Friday, March 02, 2012

Tomiki on initiative in Junokata

Today my martial studies are focussed on exchanges of initiative in Junokata.  Although I know of no existing teachings by Tomiki Sensei on Junokata, you can bet he was thoroughly versed in it because Kano seemed to esteem the exercise highly.  Tomiki does discuss initiative in this excellent essay...
In all athletic sports one must, in order to gain the victory, surpass the opponent in mental power, technical skill, and physical strength. These three factors must be united in gaining the mastery over an opponent. The mastery is brought into play in the form of various techniques, and although there are a large number of them, they may be summed up and resolved into one word sen (initiative or lead).
In the old densho (books of secret principles) the way of taking the initiative is explained in three stages.
  • Sen-sen-no-sen (superior initiative). Superior initiative is given play in a delicate situation where one confronts an opponent who intends to attack, and gains mastery over him by subtly guessing his mentality and forestalling his actions. This is the highest reach of the mental cultivation in any military art and is regarded as not easily attainable. But if you consider it more deeply, you will find it too late to try to gain command over anything when it has taken a concrete form, and you must have the mental preparedness to hold it down beforehand. For this purpose it is necessary to learn to maintain the openness and serenity of mind as signified by the old expression, "Clear as a stainless mirror and calm as still water." Lao-tse teaches this almost divine state of mind in the following words: "It is the way of heaven to prevail without contention."
  • Sen (initiative). This is to forestall your opponent by starting an action before he begins attack on you.
  • Ato-no-sen (initiative in defense). This is not to guess the mentality of your opponent and check his action before it is done, but to start action in defense the moment you have an inkling of the offensive of your opponent. It is to avoid the opponent's attack the instant it is about to be launched upon you, and to make a counter-attack taking advantage of a pause in your opponent's movement and a disturbance in his posture. A man who takes the initiative in defense rises in opposition to his opponent's attack, and parries or averts it. Seemingly it is a defensive move. In order to stave off the opponent's attack at the last moment and restore one's position one must keep the moral attitude of initiative so as not to get worsted by the adversary.
With regard to Tomiki's schema of initiative, one may make some statements about the techniques in Junokata...
  • All the techniques of junokata are Ato-no-sen (A.K.A. gonosen) - that is, uke acts and tori reacts.  In fact, it seems from some of the Kano excerpts that I posted in the last couple of days, that Kano thought that the true principle of Ju could only be applied in gonosen - that direct action or pre-emption by tori was not Ju.
  • Many of the techniques of Junokata involve more than one exchange of initiative in renzoku (continuous or combination)fashion - that is, uke acts, tori reacts, uke reacts, tori reacts...
  • The kata seems to mostly be organized in order of increasing complexity - that is, the techniques of the later sets in the kata tend to involve more interchange of initiative than those of the earlier sets. 
Patrick Parker
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