Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book review: Matthew Apsokardu's Tales from the Western Generation

How pleased was I to receive an advance copy of  Matthew Apsokardu's Tales from the Western Generation: Untold Stories and Firsthand History from Karate's Golden Age?!

Many of you will be familiar with the author through his groundbreaking blog, Ikigai Way.  I can tell you right off the bat that this blog is one of the main inspirations for my own (although I hasten to add that I have never sought to cover the same ground that Matt has!).

With his book, Matt has done what no one before him has managed to do, and that is fill the gaping void of historical accounts provided  by pioneering Western karateka.  Almost every karate book I've read has accounts from Japanese masters, but those in the West somehow seem forgotten.  Even after 70 years of karate in countries like the United States and those in Europe, karate history inevitably focuses on first hand accounts from Okinawa and the Japanese mainland.

Finally, someone (the very capable and thorough Matt Apsokardu) has rectified this omission with his fascinating and long-overdue book, which covers interviews by some of the legends of Goju, Shuri, Isshin, Chito and Shorin Ryu, as well as Shotokan, Matsumura Seito and Shorinkan.

These interviews, conducted with such famous martial artists as Chuck Merriman, Ed McGrath, Cathy Cline, Bill Hayes and Doug Perry, among many others, reveal their insights and stories, both about karate in the West and the oral traditions inherited from their dojos in Okinawa/Japan.

I believe the book is about to be launched and so it is my pleasure to recommend it to all as a "must-read" for any serious karateka!






Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A surprise defence of the double hip

Introduction

I have an idea that this article is going to surprise some folks.  Or, given my declaration at the end of last year that I was over "polemic writing", maybe it won't...

Anyway, over the past few years, my thoughts on the issue of the "double hip" have changed subtly - but significantly - and I thought I'd elaborate on them.

My views have changed not because I've altered my own way of practising martial arts (and karate in particular), but because I've come to understand better how and why others do so.  (I probably always understood this - but chose to write in my typically polemic style.)

Yes, I've railed against the emphasis on "koshi" - hip use in kata very strongly. Why?  It seemed to me that it had become quite popular to practise this kata with a hip pre-load on every movement. Those who didn't do so (eg. JKA shotokan) were derided as lacking understanding or knowledge of the "true essence" of karate.  I don't like fashion or dogma and I tend to argue the opposite out of principle.

But I have, over the last 2 years, come to see that the "double hip" does have a function.  Even I have used it over the years.  So I'll now outline a case for using the "double hip".

Shock horror!

Learning how to use your hips requires a full range movement

A big part of my own journey into the martial arts over the last decade has involved training with my esteemed teacher, mentor and friend James Sumarac.  It is he who really shed light on this whole issue of hip use.  James is nothing if not a master at using his hips to power his strikes, deflections and generally his whole body movement.

It's important to stress here what I mean by "hip use": James can use his hip from whatever position they might be in - to generate incredible force behind his movement.  He doesn't have to "pre-load" anything.  His hips snap into action with a single move - and BANG, the force is applied.

But the question you might be asking is, how did he develop this skill?  Well the answer is that he trains the hips - in much the same way as he trains any other body part.  And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where the so-called "double hip" comes in:
It comes into its own as a training device - not a literal application.
Chambered punches as a comparison

The best way to think of it is by reference to chambered punches.  You will recall from my article on that subject way back in 2008, the reason punches are chambered isn't because "you punch that way in real life".   If it were, we traditional martial artists would be in the sort of trouble sports fighters assume we are.  Rather there is one other, very important reason to chamber punches in practise:
We want to ensure a full range of movement.
The same applies to basic deflections, blocks, parries ("interceptions" as I called them a while back).  That's why the movements are "big".  You train them "big" because you're training them "fully".  You're exploring the full range of motion, not some smaller range.

It's very hard to practise anything when the movement involves a tiny linear movement of 5 cm - or a circular movement  with a diameter of 10 cm.  This is true whether you're punching or doing "single whip" in taijiquan.  Accordingly, movements in solo form practise that are small in application are invariably either left out of the solo form (and then forgotten), or they get exaggerated.

The latter stands to reason: if you don't want to forget small movements you might default to making a small movement larger.  It is important however not to make it too large.  Your movement should not be "big".
Rather, it must be complete.  
It must explore the full range of motion so as to train you as productively as possible within that range of motion.

Consider for example that there is scope for short punches on makiwara.  But if it's all you ever do - ie. you always avoid a full reverse punch against a makiwara on the (incorrect) assumption that "I'll never wind up for such a punch" - you'll be missing out on practising full power punches.  Sooner or later you should practise a full punch - one where you get to wind up for maximum acceleration. Sure, you might not get the luxury of such a power hit in real life.  But training half a movement on the assumption that you this is all you'll ever launch against an opponent is selling yourself short.

The double hip as a full range of motion

So that's what I think is the deal with the double hip.  As you can gather, I think it has little to do with the literal application of two movements in a small space of time.  I've noted previously that no matter how fast you are, how "internalised" (ie. small) you've made that double movement, doing two movements where there should be one will:
  1. take extra time; and 
  2. telegraph your intention, 
(as I've discussed in "Whole lotta shakin': pre-loading the hips", "Whole lotta shakin': an addendum" and "The importance of flow").

No, the double hip is seldom about literal application (as impressive as some make it look when punching pads or bags).  Rather, the double hip is about deliberately giving yourself the opportunity of exploring a larger hip motion - a full range of hip motion.

You pull the hip one way so that you will have a maximum range of movement in the other.  And pulling the hips both ways means you get practise in both directions.

Use in kata

Readers might recall from my article "The importance of flow"  that I reserved my most scathing criticism of the double hip for its use in kata.  Essentially my view remains the same: you won't be applying the double hip literally and it shouldn't be in every movement in every kata.  Kata contain movements that are contextual and shoving a "double hip for added power" into every such movement interrupts that context.  Indeed, it can rob the kata of important information - all in the drive to "add power".  There is much, much more to karate than "hip power"; the interconnectedness of related movements is one, the need to utilise the momentum of your step is another.

But my friend James has given me a fresh insight into the issue of hip use.  While dicussing naihanchi/naifunchin with him once he said: "We use this kata for hip training."  In other words, in his school they use the kata  largely as a platform for practising hip movement.  In this respect I understand his school is drawing from a tradition led by the late Yuchuku Higa.  Apart from people like James, this tradition is continued by such people as Okinawa Shorin ryu's Katsuhiko Shinzato (see below):

Katsuhiko Shinzato of Okinawa Shorin ryu performing naihanchi kata with "koshi" (hip) pre-loading.

And I can understand this approach: the kata is being used as "heishugata" (literally "closed fist" form): ie. it is a fundamental training platform more than a collection of applications done sans partner.

Personally, I like to use naihanchi for its applications - ie. I prefer to see it as a "kaishugata" (literally "open hand" form).  But I can easily see this kata fitting the mold of a fundamental training form - what sanchin kata is to goju, tou'on and uechi ryu - where the kata is used less for application and more for training fundamental skills (such as use of the hips).

So where do I stand?  I'm happy to train hips.  But I draw the line where this is seen it as the "correct" or "only" way of doing kata (which is how it is being touted by some). There is much more to kata than hip training.   I remain generally opposed to pre-loading the hips in kata moves unless the load is contextually appropriate and throws a technique at the same time, ie. a technique is applied as the hip turns one way and another is applied as the hip turns another way - see my video below.

I demonstrate contextual hip loading with punches, using internal arts techniques

But my view pre-supposes the kata is used primarily as a kaishugata.  If it is heishugata - well then, it serves a very different pedagogic reason.  And who is to say that there is only room for kaishugata?  Indeed, my own sanchin practise is more about fundamental principles (like grounding) and less about application.  I say this even though I've recently been experimenting with more functional movement in sanchin (I'll be writing an article on this in the near future).  For the time being it suffices for me to say that during the bulk of my martial arts career, sanchin kata has been purely heishugata - fundamental training of the body.

Indeed, even though I always spoke of naihanchi/naifunchin as a practical form, to be truthful I never really practised it as such until fairly recently.  It was a heishugata for me too: I used it to train stability in stances, be it "mabu" (a narrower horse stance) or twisted stance etc.  I used it for good structure and alignment.  I used it to develop core strength and flexibility.  I didn't really use it for application other than in one or two moves.  Yes, I now see a host of stunning applications from this (apparently "basic") kata.  But for most of my career it has functioned (quite efficiently) as heishugata: kata for training the body.

And I can see why: on the surface, naihanchi doesn't seem to lend itself to application very well.  At least not literally.  Rather, you have to examine it from a stem-cell movement perspective to see its potential in application; you have modify angles, projections and vectors to see that one move is being used to convey multiple meanings (hence my reference to "stem cell").

The biggest problem with naihanchi is, of course, the very formal sideways stepping.

Hip action in a sideways stance

You see, people don't tend to "fight" sideways.  Not literally anyway.  It's true that they might position themselves sideways in an isolation exercise: as an example, one need only look at Higaonna Morio Sensei when he strikes makiwara.  Yes, he starts out in a standard reverse punch, but I don't think it's an accident that he gradually moves to an increasingly side-on stance with a punch that resembles a kagi zuki (hook punch) from naihanchi: in terms of maximising his range while isolating the punch dynamics, this is quite understandable.  He's training in the manner of heishugata - not literal application (kaishugata).

Morio Higaonna's legendary makiwara training

While sideways punching might still seem theoretically possible in a fight, sideways hip action is arguably even more problematic; the restrictions of the literal sideways stance make it hard to get full mobility and use of your hips (as opposed to facing an opponent directly front-on).

Also, I've previously mentioned that the use of koshi in naihanchi/naifunchin can actually set up a "wave interference" that pulls power away from the hook punch. Consider the video Katsuhiko Shinzato performing naihanchi shodan and in particular note what happens to his punch at 0:15 and 0:26.

If you look carefully at those two points you'll notice how his hip appears to be pulling away from his punch just as it is "landing". However even if I'm wrong (ie. the punch is landing before the hip pulls back) I can't help but wonder just how effective the hip use is at such an angle were it to be applied literally... How much force is directed outward and how much is being reabsorbed by the "rubber band" hip action?

If you had to examine the movement entirely from a literal application perspective, the hip use in this type of naihanchi/naifunchin practise places great emphasis on the "flick back" - where in reality all you want to apply force is a "flick out".

This is not dissimilar to the point I made in my article "Details, details" in relation to the inverted punch in saifa; in my opinion you can't punch side-on and use the hip effectively. Mostly all you'll succeed in doing is pulling the hip back as you are striking. To the extent that you manage to use your hip, it will be a mere "flick" - hardly comparable to a reverse punch (gyaku zuki).

Accordingly in my opinion hip use is always going to be problematic for sideways movement.

Added to this is the fact that hip use (especially the lateral rotation) is only one way of increasing applied force. In naihanchi/naifunchin you can gain a lot of momentum through the movement of your whole body into the attack (see the pictures to the right by way of example; I deflect the kick and then move my whole bodyweight into my attacker, hitting him with the hook punch as I do so).

You'll also note that in saifa the hand isn't turned over; the punch remains inverted. This suggests to me that your body simply must turn into the attack. In naihanchi/naifunchin the reverse is true; your hand goes into a hook punch, turning over so that it is palm down and moving in an arc around your body (see the picture at the top of this article). This ties in perfectly with a sideways momentum.

But as I have argued previously, the above discussion is only an issue if you consider the movements in naihanchi to be literal applications.

What if you're using the kata as platform for training hip rotation?  In that event, I suggest that all of the above concerns become irrelevant because they are all predicated on the basis of a kaishugata - not a heishugata.

Sooner or later you have to learn how to use your hips.  And who is to say that there is a better way to learn to control the hips than than in sideways isolation in naihanchi?  After all, if you can do it naihanchi, you arguably can use your hips anywhere.  In some respects, the formal and isolated nature of naihanchi is the ideal platform for hip training, if you choose to make it so.

The roots of "koshi" in karate

I once asserted that the Chinese arts from which karate was likely descended or was influenced (eg. the ngo cho kun / wu zu quan, bak mei, yong chun white crane etc.) all use contextual hip loading. I argued that the same is true of the internal arts of China, not to mention long fist northern schools (from which some believe shorin-ryu is derived). In other words, in these arts practitioners don't pre-load their hips; they use them naturally where the context allows.

But I've discovered that this isn't true.  Certainly white crane has a lot of "shaking" (particularly in "shaking crane").  Really this is no different to the "koshi" of karate (although both sides might have something to say about my assertion, I'm sure!).

I have tended in the past to see attempts to add "koshi" training in kata as an an unhappy marriage. Relevantly, I noted that this kind of action is absent from Yong Chun white crane as well as other crane-related arts (such as ngo cho kun / wu zu quan) which are closer to karate (certainly Naha-te) than other extant forms of white crane. But that isn't really true.  Look a bit closer and you see "shaking" emerge from hip isolation practise in many arts that are arguably related to karate.

Shaking crane or "Zhonghe" from Taiwan

And even taijiquan has this "shaking" in fundamental exercises.  My own Grandmaster, Chen Yun Ching demonstrates something like this at 3:41 below:


Chen Yun Ching demonstrates "shaking" energy at around 3:41

So I must concede that my previous historical arguments against "koshi" are unfounded.  Hip mobilisation seems to have been around in one form or another for a long time.

It's a matter of where you put your emphasis

Having conceded the above, I still really doubt the "shaking" schools of crane underpin old karate kata like naihanchi/naifunchin.  As my friend Mark C quoted recently:
"It is very important to understand that only a small number of Okinawan martial arts use this whipping energy to a significant extent, but all Okinawan karate uses (or should use) "structural" gamaku."
Ryukyu Martial Arts: Classical Tsuki Waza (Uchina Nu Chichidi)
Yes, it's possible that karate always had a "hip mobilisation" aspect in kata like naihanchi: that many have forgotten this in the development of the art from its early Chinese influences.

But I believe that, as with many southern Chinese "relations" to karate and even its rumoured northern relatives, hip mobilisation exercises are still a relatively small part of traditional forms (ie. "kata").  Yes, you can and should learn to use your hips.  It's just that there is a whole lot more to martial movement than learning how to use your hips, as important as the latter might be.

And I don't believe it is necessary to add hip loads to all your kata moves anyway.  Yes, you might develop very powerful hips, but I've managed reasonably well in this regard without making all my kata about hip mobilisation.

I demonstrate a hip movement using sanchin: note my pre-load in this isolation exercise.

Conclusion

In the end, I think that kata is whatever you want it to be.  For me, it is more than just "principle" or "fundamentals".  It is also about application.  In other words, it is more than "heishugata"; it is also "kaishugata".  It is about actual technique; about teaching your body how to connect various movements.  It is about motor learning, proprioception and kinaesthesia.

Yes, part of the above is learning how to use your hips.  And if you want to use a particular kata (or all kata) for isolated hip mobilisation then this is valid.  Indeed, many schools have done so traditionally and many will continue to do so.  Naihanchi/naifunchin is arguably a kata well suited to this task.  It might even have been intended to serve this sort of function.  While the same cannot be said of all kata, I think that it is fine to have an "across the board" emphasis on "koshi" - provided you have some other means of inculcating other techniques, especially those that rely on flow and connection between movements.

There is no one road to the top of this mountain we call martial arts - merely preferred paths.

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The perfect blade

Some of you might recall from my essay "My unlikely relationship with the jian" the story of how my father bought me a hunting knife when I was 7 years old - and how I lost it.  In fact, it wasn't "lost" so much as stolen.  Now, after almost exactly 41 years, I have it back.  Almost.  Anyway, here's the story:

You might remember that my father and I entered a rather smoky little specialist blade shop somewhere in downtown Belgrade in December 1972 where he bought me a lovely bone-handled hunting knife.  It seemed like a large Bowie in my child-sized hands.  And it was love at first sight.

I took that knife home with me to Papua New Guinea.  Back then we were living in the tiny hamlet of Kavieng on the northern and western tip of New Ireland, just 100 km south of the equator.  It was a hot, sticky, remote and totally undeveloped corner of the world where remnants of World War II were still "fresh" - at least in a decomposing, oxidising yet jagged, sharp and nasty equatorial jungle sort of way.

It was precisely this environment that my precious new possession - probably the only personal material gift my father would ever give me - went.  And it seemed perfectly suited to its new home.  Looped into the belt of my khaki shorts, the leather sheath kept the trusty stainless steel blade safe and always ready to be used - to cut that vine, whittle that stick or prod that war munition (I know - it was a crazy time).  For a while, the Bowie and I were inseparable: young boy and hunting knife joined at the hip.

Then the unthinkable happened.

I was playing in our front garden.  I remember it so well.  There was a huge pile of leaves and flowers at the base of a giant jacaranda tree which leaned over from the neighbouring property, and I had been playing in them, piling them up high to make a kind of "cave" supported by a flimsy framework of sticks.  I was lying on my side in the "cave" and the hilt of the knife was digging into my hip, so I took my belt off, pulled the sheathed knife out and put it down next to me.  I remember looking up into the sky and seeing a neighbouring New Guinean boy of roughly my age high up in the branches.  He was spying my knife.  I knew he wanted it - but he wasn't going to get it.  So I thought.

Later that afternoon the sun sank low, well beyond the breaking surf on the reef, the street lights abruptly flickered on and I was called inside to dinner.  I realised almost as soon as the screen door slammed that my beloved knife wasn't on my hip as it habitually was.  I knew exactly where I could find it.  So, despite my parents protestations and threats of punishment, I ran outside to the leaves.  High up in the jacaranda tree I could see my neighbour clambering back over to his side of the fence.  And I knew exactly what had happened, even as I frantically combed through the now dismantled pile of leaves and sticks in the half-light.

The knife was gone.

How I've beaten myself up over that knife.  It's loss has haunted me for decades.  My failure to keep something so precious, so valuable in the most sentimental of ways, was sometimes more than I could bear, particularly after my father passed away prematurely.  Particularly because it came to symbolise one of my few "connections" with the old man.

He was a brooding figure, prone to sitting quietly, lost in his own thoughts: a sombre, meditative person with a tendency towards melancholia offset by sudden bright joviality.  His fractious personality meant that I never knew what to expect and regarded him with a kind of wary reverence.

He would come home from work and sit in the kitchen of our old weatherboard house, dressed only in his underpants and a singlet, using the big breadknife to smear slabs of unsalted butter on thick hunks of bread.

I would sit nervously next to him while he buttered the end crust for me.

He was also the menacing figure who, belt in hand, towered over my crayons and me, glaring at my artwork scribbled on the wall or in his precious encyclopedia.

He was the guy who let me tag along with him into town on Saturday mornings, saying almost nothing.

He was my old man.

When he passed away I had little to show for our patchy, "afterthought" relationship.  That knife was pretty much all I would have had.  My father and that Bowie seemed to be irrevocably tied together.  I'd lost the latter.  The absence of the former somehow seemed to be attributable to my neglect as well.  Whichever way it went, they were both gone.  And I was at least partially responsible.

It's fitting that my father and a blade should somehow be bound together so tightly in my memories.  After all, he was in so many ways a fighter.  He opposed corrupt officialdom (in Communist Yugoslavia), resisted blind prejudice and (sometimes hostile) indifference (in our adopted country, Australia), and here (in PNG) he firmly negotiated the clash of stone and space ages - unflinchingly pressed into the sparks where steel meets grinder.

For example, one night in Kavieng our little house was invaded.  It seemed that my family had unwittingly been caught in the middle of a vicious tribal custody dispute concerning a infant native girl our servant Boma had taken in "for a few days".  The girl's father had come to reclaim her.  At about 3:00 in the morning our lounge room was abruptly full of large, sinewy men, the smell of salt and underarm sweat thick in the air, my father jostling, then punching them out into the corridor, one after the other.  It was a scene reminiscent of the movie 300, with my father using the narrow passageway to keep his opponents one-on-one.

And I remember the moment of which I was most proud of him: the night he delivered the cleanest knockout punch I've ever seen:

We were living in Port Morseby, where the evening air always smelled of fish and salt as it wafted in from the harbour.  Another expatriate couple had come over for dinner.  The woman was an Aussie: a quiet, slender blond girl.  The man was a fellow Slav - a dark, sinister sailor who happened to scare the living sh*t out of me but who my father seemed to tolerate in the house for reasons unknown.

We kids were dispatched to our beds but we couldn't sleep, lying in our respective pools of sweat under the humming ceiling fans.  I recall I was at the point of dozing off when all hell broke loose.  It seemed our dour sailor guest had started to verbally abuse his female companion in a slurred, alcohol-fueled way.  My father told him in no uncertain terms that this behaviour was unacceptable in his house.

My brother and I reached the corridor just as the male guest had slapped his partner full in the face.

I remember my father rising abruptly out of his chair.  The sailor was already standing in the middle of the lounge room, hands outstretched defiantly with inebriated swagger.  Then my father punched him - square in the jaw - and knocked him right across the room and into the trembling asbestos wall.  It was one of those John Wayne punches, the kind that seems to wind up forever then explodes with all the force a bear-like man can deliver.

After that my brother (who had loaded both his fists with C batteries just in case) and I saw our dad wordlessly grab the sailor by the scruff of his neck and seat of his pants, and heave his ass out of the front door and down the steps into the front yard.  Fight over.

Years later I remember my father scoffing at my karate, then proceeding to pound a heavy boxing bag with his ungloved fists, bending it double.

When I got word of his passing he was only 48 - the same age I am now.  I was a thousand miles away on a different continent.  It seemed impossible for someone so powerful, so passionate, so full of energy to be gone.  Yet it was true.

In the years since then I've often thought about my "old" man; how much he shaped me and what sort of legacy he'd left.  Was I the sort of son of whom he'd have been proud?  He never lived long enough for me to find out.  I don't suppose he'd ever have understood my passion for the traditional Asian martial arts.  He'd be scoffing in his grave right now, I'm sure.

But just as I find agreement with boxers and MMA fighters on the most crucial issues, I'm sure I had already found agreement with my father on at least one thing:
That knife he'd given me back in '73 was the "perfect blade". 
 Except I'd lost it.

I don't know what possessed me, but just last month, almost exactly 41 years to the day after I'd lost it and just after what would have been my late father's 78th birthday, I decided to look for my knife.  Not the actual knife, mind you (that has almost certainly disintegrated in the equatorial jungle somewhere on New Ireland), but a knife of exactly the same brand and size.  Something told me it was a German make.  But I wasn't even sure about that.  All I knew was that it had a stag horn handle and a Bowie-shaped blade.  I knew I'd know it when I saw it.

So I started searching.  I took to eBay where all my search terms initially came up with nothing.
Then, abruptly, I found it.
I knew instantly that it was the right knife.  There was simply no question.  It was just as I remembered it from all those years ago: a Linder Traveller II - a German knife, as I suspected.

I ended up plugging in "fixed blade" and scrolling through 240 pages of other eBay knives to be sure, staying up until the wee hours.  Then I went through every knife on the Linder catalogue.  Nothing came close.  This was the same knife - beyond a doubt.

So I ordered one.  And just yesterday it turned up in a package at my front door.

After all these years I was looking at my long-lost knife once again.  It seemed that a part of my father had come back to me.  I must confess that my eyes welled with tears.  My daughters hugged me.  I'd even chosen the right size: comparing it to my youngest girl's hands, I knew it was exactly what my father had bought for me.  What I'd lost was now regained.  The chapter was finished, the book was finally ready to be closed.

Is there really such a thing as a perfect blade?  Not in any objective sense.  Just as there is no perfect martial art.  But there is a perfect blade and a perfect martial art for you.  It's the one that makes sense: the one that fits the way you think and feel; your psyche.

My father and I might not have agreed on anything martial - and many other things besides.  But here was one thing on which we agreed.  It was where our psyches met; on the thin edge of a knife blade.  It might not be much, but at least I have that back in my hands once again.

And this time, I won't be letting it go.

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Monday, March 2, 2015

Promotional video for Essential Jo

I've prepared this short sampler video for promoting my new text "Essential Jo".

Please share.



Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic

Friday, February 27, 2015

My first text book "Essential Jo" is published

If you've been wondering where I've been for last month or so, I have been working at a somewhat furious pace in the background on one of my long-sought after goals.  And now I've finally achieved it:
After 6 years of toil and struggle, my first martial textbook, "Essential Jo" has finally been published!


The book is intended as a complete instructional manual on practical, as well as sophisticated and elegant, techniques using the jo.  For those who don't know, the jo is the Japanese 4-foot staff, originally taught with the ken (sword) in the samurai arts.

As far as I can tell, Essential Jo is the most comprehensive text on the subject to date, offering a course of study from white through to black belt in the "Way of the Jo" (jodo).

The book features over 900 professional black and white photographs accompanied by clear, detailed textual explanations.

While it is intended primarily for students with experience in weapons arts, particularly jodo, the book can also be used by beginners for home study.

I think the art of jodo makes an excellent addition to any martial art system.  I believe karateka, internal and external gong fu practitioners, Filipino martial artists and Western sword/stick artists alike will be able to co-opt this self-contained course of study into their curricula - and I have prepared the text accordingly, following the syllabus we use at the Academy of Traditional Fighting Arts.

At the core of our jo method are a series of 20 basic techniques called “suburi”. We have retained these from aikijo (the jo method of the art of aikido) as we find them to be a comprehensive catalogue of the different deflections, strikes and sweeps that one can make using the jo.


A detailed performance of the first 5 suburi or basic jo techniques

Added to this are 9 “kumijo” (literally “an encounter with jos”) – 2 person combat drills that apply the suburi in a dynamic, effective environment. These drills are modeled on traditional kumijo from various schools but are, in the end, my own creation. They are the result of almost 30 years of martial training, combining the features of the arts to which I refer above, and many other armed and unarmed disciplines.

Importantly, unlike many other 2 person drills taught in relation to the jo and other weapons, the drills “loop”: that is to say, they can be practised continuously without end. The practical result of this is that in each drill both sides use the same sequence. The sequences are also short (between 6 to 10 movements), making them easy to learn.

The “looping” nature of these drills is not just a means of facilitating inculcation. Nor is it merely matter of learning/teaching convenience. Rather, each move has been carefully thought through so that it provides the most logical and economic answer to the attack you are facing. The drill then provides your partner with the best answer to your counter. And so it goes. Like the game of “rock, paper, scissors”, these drills cycle through the optimum responses to various attacks, “grooving” effective, reflexive responses which utilize “wu-wei” – the Daoist concept of “no unnecessary action” or the “line of least resistance”.

The 9 kumijo provide what I feel are a comprehensive set of jo skills. It is my experience that when you’ve well and truly inculcated these drills into your reflexive response, you will have an answer to virtually every type and angle of attack.


A sample of the 9 kumijo of the muidokan system

I first started writing the text in 2009 and Lucia Ondrusova took about 2/3 of the pictures in that year.  Lucia also took the cover photo on location at a monastery I was training at in Taiwan in 2011.  My brother took the remaining paired photographs with Lucia offering advice via Skype in that same year.

Then followed the arduous process of liaising with publishers.  I had two very positive initial reactions from big publishing houses and both got me to go through to the very final stages, only to tell me at the 11th hour that they had reconsidered.  It would have been nice if they hadn't strung me along for two years apiece!  (I had been asked by both publishing houses to do reviews of their publications and I would have thought that the courtesy of promptness on their part was the least I could expect, but it seems not!)

Whichever way it goes, the book is finally published and available for purchase - through my publishing house Pikkeljig Press and via Amazon shortly.  It will be available in Barnes and Nobel, Book Depository and other major bookstores starting in 6-8 weeks time, although from experience with my fiction book "The Mirror Image of Sound" (which actually features some martial arts too - or at least some fighting anyway!) the cost through other outlets is greater.

I'd like to thank my student, training partner and life-long friend Jeff Cosgrove.  He has all my respect and more as both a martial artist and wonderful human being.

I'd like to thank Lucia and my brother Nenad for all their wonderful work in taking the photographs for the book.

I also want to especially thank Nenad and his wife Tania for the use of their marvelous centre and, more than anything, for their unflagging support, encouragement and belief over the years.

I want to thank my cousin Branko for posing with me in some of the pictures, Jeff Mann for proof-reading and my mentor, teacher, friend and adopted "kume" James Sumarac for his teaching, guidance, energy and positivism.

Last, but not least, I must (as always) thank my wonderful wife Maureen who has never stopped believing in me and my projects.

I hope you enjoy the book!

Copyright © 2015 Dejan Djurdjevic