Posts from July 2007

Women in martial arts

”’By Karmit Sagiv”’
Up to a time, not so many years ago, women were completely dependent on men for their livelihood and safety. In order to gain independence, they were required to separate themselves from the men and make their own living. Virginia Wolfe claimed that “a room of one’s own and a certain sum of money” would suffice and lead to women’s independence. In fact, Wolfe stated that women would have power once they could stand on their own and not be dependent both financially and mentally on their man. Is this in fact so?

Even today, in a world where there are increasingly more independent women, financially and mentally, they still have trouble gaining significant power in the face of men. Why, then do women have trouble catching up? Why are they distinguished from men? Why are there still fields that are “for men only” while others are for women only?

Numerous sociological theories provide answers for these questions, while pointing out a process of socialization, or social structure, as the key to understanding the phenomenon. Women, from the moment they are born, are expected to act in a certain manner – “feminine” gentle, submissive, as a wife, etc. In fact, they are expected to function in a world which is a product of male thinking, a world where men of power and influence define concepts and attitudes. Since the world, in all its aspects: social, cultural and political, is a product of male creation, it is only natural that it be fitted to the needs of the male population more than to the female ones. The latter is required to live according to the male rules of play.

And what happens in the field of martial arts?

This analysis may explain the relatively small number of women participating in martial arts. It is a known fact that the number of women is significantly lower than the number of men, especially in advanced levels. In order to understand why the situation in this field is so grim, we need to look back in an historical scale to try and find out the root of the problem. It seems to me that focusing on sociological analysis combined with a psychological one, might clarify the picture: The field of martial arts was made property of men, similar to military systems, for example. However, why specifically men? Sigmund Freud’s interpretation on the differences between the sexes may help in this case. Freud speaks of the urge for competition as a male characteristic. The first and most shaping competition is the struggle of the son with his father over the mother’s affection. This struggle ends in the healthy situation, with the experience of defeat, from which the child continues acquiring new tools for coping with struggles. Is it possible that this primary male struggle never ends, and that it yields into fuel for a subconscious need to be stronger, better and with higher endurance (and I mean the spiritual meaning of the term)?

If it is indeed so, that the urge for competition in women is lower, as Freud suggests, it would be likely to assume that women would find less interest in fields that combine significant competitive elements. Even if Ninjutsu is not, in essence, a competitive sport, groundwork, throws and stand-up fighting insert certain competitive elements into the groups.

Even so, we are still faced with another riddle: Based on the previous paragraph, we would expect the number of women in Ninjutsu practices to be similar to the number of women in practices of Judo, Karate and other forms of martial arts. Things, however, are not so. I believe the explanation to be, that fields such as Judo, Tae-Kwon Do and Karate, have adapted themselves to female audiences. This adaptation is seen in numerous areas, for example in separating men from women in the competitions themselves. This situation encourages women to remain in the field, and steers them away from fields that do not act in the same manner, such as our non-competitive combat Ninjutsu.

In addition, it’s not just that the number of women who begin training is relatively low in comparison to the number of men, there’s also a higher dropout rate for women from Ninjutsu. A claim stated not once in the groups, relates the high dropout rates to the inability of women to understand the field in depth. Such a claim is one that removes all responsibility from those who build and characterize the entire field. It is possible that these key players are unaware of the power they have as ones who pave the way and set the policies. As leaders, they can choose training concepts that either include or exclude women. Inclusion may be reached in many ways, from adapting training hours, through emphasizing exercises “not solely for men” taking into consideration the female anatomy, as well as combining feminine terminology in training. In summary for this part of the conclusion I will add: It is easy to find guilt in the women, but the problem, I believe, is not with them, but rather in the surroundings, that distance women due to the male ethos in Ninjutsu and in AKBAN for women.

As stated before, the field of martial arts is a ‘system’ built by men, and is thus adjusted to male audiences, and so is inhabited mainly by men. This situation repeats itself. It is a male magic circle, which is unbreakable by a foreign power (women). Thus, a woman who succeeds in penetrating the circle and comes to practice still has small chances of persevering, since she will have to adapt herself to the rules of the male world. Let’s take, for example the setting of practices: The hours of training are the hours of the afternoon to late evening, a woman who is also a mother can not persevere and come to practice while the kids are waiting for her at home. Also, the warm up at the beginning of practice emphasizes groups of muscle that require strengthening in men, and neglects muscles women need to work on more in order to reach the level of a fighting man.

In order to persist in the training program over time, I feel, support from the trainers as well as from the veterans, is needed in all the practice groups. The organization must understand the special needs and gender differences, internalize these differences and needs and adapt the transfer of information to different audiences. So long as the organization does not take these measures, women will continue to be a strange rarity in AKBAN.

26/07/2007

Why go outside to train in our martial art?

By Yossi Sheriff

The AKBAN way of doing martial art is intricately connected with training outside. Martial arts training, whether it is Ninjutsu or other Koryu from other parts of the world, took place outside. This background was so clear and obvious that it was not spoken of, just as we do not speak about going and opening a tap to take a shower. But there was a time, not long ago in the lifespan of our species that the Dojo was the outside, not a mattress in a training hall.

In our core martial art, Budo Ninjutsu, one cannot understand many techniques and moves without training and validating the system in the setting it was designed in. This is so well understood that the instructors and veterans in our martial school have this as a rare consensus; one cannot be qualified in AKBAN without spending time outside.

Ancient systems (Ryu) that went into the Bujinkan and other Takamazu-den schools were created in a natural outside setting and not in a dojo or even urban environment (some techniques in Takagi, Koto and Gyokko Ryu might be an exception).

We know this not only from researching old Japanese manuscripts but from watching and doing reverse Kata analysis on the existing curriculum we practice.

Many things that once were obvious, like walking from one place to another, necessitate an extra effort today. Being outside, moving through the terrain out there was not so long ago one of the prerequisites that surrounded the warriors and other people, people lived with less protection and padding from the outside. Today, we control our water with a twist of the tap; we set the temperatures of our protecting cube and light up our nights with the flick of a switch. This is news, people used to go to the river or well, isolate themselves with garments, not air-conditioning and move – a warrior that wanted to train with an instructor had to walk there, a warrior going to battle had to actually go, and everybody had to sleep outside every once in a while.

The outside abilities we resurrected in our school were once the common and very important background for every human being, warriors included.

Urban outside and forests

In some martial arts and systems the practitioner learns how to conduct himself in society, in a conflict happening with other people. In Budo Ninjutsu we try to teach the imperative human confrontation but we never forget the nights, the clouds and the outdoors.

In Israel we have many things different from current day Japan; the people are different, the animals, the sun, many things; but we take what we learned from the essence of our martial art, we might adapt the ingredients but not the essence. So we will drink water from springs, make tea in an old wabi sabi kettle, eat some biscuits, carry our weapons according to our walking style, eat more dust in one day then the whole Iga prefecture village might eat in a year, put on a big brim hat or Kaffiya. We adapt the details to the surrounding, but not the essence – the outside is not for the romantically inclined – it’s too tough, the outside is for everyone willing to pay the price of feeling free, the price of hard work.

 

21/07/2007

Kata analysis from Koto ryu

By Asaf Hochman

Go to Setto no kata in the AKBAN-wiki

Koto Ryu is one of the Japanese martial arts systems learned in Bujinkan and the various X-Kans. It is an extensive martial art system that exits also outside the Bujinkan.

In Koto Ryu Kata we can see, even before applying reverse Kata analysis the extensive use of Daken, hitting vulnerable points, and the use of the third AKBAN timing – attacking simultaneously with the opponents attack.

The Kata I’m referring to today is Setto no kata, where, even in the variations, one can see the use of pressure point hitting and various timings used in Koto ryu.

In Setto no Kata tori pushes a pressure point with the boshi, the end of the thumb, to unbalance the opponent. This unbalancing (kuzushi) using pressure points is very common in some of the martial systems learned in AKBAN. Here, in the variation it is used to move the opponents balance to the rear leg enabling the front single leg grab.

Different stages of Kata learning according to the Methodical pyramid

1. Preserve – in this stage we do the Kata exactly as it was transmitted.

The tori stands in hidari seigan no Kamae, uke grabs with right hand, tori uses a boshi to unbalance uke and uses a second punch to the ribs to push tori away.

2. Break – this is the stage where we change different parameters of the kata, look for a different ways of doing it and for context usability.

Tori now can do the kata against a Tsuki attack and use the first or second boshi to unbalance the Uke to prepare him for takedown.

3. leave – this is the stage where we try to perform the kata or the sequence in free sparring.

My advice is to practice this and other kata in randori situations. It is also important to practice the simultaneous timing as it is this feature that make these Koto Ryu kata so useful.

07/07/2007