Monday, August 30, 2010

'A bit sure of yourself'

A comment was posted on my last blog which said that overall it is a good read (thanks) but I'm a bit sure of myself particularly with respect to a comment I made concerning nobody understanding the difference between throwing techniques and takedown techniques. Fair comment. And as I've said before, my work is all the better for the comments I've received, often sceptical, as it pushes me to address these issues. So, thank you anonymous for your comment and the opportunity to address your issues.

The comment regarding the throwing techniques and takedown techniques was intended as an expression of my amazement that I could find no definitive classifications or definitions which facilitated the understanding and study of these techniques. That having been said, I am sure of myself because I put the work into researching, and the time into studying, the subjects I'm covering. As my friends will vouch, I am obsessive in my work, working 12+ hours a day often seven days a week for nearly three years now. My research and analytical abilities have been developed and honed through my professional training and I cannot abide inconsistencies or weak arguments. Particularly in my own arguments, concepts, and theories. I am inextricably drawn to these just as light is to a black hole.

Let me take you on my journey with regards to throwing techniques and takedown techniques. My originally conceived how-to book on the tactics and techniques was going to include chapters on each of the major categories of techniques taught by Jan de Jong jujutsu (aka Tsutsumi Hozan ryu jujutsu): breakfalls (ukemi), bodymovements (taisabaki), unbalancing (kuzushi), joint techniques (kansetsu waza), throwing techniques (nage waza), takedown techniques (taoshi waza), percussion techniques (atemi or tsuki waza and keri waza), and strangulation techniques (shime waza). The grading system provided numerous techniques which were specifically identified as being included in these classes - with the exception of takedown techniques.

The original grading system commenced with shinken shobu no kata. This is not a kata as kata is commonly conceived but is a hybrid form of randori (free exercise or sparring) and kata. It consists of set defences from set attacks. The common features of the defences were not studied until the dan grades when they were specifically identified and studied. The tactics and techniques were analysed by dividing them into phases or elements and the similarities and differences in the tactics and techniques were identified. Any good book on sport biomechanics, e.g. Gerry Carr's Sport Mechanics for Coaches, will explain this analytical approach to teaching and improving sport skills. Research has found that the identification of similarities and differences is the core of all learning. So, modern science lends support to the approach adopted in the Jan de Jong jujutsu dan grades.

De Jong was engaged by the Australian Army (SAS) to assist in developing a close combat system in the 1970s. In an interview, De Jong explains that Major Greg Mawkes MBE (retired) came to him and said the fighting methods he was teaching were good but the troopers were having trouble learning them and it was taking too long to learn them. De Jong explained that this is the same with his students. After seeing the 'army way' of teaching, De Jong then decided to bring the dan grade approach to the front of his gradings and explains that his students benefited tremendously after this approach was adopted.

The mon grades, as they are known, were introduced at the front end of the grading system. They are designed to introduce the students to the basic concepts of Jan de Jong jujutsu before they attempt the more difficult shinken shobu no kata kyu grades. Examples of the basic categories of techniques listed above are demonstrated in each grading with the exception of strangulation techniques and takedown techniques. The former due to ethical reasons, but why are takedown techniques not included in the mon grades? There are some takedown techniques specifically identified in the dan grades which are kansetsu waza although this conceptualisation of these techniques does not go beyond this grading. There was a distinction which was offered by some of the instructors as one dan grading requires the candidate to demonstrate, among other things, five unspecified takedown techniques and throwing techniques against five specified hand grabs. However, when this distinction is applied to other techniques which have been classified as throwing techniques or takedown techniques it suggests they have been misclassified or misrepresented as being either a throw or a takedown.

So, not having a definitive understanding of the difference between throwing techniques and takedown techniques, and consequently not having a definitive guide to choose the techniques to include in my book nor the science to provide behind them, I commenced my journey.

Keith Yates provides a comparison chart in his Warrior Secrets: A Handbook of the Martial Arts in which various 'popular' martial arts are compared based on their technical content. The technical content is initially divided into grappling and striking with throwing techniques and takedown techniques being two separate class of grappling techniques. He compares aikido, boxing, judo, jujutsu, karate, kung fu, taekwondo, and wrestling. Takedown techniques are listed for all but boxing and is the most common class of technique taught by the martial arts according to Yates' chart. Only jujutsu, aikido, and judo are listed as teaching both throwing and takedown techniques. So, I used this as a literary devise to structure my discussion.

I researched texts on judo, aikido, jujutsu, karate, wrestling, and hapkido (derived from jujutsu). I researched texts that are now being published dedicated to throws and takedowns generically or of specific martial arts. The interest in takedown techniques has increased due to the exposure afforded them by their use in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and in the mixed martial arts competitions, so I studied Brazilian jiu-jitsu texts. Based on my professional expereince, I also know that if there is going to be any definitions they will be included in some sort of regulations, so, I studied the rules and regulations of judo, karate, wrestling, and jujutsu competitions.

Surprisingly, a summary of the different conceptions of the difference between throwing techniques and takedown techniques is captured in the responses to this question on a martial arts forum: These responses also capture the confusion which surrounds the subject and the lack of a definitive distinction between the two class of techniques. And when I've written the chapter containing the results of my research, it can be seen that the responses are the different conceptions provided by these martial arts and these 'authoritative' sources.

For the sceptics, if there is no difference or if it's not important, why refer to the two class of techniques anyway?

Kano only included throwing techniques in his classification of judo techniques and the International Judo Federation Referree Rules only refer to throws. The international karate organisations' competition rules only refer to throws and not takedowns. FILA, the international wrestling body responsible for international and Olympic wrestling competition defines a throw but no takedowns. Marc Tedeschi, in his 1,000+ page door stopper Hapkido: Traditions, Philosophy, Technique only includes throwing techniques in the list of techniques taught by hapkido, but then explains when discussing throwing techniques that hapkido teaches all major forms of throwing techniques and takedown techniques but then only illustrates throwing techniques.

One book dedicated to throwing techniques and takedown techniques does include a distinction. It suggests that throwing techniques are designed to end the fight while takedowns are designed to take the fight to the ground. Throws are an end in themselves whereas takedowns are a means to an end. This is a common conception and comes from the emphasis on ground fighting made popular by Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the mixed martial arts competitions. No classification is right or wrong, they are just useful or not, illuminating or confusing as the case may be. The merits of a classification depends on the purposes it serves, and the purpose in this case is the facilitation of the understanding and study of these techniques. There is a large subjective element in this 'ends-based' classification. Is your common garden variety hip throw (o goshi) a throw or a takedown based on this classification? It could be argued that the height of a hip throw is insufficient to injure an opponent and therefore, based on this basis of classification, would be defined as a takedown. Is morote gari (two hand reap) a throw or a takedown? Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and the mixed martial arts refer to this technique as a double-leg takedown and use it to take an opponent to the mat in order to commence their ground fighting. It has been argued that lifting a person and slamming them onto their backs on a surface other than the padded and sprung competition rings is designed to end the fight.

One jujutsu book does include a definitive definition which is reflected in the rules of certain international jujutsu organsations competitions. I was surprised to find clear definitions of these types of techniques in these jujutsu competitions. They uniquely award points for takedown techniques and throwing techniques. In fact, many of them have created a new class of technique, a 'half-throw,' to add to takedowns and 'full-throws.' However, when you analyse each technique in the aforementioned book you'll see the classification is not consistently applied, just as it was not in the Jan de Jong jujutsu gradings. Within the jujutsu competition rules, most provide examples of their full-throws and half-throws which raise questions. For instance, o soto gari, major outer reap is not considered a full-throw but a half-throw. However, based on the description of the technique provided by Toshiro Daigo in Kodokan Judo Throwing Techniques, the most authoritative book on these techniques, o soto gari would be classified as a full-throw.

Prior to this full investigation, I'd developed a classification based on biomechanical principles. Despite one of the posts on the abovementioned forum, a definitive, objective classification or distinction based on biomechanics between these techniques is possible. And this biomechanical classification does facilitate the understanding and study of these techniques.

How does a biomechanical classification facilitate the understanding and study of these techniques? Biomechanics is the study of forces and their effects on living systems. How do you teach and learn martial arts techniques? Through the study of forces. Force is simply defined as a push or a pull. When teaching or learning a technique, when correcting a technique, what are you doing? Push here, pull there; apply force in this direction or that direction; blend in with the opponent's force or resist it. Those who scoff at the contribution that science can make to the study of the martial arts do not realise that they are teaching and learning based on the subject of biomechanics. Not to refer to a body of knowledge that specifically studies the technical essence of what we do is, in my mind, sheer bloody-mindedness. Virtually every other physical activity has benefited from biomechanics, it's about time the martial arts did as well.

I am always open to, and encourage, direction to authoritative sources which challenge my knowledge, concepts, and theories. As far as I'm concerned, I do not want to reinvent the wheel. I want to stand on the shoulders of giants so that I can see further. If my work is made redundant because someone else has done it, at least I could then get on with my life instead of sitting here wading through texts and journals in search of scraps of information to develop new ways of looking at the tactics and techniques of the martial arts. So please, put me out of my misery and direct me to authoritative sources on the subjects I am writing about.

By the way, the work on the first book on the throwing techniques and takedown techniques of ALL martial arts is progressing well. I'm hoping to have a first draft finished in 4-6 weeks. Given Ernest Hemmingway once said that 'all first drafts are shit,' I'm not sure how to feel about the possibility of completing my first draft.

1 comment:

  1. After reading your blogs I can understand why you might be a bit sure of yourself. Well done. You've obviously put a lot of work into it. Keep up the good work and I look forward to reading your future posts.


Your comments make my work all the more relevant as I use them to direct my research and theorising. Thank you.