Martial Arts Ann Arbor - Jujutsu | Jujitsu | Jiu-Jitsu

Iaido, Iaijutsu, Kendo, Kenjutsu, Battojutsu and Battodo

The Japanese martial arts that employ the sword take many forms. Some emphasize formal techniques, some emphasize sparring. All have valuable aspects that help practitioners develop strength, coordination, mental acuity, and a strong character. Included among the sword arts are iaido, iaijutsu, kendo, kenjutsu, battojutsu, and battodo.

Iaido is a word composed of three parts: ee, meaning "to exist"; ai, meaning "harmony" or "unification"; and do, meaning "path" or "way." It refers to the most widely practiced formal sword styles, usually made up primarily of solo forms, or "waza." Each form is a prearranged sequence of motions designed to simulate defense against an attack by a swordsperson. The major motions in iaido are the draw, cut, whipping the blood off the blade, and resheathing, but the hallmark of legitimate iaido is the fast, effective draw that not only gets the sword out of the scabbard, but also cuts the attacker. The two most widely practiced iaido styles are Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu and Muso Shinden Ryu.

Iaijutsu refers to an older form of iaido that focuses more on the military or fighting aspect of swordplay. Like iaido, iaijutsu is taught primarily through the practice of forms, but in general the movements are closer to the historical movements of older sword styles, and not as close to the modern iaido standard motions. There are many styles of iaijutsu, including Hoki-Ryu, Tamiya-Ryu, and Mugai-Ryu. Generally, iaido and iaijutsu refer to arts that focus more on the instant of drawing than on wielding the sword after the draw.

Kendo refers to the relatively modern Japanese sport in which participants try to score points by striking one another with shinai (bamboo practice swords). The players wear padded armor, and can score with an unopposed strike to the other's head, wrist, abdomen, or throat. Kendo is very physical, but also contains deep philosophical roots.

Kenjutsu refers to many older sword styles. Many are niche arts practiced by a few teachers and students, closely guarded for centuries. Usually they consists of many different aspects, including formal techniques, practical techniques, and conditioning drills. Some include empty hand techniques or other weaponry. Shingyoto Ryu and Suio Ryu are two styles of kenjutsu, but there are many others. Unlike iaido and iaijutsu, kenjutsu usually focuses more on swordplay after the sword has been drawn.

Battojutsu and Battodo refer to arts that are very similar to iaijutsu and iaido. The word "batto" means "sword drawing" but, as a practical matter, most batto systems are more focused on swordplay after the sword is drawn than are most iai systems. Yagyu-Seigo Ryu and Kataichi Ryu are two forms of Battojutsu.

The Japanese Martial Arts Center offers classes in Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, which is probably the most widely practiced form of iaido worldwide. We also offer a kendo workshop in which our iaido students can learn fundamental kendo techniques, which helps build their understanding of distancing, timing, rhythm, and angles, to deepen their iaido practice.

Karate, Karate-Do, and Karate-Jutsu

We are often asked to explain the difference between the words Karate, Karate-Do (sometimes written "Karatedo") and Karate-Jutsu (or "Karatejutsu"). All these words refer to a closely related set of martial arts that focus primarily on strikes, kicks, and blocks. These martial arts have a common history that began in Okinawa (once the Ryukyu Kingdom, now a territory of Japan). Some are still primarily Okinawan in pedigree, but others have largely become Japanese, Korean, or even Western.

Karate is the most generic of the words listed above. It means "empty hand" in Japanese, and refers to the idea that many of the fighting techniques found in these arts are done without weapons. In the 20th Century, the word has come to mean any of several fighting or self-defense systems, including Shorin-Ryu, Shotokan, Kyokushinkai, and Goju-Ryu. In the West, many people use the term to refer to any art mainly composed of striking techniques, so you will often hear references to American Karate or Korean Karate (Tae Kwon Do).

Karate-Jutsu refers as much to a philosophical approach to Karate as it does to a discrete branch of the art. "Jutsu" means "art" or "craft," and, in a martial arts context, carries with it a connotation of fighting or war-making. Many who practice Karate-Jutsu focus more on the practical applications of karate as a fighting art than on its philosophical aspects. Others concentrate on competition or sparring. This form of karate is fairly rare in North America, though one of its foremost advocates is Sensei Gary Legacy, whose dojo is located in St. Thomas, Ontario.

Karate-Do refers to a way of practicing Karate that focuses on its virtues as a lifelong path of self-improvement. "Do" (pronounced "dough") means "way" or "path." In the martial arts context, it describes a codified system of physical and mental education that is designed to affect the whole person in a variety of ways. Through long-term severe practice, Karate-Do is meant to make its practitioners more physically fit, more mentally acute, and more spiritually balanced.

You will find the same emphasis on personal development in all the arts taught at the Japanese Martial Arts Center, including Judo (the way of adaptibility), Iaido (the way of the sword), and Jujutsu (the art of self-defense).

Aikido, Jujitsu, Judo, and Aiki-Jujutsu

Many students wonder what the difference is between aikido, jujitsu (jujutsu), judo, and aiki-jujutsu. The short answer is that all of them are "grappling" martial arts, i.e., they all deal with grabs, locks, and throws, but each emphasizes a slight different aspect of grappling. The long answer is much more complicated.

Jujutsu (also written jujitsu or jiu-jitsu) refers to Japanese hand to hand methods that existed hundreds of years ago. In samurai times, the techniques of jujutsu were used to grapple with an opponent (either with armor or without) after the warriors got too close together to use their weapons. There were many ancient family systems of jujutsu that included strikes, joint locks, throws, pins, and various armed techniques. Some systems have become extinct, but others are still practiced today, such as Hozoin Ryu, Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage Ryu, Kyoshin Meishi Ryu, and Ono Ha Itto Ryu. A well known modern descendant of Japanese jujutsu is Gracie Jujitsu, made famous in mixed martial arts fighting.

Aiki-Jujutsu refers to a form of jujutsu that emphasizes timing and strategic use of angles and circles to neutralize an attack, and control the attacker. Its movements are somewhat more circular than many of those found in the older jujutsu systems, but still include strikes, joint locks, throws, and pins. The man credited with establishing aiki-jujutsu was Takeda Sokaku, who lived from 1849 until 1943. He had a reputation as a fierce fighter, but continues to be one of the most important figures in early 20th Century martial arts development.

Aikido is a more modern offspring of jujutsu, created by a student of Takeda Sokaku named Ueshiba Morihei. Aikido emphasizes harmonizing with an opponent's attacking energy, using circular stepping and timing to apply the attacker's momentum in such a way as to overcome him or her. Aikido practitioners work hard to maintain a calm spirit and to cultivate a loving mindset. Current major schools of aikido include Aikikai, Hombu Aikido, and Yoshinkan Aikido.

Judo is a subset of jujutsu techniques selected and refined by Kano Jigoro. Originally developed as a form of physical education, judo has become one of the most popular sports in the world. In Judo, players grasp each other's uniforms and attempt to apply throws and takedowns. A full point throw wins a match. Judo concentrates on full body throws (in which the training partner falls on his back), and pins. It is one of the most physically demanding martial arts, and is very popular with children.

The Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, offers instruction in Nihon Jujutsu (Japanese jujutsu) founded by Sato Shizuya, and Judo. Both are taught in a safe, systematic manner. Judo classes are available for children, as well.

Zen in the Martial Arts

Zen refers to Zen Buddhism, a system of thought that is widely misunderstood to be a religion. Instead, Zen, in its purest form is a systematic method for improving one's ability to perceive reality. The primary tool used by Zen practitioners is zazen, sitting. One attempts in zazen to quiet the mind - to decrease or stop the constant internal chatter most of us experience - in order to more directly experience ourselves and the universe.

Martial arts training can sometimes be useful for cultivating a zen-like mindset. By focusing fully on a martial arts technique or a sparring match, martial artists are often able to eliminate or reduce the constant mental chatter that most of us experience. Under very unique circumstances, this can lead to a clearer perception of reality. One commonly used example is that a still mind doesn't anticipate an attack (thereby risking an ineffective counter-technique), but simply reacts to the actual attack as it occurs.

Just as martial arts can promote the Zen mind, Zen can help martial artists. One who has successfully cultivated the Zen qualities of stillness and detachment can become a better warrior. As we stated above, a mind that directly perceives the intentions of an opponent and that doesn't pre-conceive a defense is more likely to prevail. At a higher level, Zen can help people clarify who is and is not an enemy, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for conflict. Martial arts and Zen practice share the goals of making their practitioners more positive, clearer thinking people.

Relations Between Martial Arts Schools

Those of us who grew up watching Bruce Lee and other actors in martial arts movies sometimes believe that dojos in the same town are always in conflict. In fact, Ann Arbor is a mecca for martial arts training, and the relationships between schools are usually quite cordial. When we interact with instructors and students from other schools, it is important to be respectful, open-minded, and helpful.

Respect: regardless of whether you happen to like the martial arts taught at another school, there are good people who have chosen to dedicate themselves to those arts. They may have different reasons for training, different physical needs, or find the school more convenient than the one you have have chosen. It is important to treat them with respect, since they may be very decent people who have simply made different choices than you have.

Open-Mindedness: there is always something more to learn in martial arts. The idea that martial arts mastery takes an entire lifetime is more than a cliche, it is a verifiable fact. As a result, there are many facets of martial arts, such as fine points of physical movement, character development, or quality teaching skills, that one can learn simply by paying attention to others who are devoted to martial arts excellence.

Helpfulness: it pays to be helpful. The martial arts community is a fairly small one, and nowhere is it more true that "what goes around comes around." Even if you are not a great competitor or master teacher, people will remember and respect you if you are helpful to them. One obvious situation in which this happens is when you tell a fellow student about a martial arts school that he or she might find enjoyable. It may not always be your own school, because that person might not be looking for the things offered by your school, but if you send a person to a dojo that they love, they will always be thankful for it.

JMAC would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog,
both martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group,
Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association,
Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates,
Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor,
Invest Ann Arbor, and the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino.

Tradition in Practice

What does it mean to teach "traditional" martial arts? It can mean many things, some obvious and some not so obvious. A few of the major aspects of a traditional dojo include: a verifiable lineage in a recognized historical style, a respectful atmosphere, reasonable training fees, and observance of basic formalities.

Lineage: the instructor at a traditional dojo should be able to tell you the name of his or her teacher, and to explain the line of teachers from the recognized founder of the system. This information helps to show that what is being taught has legitimate historical roots and is likely to be respected internationally. Moreover, a teacher who respects and preserves his or her traditions is probably the type of person who will pass on positive character traits to students.

Respect: respect is the foundation of long-term development in the martial arts. Students must respect the instructor, recognizing the effort and sacrifices the teacher has made to earn his or her credentials. The teacher must respect the students, recognizing their positive qualities and helping them to become stronger, more successful people.

Reasonable Fees: a martial arts school must charge training fees in order to pay the rent and utility bills, and to compensate the teacher for his or her time teaching and keeping the school running. However, our experience has shown us that a sincere instructor usually charges reasonable fees. This may be because he or she loves the art and wishes to pass it on without regard to financial gain, or because he or she wants to avoid excluding those who can't afford high fees. Whatever the reason, it is important to recognize that high training fees alone are not an indication of quality.

Formalities: bowing, saying "hai!" and referring the instructor as "Sensei" are important aspects of tradition in the dojo. Besides adding a cultural flavor to practice, these formalities create the respectful atmosphere we discussed above. They validate the teaching hierarchy that is a natural part of learning the martial arts, and help to avoid causing offense - whether between student and teacher or between student and student. A humble student who is diligent about the formalities is one whose "cup is empty," meaning that he or she is open to learning and ready to work hard to master new skills.

JMAC would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog,
both martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group,
Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association,
Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates,
Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor,
Invest Ann Arbor, and the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino.

Power of the Positive

In our martial arts training lives, whether we study aikido, karate, kendo, or some other martial art, we must learn to use the power of the positive. This means that whenever there is a choice about how to act at the Japanese Martial Arts Center, we should choose the positive action: when teaching, when preparing to demonstrate or compete, and when communicating with others in the dojo.

Teaching: Studies of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) have shown that the subconscious mind absorbs information however it is presented. Thus, if a teacher says "don't do it this way," the student may remember the error better than the correct method. However, if a teacher says "do it this way," and demonstrates the correct method, chances are good that the student will remember the proper way to do the technique, whether the technique is found in jujutsu (jujitsu), judo, or iaido.

This doesn't mean that a teacher should never point out student errors. It does suggest, however, that advice should be presented in positive terms whenever possible. This approach will help to maximize the student's exposure to correct examples, and make the whole experience of learning martial arts more enjoyable.

Preparing for Demonstrations or Tournaments: Adrenaline is one of the biggest obstacles to success in demonstrations, tournaments, or tests. Overcome by nerves, many of us begin to focus more on what not to do than on what we should do. Once the mind starts repeating "don't screw up, don't screw up," the most prominent mental image we end up with is one of screwing up.

A better approach is to mentally rehearse the performance, visualizing ourselves executing each technique correctly, and imagining the satisfied feeling we will have once the routine is completed. Having mentally rehearsed our performance successfully many times before actually stepping onto the mat, we are much more likely to do well.

Communicating with Others: Our dojo in Ann Arbor is a place of learning, not a place of perfection. Because we are learning the martial arts, we have to make ourselves vulnerable. Encouragement, therefore, is the order of the day. It is not necessary to speak falsely in order to encourage others, however. The truth is that every student who puts forth effort is worthy of praise, and an alert instructor or fellow student can always spot opportunities for praise.

"Kengaku" means "visual study" in Japanese. It has a two aspects: (1) to spot mistakes made by others in order to avoid them; and (2) to spot the areas where others excel, and to try to emulate them. The second aspect has unlimited potential to make us better!
JMAC would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog,
both martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group,
Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association,
Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates,
Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor,
Invest Ann Arbor, and the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino.

Japanese Words You Should Know

At the Japanese Martial Arts Center (our "dojo"), we use many Japanese words and expressions. These help create the cultural atmosphere for serious training, and express some concepts that are important in training in iaido, judo, or jujtsu (jujitsu). Among the important Japanese terms you should know are: hai, rei, onegai shimasu, arigato gozaimasu, and sensei.

"Hai!" means "Yes!" or "I'll try!" when used in response to an instructor's advice. It is more energetic and polite than the English expressions "Okay," or "Yeah."

"Rei" means etiquette or bow. Although you usually only hear the term when asked to bow during the opening and closing ceremonies at each class, the entire experience of training at a traditional dojo should be one of courtesy and joy.

"Onegai shimasu" is used when we bow to one another, and is a request to cooperate in training. In some schools, the expression is shortened to "Osu!" and can be used to express one's enthusiasm for training.

"Arigato gozaimasu" is a polite way of saying thank you. We generally say it to the instructor at the end of the last bow when closing class. "Arigato" by itself is too casual for this setting. "Domo arigato gozaimasu" means thank you very much, and is also acceptable to use when addressing the instructor.

"Sensei" means teacher. Append it to the end of an instructor's last name, as in "Smith-Sensei." The suffix "-san" is appropriate between peers ("Smith-San"), but should not be used when addressing a teacher.

More explanations of these words can be found in the December 8, 2006, post entitled "Your First Day in the Dojo."

JMAC would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog,
both martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group,
Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association,
Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates,
Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor,
Invest Ann Arbor, and the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino.

Scraping Off the Polish

When we get a new bokken (wooden sword) at the Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, we take time to scrape off the shiny finish applied by the manufacturer. Once the finish is completely removed, we immerse the bokken in linseed oil for 24 hours or more. The wood absorbs the oil, helping to make the bokken much more resistant to cracking. In a quality bokken, the natural finish is much more attractive than the shiny look of polyurethane. This process is not totally dissimilar to what happens to students at our dojo in Ann Arbor.

Out in society, we tend to put on clothes (and make-up, for some) that reflect the image we hope to project. For various reasons, this image is not always completely aligned with who we really are. Like a bokken with an artificial finish, we crack easily and reveal ourselves when subjected to stress.

Inside the dojo, every student in class wears virtually the same clothing. We then must distinguish ourselves by our words and actions. How we perform our techniques and interact with our training partners reveals our natural personalities, even if we try to project a more idealized image. In a kind or generous person, the personality is often simpler and more naturally compelling than the one we might meet in street clothing.

Martial arts technique can evolve in the same way. Students new to karate, aikido, or judo are often rigid and use much more strength and tension than they need. Subjected to the repeated "scraping" of rigorous practice, they gradually lose the shine of inexperience. Their inner strength develops, and they relax and find ways to use their skills efficiently. Their strong, natural interactions are much more attractive to a trained eye than the personality they may have worn like a coat of paint at the start of training.

From the outside in, our practice of physical technique makes us calmer, more centered, stronger, and more efficient.

From the inside out, our calm, centered, strong and efficient spirit generates a powerful and attractive appearance.

JMAC would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog, both martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group, Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association, Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates, Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor, Invest Ann Arbor, the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino and the ITAMA Dojo.

Repetition

There's no getting around it, martial arts requires repetition. You have to practice your techniques over and over again to get good at them, whether you train in aikido, iaido, judo, jujutsu, karate, kendo, or kyudo. That's probably why, in the long run, the people who get to be best at martial arts are those who enjoy the practice for its own sake. Some of the benefits of repetition are: conditioning, learning, meditation, and spiritual forging.

Conditioning: one of the obvious benefits of repetitive training is conditioning. By repeating physical techniques over and over, we strengthen our limbs, improve our cardiovascular systems, and cleanse our bodies by sweating.

Learning: by practicing over and over, we gradually come to understand how techniques work. This is true on a technical level - repeated practice allows us to think about our skills and refine them - but it is also true on an intuitive level - repetition allows us to develop a "feel" for how to move in certain techniques that helps with strength and efficiency.

Meditation: repetitive practice helps to calm the mind. This may be because the material we practice is limited, so our mind can relax, or it may be that there is some direct relationship between physical exercise and mental calmness. Whatever the case, experience has shown us that long-term, repetitive practice leads to greater calmness.

Spiritual Forging: dedicated practice over a long period of time has many benefits when it comes to making us stronger in spirit. Our weaknesses can be gradually overcome (if we practice with the right positive spirit, always trying to get a little better every day). Our strengths can be developed. Our intuition can become sharper. Our will to succeed can be honed.

Practice, practice, practice! Always enter the dojo with a feeling of pleasurable exhilaration. Strive to improve yourself in every training session, keep at it for years, and you will be delighted with the results!

The Japanese Martial Arts Center would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog, both martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group, Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association, Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates, Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor, Invest Ann Arbor, the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino and the ITAMA Dojo.



To Whom Much is Given

To whom much is given, much is expected. This is nowhere more true than in the traditional martial arts. Along with the great skills that we learn and the progressively more impressive belt colors, we also must accept more and more responsibility. Truly, a life in the martial arts is one of service: to the dojo, to one another, to the art, and to the community.

Service to the Dojo: a traditional dojo cannot exist without the enthusiastic support of its members. Members pay dues, of course, but beyond that, they ought to help out with special events, speak well about the dojo to their friends and acquaintances, and be helpful to the sensei and the other students.

Service to One Another: since we spend a great deal of time working on techniques that could potentially hurt one another, it is important to balance this with kindness and caring. While there's no need to be overly tender with other dojo members, it is nevertheless important to try to protect them from injury, help them learn, and, if they are in business, to send business their way. By looking out for one another, the entire dojo community thrives.

Service to the Art: traditional martial arts are fragile things, easily lost or corrupted. It is our duty (one that increases the longer we're involved), to try to pass on the spirit of our art in as close a form as possible to when we received it. We should speak well of our art, and encourage other decent people to practice it. We should guard it from people who might corrupt it or use it for pure commercial gain. Our connection with history is a unique element of our practice, and we must be vigilant about protecting it.

Service to the Community: we sometime say that martial artists should "own" the consequences of their actions. This helps us in learning techniques: if our skills don't work, we must admit that fact and practice until they do. It also helps us in getting along in the world: if your behavior upsets other people, then we must admit this and work to try to be a positive force in the world. In business, if we are not succeeding, as martial artists we don't blame the economy, the community, or other outside factors. Instead, we internalize by asking ourselves what we could do better to succeed. If we reflect on our roles in the community and improve our actions accordingly, we can make our environment a better place to live.

The Japanese Martial Arts Center
would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog, both martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group, Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association, Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates, Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor, Invest Ann Arbor, the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino and the ITAMA Dojo.

Love and Courage

At the Aikibudoin at Dartmouth College, on their shomen, is some calligraphy in Japanese that says, roughly translated, "Have I loved enough, have I showed enough courage?"

This is a wonderful admonishment to martial arts students of every variety: kendo, karatedo, aikido, or any-do. It helps to remind us of two of the most important virtues found in budo.

Perhaps the more obvious virtue is courage. It takes courage to face a strong punch, kick, or throw, whether in the dojo or in self-defense. Of course, the real courage we are trying to exhibit is the courage to do the right thing, even when it is scary or unpopular. It can be much harder to calm an angry person or coach a misguided teenager than to block a front kick, but as martial artists it is our responsibility to do the right things, even when they are difficult.

It may be less obvious that martial artists should be loving, but truly, without love we cannot live well in the world. In the dojo, love can take the form of the kindness shown by the teacher to his students, or the bond that develops between training partners. Kindness between those who practice fighting arts is critical to the success of any traditional martial arts school.

This is an excellent question with which to evaluate any training session: "Have I loved enough, have I shown enough courage?"

The Japanese Martial Arts Center would like to thank the many Ann Arbor businesses that support this blog, both martial arts-related and others, including: Network Services Group, Art of Japanese Swordsmanship, Shudokan Martial Arts Association, Budo Mind and Body, Art of Judo, Iaido Dot Com, Lorandos and Associates, Oxford Companies, Bluestone Realty Advisors, Portfolio Ann Arbor, Invest Ann Arbor, the Law Office of Nicklaus Suino and the ITAMA Dojo.