"Power without perception is spiritually uselessand therefore, of no true consequence."
No judo tomorrow,
Though you may sorrow.
I have a date,
With my bride of late.
Normal schedule will resume;
Same judo time, same judo place,
We'll practice with grace.
Despite this, dojos (including mine) advertise as self-protection and many people who take martial arts classes in the United States are concerned with issues related to self-defense (see this article). In pretty much all aikido classes in the world, at least some of the practice involves taking knives and swords away from violent people. In jodo we practice using a stick to defend against a sword-wielding person. The self-defense kata in judo involve disarming violent people armed with sticks, swords, knives, and even guns! Is this really inconsistent or what? Are we all charlatans?
- Attacks are probabilistic events – nothing is certain. Good weapons are terrible things but people are remarkably resilient. I have personally seen people who have survived being stabbed through the heart or having their aorta burst.
- Everyone has potential to be dangerous – even the defender. It is not unheard of for an attacker fall on his own weapon. The smallest, weakest defender in the world can still put a finger in an attacker’s eye.
- Make use of defenses that you can put into effect and then forget – locks, security systems, etc… They are not foolproof but they rarely hurt.
- Think carefully about how you live your life. While you have the right to go to a rough bar or a bad neighborhood, do you HAVE to exercise that right?
- Be aware of your surroundings. Be in the present and connect with people around you (metsuke, ki musubi, zanshin). Attackers favor weakened, distracted prey.
- Try to stay away from violent people (ma-ai, taisabaki). If they can’t reach you it's harder to kill you.
- Get out of the way of violent people and move toward safety (tai sabaki, shikaku). Knives only cut with 1-2 surfaces. Guns almost never kill the person behind them or beside them. Elbows only work in one direction and the person standing behind the attacker is harder to kill.
- Get in synch and move with the violent person (shikaku). If he can’t turn to face you, you’re harder to kill.
- Don’t fight with violent people – control or injure them enough to disengage and move to safety. Fighting is about winning but survival is about surviving.
- Don’t grapple with violent people – evade, disengage, and flee.
This list contains only ten principles out of many that are internalized over the course of a lifetime of martial arts study. Suppose that each of these principles only improves your chances by 10%. That is, the attacker has a 90% chance of killing you rather than 100%. These principles combined would produce a .9 to the 10th power chance of being killed. Thus, a 100% certainty (which really doesn’t exist anyway) is reduced to about 33%. Anything that has the conservative potential of reducing a near certainty of death to a 1-in-3 chance is worth exploring. Particularly with the fact that most Americans will not be a victim of violence three times in their life anyway.
But keep in mind…there are no guarantees and no such thing as insurance in this life!
The reason for this is that there is (and should be) a lot of experimentation and stopping and starting and rewinding and repeating and refining involved with day-to-day practice. Everyday kata practice is a laboratory exercise in which we manipulate variables and get the repetition we need to internalize the principles contained in the kata.
- Get the attitude right. Embu is a demonstration of principles that are intended to be used in combat. Therefore, the attitude should reflect a life or death seriousness. This doesn't mean that you have to abuse uke any more than usual. This doesn't change the physical execution of the techniques at all, but a difference in attitude should be apparent in your zanshin (awareness).
- Attain a connection with uke the instant the kata begins (typically the first step uke and tori take toward each other) and maintain that connection throughout the demo. This connection should be obvious through tori's use of metsuke (eye contact), centering, and synchronization (ki musubi) with uke.
- The formality of the kata is primarily involved with keeping in mind that you are demonstrating the kata to someone (joseki) Therefore, it should be obvious that tori is keeping joseki in mind throughout the demo. Tori should not stand with his back to joseki and the kata should be arranged if possible so that uke is not thrown toward joseki and that tori is always at least somewhat between uke and joseki. Sometimes these demands conflict and tori has to make the best compromise possible at the time.
- Set up a rhythm appropriate to the kata. You can do this by doing the same thing before and after each techique. Sort of like a bass line in music, the formality between the technique sets up an environment in which the techniques stand out.
- Purely aesthetically, it helps to make sure that uke is physically larger than tori. Nobody likes to see a big guy beating up a little guy. Uke must have sufficient falling skills and both partners should have sufficient cardiovascular strength that neither of them gets ragged-out looking during the demo. Both partners should look clean and crisp and healthy during a demo. For kata demonstrations it is most appropriate to have uke and tori roughly the same skill level.
- #1 = get offline
- #2 = attack uke's weak place
- #3 = try to confuse uke's sense of ma-ai
- #4 = keep at least 2 options from any position
- #5 = don't get over-committed
- #6 = move through a known posture to reduce chaos