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Shoshin Ryu Nationals 2012

I can always expect to return from Nationals with a lot of great memories, new and renewed friendships and an inspiration to keep training hard! Having recently returned from 2012 Nationals in Wilmington, North Carolina I can gladly say that this year is no different. A huge “Thank you!” to the SR Nationals committee and to Sensei Aaron Lawrence and his dojo for organizing such a rich and memorable seminar.

The event began Wednesday, August 1st with a very informative Instructor’s Seminar. The Shoshin Ryu Board has compiled and created not only a new Instructor’s Guidebook but also a systematized certification and ranking of Shoshin Ryu instructors. Now new black belts who want to teach will not only have a new curriculum to get to Nidan, but also a curriculum to follow in their path to becoming a great teacher. The new system includes requirements like written tests, required readings, and the need to produce a certain number of new black belts, thus helping to secure the future health of Shoshin Ryu. The new Instructor’s Guidebook is full of useful information covering many areas. From starting a new dojo to how to retain students, from martial arts history to Anatomy, every sensei should be able to take something useful from this guidebook.

After dinner that night was the official bow in and that’s when the training really began to break out. Sensei Combo led the group through several self-defense techniques from both standing and on the ground with a standing opponent. Almost everything taught was simply a different way of looking at a simple basic that most folks already had. Not only were the techniques fun to train but the bigger lesson showed everyone that even the most simple basic can be so much more, if only one has the eyes to see it.

The next few days were full of training as the schedule went from 9am-9pm each day, followed of course with lots of stories and laughs in “Cabin 8” (the official name of SR Nationals post-training social gathering). We were incredibly fortunate to have both Sensei Pete Campbell from BSU Judo and Tuhon Ray Dionaldo from Filipino Combat Systems as our guest instructors. Sensei Campbell’s flavor of throws incorporate great motion, we were fortunate to have him teach daily. It was interesting to see how some of the techniques fit right into self-defense scenarios. Tuhon Ray taught some great sessions on defending against both knife and stick, as well as some knife and stick templates that really help in finding the flow of those weapons. He even showed many techniques using a traditional scarf-like piece of cloth called a sarong. If you were fortunate enough to feel Tuhon Ray put a choke on you with his sarong you saw just how quickly it could be lights out!

Along with all the great information and training we got from our guest instructors we trained lots of SR core. Sensei Bair and I both had the opportunity to teach groups in Ne Waza and Kata. With Sensei Coniaris we trained some dynamic self-defense scenarios against multiple attackers that really got the mind and body moving quickly. Sensei also gave some very informative presentations: The first day on the Glycemic Index/Glycemic load and diet, the second day on the benefits of cross-training. Soucy Sensei taught very helpful sessions on how to use the body’s anatomy and internal mechanics to make virtually every area of our art stronger.

After a great weekend of training we got to enjoy many demonstrations as is tradition at SR Nationals. Many folks took the opportunity to get up in front of the group to demonstrate some new or elevated skill they have picked up during the weekend. I considered one of the highlights to the demo by our own Jim Bongiovanni who got up and flawlessly executed several knife disarms.

Finally with the training behind us for another year we gathered at a nice restaurant in downtown Wilmington for a closing banquet that in my opinion may have had the best post-Nationals banquet dinner yet. We enjoyed the great food and each other’s company as we wound down from the weekend and discussed our plans to do it again next year. In the mean time I will be riding that wave of inspiration that always drives me after attending Nationals. It was announced that next year’s Nationals will be in Minneapolis, MN. And don’t hesitate; start preparing now because Nationals in 2014 is going to be held in JAPAN!

The Dojo: A Deeper Look at Martial Arts Self Defense

the dojo meridian idaho

The idea behind the methodology of Shoshin Ryu’s goshinjutsu (self-defense) is to give the practitioner a “starting point” for learning how to move one’s body as well as the body of another. A new student may look at a rear choke attack and ask “who would grab you like that?”, while the attack itself may be statistically uncommon, the motion of dealing with extended arms attaching to you from behind, be it one or both, is learned through this particular technique. The same motions used to defend yourself in a rear choke can be applied for one hand on a shoulder, two hands on a shoulder, rear hair grab, someone grabbing your shirt from behind or someone grabbing your neck from behind. Rather than train all those techniques individually and therefore bogging down the student, the student can practice just rear choke, and once proficient, can apply the same motions to any number of attacks.

Each technique taught in the self defense classes at the dojo can be applied to several situations, not necessarily just the one attack. These techniques are taught to adults as well as in the kids self defense classes. There is a saying: “from 1 thing know 10,000 things and from 10,000 things know 1 thing”. This is a concept understood by more advanced students at the dojo. By the time a student has learned the core curriculum through Shodan (1st degree black belt), there are very few, if any, situations that one cannot relate to something they’ve practiced 100’s or 1000’s of times over the course of their martial arts training. The same technique used to escape from a collar grab will have countless applications for other attacks. It may be the initial move, the finish or something in-between that can be utilized to defend yourself. By dedicating your body and mind to Shoshin Ryu martial arts training, the attack really becomes less important and the reaction becomes the focus. There are only so many ways someone can attack you (empty hand or with a weapon). Each rank in Shoshin Ryu adds core techniques that will equip you with the tools needed for successful defense. While the tools may not be specifically designed to handle that specific attack, there is a technique in your toolbox that can be applied that will allow you to put yourself into a position of familiarity and increase your odds of defending yourself.

So, instead of questioning the attack itself, think more of how you are moving, is it efficient, are you optimizing your power, are your eyes soft or are they scattered and unseeing? Are you moving from center or are you compromising your structure and making yourself vulnerable to counters? These are the things students practice at a higher level, not so much to say “If someone chokes me from behind I know how to get out” but rather knowing yourself, knowing how to move, knowing how to move others…these are the things that separate beginning students from more advanced students.

Technique vs Strength: An Article From “the dojo”

thedojcisco

In order for a smaller person to defeat a larger person, solid technique must be implemented. Technique is emphasized because regardless of one’s personal strength, technique puts a person in position to utilize larger muscle groups against an attackers smaller muscle groups. If one depends entirely on muscle and strength they put themselves at a disadvantage if defending themselves from someone who is physically stronger. As we age, our strength weakens. Thus, training with only the mind set of trying to overpower a person will become less successful the older we get. Technique on the other hand, can be cultivated and refined as one grows older. As technique matures in a martial artist, the motions and application of strength becomes smaller and less important. One can think of technique as being like a stone sculpture. As you define the sculpture, the artist removes the parts that are not needed to define the end result. You don’t add to a sculpture, only remove. Same with your technique. As you train, one finds the parts that are unnecessary and you refine the motions to be most efficient. This will allow you to spend less energy and cuts down on inefficient motions. This increases one’s speed as well.

For Shoshin Ryu practitioners at the dojo, this must be at the forefront of the mind. If you find yourself needing to use muscle in order to make a technique work, chances are you have missed a key principle within the technique and rather than forcing your way through, it’s better to start over and find the piece that is missing. The word Jujitsu means gentle application. Think on this while training and ask yourself periodically if the motions you are using in your technique are truly the most efficient. This will often lead you to discoveries about how you move. Less is more. The Judo maxim of “Minimum Effort, Maximum Efficiency” sum this up quite well. Most traditionally trained martial artists will find that their peak will come much later in life compared to someone who counts on strength and physical ability to defend themselves. Longevity in your training comes from this mindset.

To look at it a different way, compare how a lower mudansha (ranks below black belt) works through a kata compared to a yudansha (black belt). If both perform 10 kata in a row, the yudansha will be less exhausted and will maintain a constant flow so that all the kata are done the same way, with equal speed and power whereas the mudansha will taper off as they progress through the 10 kata. The speed and power will be less as each kata is done. This is because the yudansha has learned over years and years of training that efficient motions not only allow you to move with less effort, but actually increase the power one can deliver through less tension and faster, more efficient and fluid motions. When you find this for yourself through constant refining and drilling, you have taken a critical step forward in your training and progression. This is a never ending path, a path that’s destination is one of absolute efficiency, using only what is necessary to achieve the objective. Couple this with the aspect of mind speed and mushin (no-mind) and you have a highly skilled Shoshin Ryu practitioner.

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