Ippon 一本 • Total Excellence

In the the sportive or contest application of Japanese martial arts (especially Judo) there is a standard of excellence that exceeds all others. This standard is the fullest, most complete, and highest form of victory there is within shiai (contest). It both stands head and shoulders above all other potential forms of winning and it is the form that the martial artist most endeavors to achieve. This highest, most complete, and most thorough form of victory is called “IPPON!” It is my contention that we can extend this concept beyond sportive martial arts duels and into our broader lives. Ippon!

In these contests of martial arts technique, Ippon is a single point. This single point wins the entire match. There are other minor scores that can accumulated throughout the contest…but if an “IPPON” is scored, all of the other scores are rendered irrelevant and the match ends immediately. So ippon isn’t just “a point’ but it is “the point.” You can win by minor score or by judges decision but that is never the goal…winning by Ippon is always the goal!

In judo (or jujutsu) this would mean one massive high amplitude throw with skill, power, speed, technique, and control. Also possible by having the opponent surrender and concede defeat by way of joint lock or strangulation technique.

A western example would be something like a Knockout (KO) in boxing. One boxer could be ahead 11 rounds to zero…but if that 12th and final round the “losing” fighter scores a decisive blow and KO’s his opponent the match ends immediately and without question. He scored an IPPON level technique. A complete and total victory. To the fighter the goal isn’t to “win on points” but to end the fight by an execution of a sublime technique that demonstrates beyond question that his or her victory is complete and total. This symbolizes a death blow in the spirit of old-school battlefield martial arts.

My sensei always talked about “always doing one’s very best.” He was encouraging us to a certain standard of excellence in how we conducted ourselves both on and off the tatami. Like famous quote that is often attributed to Aristotle:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

He was encouraging us to do our best…to strive for excellence! If there is a task to be done, don’t approach the task in such a way that you “win on a judge’s decision” or by eking out only enough to kind of, sort of, get the job done. No, he would admonish us to complete the task with you absolute best effort. Look to score an “Ippon!” Whether you do or do not score an “Ippon” is different question…but your goal is approach tasks with the spirit of your best, most excellent effort. Whether it is a technique on the mats, cleaning your room, or a tackling a school project or exam – go for Ippon!

Some of the Japanese judo champions have had a unique form of criticism in the past. They are often up on minor points in a judo match but they seem to continuously attack with unyielding vigor. As if they were losing. On occasion they get countered and lose the contest. In post match interviews they’ve been asked, “Why didn’t you just stale for time and lay low?You were winning the match.” The standard Japanese answer is something in the ballpark of… “I know but I didn’t score Ippon.” The Japanese judoka in these cases weren’t in it to win on minor points. The goal was to look for victory by an absolute best effort of will and technique. This effort toward total excellence was more important than just “getting the job done.” It isn’t just about doing the work…it is about doing the work with excellence. Getting the job done with complete and total excellence was the goal. For many Japanese champions it is a habit. The habit of excellence. The habit of not being satisfied with anything but the highest form of personal effort. The habit of Ippon!

The older I get the more I’ve thought that summarizing this entire attitude of “doing one’s best” or striving for excellence as a default setting can be summarized by this spirit of Ippon. Ippon isn’t always possible… but the effort to strive for Ippon is. Our best effort, fulfilling our greatest potential, taking pride in both our work & character, striving personal excellence…this the spirit of Ippon!

Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove

By Lidia Kuliberda

(written for college level English class – evaluation essay)

Today’s world is full of violence; physical violence, emotional violence, sexual violence. A lot of people want nothing else than to be kind, but they end up being victims in their relationships or workplaces. Violence can be found in intimate places or public places, homes or streets. It does not spread only in the adult world, but it often touches the world of kids. Bullying at schools is out of control. The school bus cannot be considered a safe place anymore. Numbers of cases for domestic violence and sexual assaults are constantly growing. It gets brutal quickly, from arguing to pushes, from pushes to fistfights, from fistfights to hair dragging, kicking, choking and using knives and guns.

“Do not mistake kindness with weakness.” Many kind people do not know that they do not have to be in their violent situations. Most importantly, they do not know how to effectively defend themselves. Flagler Country is extremely lucky to have Jukido Academy, a school that can teach you self-defense. Jukido Academy’s focus is not on sport aspects or competitions but on building skills to help an individual to get out of a dangerous situation and to not fall into being a victim in the first place. In an interview with Jaimie, a brown belt student of Jukido Academy, she was asked what you can gain through the practice and if someone really would be able to defend themselves in real situations. She responded, “Through the practice, you gain awareness and self-confidence! You learn more than just techniques, you learn the how and why they work and from that, you gain self-confidence. You are taught how to be aware of your surroundings and how to avoid situations that could put you in danger. Yes! You certainly learn how to defend yourself in real situations from someone bigger and stronger than you and using that against them!”

Focus on real self-defense is one of the many values ​​that makes Jukido Academy so unique. It is a true approach to martial arts that is missing in today’s world. It is not a money maker school, where children are babysat and every once in a while, they get colorful belts only because their parents pay for it. It is a school that is student-centered. The Master wants the student to discover their power and abilities they were never aware of having. Empowerment and growth are a motive behind every action. It is a traditional martial arts school where instructions, practices, and philosophy are passed from master to master with deserved honor.

Another factor of why Jukido Academy is so well established and well attended lays in its leader himself. Master George Rego, a fifth-degree black belt, is one of only seven living masters in the art of Jukido Jujitsu. He started his study as an eight-year-old boy under his master Shihan Arel, tenth-degree black belt and founder of the art. Master Arel saw in George Rego talent that, together with a tremendous amount of hard work, made this little boy at the age of sixteen the youngest Sensei in the world. Sensei Rego opened Jukido Academy in 1999. For over twenty years he influenced the lives of so many. He is an incredibly talented martial artist and highest quality human being. He sets an example of a man of character as a husband, father, leader, and teacher. He is humble, extremely giving and caring, strong spirited, open hearted, and with a genius mind. A mentor to adults and kids of all ages. When you engage with him, you just want to learn from him anything you can to become the quality of a person that he is. He can be the softest and kindest person in one moment and then the strongest, fastest, sharpest, and the most dangerous in the other- “An iron fist in a velvet glove.” Master Rego represents the art, showing you what Jukido can make you be if you follow the path, training, and philosophy. He shines as an example of what philosophy of Jukido Jujitsu teaches- truthfulness, honor, loyalty, courage, benevolence, justice, and politeness. He is a man who always does his very best in whatever task he encounters.

Master Rego is a very talented, intuitive teacher and a natural psychologist. His teaching is so gentle. Many individuals have a strong resistance, they do not believe they can participate in classes, they are fascinated by the beauty and power of the art but scared of the look and the sound of bodies slamming on the ground. Sensei Rego will always help a student to overcome fear. He can break down the most complicated moves into simple steps to make learning possible for everyone. A dojo is a family where one is helping the other grow. In an interview with Angie, an orange belt student, she was asked if someone is not too old or out of shape to start. She answers, “I would say Jukido Academy is very safe. You’re safe inside the dojo, and train to be safer outside the dojo. As they say, being too old or out of shape to work out is like being too dirty to shower. You start wherever you are, and slowly build up to where you want to be. No one is out to hurt you, only to help you become stronger. “

Jukido Academy teaches over a hundred students per week. The art is designed so even someone who is not too tall or well-built can defeat the attacker who is physically bigger and stronger. The school also specializes in women’s self-defense. One of the students, an orange belt Brandi shares, “I highly recommend Jukido Academy’s Self Defense classes for women in particular because it is life-saving! The training is hands-on and uses real force dynamics to defend against someone bigger and stronger, it gives women a realistic sense of what an attack is like and empowers them to fight back instead of relying on hope alone.”

It is especially beautiful to watch how Master Rego influences children. He genuinely loves kids and kids love him. He gives simple, easy to understand examples. Kids learn focus and discipline, they gain skills and understanding while having a lot of fun. Master Rego expects hard work. He has taught for over twenty years now, so he witnessed many of his young students grow up into strong spirited and successful adults. Some of the students serve in fields of army and law enforcement. Countless parents are thankful for life for the “Forever Strong” philosophy Master Rego installed in their kids.

If you wish to learn a true martial art and realistic self-defense, gain a master who becomes your coach, friend and helping hand in all fields of life; if you want to transform your life and build skills and confidence while gaining valuable friendships, all in a clean, safe and pleasant space visit www.floridajukido.com, and read all five stars google reviews. Start a journey of self-discovery and self-mastery through mastery of the art. “If you work for Jukido, Jukido will work for you” “Nothing so strong as gentleness; Nothing so gentle as real strength.”

The 2 Assumptions of Jujitsu (Jujutsu / Jiu-Jitsu)

The 2 Assumptions of Our Jujitsu

Jukido is a unique system of jujitsu in today’s modern world. Strangely enough, it is unique because it continues to hold on stubbornly to the historic telos (purpose for existing). Many highly skilled martial artists globally practice the art of jujitsu today. However, most of these practitioners practice forms of the art that are now divorced from its telos or original & intended purpose. Many jujitsuka of the modern era say that this is due to the art’s natural evolution. Afterall, things change and evolve overtime. In some majors, we, as Jukidoka, agree. However, the distinction that we, as Jukidoka make, is that although things do evolve and we don’t want to stay stuck in the past — our perspective is that evolution shouldn’t move us AWAY from the purpose of the art’s actual existence. We can evolve in the direction of further refinement. We can evolve in the direction of developing strategies and tactics that address the needs of the realities of today’s world. But the point is, we continue to evolve in the SAME DIRECTION as opposed to taking a different direction all together

A lifelong marriage evolves over time. It, of course, evolves and matures as time passes. Experience and lessons learned build the tradition, the fabric, of the marriage. Hopefully, despite natural ups and downs, it strengthens over time.  The individuals in the marriage remain committed to the “telos” established at the beginning of the union. The central purpose for the union’s existence remains unchanged. In fact, it is timeless. The purpose of marriage is so timeless that it isn’t restricted to any particular marital relationship. The concept of marriage is almost as old as man himself. The concept of marriage outlasts the lifespan of any individual marital union. There is something in the essence of the concept of marriage itself…that makes it, well, marriage. The individuals in a particular marriage — are rightly bound by the timeless requirements of ultimate fidelity to this grander purpose we call “marriage”. When the purpose is no longer clear or the marriage is no longer unified in that purpose, when fidelity to the concept of marriage and each other breaks down – it continues to move forward in time – but as it “evolves” forward in time…..but it is moving forward in a completely different direction altogether. It is doing so in a way that will see the marriage be a marriage only in name. There is a breakdown in the fidelity to the telos of marriage.  Eventually, if enough of this so-called evolution takes place the parties will no longer be unified in purpose. They seperate. They divorce. Their effort at marriage ends – but the timeless concept of marriage remains. 

Shihan Arel’s vision for his jujitsu system – JUKIDO — was that it would be a gendai budo or modern martial art — a system of jujitsu that would evolve – but that evolved in the same direction that the art was founded for. It would remain “wed” to its telos. He, and a few of his generation, were among the first to recognize that the art they loved was evolving but it was evolving but doing so in a different direction. Away from it’s telos.

Jukido retains the TWO BROAD ASSUMPTIONS of the classical Japanese art of jujutsu. If we, as modern day Jukidoka, NEVER abandon these two assumptions – we will never lose our way. These two assumptions undergird our jujitsu. If we keep them as the most pressing priorities in our practice and teaching of the art – we will ensure that the art of jujitsu is both preserved at its core and be developed further forward for future generations without divorcing ourselves from the arts purpose for existing. The obsession with these two assumptions will ensure that no divorce takes place between the purpose and the practice of our jujitsu. 

The two assumptions are simple. First, we assume that the art is designed for contemporary real world combative encounters. We train on a mat but we don’t train “for the mat.” We train in a dojo but not “for the dojo.” That is to say, real combat happens in real places with real consequences. Whether it is a battlefield in feudal Japan, the tricky situations a modern police officer faces, or the civilian self-defense needs of young and old, men and women alike — the first assumption is that we are training for a truly real combative encounter. 

The second assumption is that when we find ourselves in this real world combative encounter – we are the party in that circumstance with the physical attribute disadvantage. The attacker might be bigger, stronger, younger, fitter. Perhaps they are armed. Perhaps their advantage lays in numbers or the element of surprise. Whatever the case might be — we are going to start with the premise or assumption that we will not be the one with the physical attributes on our side. We assume it won’t be a fair fight. If we are wrong, we’ll take it. But we will engage all of our training with the baseline assumption that we are the smaller, weaker, or otherwise disadvantaged party.

These assumptions have two MASSIVE implications to training. They, again, undergird the marriage in jujitsu between purpose and practice. The first implication is the concept of Kanzen or completeness. Because we aren’t preparing for an environment, ruleset, opponent, or set of circumstances that we can guarantee in advance – we must be prepared in a holistic manner. The jujitsuka needs to be incredibly diverse! Combative skills must include striking, throwing, grappling. These comprehensive fighting skills must be applied in a variety of environments, ranges, and circumstances. The jujitsuka must be versatile enough to control an unruly individual without any damage being done or to take someone’s life from them if the situation was severe enough. The jujitsuka must be complete in their physical conditioning and training but also in their mental perspective. Ensuring that they are situationally aware, resolute under pressure, and infused with the courage to act if and when appropriate. Because we don’t know what situation we might ultimately face – we can’t put all of our eggs in a particular combative basket. We don’t have the luxury of hyperspecialization in a subset of combative skills because we know in advance that only those skills will be required. We must aim for both width and depth of combative capabilities. We must be complete. We must have Kanzen.

The second of these two implications is adherence to the principle of JU (柔). Ju is often physically manifest in concepts such as kuzushi or the breaking of balance. Because we won’t be the bigger, stronger, fitter purpose in the encounter — we need a guiding principle that centers around using the physical advantages of our adversary against them. To adapt, flex, and give way in order be immediately overtaken by an attacker rich in physical attributes. We must remain 100% loyal, faithful, and committed to this concept. If not, we lose the very “ju” in the art of “ju”-jitsu. The art is named after this very concept. Our style of the art – Jukido – also contains the principle of Ju. It is at the heart of what we do. 

As we both preserve and evolve – we can ensure that we move forward in the right direction – by never straying from the telos of jujitsu.  By maintaining complete and unwavering allegiance to the two assumptions embedded at the core of the art and the two resultant guiding principles… we ensure that our jujitsu, Jukido system of jujitsu, is safe from the state of divorce found in many of our “cousins” in the modern jujitsu scene.

Any keen observer of martial arts history can see that separation from these two guiding principles takes the art in a totally different direction. It doesn’t happen in a day of course. But in as little as a decade or two, the entire character of the art changes when one or both of these assumptions is lost. Although there are so many examples, including modern sport based Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, let us focus on one example. Let’s focus on the so-called evolution of modern Olympic style Judo.

Judo at its origin was another system of jujitsu. Overtime, this modernized form of jujitsu – the brainchild of the legendary Jigoro Kano — became the mecca of Japanese jujitsu. In its original form until approximately World War 2 – Judo was strict in it’s complete adherence to the two assumptions. Yes, it did emphasize physical and moral education. Yes, it had a contest component that was emphasized as another form of training. But contest was not the point of training itself. As any reading of early judo history will recount, judo was proved its efficacy by the fire of very real conflicts. 

After World War 2, major segments of Judo drifted away from the first of the two assumptions — again, the assumption that the art was going to be used in real life environments and real life combative encounters. Over a relatively short period of time, the SPORT side almost entirely swallowed up the rest of judo. Now, contest wasn’t a form of training…it became what you were training for altogether. With this reality, Judoka moved away from any form of training that didn’t directly translate to success in contests on the judo mat. Training on the mat for the realities of matted contests. Slowly, the emphasis on self-defense went away and striking elements of judo along with it. As the rules became more and more restrictive, so did the skillset of the competitive Judoka. The hyper specialization in particular aspects of the Japanese art, led to the slow decline of any area not relevant for sportive contests. The lack of preservation of the first assumption as a central focus – real world combat or self-defense — created moden sport Judo.
What is interesting however, is that for a very long time – judo, as a whole — including sport, did NOT lose the second assumption. They were completely obsessed with the second assumption. This is evidenced  by the fact that from its founding in 1882 to approximately 1956, even in contests, there were absolutely no weight classes. The smallest and weakest contestant in a tournament could well face the strongest, largest, and heaviest. As such, the judoka always trained with the second assumption in mind. He trained assuming that his opponent — albeit one in a sportive context — would have the physical attributes on his side. As such, he must devote himself fully to developing his skills in accordance to the principles of Ju! Many of Judo’s greatest legends were some of these small men who defeated skilled giants using an uncanny understanding and mastery of kuzushi. 

Sadly, most of modern sport Judo, eventually lost the second assumption as well. Slowly, over a period of years, weight classes were introduced. At first two large weight categories. Then four. Today, seven major weight classes. The introduction of weight classes marked the beginning of the end of the second assumption. Long past are the days that modern Olympic Judoka assumes he’ll be facing someone physically larger and stronger. He, rightfully, assumes that he’ll face competitors around his same weight. In fact, he’ll “cut weight” like boxers, wrestlers, and MMA fighters in an attempt to be the biggest-strongest-athlete in his weight category. He now strongly emphasizes weight training in hopes that he’ll match his opponent muscle fiber for muscle fiber. If he is lucky and trains hard enough, he could well be the biggest and strongest in his weight class. Under these conditions, that is the approach that is incentivized by the sport. As a result, most modern Judoka have lost both of the two assumptions. A few hang on to one of the two assumptions still…., and almost no modern judoka hang on tightly and with complete fidelity to both of the original assumptions of jujitsu. 

Judo is one prime example from history. But is far from being the only one.

So, as the sands of time pass us by… as the present slowly but surely becomes the past – as we train today and pass on the art to the future masters that today perhaps wear a humble white belt – we must never divorce ourselves from the two assumptions of our beloved martial art. If we maintain these assumptions and train with two resultant principles of kanzen and ju – Jukido Jujitsu will evolve forward, forever strong, in the right direction.

Throwing is the “Instant Guard Pass”

This video is a great demonstration of not only technique but the logic of how branches of technique are designed to fit together. Something so obvious but seems to be lost in a world of hyper-specialization in the combat sport world that isn’t true of the more traditional combative Japanese approach.

I’ve always said that traditional throwing of jujitsu / judo, aside from the damage it induces and the psychological disorientation, is the best instant “guard pass” there is. That isn’t a coincidence!

Modern sports based grappling, mainly in BJJ, as a sporting game has evolved MASSIVE series of systems and subsystems designed to “pass the guard” of the opponent. Against a competent grappler “passing the guard,” or getting past someone’s legs when you are facing their legs/feet or entangled by them, is task that requires serious skill if you are going to do it in the head-on direct sense. Legs are powerful! Whether it is in sportive contest or a true fight situation, one must approach cautiously and with skill.

Although the Japanese art of jujutsu ( as is evident in pre-WW2 era judo) has ALWAYS had a set of skills and strategies for passing the guard in the head-on sense, it is undeniable that the BJJ style of jujutsu pays more dedicated time and effort into developing this hyper-specialized skill more than any other grappling oriented style. Why might that be?

The de-emphasis on importance of standing fighting and loss of high level throwing skill is the prime reason. Classically, originating from true combative roots, throwing in the overwhelming majority of the cases IMMEDIATELY and IMPACTFULLY, clears the legs (“the guard”) away. The opponent is left with their upper body exposed post throw so that the Thrower can retreat, immediately ATTACK with strikes, pins, joint locks, or strangles (or some combination of the above)…WITHOUT having to go through the laborious and potentially time consuming process “getting past the guard” in the direct sense. Rather then “pass the guard” – the throw eliminates the possibility of a leg-defense guard to begin with (and causes physical damage).

The downside is that throwing skills take a long time to develop. Some Japanese judo sensei have been known to say, “Six years nage-waza, 6 months newaza.” The idea is that it takes a very long time to become a competent thrower. It is a long investment of time and effort…but like most long term investments, it is well worth it. Especially when one considers real self-defense and not “mat contests” where one can take minutes of time trying to get “past the guard.”

That same time by the way is just transferred from throwing (or the “instant guard pass) to learning a massive array of skills in order to pass the guard of a skilled opponent. BJJ is an art that happens on the ground…and if you don’t know how to throw…what ends up happening most of the time is people simply tackle their opponents with poor versions of wrestling single and double leg takedowns (assuming they even start standing and not on their knees). If those takedowns work, you still end up between the person’s legs on the ground…and thus “passing the guard” becomes a highly important skill and hyper-specialization begins to happen.

Again, passing the guard in the head-on sense is a real skill and has always exists in Japanese jujitsu and judo, but throwing has been the classical answer, especially those that still maintain combative roots.

Funnily enough, sometimes people say – “you should learn judo for throws and bjj for ground work.” It is almost like throwing (nage-waza) and groundwork (newaza) attacks should fit together as a whole…OH YEAH…they originally did and still do! Classically, this was always true! It is the development of lopsided emphasis on particular sporting contest rules of one style or the other that separates what was once a complete and LOGICAL whole.

This BJJ competition video clearly demonstrates how, even in the contest setting, the skilled thrower expertly and INSTANTLY passed the guard (via the throw), maintained control of the opponents body orientation post throw, and was in position to IMMEDIATELY attack with the armlock (juji-gatame) without any interference of the lower body (i.e. the guard). Throwing and ground work seamlessly tied together! The way it was designed before many not only specialized but hyper-specialized to the point of breaking the logical whole into pieces.

Credit to those who have never separated the art into pieces and endeavor to not just have the independent skills but have a sense of how they logically fit together.

Katame Waza vs Newaza • What’s the Difference?

Categories of Technique vs. Domains of Combat

Drawing of jujutsu / judo practice from the early “modern” period.

In the world of Japanese martial arts, particularly judo & jujutsu, one often hears the terms katame-waza (grappling techniques) and newaza (ground fighting) used interchangeably. Even the best teachers do this and for ease of class instruction it is almost always permissible. Because of this, however, occasionally students ask, “What is the difference between katame-waza & newaza? Are they two terms referring to the same thing?”

The easiest way to answer is to understand that Japanese combative techniques can be broken down and organized in several different ways all of which are valid. Each way has its merits and depending on the context, a sensei might use one over another. For the sake of this short essay and answering this particular question, we’ll focus on the two broad ways this organization usually takes place.

One method is to organize combative skills into branches or categories of technique. In pre-World War 2 Judo, this was broken down into:

  1. Atemi-Waza (Striking Technique)
  2. Nage-Waza (Throwing Technique)
  3. Katame-Waza (Grappling Technique)

Notice, there isn’t any Newaza or “ground fighting” technique in there. Or is there?

Katame-Waza refers to grappling techniques. Many grappling techniques take place on the ground. So, in some sense it seems that Katame-waza (grappling) encompasses Newaza (ground fighting). However, not all grappling techniques take place on the ground. Many joint locks and strangulation / choking techniques happen in the standing position, especially when one is thinking about the these arts as true fighting arts as opposed to sporting contests.

So that settles it, right? All newaza is katame-waza but NOT all katame-waza is newaza, right? Well, not exactly…

Juji Gatame • Cross Body Arm Lock

You see, katame-waza simply categorizes specific types of techniques as GRAPPLING. It doesn’t state where the specific grappling technique is taking place. It could be standing, on the ground, or even sitting in a chair. It is a category of technique without reference to WHERE the technique is taking place. Yes, much of grappling happens on the ground but that isn’t always true.

The other way of breaking down combative skills isn’t based on Categories of Technique model but rather based on the specific DOMAINS OF COMBAT. There are more than these two, but broadly speaking we can say they are Tachi-Waza (standing) and Newaza (ground).

Simply stating “ground fighting” doesn’t necessarily mean strictly and exclusively grappling techniques are in use. It is 100% true that newaza or ground-fighting is most dominated by the category of technique broadly known as grappling (katame)…but if someone attempts a kick from the grounded position or performs an elbow strike from top position they are STILL engaged in newaza, they just used a striking technique (atemi) while in the ground phase or domain of combat. Thus, newaza is referring to where the battle is taking place or the domain of combat (most dominated by grappling) and it is not in itself necessarily any one type of fighting technique. You can be striking on the ground (newaza) and grappling on the feet (tachi-waza). You can clearly throw standing but you can also perform throws from the ground. In Japanese these are called hairi-kata or simply positional reversals. In the terminology of the modern sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), these are often referred to as “sweeps.” The fundamental principles are the same even if the domain of combat (standing vs ground) has changed.

As opposed to pre-WW2 judo, the modern version of sport-based Judo has entirely eliminated atemi-waza or striking techniques. As such, katame-waza (the grappling category of technique) and ne-waza (the domain of combat that takes place on the ground) are in all but the most rare of cases referring to grappling on the ground.

Outline of the Branches of Technique of Pre-WW2 Kodokan Judo

Nonetheless, those who preserve the art as a true martial art for self-defense should understand both the categories of technique and the particular domains of combat models for organizing and outlining an understanding of the art. In standing phase of combat (tachi-waza) one can strike, throw, and grapple (joint lock, choke, etc.). In the ground phase of combat (newaza) one can strike, throw, and grapple.

Most frequently, although not always, the various forms of sparring (randori or kumite) sees the domains of combat broken apart to closely correspond with particular branches of technique. Atemi-waza or striking often happens in karate kumite or kickboxing-style sparring with the usual exclusion or minimization of serious attempts to throw the opponent or apply grappling holds. In jujitsu & judo randori or free sparring it is usually throwing on the feet and grappling on the ground. This is where the fuzziness between the terms so often happens. The impression one is left with is that (in this case) katame-waza & newaza are one and the same…practically speaking in some forms of practice they are but they are actually referring to two different models of understanding: domains of combat or categories of technique.

Hang on Tightly, Let Go Lightly

Transitioning from Uki-Gatame to Juji-Gatame. 

Japanese judo sensei of old had a saying that translates roughly to: “Hold on tightly, let go lightly.”

The message is about the yin and yang balance between two ideas that seem juxtaposed to one another. The first being full commitment and the second being the flexibility to adapt and make a change. However, this balanced idea of “hold on tightly, let go lightly” is the very heart of not only the best martial artists but also the most successful people in life.

In attempting to effectively strike, strangle, or throw our opponent we cannot be “half hearted.” We must be fully engaged and determined in meeting the objective. We must make our best effort always. Like Kenny Rogers famously sang, “you have to know when to hold them…and when to fold them.” That is to say, when the technique is CLEARLY not working, won’t be working, and the attempt to make it work is only expending energy unwisely (and making you less safe), you must LET GO LIGHTLY. This is at the heart of the The Way of Gentle Flowing Power (Jukido).

We must be able to commit fully in one breath but at THE VERY SAME TIME be able to adapt as needed without unnecessarily “holding on tightly” to what isn’t working…and thus perhaps losing the momentary opportunity to make a successful adjustment in approach.

This can apply to testing in the dojo, long held ideologies, health, opportunities in life, approaches to business, and personal relationships. Fight for them! Make them work, be fully committed to success….but when success with that approach is no longer possible, don’t hold on…LET GO LIGHTLY.

Adapt, flow, maintain balance, stay strong.

Forever Strong.

Don’t Let Bullies Get Away With It!

“You don’t fight bullying with bullying.” This is what young children were told during an assembly style discussion on bullying at the school my daughters attend. Her school, which I have an overall incredibly high opinion of, is one of the many schools that proudly proclaim to be a “Zero Tolerance” campus as it pertains to bullying. “Well, what if someone is trying to beat you up and hurt you?” The message was the same, “You don’t fight bullies by bullying them back.” Physical conflict of any kind and for any reason is not tolerated! Zero-Tolerance for ever striking someone, period!

Albeit well intended, this advice and policy is incredibly ill-advised and pernicious to a degree that is hard to understate!

There was a recent Yahoo news story floating around Facebook about a 10 year old boy named Aiden who was bullied but refused to fight back because it was “Not the Jedi Way.” To be clear, this boy wasn’t being teased or even lightly pushed around. In fact, it was the third straight year of bullying.  This boy  had been previously violently assaulted by bullies to the point that he required stitches on his face.  This was now the second time he required a hospital visit post bullying incident for, once again, getting stitches on his face. This incident started with someone trying to take Aiden’s backpack. The mother is now pressing charges according the the story. The graphic included is a picture of Aiden, included in the Yahoo article, after the latest incident.

There is a lot of disturbing detail to this story that can’t be overlooked. Of course, there is the minor detail that it is technically incorrect to say that one can’t fight back because it isn’t the Jedi Way. Star Wars is well, “Wars.” There is plenty of fighting back. But frankly, that is coming from a 10 year old boy. The real issue is the messages he has been given by adults, school policies, and societal trends. Consider, just a for another moment that this boy has been bullied for three straight years and two of those incidents were serious enough that the boy needed stitches on his face. Consider that the child never fought back for fear of “getting in trouble.” I mean, after all, you “don’t fight bullying by bullying back.” There is Zero-Tolerance for ever striking someone, period. It gets more disturbing when adults seem to make comments that extol the “virtue” of not fighting back in these clear cut cases. Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker is quoted about Aiden saying he was, “ astonished by his wisdom and courage.” On my Facebook feed, where I saw this initially, one of the comments in response to the article was, “Good for him.” Good for him? Really? This is good for him? This is the wise course of action? To be hospitalized twice in the last three years and be in a situation that sees this young boy bullied for more than a quarter of this entire life? To be applauded for not even making the slightest attempt at self-preservation? Is this approach supposed to incentive bullies to stop? Is this approach supposed to be good for the physical and mental health of the bullied (or even the bully themselves) or the culture of the nation’s collective school campuses?

This story, and some of the reactions to this story, hit home with me in large part due to my teaching children self-defense for the past two decades. Unfortunately, this story is not only common but every single year I teach, it becomes increasingly more common. The story of Aiden isn’t an isolated situation. Far from it! I’ve personally experienced an overwhelming increase in the number of students and desperate parents coming to our school of self-defense looking for another way.

To be clear, “another way” isn’t code for: encouragement of getting into fist-fights, beating people up at the drop of a hat, or encouraging physical solutions to problems when other clear alternatives are preferable and available. In fact, there many other tactics that can be used which creates a situation where you don’t have to physically fight back. However, it does NOT completely eliminate or attempt to villainize the possibility of having to justifiably physically defend yourself if you truly have no other alternative and are facing physical harm.  The other way is NOT based on the  sickeningly perverse premise that anyone involved in a physical encounter, for any reason, has mandatory punishments imposed on them (zero tolerance). Rather, the other way is based on the premise that you not only have the RIGHT but the RESPONSIBILITY to defend yourself. Physically or not, the policy of Zero Tolerance needs to be replaced with policy of Don’t Let Bullies Get Away with It.

“Don’t let bullies get away with it” can take many forms. In all, but the most extreme cases, we aren’t talking physically striking or fighting someone. But that option (1) can’t be totally taken off the table by stating with there are no exceptions, (2) shouldn’t be villainized (“you don’t beat bullies by bullying them back”), and (3) needs to be clearly understood. We must create a culture that ensures children know that the adults around them find them valuable enough that they find them worth protecting. This is of immense importance. That children are given permission by the adults who love them to keep themselves safe from uncalled for physical attack. Defending yourself from an unjustified physical assault isn’t “bullying the bully”, any more than a woman defending herself from a sexual assault is somehow “wrong” for doing whatever is necessary to enforce her physical autonomy and safety. Difference of degree, perhaps…But the underlying principle is the same: NO ONE has the right to unjustifiably hurt you and if they try, you are JUSTIFIED in the attempt to protect your physical well-being. It is your well within your ethical right to protect yourself.

How dare someone plant the seed in a child’s mind that protecting themselves from unwarranted physical attack is “bullying the bully” or that a child not making any attempt to defend himself is someone to be applauded as “good for him!”

Consider the following few examples. Does a nation have a right and RESPONSIBILITY to look out for its well-being? Does a nation EVER have a right to defend itself from unjustified aggression? Does the actions of those brave souls on Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 who fought hijackers from further harming others fall under the category of “bullying the bully?” Would it have been better if those incredible Americans had thought it the so-called “Jedi Way” to sit down, shut up, and just take it? What about you? It is 3:00 a.m. and you hear someone break into your home. You look at your baby monitor and see the intruder with a hand inside your baby’s crib. The attacker is in your daughter’s bedroom. Is your instinctive response to that scenario to “not bully the bully?” How would you feel if some parent in that scenario, saw it happen, had the means to stop it…but didn’t? Further, how would you feel if after the fact someone then said to that parent that they admired them for their “courage and wisdom?” What if that parent justified it by saying that they were “afraid of getting in trouble” with the authorities? Would that be OK or even virtuous? Would you want the police officer in who has a clear shot on the active shooter in your child’s school to take the shot? Wouldn’t it be his RESPONSIBILITY to take the shot if it is clear and available to him? Isn’t that  the more Jedi like way? Using force to stop bad actors from furthering their actions isn’t somehow evil in principle. Obviously, we would prefer not to in a situation where it is necessary…but that is the point…sometimes there are situations where it is not only a necessity but a responsibility. The scaling and scope of the situation might vary but the principle doesn’t

The devil in the details to be sure. But that is yet another point. The details should be looked into.

Feel good slogans  such “Zero Tolerance for Bullying” and well-intended, but poorly thought out, policies are at worst a major contribution to the problem. Even if one is inclined to give the most charitable interpretation possible of these policies: one would state that they are, even if not contributing, at least ineffective at dealing with the issue. Especially ineffective in the critical moment when one is faced with a choice: allow oneself to fight the survival (and ethical) instinct of self-preservation and do nothing or alternatively to defend oneself from unnecessary physical harm. The slogan sounds right! Without much critical analysis it is easy to proudly proclaim, “I’m so glad my kid’s school has a Zero Tolerance for bullying. It makes me feel safer.” Well, it shouldn’t.

Although an oversimplification, there is an undercurrent of cowardice to the policy. Not wanting to make a call. Not wanting to tell a parent who believes their child can’t do any wrong, “After reviewing the situation thoroughly, your child is in the wrong and this child is clearly in the right.” It is easier to not take sides and just state that, “I understand you are upset ma’am but BY POLICY we suspend everyone if there is a physical altercation.” It isn’t that I’m making a call based on the specifics of the situation but rather “the policy” predetermining that everyone is equally guilty.  Of course, it isn’t the only factor, but one can’t help wonder how these these issues connect to the epidemic of mental health that sees younger and younger kids depressed, suicidal, or homicidal.

In my position teaching children jujitsu for self-defense, I’ve had many intense telephone and in-person conversations with parents who are looking to either proactively prevent their child from being bullied or, as increasingly the case, are looking to stop the bullying their son or daughter is currently encountering. Many parents feel as if they have followed all of the administrative steps encouraged by their schools with no real results and see their children’s confidence (and safety) tanking.

I encourage loving adults to give their children permission to defend themselves. They, obviously, shouldn’t give children permission to get into “fights.” This distinction needs to be made very clear (just as our civilian self-defense laws do). Nonetheless, kids hearing from their parents, teachers, etc. that whether it is a child abductor, an active shooter (Run, Hide, Fight), or a bully – we always have the right to protect ourselves from unwarranted violence if no other clear options are available. We need to ensure our children that they do NOT need to and SHOULD NOT negotiate with a bully who is in the middle of physically assaulting them. Children need to hear and know that their parents are not only OK with them standing up for themselves but that parents expect them to physically defend themselves. Kids need to know that they will NOT in be “in trouble” for defending themselves! Unfortunately, and unintentionally, kids get the message from adults that they will “get in trouble” for “fighting.” It is considered one of the biggest No-No’s! “You better not get into fights!” or they hear vague messages about “just ignore” the bully or “just walk away.” Another is the message to “find an adult” if a bully is giving you trouble. Behind all of this well-intended advice is the underlying message that you shouldn’t ever have to get physically involved with a bully.

Most of the time, that is right. But most of the time isn’t every single time without exception! Most of the time police officers don’t need to use their firearm. But most of the time isn’t every time. Sometimes when all other options have been exhausted or the danger is overwhelming and upon us right now, we do what needs to be done to ensure safety. We need common sense and courage to prevail in these matters.

The combination of this so-called Zero Tolerance policy and the adult advice that strongly encourages kids to “walk away” and “not fight” comes to a breaking point when the child is at that critical moment where, despite his best efforts to put all the advice he has been given into practice, he is now a few seconds away from being physically assaulted by a bully with no help insight. It causes physical and psychological hesitation! He is at the crossroads of what he should do “in theory” versus the practical options he has right now – in reality! If he fights, he’ll get “in trouble” with school and parents. If he doesn’t fight – he’ll get in trouble anyway (zero tolerance policy) because he was involved in a “physical altercation” and didn’t “just walk away” — but at the same time if he does nothing he’ll risk his physically safety. What is the young child supposed to do in this situation?

If you get a call telling you to pick up your kid from school because he was attacked and defended himself…but due to “zero tolerance” was suspended along with the bully. I would encourage you to pick up your kid and take him out for ice cream and let him know how proud of him you are for having the courage to follow through on his responsibility to keep himself safe from physical harm.

When kids know that they have permission to assert themselves and they won’t be in trouble, we instantly make major gains in kids confidence. Any self-defense expert will tell you that carrying oneself with confidence is an important factor in preventing attacks to begin with. It isn’t the type of coddling or pacification model of the so called “safe space” but rather a model encourages people to legitimately be safer through concrete words and actions in the world. Validating to themselves they can take action and that there is no virtue in neglecting responsibility to assert yourself when justified. This creates a situation where kids are legitimately safer through courage, confidence, and education.

All of us, kids or adults, need to be infused with the ethos that states that you stand up to bulling when it happens. Not ignore it. Standing up rarely means physical altercation. It doesn’t even mean provoking a situation. It isn’t a “fight fire with fire” model. Most of the time it is a fight “fire with water” model. Sometimes not letting a bully get away with it means ending a relationship with someone you thought of as a friend if they continuously treat you poorly. Tell them to quit or quit the relationship. Other times it might mean asking someone to “lay off” picking on someone else. Sometimes it means telling a bully, “Don’t touch me again!” Another time it means discreetly telling someone about what is going on if the person being bullied hasn’t found the courage to assert themselves in word or action.  Bottom line, in the words of clinical psychologist, Dr. Jordan Peterson, “Don’t Let Bullies Get Away with It.” 

“A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack…May the Force be with you.” — Yoda