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02/09/2014: "Evolution"


Some of the dojo's current members have been training since before the dojo officially opened in 1990; a handful who are still here were training with the dojo's founder when he was teaching outside his condo a couple of years before he opened it. Are they still learning and teaching the same things as they were back then? Of course not! In fact, students who haven't trained with us in the last few years - including black belts - would not be familiar with some of the things we currently do.

"What?!" I hear you say. "What do you mean you're not teaching the same things?! Styles don't change!"

For the formal parts of our training, no, things do not change. Formal exercises (kata) should not be changed, since they were developed to teach specific movements or controls. (A few of them puzzled us for many years, because the controls didn't seem to be "right"; we think we may have figured them out now...)

As to the rest - some things have changed, some haven't. We train in practical self defense, and try to make it as realistic as possible. (We do have to build in safety flaws, because otherwise we'd run out of people to train with in pretty short order, but most of the flaws simply consist of not doing the techniques at full speed and with full power. Body position and control are important at all times, and doing a technique incorrectly, even with power, will not compensate for doing it wrong, will not make it work any better - and may even make it work worse!)

One thing that has definitely changed over the past six or seven years has been our teaching mindset. Although we've always been about practical self defense, we've been delving more into it, beyond just the "oh, he's punching me" aspect. What is the attacker's mindset? What does ours need to be? Is explaining "he was a big guy and I thought he was going to hurt me!" enough to say to law enforcement after an incident?

We talk much more now about those types of things, and about the legal responsibilities of the defender. While these things were always in the curriculum, they were generally mentioned more in passing. (See a number of the other postings here on the blog about this aspect.)

As to the techniques we teach:
- some have been removed as too time consuming or unworkable for too many people
- some have been refined
- we've introduced new situations and new defenses
   - sometimes because somebody attacked "wrong" (there is no "wrong" - if somebody does it in the dojo, somebody in the street is also likely to do it)
   - sometimes because somebody moved "wrong" when doing a technique (see previous comment)
   - sometimes because we either saw or read about a situation, or somebody asked about something that was sufficiently different from other attacks/responses that we needed to show a new response

(That said, even a "new" response builds on existing ones, or at least the body mechanics thereof. There are only so many ways to slice the salami of body mechanics!)

One example of a modification to a technique is one we do against somebody holding a long gun across their body (at port arms). in the defense, both people lose their balance and fall. While we always trained to pin the attacker's hands to the weapon, when the technique was done, we released the hands (but kept the weapon) so that the attacker could take a forward roll out of it. But if you do the technique properly, that's not where the attacker will end up. When you hang on to the hands, he will end up pretty much next to you on the ground - a vastly different situation than the eight- or ten-foot rollout taken by an experienced martial artist. We modified this response several years ago.

One example of a new technique is how to deal with compromised balance from your face/upper body being shoved into a wall by an armed or unarmed attacker. We introduced this response in just the last few weeks.

Evolution is necessary - not only for the students and instructors, but for the curriculum as a whole. Without it, things become stale and learned by rote, and adaptability is lessened. On the subject of adaptability, ask our students how often we try to throw them curve balls of one sort or another (can you find the Lego for this attack?)... Every so often they throw something at us instructors as well, which makes us think, too. And that's all to the good!

Evolution: any process of growth or development.
Development: act of improving by expanding or enlarging or refining.

That's what we continually try to do. We have to.

Comments: 1 comment

On Sunday, 09 February 2014, John Riehl said:

As someone who did train with the dojo's founder in the woods behind his condo (thank god we didn't do many throws into those pine cones and rocks), I absolutely agree with this post. Sensei Raphael, the dojo's founder, taught the formal kata and incorporated the judo throws we still teach. He also developed what he called the "combat package" -- the "combat curriculum" -- that he taught. But he would modify what he taught based on a new situation, or incorporate a technique he'd seen at another dojo. So what we teach at Ju-Jitsu Dojo of Columbia is based on a set of core principles; it also continues to evolve. And that's as it should be. The dynamic nature of what we teach and do at the dojo, and the evolving approaches we have for teaching our techniques are just two of the reasons I love to keep getting on the mat after more than 20 years of learning from Sensei Raphael, Sensei Beech, Sensei McClintic and all the other senseis -- and students -- at JJDC.


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