Monday, July 29, 2013

Why I like Yoshinori Kono's jo work

A few days ago I forwarded this video to a bunch of my friends with a note saying, "Check this guy out, I really like what he does."  Several of them were unimpressed, and had some good comments, like,
  • he is working too far inside ma-ai
  • no power behind his strikes
  • his ukes don't appear to know what they are doing I thought I'd write some about why I do like his aiki-like jo work.
First, I will readily admit I'm probably biased because of an old article I read about this fellow - Perceptual warfare in the classical Japanese martial arts.  This perceptual approach to aikido (etc...) feels right to me - I get the same feeling watching Ueshiba's later films of him doing magic.  Osensei was operating within the domain of his ukes' perceptions (inside their OODA loop), and that's what Kono appears to be getting at.
In all martial arts (that I've seen) there appear to be different factions and cults based on different preferences or attributes.  You can take a dozen students and teach them the same stuff at the same time and you will end up with a dozen different arts in a few years, because each practitioner has individual preferences and filters and attributes that they  use to interpret the art.  Some are stronger, some are faster, some are better at receiving while others are better at attacking, etc...  For example, within the world of Japanese karate-do, you see Shotokan, which sort of epitomizes the cult of power.  They are strong and linear and they make their karate work through strength. Then you have Shotokai, which is the same set of material taught by the same original teachers, but now they more epitomize a cult of timing.  They take a  more soft and flowing approach.  (Sure, these are generalizations, and real karate masters make use of both strength and timing, but the generalization holds I think).
With respect to jodo/jojutsu/aikijo, you see the same sort of differentiation into styles or cults.  Some folks are all about mechanical precision and power, while others are all about timing and flow.  Nick actually brings these aspects together in an interesting way in his jodo training matrix video...

I suspect this is what we are seeing in Kono's video with respect to power - in his preference to work in the perceptual realm, he is concentrating on speed and timing at the expense of power.  So, he is demonstrating an interesting thing about one facet of the big picture - how to develop the speed and timing necessary to work on uke's perceptions.
(but as a side note...speed is power... so they tell me...)
Now with regard to his working inside ma-ai.  That is a problem from my point of view too, but I think it is understandable for a couple of reasons.
  • He is obviously working from the background of speed and timing, and in my experience, superfast practitioners love to work inside ma-ai, where they can disorient slower guys with a flurry of motion before the slower guys can react.  I probably enjoy that aspect of Kono's work particularly because it is so opposite of my personal preferences and style.  I avoid inside conditions like the plague unless I can cripple uke with kuzushi or get behind him.  So this seems exotic, like something that could benefit me.
  • He is also obviously showing pieces of motion instead of fight-ending waza like we're used to seeing.  As such, I suspect his ma-ai is contracted for the sake of getting some clear video of what he's doing.  The camera has him and uke confined to a smaller space.
And as for his ukes being incompetent.  I don't much to say about that because just about everyone in the world is more competent with weapons than me.  But Morihei Ueshiba made his ukes look pretty dumb too, which suggests that Kono may be on a similar track as Ueshiba.

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Patrick Parker

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