the belly button, and referred to as the tanden in Japanese and dantian in Chinese, and is the equivalent to the Hara of Buddhism.

This point is regarded as the spiritual center of man, where all psychic and physical forces are centered. The Hara is the point where “Chi” (life energy) is located–“Chi” being the essential energy to perform martial art techniques quickly and efficiently.

The importantce of the human balance system is that it helps your body maintain equilibrium on an automatic basis. Keep in mind that the human frame is inherently unstable since 2/3 of our mass is located 2/3 of our body height above the ground. Even the normal act of walking is a constant state of falling and regaining balance.

In order to maintain balance the “Human Balance System” consists of three parts. They are:

  • Vestibular System (inner ear) – This is the most important element of human balance. The main function of the vestibular system is maintaining balance (posture and equilibrium) by monitoring the motion of the head and stabilizing the eyes relative to the surround environment.

    Within the inner ear are three canals that contain a gel-like liquid called endolymph and tiny hair cells. When both inner ears are working properly they give the brain information through the central nervous system about linear and angular positions of the body with respect to gravity.

  • Visual system (depth, velocity, and motion perception) – Input from the eyes sends the brain information about the position of the body relative to other objects, their depth, velocity and motion. In addition, the eyes work in conjunction with the ears to maintain balance, as well as maintain clear vision during movements. The inner ear continuously sends impulses that adjust your eyes in coordination to the smallest movement of the body.
  • Somatic Sensory or Somatosensory System) – This system provides the brain with two valuable pieces of internal and external spatial information that helps maintain balance. These two systems are called, proprioception and exteroception.
    • Proprioception – Propriceptors are internal sensors in the body that give the central nervous system information about the movement of body parts in relation to other parts of the body. With out such a system it would be impossible to put food in your mouth without visually watching your hand move from the plate to your mouth.
    • Exteroception – Exteroceptors are pressure sensors located in your feet and hands that provide external spatial information about the topography of the ground or support surface.

Evaluating Your Balance

This is a basic test to see what your current state of balance is. Start by standing upright, arms to your side. Now while looking forward raise one foot up without touching the supporting leg. Hold this position for as long as you can without tilting or losing stability. Failure occurs when your upper body starts tilting, your foot drops, your raised foot touches supporting leg, you hop, or your drop your foot to the ground.

Now repeat this test with your eyes closed. To make this test a little more complicated, try extending your arms to the side and touching your nose with your index finger–sort of like the field sobriety tests police officers give to see if you’re driving under the influence.

The importance of this simple exercise is manifold. First of all, being on one leg is less stable than two, thus requiring precise body mechanics to remain upright without tilting or swaying. Secondly, one must learn to properly align the base foot in order to press against the ground and provide the strength to remain stable (the Marriage to Gravity element). Lastly, a clear focus and concentration is required to maintain control over the body, and its natural instinct to fall over.

Remember the movie “The Karate Kid?”
Well Mr. Miyagi had a reason to make Daniel-san do that silly crane stance.
It was all about improving Daniel-san’s balance.

3. Stance (Static Posture)

Any stance refers to a method of “placement.” “Placement” is an orientation based on the flex of the feet, knees and hips, as well as associated body weight distribution. A simple rule to follow is that one should always point their hips and waist in the same direction as the toes of their weight-bearing leg.

This rule is simple to test. Start by assuming a long stance, a common stance found in many martial art styles where 40% of the weight is on the back leg and 60% is on the front leg.

Once in long-stance rotate your hips and waist in the direction of your back leg. How stable do you feel? If you think you have sufficient stability, try having someone push you backwards. Do not have them push hard, just enough to see if you lose stability.

Now do another long-stance, and this time rotate your hips and waist over the front leg. How stable do you feel? You should be able to feel a difference. Once again after you feel you are stable, have someone push you with the same power as before. There should be a major difference in how quickly and easily you can be pushed off balance.

Now try this same test with other postures (stances) for your particular style. You should get the same results.

4. Movement / Force

The first guideline has to do with body mechanics. Body mechanics are essentially posture in motion used to gain power. The purpose of utilizing proper body mechanics is to maximize applicable forces by taking advantage of the principles of physics as it relates to the structure of the human body.

When I teach my students I look for specific things. I look to see what muscles they utilize to accomplish a particular movement. Are they tense, or are they too relaxed? Is their weight distributed correctly, allowing for ease of movement? I check to see what muscles are utilized, over utilized, or under utilized.

In order to use the “Marriage to Gravity” principle when moving, one must first learn to use it statically. The next step is to learn to move one step at a time, utilizing the static form between each step. This progression is continued until the practitioner can make a series of movements and instantly stop with out having to make any adjustments in their posture. It can be a tedious process.

Of course, it is essential when learning this that one pays careful attention to their movements, and learns to feel how their body shifts. Maintaining complete control of ones body’s movements is also essential since one must learn override their body’s natural instincts. This means training the body to do what you want it to do, not what it wants to do, or what feels the most comfortable.

Remember we humans are basically lazy creatures and if given the choice are bodies will normally do what’s easiest. This means our bodies slouch rather than stand erect. We sit instead of stand. We walk instead of run. You get the idea.

Keep in mind that fighting is motion, and that having the ability to maintain one’s body mechanics is essential. Without proper body mechanics, it is impossible to deliver full force strikes, project one’s opponents, and maintain stability against the incoming force from one’s attacker.

Hopefully, the above four items aid anyone in examining this topic further. For the most part all of the components are fairly basic. The difficulty is putting them all together. But nothing worth doing is ever easy.

Just keep in mind that the basic tenet of the principle “Marriage to Gravity,” is to instill proper body posture. With proper body posture martial techniques can be executed with more power and speed. A martial arts practitioner is more stable making them harder to unbalance and project. Most of all overall effectiveness and efficiency are greatly increased.

Learning this principle is not easy, but it worth all of the effort.

Hands always push…an iaito

The Electronic Journal of Martial Arts and Sciences recently published a very well written article about the distinction between “pushing” and “pulling” when drawing a sword in the art of iaido. The article is available here.

While sword drawing is a very different facet of martial arts from jujutsu, this article sheds a lot of light on the aiki principle of “hands always push” that we often talk about in our art.

Often times, we will perform an arm movement during a technique that seems like a pull, but is better described as a push. This article does an excellent job of clarifying how the mechanics can be different when one visualizes a push instead of a pull.

[I’ve been meaning to put this up for a while now. To apologize to our readership, both Gary and I have had hectic lives recently, leaving writing and editing unattended.]

The Second Top Ten Principles Of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei – #5 Push When Pulled/ Pull When Pushed, Enter When Pulled/ Turn When Pushed

Since I first stated that the techniques taught at my school were based on principles, and that we focus more on understanding the principles that makes things work than the techniques themselves, people have e-mailed me asking me if I could explain these principles in more detail.

Last year I spent several months writing about the “Top Ten Principles of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei.” Now it is time to cover the next ten most important principles. Of course, one must keep in mind that while these principles are officially less important than first ten, in actuality they are just as important. The truth is that in many cases understanding and executing them properly is essential in order to make the “top ten” fully effective. In other words, they are just another piece of a very complex puzzle illustrating how sceintific martial techniques really are.

Unfortunately, trying to explain many of these principals in writing is very difficult, since many can’t be explained in words alone. However, I will try my best to describe these principles for the “blog” readers, using words, charts and pictures.

Keep in mind though, that in order to sometimes fully understand a principle you have to also understand other principles that relate to it. Most principles aren’t fully useable on their own, and have to be integrated with others.

Push When Pulled/ Pull When Pushed, Enter When Pulled/ Turn When Pushed

“Softness triumphs over hardness, feebleness over strength. What is more malleable is always superior over that which is immoveable. This is the principle of controlling things by going along with them, of mastery through adaptation.”

Laozi (Lao-tzu) Taoist Philosopher

Clearly, these four principles are not unique to the Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei system. In fact these four principles are utilized in numerous martial art systems, and they form the foundation of the techniques utilized in the arts of Judo and Aikido.

The same can be said for the system I teach, though these principles are often only associated to methods of projecting one’s opponent. When it comes to striking, or the use of weaponry, we often do the opposite. For example, when an attacker punches or cuts at us with a sword (a forward push like motion), we will enter. Of course, this is done for specific strategic reasons I wont go into here.

For the most part though, we utilize these four principles in the same manner as the other styles listed above, simply because they are the best method to instill and teach practitioners the proper way to react to specific forces that can occur when one is attacked.

Basically, these four principles teach the concept of embracing and accepting an attacker’s energy to use it against them. Instead of opposing the attacker’s force (their “flow of energy”), one increases it by entering, or extends it by pulling away. By doing so, the attacker’s balance and focus is disrupted making follow-up attacks almost impossible to achieve.

Many years ago during a seminar with Don Angier, he made the statement that “every fight is a contest to control the centerline.” At first, this statement didn’t completely resonate in my brain, but with further explanation on his part, and some introspection I believe I have a better grasp on what he meant. (Although putting it into actual application is another thing.)

Furthermore, I’ve come to discover that when I employ any of the above four principles, I am in fact controlling the centerline. By moving with the force of my opponent, I prevent him from placing himself where he intended to be. This makes it hard for him to properly step and/or maintain his equilibrium. I have taken him off the centerline; and because I have accomplished that, he is in a weakened state. He is in a state where I can now launch my counter attack with relative safety

Since there is so much information on these four principles on the Internet I don’t feel the necessity to explain them any further. Furthermore, the principles themselves are pretty self-descriptive.

All one has to remember is that these four principles are intended to teach a martial arts practitioner how to react and move when facing force. Instead of moving in the opposite direction–the ways our bodies are hardwired to behave–one must allow themselves to flow with it.

The Second Top Ten Principles Of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei – #4 Giving An Out

Since I first stated that the techniques taught at my school were based on principles, and that we focus more on understanding the principles that makes things work than the techniques themselves, people have e-mailed me asking me if I could explain these principles in more detail.

Last year I spent several months writing about the “Top Ten Principles of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei.” Now it is time to cover the next ten most important principles. Of course, one must keep in mind that while these principles are officially less important than first ten, in actuality they are just as important. The truth is that in many cases understanding and executing them properly is essential in order to make the “top ten” fully effective. In other words, they are just another piece of a very complex puzzle illustrating how sceintific martial techniques really are.

Unfortunately, trying to explain many of these principals in writing is very difficult, since many can’t be explained in words alone. However, I will try my best to describe these principles for the “blog” readers, using words, charts and pictures.

Keep in mind though, that in order to sometimes fully understand a principle you have to also understand other principles that relate to it. Most principles aren’t fully useable on their own, and have to be integrated with others.

GIVING AN OUT

“Giving an Out,” is another one of those multifaceted principles, used in a variety of forms. Basically, “Giving an Out,” refers to a method where the practitioner creates an artificial route of escape/retreat for the aggressor when applying a technique.

I call it an “artificial route” since the route is pre-determined and dictated by the practitioner. It’s a route intended to place the aggressor in a specific place, or state, so follow-up techniques can be easily employed.

These “outs” are based on science, especially the knowledge of physiology. For the most part they are based on innate reactions to specific stimuli and utilize the subconscious, hardwired, reactions of the nervous system.

Many of the best examples for clearly illustrating the principle of “Giving an Out,” are pain compliance techniques. A pain compliance technique is normally executed by applying a specific painful stimulus to a particular point on the body. This stimulus invokes an innate response via the reflex arch, and the body reacts is a predictable repeatable manner.

The technique is predictable and repeatable because it capitalizes on the innate physiology of the human body. Since it is predictable and repeatable, it’s an example of the principle of “Giving an Out;” If one knows how the reflex arch operates, and what stimulus invokes what reactions, one can use these reflexes to their advantage and direct an opponent’s body in specific directions.

While I have already written in detail about the reflex arch in my essay titled, “Pain and Pain Withdrawal Reflexes” and “The Top Ten Principles Of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei – #3 Reflex Action,” I think it’s important enough to once again explain in order to fully understand the principle of “Giving an Out.”

Example

A common technique used in numerous martial art systems, which utilizes the reflex arch, and the principle of “Giving an Out,” is Gokyu (5th Immobilization). This technique is nothing more than an arm bar, which is accomplished by applying pressure directly above the elbow, at a point where numerous receptors are located; one in particular is called the Golgi tendon organ.

This technique works because when muscles contract, they produce tension at the point where the muscle is connected to the tendon. The Golgi tendon organ is located at such a point. The function of Golgi tendon organ is to register changes in tension, and the rate of these changes. When properly stimulated, such as by downward pressure that exceeds a certain threshold, the Golgi tendon organ sends signals to the spine, which triggers the stretch reflex (lengthening reaction). This inhibits the muscles from contracting, causing them to relax.

However, because of the position of the arm in the technique, the arm cannot relax fully; the only way the body can neutralize the threat is by falling forward or downward–the direction away from the point of the threatening stimulus. That’s the “Out.”

Because the basic function of the Golgi tendon organ is to help protect the muscles, tendons, and ligaments from injury, and because the reaction is innate, Gokyu and other similar techniques are highly repeatable.

Done properly, these techniques can work every time, even if one’s uke is aware of what is about to happen and tries to counter the technique. The important factor is that the stimulus has to be applied properly so that the body’s (spinal cord’s) command to fall will override their conscious will (brain) not to fall.

The Reflex Arch

If you read the above example carefully you will notice I said the Golgi tendon sends signals to the spinal cord, and not the brain. In actuality, signals are sent to both, but the spinal cord is responsible for the response.

With this in mind let’s break down the above technique and see what is actually occurring.
.
Initially, the attacker felt a stimulus of pain in his arm that was intended to make them believe their tendons were in danger of ripping/tearing. Reacting to the stimulus in the arm, messages were transmitted to the brain and spinal column. Milliseconds before this information ever reached the brain, the spinal column respond and caused two reactions; the arm went limp, and the person fell to his knees.

Milliseconds later, the brain received the same information as the spinal cord. This information was analyzed, and appropriate responses were signaled back to the source of the stimulus. Of course, by this time, the perceived threat was over.

It is important to fully understand that the initial responses occurred prior to the brain processing the information. Even though both processes take place within milliseconds of each other, if the body had waited for the brain to signal a response it could have been too late, and the arm could have been damaged.

This fact is important because the body [spinal cord] reacts without “consciously” processing what is really occurring. This allows the defender to use their opponent’s innate body responses against himself. The defender causes a reaction their opponent can’t control, and in many cases isn’t even aware they are making. By the time their brain realizes what is going on it’s too late.

When applying a technique such as Gokyu, the defender’s goal is to create an artificial stimulus that the tendons are about to be severely damaged. In actuality, the arm is never in such extreme danger of being injured. If the brain had been responsible for providing a response it would have realized no real danger existed, and there would be no reason that the at the arm would have to go limp, or the person should collapse to their knees.

This change in responses would definitely have major consequences. Since the brain is aware that no real danger exists, it would allow the attacker to react differently, possibly affording him a chance to escape and/or counter attack.

Other Ways

Of course pain compliance techniques are just one example of the principle of “Giving an Out.” Other methods are more subtle, and are often used to project an opponent. This is a little harder to explain in writing, but suffice it to say that most systems which teach projection (throwing) techniques utilize this method to one degree or another.

However, the group I’ve found that utilizes a lot of the principle of “Giving an Out”–without most likely even realizing that they are–are practitioners of Judo and Wrestling. Grapplers, who have the ability to direct their opponent’s actions, will create intentional gaps of attack or escape, or will pretend to attack one limb while actually focusing on another. In this way, they fully utilize this principle.

Clearly, the principle of “Giving an Out,” is a method to subconsciously manipulate the actions of one’s opponent. In many instances, this action is direct cause and effect (reflex arch), while in others the action is almost imperceptible and psychological.

In either case, this principle is extremely effective, and those that learn to utilize the various methods to apply it will discover a new dimension to what they already do.

The Second Top Ten Principles Of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei – #3 Angle of Efficiency

Since I first stated that the techniques taught at my school were based on principles, and that we focus more on understanding the principles that makes things work than the techniques themselves, people have e-mailed me asking me if I could explain these principles in more detail.

Last year I spent several months writing about the “Top Ten Principles of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei.” Now it is time to cover the next ten most important principles. Of course, one must keep in mind that while these principles are officially less important than first ten, in actuality they are just as important. The truth is that in many cases understanding and executing them properly is essential in order to make the “top ten” fully effective. In other words, they are just another piece of a very complex puzzle illustrating how sceintific martial techniques really are.

Unfortunately, trying to explain many of these principals in writing is very difficult, since many can’t be explained in words alone. However, I will try my best to describe these principles for the “blog” readers, using words, charts and pictures.

Keep in mind though, that in order to sometimes fully understand a principle you have to also understand other principles that relate to it. Most principles aren’t fully useable on their own, and have to be integrated with others.

ANGLE OF EFFICIENCY

This principle is pretty much self-descriptive. Employing “Angle of Efficiency” is literally learning to use the proper angles in order to be more efficient, in both offense and defense. This principle basically refers to utilizing the old maxim that, “less is more.”

The American Kenpo dictionary defines “Angle of Efficiency,” as:

“Refers to (1) the positioning of your feet and/or body whereby the alternatives in terms of weapon availability are increased proportionately; (2) the positioning of one’s body to make a particular attack more operative or effective.”

This is a good definition, but it’s too limited. The principle as employed in the art I teach encompasses a lot more. The main difference being that we don’t restrict the principle to just striking or blocking.

In the art I teach, the principle of “Angle of Efficiency” is applied to all aspects of combat. This means knowing everything from the proper angles to attack joints, to the proper angles that will align a body to set up projections (throws).

However, all applications of this principle share one thing in common. These angles of efficiency are all based on the fact that martial art techniques are founded on specific mathematical formulas and geometry. Such formulas that can be diagramed and calculated to show specific body geometry, anatomical strengths and weaknesses, torques, points of balance, and stress points that help a martial artist be energy efficient (in terms of useful work per quantity of effort).

Unfortunately, attempting to describe every angle of efficiency possible, in every combat situation possible, would take too long. That would be something worthy of a book. It is also something one has to experience first-hand in order to fully comprehend and appreciate the nuisances.

My best advice for people, who wish to really learn to be more efficient in their fighting forms, is:

  1. Study anatomy, physics, and physiology. This means more than just a cursory glance at the material.
  2. Trial and error practice. Play around with techniques you know and see if changing an angle makes things work better or not.
  3. Ask your instructor specific questions relating to the application of techniques. (Note: some instructors are more open to such questions than others.) However, never settle for an answer that doesn’t make sense.
  4. If you’re learning a technique and you scratch your head in disbelief, or mutter the phrase you would never do that in “real life,” examine the technique in greater detail. Maybe a small change in angles will make the technique more effective, or at least justify the time it takes to learn it.
  5. Search out and read texts that are well researched–texts where the author has really studied the material they are discussing, and in which they display a very good understanding of the actual sciences that make them work. (Keep in mind that just because someone is labeled an expert or a master doesn’t mean they know a lot or have the ability to articulate what they do know.)
    For starters I recommend:
  6. The most important factor of all…. Practice, practice, practice!

The Second Top Ten Principles Of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei – #2 Angle of Cancellation

Since I first stated that the techniques taught at my school were based on principles, and that we focus more on understanding the principles that makes things work than the techniques themselves, people have e-mailed me asking me if I could explain these principles in more detail.

Last year I spent several months writing about the “Top Ten Principles of Yachigusa Ryu Aiki Bugei.” Now it is time to cover the next ten most important principles. Of course, one must keep in mind that while these principles are officially less important than first ten, in actuality they are just as important. The truth is that in many cases understanding and executing them properly is essential in order to make the “top ten” fully effective. In other words, they are just another piece of a very complex puzzle illustrating how sceintific martial techniques really are.

Unfortunately, trying to explain many of these principals in writing is very difficult, since many can’t be explained in words alone. However, I will try my best to describe these principles for the “blog” readers, using words, charts and pictures.

Keep in mind though, that in order to sometimes fully understand a principle you have to also understand other principles that relate to it. Most principles aren’t fully useable on their own, and have to be integrated with others.

ANGLE OF CANCELLATION

The simple definition of this principle is: a “controlled” angle that places one’s opponent in a position that minimizes or even nullifies their ability to attack with weapons (hands, feet, etc.), use force, or launch a counter attack.

This “controlled” angle can be created in various ways. One can directly meet the force head-on, collide with the force at a point away from the apex, intercept/deflect the force, ride the force, elongate the force, or any combination of the above.

In a broader definition, “Angle of Cancellation” can also relate to kuzushi (breaking balance). In this case, “Angle of Cancellation” refers to the geometric angle one needs to apply in order to disrupt the opponent’s equilibrium and place them in a state where they cannot maintain or regain their stability/balance.

Basically, the principle of “Angle of Cancellation” is geometry combined with laws of physics. It is based on the presumption that all martial art techniques can be diagramed on graph paper and mathematically calculated.

Fortunately for those of us who lack mathematical skills to figure these calculations on their own, these formulas have been tried and tested throughout the ages via trail and error–trial and error that can’t be duplicated in the modern age.