Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Judo's non-kata self-defense kata

So, Judo has this thing they call Goshin Jutsu, which has been called the "New Self Defense Kata" (as opposed to the more ancient kimenokata), but it's not really a kata.
Goshin Jutsu is a set of pre-arranged partner exercises that demonstrate ideas about self-defense from various situational attacks. Sounds like a kata, huh? Well, within the last few years, the IJF has even standardized the formality and execution of the thing so that it can be done as a kata for competition purposes. But it's still not a kata so much as it is a template. Let me use the first "technique" in Goshin Jutsu as an example of what I'm talking about.
Per the official, standardized, "kata," uke approaches and grasps both of tori's wrists and tries to knee him in the groin. Tori slides diagonally backward to the left, breaks his right hand free by pulling against the thumb, hits uke in the face with a back-knuckle, and then does wakigatame on uke's right arm.

Per the "Pat Parker" understanding, this move is a laboratory exercise within certain constraints:
  • uke approaches and grabs both wrists and tries the knee strike. Uke may vary the timing and intensity of the attack within this basic form.
  • tori utilizes taisabaki to get off the line (try different directions) of attack and offbalance uke (look what happens to uke's attack when you do different kuzushi).
  • tori applies (various) atemi to distract, offbalance, facilitate the lock, maintain space, or destroy uke.
  • tori applies wakigatame (or some variant thereof)
This thing is, in no sense, the same every time. Precision is (mostly) thrown out the window in favor of experimentation and experience with variation. If anything, this is a form of limited randori, similar to katamenokata, where tori cinches a hold and uke tries any three moves to break it. In fact, Goshin Jutsu can be turned up a notch for experienced players by telling uke to attack properly, then allowing him to use whatever power and foreknowledge he has to stop tori's atemi and wakigatame.
Goshin Jutsu as a kata, done precisely against the same attack the same way every time, is of very limited value. You can learn all the lessons that kata move has to teach in a few minutes. Goshin Jutsu as a laboratory experiment in variation is, however, extremely valuable. This sort of Goshin Jutsu practice is rich enough to provide a lifetime of lessons.
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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮
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