Taijutsu Truths (Long)

Discussion in 'Ninjutsu Resources' started by stephenk, Feb 10, 2006.

  1. stephenk

    stephenk Valued Member

    I thought some people might enjoy this article from my teacher. There are some copies of older versions floating around, but it's constantly being revised and rethought.

    Anyway, I like it:


    “Taijutsu Truths”

    James Morganelli
    Bujinkan Shingitai-Ichi Dojo

    For years now, I have compiled what I call, “Taijutsu Truths” - snippets of insight into the science and art of Budo Taijutsu.

    Many arts have a science to them – painting, for example. To become a better painter, one can learn the methodologies of grid patterns, paint mixing, or geometric forms. Budo Taijutsu/Ninpo is also an art. And in order to realize the full extent of our lineage's knowledge, we must look at and understand the science behind it, maintaining a rigorous adherence to its principles.

    There is no particular order to these "truths" nor set chronology in which they may be learned. Some of them are more advanced than others, however, I have purposely not put them in any kind of order. This list is by no means complete - it never will be - it is simply a continually expanding body of knowledge, used to advance training.

    ~ James

    DROP OUT THE POWER – Never use power in training. In combat, sometimes you’ll need power, but don’t learn to rely on it. Power to the martial artist is like alcohol to the alcoholic.

    KEEP YOUR WEIGHT ON YOUR HEELS – Don’t let your knee go past your toes when you step - your weight will transfer onto the balls of your feet, making it more difficult to move. This means you could have taken a longer step.

    PERFECT PRACTICE – “Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” – Shidoshi Bud Malmstrom. Mere practice is not enough - one must maintain "perfect practice": training slowly and correctly. This is the only way to teach your body how to move properly. If you can do the movement slow and perfect, you can do it fast. But using blinding speed before your body understands the motion intuitively only formulates bad habits.

    KNOW THE SANSHIN - The three elements that make up good Taijutsu: balance, distance, and timing.

    KEEP YOUR TOUCH LIGHT – A strong touch in Taijutsu betrays your intentions.

    DON’T MAKE NOISE – “Ninjas don’t make noise.” – Shihan Toshiro Nagato. Be conscientious of the amount of noise you make when you walk, roll, chew, or breathe, and try to minimize it.

    NO OPENINGS – Attained through proper distance. Never give your opponent the opportunity to take you.

    KNOW CORRECT DISTANCE – There is only one distance for everyone in every situation - YOUR distance. Attained through “natural movement.”

    KNOW TIMING – Initiative. Musashi wrote of the three initiatives. Attained once proper balance (kamae) and proper distance (natural movement) is captured.

    BE PATIENT- Moving before you have to, betrays your intentions, and limits your effectiveness.

    STAY IN KAMAE – Besides training Taijutsu, walking is an excellent way to train this.

    ERADICATE “BAD HABITS” – Anything that impedes good Taijutsu is a bad habit, so get rid of it. Nagato Sensei said it took him 15 years to lose his Judo movement.

    USE KAMAE AS ARMOR – Staying in kamae keeps you protected. This doesn’t mean you should wait for the #146 bus in Jumonji no kamae. Kamae is a state of being.

    SEARCH FOR THE WEAK LINE – Find the weak link in the chain – take the opponent in the direction where they are weakest.

    CONTROL YOUR ELBOWS - Whether punching, kicking, or using a sword, you will remain in better balance and have more control when you keep your elbows close to your body.

    KEEP YOUR KNEES SLIGHTLY BENT – In Taijutsu, walking, kicking, or standing, always keep your knees slightly bent. It's better for your joints and safer in case they’re attacked.

    NEVER SAY NEVER – All of these truths are to be used as a guide for training, but sometimes a fighting situation can drastically change matters. Be flexible.

    MOVE IN 3D – Don’t move like a tank – in two dimensions – move like an Apache helicopter - up, down, and all around.

    UTILIZE STORED ENERGY – Use the energy your body naturally reserves. For example, by twisting your spine at the waist, you store potential energy for
    when you untwist.

    STRIKE WITH YOUR SPINE – In Ichimonji no Kamae, for example, your spine stores up energy and can be released by twisting toward the threat and “striking with your spine” - Jack Hoban.

    KNOW THE FORMS – Know the Kihon Happo and the Sanshin no kamae backwards and forwards.

    FORGET THE FORMS – Once you know the forms, forget them, or your movement will never progress. Break the forms by ingraining and rising above them. If your Kihon is perfect, even that can become a bad habit.

    WATCH YOUR ANGLING - A 45 degree angle takes the opponent's balance, provides for better locks, and maximizes strikes.

    CLOSE YOUR EYES - Expand your other senses by shutting down your sight.

    BREATHE - Inhale on defense, exhale on attack.

    ARMED & UNARMED TECHNIQUE - Practice the armed and unarmed versions of the same technique.

    UNDERSTAND A TECHNIQUE'S LAYERS - Techniques can have many layers to them. Understand this and you can dissect techniques to enhance training or focus on one aspect of movement.

    CULTIVATE KURAIDORI - Positioning in relation to your environment. Being aware of your opponents, exits, and objects around you.

    BECOME SENSITIVE – Taijutsu enhances sensitivity. This includes, what your opponent is feeling or doing, stopping your foot before you step on a tack, preventing yourself from walking or backing into things, or even stopping yourself from biting down on something that could crack your tooth when chewing.

    CULTIVATE KYOJITSU – Truth and falsehood. Misdirection. Good timing.

    CULTIVATE FUDOSHIN – The immovable heart, courage.

    FILL THE SPACE - "Fit" into the space the opponent leaves for you, i.e., instead of thinking about what to do about the opponent's punch, think about "fitting" into the space around the punch.

    USE TAIJUTSU AS A MODEL FOR LIFE - Balance, distance, and timing manifest themselves in life as well as Taijutsu. Strong Taijutsu is always in balance, just as a strong life remains balanced by having priorities straight.

    UNDERSTAND 'KOTSU' - The 'gist' or ‘knack’ of a movement/technique.

    UNDERSTAND THE STRATEGY OF TAIJUTSU - Knowing the “what,” “where,” and “when,” of the technique is not enough. You must also know “why” as well.

    WHATEVER YOU THROW, YOU ALSO GIVE AWAY - Utilizing 100% of your motion is tactically dangerous. Having "no openings" is not just for defense, but also for attack. Don't let an overzealous attack leave you open to counterattack.

    TRAIN TO DEFEND AND ATTACK - When training Taijutsu, don't just concentrate on defense, be a smart attacker as well. In training, don't just throw the punch because you're “supposed to.” If there is no opening, don't attack.

    FIGHT YOUR FIGHT – Don’t try and out-box a boxer or out wrestle a wrestler. Fight the way you’ve been trained.

    UNDERSTAND BALANCE – Balance is equilibrium. Balance is kamae – counterpoise.

    NEVER GIVE STOLEN BALANCE BACK – Once you steal/break an opponent’s balance, never give it back– the fight would then revert to 50/50, equal terms.

    THERE IS NO DISADVANTAGE – Try not to see your situation as disadvantageous, even if you feel your opponent has a clear edge. You are actually even. If his “advantage” is that he has a longer weapon, his “disadvantage” must also be that he has a longer weapon – when in close, it is difficult to use. Likewise, your shorter weapon may be “disadvantageous” from a distance, but in close, very “advantageous.” So, since there is no disadvantage and the situation is actually equal, there can only be the skill of the Budoka to determine the outcome.

    KNOW THE “INTENTION” OF TAIJUTSU – When asked about a so-called “Death Touch,” Hatsumi-sensei remarked that the Kyusho to kill the body are the same as the Kyusho to heal the body - the difference is intention. This is the same with Taijutsu, for when practicing defending or protecting techniques when the “opponent” is a loved one that you must extricate from a burning house or dive on top of to cover from shrapnel, the Taijutsu you might use is no different from the Taijutsu used to defend yourself – the difference is intention.

    INSTINCT, NOT REACTION – Every action has an opposite and equal reaction. This law governs everything in the universe, from organic to the inanimate. Training does not teach one to “react” to an attack, but instead respond instinctively. Instinct can be learned, cultivated, and refined. Reaction cannot, which is why it is a universal, inherent law.

    HIT THE MARK – Be precise with your Taijutsu, in strikes, joint locks, and throws. Don’t just punch to the face – hit with a certain knuckle, to a certain bone, on a certain nerve. Be able to put your opponent where and how and when you want to put him down.

    FALL FROM DANGER – Take yourself out of balance with “natural movement” - using gravity to “fall” away from danger. Whichever direction you “fall” is nature’s way of telling you where to go. When you utilize this within Taijutsu’s structure, you automatically capture the proper distance every time.

    POWER MOVEMENT WITH STRUCTURE – A weapon fits to your body like an appendage. By taking and losing your balance on your feet and simultaneously doing the same with the weapon, a synergy of movement is created and keeps you in Kamae. This allows a 90 lb woman to use a No Dachi. It is also a secret to exceptional unarmed Taijutsu.

    “FIT” YOUR OPPONENT – Replace “weapon” in the above statement with “Opponent.”

    FEEL TAIJUTSU – Experience the power of Taijutsu for yourself. Don’t just take somebody else’s word for it.

    HAVE FAITH IN THE ‘POSSIBILITIES’ OF TRAINING - Have faith and confidence in your training. For eons, it has served for the protection of others and survived and evolved to fit today’s world. Treat it with the respect it deserves.

    SHARPEN YOURSELF INTO A TOOL FOR ACCOMPLISHMENT – Channel your heart, your will, into the effectiveness of a blade as a tool for accomplishing all of your life’s goals.
  2. Peaceful Tiger

    Peaceful Tiger Happy Member

    Call that long?, you obviously haven't seen some of Snake's posts :D
  3. snake_plisskin

    snake_plisskin Valued Member

    Ask me what time it is, I'll tell you how to build a watch! :p :love: :D

  4. Big Will

    Big Will Ninpô Ikkan

    Wow, those were some really great insights!!! Thanks a lot for sharing with us!
  5. bigshadow

    bigshadow New Member

    I think that the "KEEP YOUR WEIGHT ON YOUR HEELS" is a bad description and bad advice. I think keeping the weight on the heels is BAD, just as is keeping your weight on your toes. I think the weight has to be evenly distributed across the ball and the heel. If the weight is on the heels you cannot move freely (without having to pick up the anchor first), I believe it should be between the heel and the ball of the foot.

    The rest of it is good sound advice! Thanks for the post!
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2006
  6. bencole

    bencole Valued Member


    Jim is reflecting the type of training he received in Japan under Nakadai-sensei, my first teacher. Nakadai would frequently comment about walking and how the feet need to be sensitive to things on the ground. Soke also says the same thing.

    In general, I feel that MOST practitioners are way too deep in their stances anyway. Perhaps that's why that advice seems "inappropriate" to you in terms of "moving freely."

    Soke, Nagato, Nakadai all keep their weight up high in their chests and float across the floor with their footwork. The only reason Soke goes "deep" is for a dropping blow. The rest of the time he is "fairly up" in his stances and his footwork is extremely light.

    I address walking and its relationship to the construction of kukan in the upcoming issue of BujinKan (www.bujinmag.com). Reading that article, watching footage of Soke, and then re-reading Jim's comments could open a new way of viewing things.


  7. warriorofanart

    warriorofanart Valued Member

    Thanks for sharing, I always had problems punching, I punch, completely extending my arm, and the punch become akward. That control you elbow tip should help me alot, I should pay more attention to what I do.
  8. Tengu6

    Tengu6 Valued Member

    I would love to talk with you more about this, I was always under the impression that carrying your weight that high was bad. I always thought carrying it around the hips was the correct place so it could be adjusted as needed.

    I have found that MOST people, when under stress, carry thier weight in thier chest kind of the way animals will expand thier chests to appear larger to an enemy, and this makes them slower and less likely to use thier feet.....also easy to throw.

    Of course Soke is not "MOST" people and there must me more going on than just keeping the weight high.

    I can not wait to read the article, your perspective always takes me to new places. Thanks for that.

    talk to you soon,
    Markk Bush
    p.s. Thanks for the Bujinmag plug ;)
  9. adouglasmhor

    adouglasmhor Not an Objectivist

    I have printed out the article in full to give out to the rest of the dojo tomorow. i think it will be good for us to see and discuss. So amny things in it are things our teacher has taught us before, one day they may stick.
  10. bencole

    bencole Valued Member

    From my experience, your impression is very common out there. This is probably why I get puzzled looks from people when I talk about how the Japanese "walk" and the overall balance of the body.

    Watch the videos. Look at how "high" Soke keeps his stances, unless he wants to dump someone.

    This leads to one caveat to one of Jim's "truths."

    "MOVE IN 3D – Don’t move like a tank – in two dimensions – move like an Apache helicopter - up, down, and all around."

    Soke's vertical (e.g. Apache) movement is for setting up or dumping someone. Soke goes low, then goes high. Or he goes high, then drops low. The knees are extremely important for this reason, NOT for going into deep kamae and the like.

    Just my two yen.

  11. snake_plisskin

    snake_plisskin Valued Member

    I've never quite understood the idea of "sinking the weight" into the hips, either--probably because I'm not a squat kind of guy, but very, um, tall and lanky.

    The idea of "floating" is something my great uncle, Peter McGee would agree with. Uncle Pete and Aunt Mary are professional ballroom dance teachers, and they'd tell you that in the dances they teach, it's all in the upper chest.

    Students of mine in the dance program, especially ballet, would also agree with this. Having one's "center of gravity" up high can indeed contribute to a balanced, light and flowing feeling, "hard yet soft" as the ballet dancers say. And I don't know anyone who'd accuse ballet dancers, male or female, of not having perfect control of the most precise movements as well as jaw-droppingly astounding balance.

    And all with their "center of gravity" placed way up top in their "chests". There's a sense of freedom and mobility and a freeing of one from the constraints of being rooted to the spot and difficult to move, that one gets from doing so.

    Oh, and one other thing on the list: "Flexibility" implies a lot more than being able to touch your toes.

  12. bigshadow

    bigshadow New Member

    Ben, it is good to hear from you! I knew there was more to what he was saying than met the eye. I was convinced after thinking about it that he probably didn't mean it the way I was thinking. Yes, I agree with keeping the light feet feeling, kind of a floating feeling (occasionally I get to experience that).

Share This Page