Kamae Question

Discussion in 'Ninjutsu' started by BBB, May 11, 2010.

  1. BBB

    BBB White Belt

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    Hi,

    I am currently looking for an intructor somewhere near me (or far if I have too). However I have procured a couple of books that discuss some of the basics within the martial art, so that I can atleast attempt to learn a few simple things before I find an instructor. I decided it would be alright to attempt to learn some kamae, seeing as they don't SEEM to require TOO much instruction (I could of course be completely wrong and I realize that).

    Anyway, I have been including some kamae into my morning stretching / wakeup routine. Right now I am only doing Seiza No Kamae, Fudoza No Kamae, Shizen No Kamae, and Ichimonji No Kamae (both Gyokko Ryu and Togakure Ryu).

    I have been having problems however, in performing Fudoza No Kamae. I'm not sure what it is, but I can't seem to manage finding a comfortable position in it. Is it supposed to be uncomfortable in the beginning, and progressivly become less so? My heels dig into my butt ha, and it can be pretty unpleasent. Am I doing something wrong? Or do I just need to persist?

    I hold each kamae for five minutes, and I cannot do Fudoza No Kamae for that long because of the above. Also, it does get difficult toward the end of the five minutes for me to hold Ichimoji No Kamae, I assume this is natural and I just need to build my endurance, however if it shouldn't be uncomfortable and it sounds like I am doing something wrong I would love to hear it ha. It is not uncomfortable period, just towards the end of holding it for five minutes.

    I know I need to get an instructor ASAP, however I am just trying to do a little bit on my own before hand. I appreciate any advice. Thank you.
     
  2. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I advise strongly against practicing ichimonji no kamae without an instructor. If you do it wrong (and to be honest, chances are that you do) you will put a significant strain on your knees. If you do that repetitively, you will end up injuring you knee. And unfortunately, if you knees are injured, you will compromise the rest of your MA career.

    Ichimonji looks straightforward, but there are several details to consider, and you won't know which errors you are making if they are not pointed out to you in person.

    If you can find an instructor, go to him or her as a blank slate, learn some basics the proper way, and practice them on your own, then return, get corrected, and practice on your own again. If you go to your teacher with a number of bad habits, you have to unlearn them first. You'll have wasted a lot of time and effort, and possibly gotten a knee injury in the process.
     
  3. EWBell

    EWBell Orange Belt

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    I'm going to echo Bruno on this. I'd almost bet money that you are doing those kamae wrong, and you'll have to re-learn them once you start training. Don't worry about getting a head start going into training, because honestly it'll do you no good unless you've been properly taught in the first place. If you just have to work on something, then I would recommend working on flexibility of your whole body. That will come in handy when your shoulder/wrist/elbow/whatever is being torqued. :)
     
  4. BBB

    BBB White Belt

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    Thank you both very much, I understand that. However just out of curiosity (I won't attempt it furthur), should these stances be uncomfortable when held 5 minutes?
     
  5. Dale Seago

    Dale Seago Black Belt

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    What the other two said.

    I came to this from a 14-year background in a number of other arts, and thought I had a pretty good understanding of what I saw in books because of that. Turned out I didn't have a clue.

    At first -- yes, probably, because you're using unaccustomed muscle groups or using them in ways you're not accustomed to, even if you ARE doing it correctly.
     
  6. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hi,

    Just to add to the reasons books are not suitable to learn from, rather a reference or supplement, it may help you to understand what the kamae actually are. The Japanese word "kamae" is often translated as "posture", or "stance", but a far more correct translation is "attitude".

    This refers to a number of things, including the positioning (attitude) of your body, but in these systems it also has a much more important meaning. Essentially, the kamae are simply physical representations of the internal attitude, or mindset (or spirit, or heart.... whatever word suits you there). This is an integral aspect of the kamae, basically if your spirit is correct (for the particular kamae), then the physical will follow. If it is out, then there is no way you will "get" the kamae. The only way to get that, of course, is with instruction. Within most Japanese traditions, especially martial arts, there is the concept of isshi soden, transmitting directly from one person to another (from one heart to another), and that cannot be done over distance.

    The last thing to remember with these kamae is that they are strategic physical representations, and are not meant to be stayed in for long. Almost all kamae within Ninjutsu-related systems are transitional, not static. If you are training them statically, then you are missing the point of them. This isn't horse-stance style training. Ichimonji is a defensive, evasive movement, Hicho is preparation for a kick (or retracting, or evading a throw or weapon etc), Hira Ichimonji is evasive, Jumonji is moving through a strike or blocking action, and so on.

    When you have some experience with the art, you will probably notice that the kamae are ever present, although rarely explicit. And that is how they should be.
     
  7. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Echoing what has previously been said find and instructor and learn directly. Books, dvd's, etc. will not allow you to learn this system or any system properly and if you do go that route then you may have a lot of excess baggage to shed once you do start training! Good luck! [​IMG]
     
  8. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    One more point to consider about stances is that they are FUNDAMENTAL and FOUNDATIONAL. If your stances are off, everything else will be off. You won't have the body alignment and skeletal support to have effective techniques unless your stances are proper. You won't be able to move the way you need to, when you need to. And the simple truth is that you need a knowledgeable person AKA a teacher to guide you and correct you as you learn to assume the stances, and to move between them. I've found that it's much harder to unlearn improper techniques, especially if they're elements like stances that underlie everything else.
     
  9. Cryozombie

    Cryozombie Grandmaster

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    I was going to say this very thing, you beat me to it!
     
  10. stephen

    stephen Purple Belt

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    Echo everyone else.

    However, I'll go one further and give my advice for what you can practice before you find an instructor.

    1. Flexibility - there's plenty of books on good stretching, the more flexible you are the quicker your ukemi (rolling , mostly, sorta :) ) will come along.

    2. Ukemi - if you pick a soft surface, like grass, you can probably roll around without hurting yourself. Take it really slow (slow is more difficult) and iron out any corners i.e. places where you get caught up, that get bumps, or that you have to use momentum to get past. Roll every way you can think of. Don't worry about dive rolling or anything. (Advanced: be able to change direction at will, in all directions, in the middle of the roll.)

    In my opinion, the fastest way to get good at the beginning level is to have great ukemi. This way you'll be able to focus on training without worrying about injury while receiving techniques. Also, you'll be able to learn while people are applying them to you instead of using all available resources being scared of hitting the floor and injuring yourself.

    Bonus: Work on your posture generally. Sit up with a straight back when seated. Walk with good posture. This sort of thing. This is a type of kamae training in itself that will pay dividends when your eventual instructor doesn't have to spend 6 months telling you to stand up straight. (Shoulda' listened to mother after all.....)

    Most people who start training take 3-6 months or so before they can really train well while their ukemi comes up to scratch.
     
  11. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    I am going to disagree. I came from a JJ background and while we learned ukemi, minor mistakes were allowed to linger because they were not considered 'that' important.

    It is true that I learned ninpo ukemi fairly quickly (because of my history in modern JJ) but it also took me a couple of months to unlearn those errors that had been ingrained previously. If you are going to learn ukemi on your own, you will get even more wrong habits.

    Ukemi, like kamae, is one of those things imo that you have to learn under supervision or you are going to hurt yourself and make it more difficult to learn the proper way later.

    If the OP feels compelled to prepare before seeking out an instructor, I would advise building up stamina by running obstacle courses, or across uneven terrain like forrest tracks. Do sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups to build up core muscle groups and endurance. That sort of thing.
     
  12. stephen

    stephen Purple Belt

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    You've piqued my curiosity: Could you talk a bit about some of these minor mistakes, errors, or habits? I'm having trouble thinking of some pitfalls myself, but that's probably just because I've been rollin' for 15 years and have blocked out memories of my previous horrible ukemi as a method of self-esteem goshinjutsu. (I do remember that I first learned ukemi in an Aikido class and that it prepared me quite well for my Bujinkan training.)
     
  13. Muawijhe

    Muawijhe Green Belt

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    My guess would be not properly tucking your head, not breathing when you roll, perhaps improper hand placement on the ground, not keeping knees/ankles tucked in the later part of the roll (in effect using kicking your legs out, etc.). If rolling to a standing position ending up not in, or in improper, kamae.

    Just my shot at it.
     
  14. Bruno@MT

    Bruno@MT Senior Master

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    Actually, the major point which took months to unlearn was that at the end of a roll, my back foot would be flat on the ground (shini ashi or dead foot) instead of ball of the foot on the ground (nagashi ashi or alive / flowing foot).

    The other was that in a backward roll, I would extend the wrong leg, causing me to need my hands to finish the roll.

    I unlearned both errors rather quickly when I was not under pressure, but as soon as my sensei put the pressure on by forcing me to roll to evade series of kicks and punches, I reverted to my bad habits, and it took quite some time before the correct way of rolling (alive foot) became instinctive under pressure. I learned to extend the correct leg in a backward roll by rolling with a hanbo in my hands, thus removing the use of my hands.
     
  15. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    There are many other "errors" that I have seen students come in with, including a more "gymnastic" roll (along the spine), and then you get the common bad timing with impacting with your hands in the basic breakfalls, and so on. Then again, when I spent a bit of time in an Aikido dojo, my ukemi was "wrong", as I was coming up into a half-kneel, in order to rise quickly, and they had a bigger approach to rolling, ending in a sideways breakfall to stop the momentum.

    I say get a teacher for everything. But that's me.

    Oh. and Cryo? Really? You were going to say "strategic physical representation"? Wow, great minds and all!
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2010
  16. stephen

    stephen Purple Belt

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    @Chris: I don't know, I like to have people learn to roll in all possible ways. I'm not really all that concerned with particular kaiten techniques. I also learned to roll on the same side leg in Aikido. Now I can do both. I teach both.

    @Bruno:As for the foot thing, it's a common problem that everyone has at some point, but not that big of a deal to correct.

    Maybe it's just my Bujinkan sensibilities, but I'd rather have someone come in that I and other students aren't worried about injuring, but has small corrections to be made then have to start at zero for being able to take ukemi. We'll work out the details later.

    I don't really think it's that important for a beginner to have perfect textbook kaiten, I'm more concerned about ukemi in the general sense i.e. being able to receive technique. Having a flexible body and being used to rolling around (in all possible ways - the kaiten listed in the Ten Chi Jin, for example only scratch the surface). I'll work the details when they come to class.

    Technical imperfections in ukemi for a beginner are only problems when they cause injury. If they practice at a reasonable speed the ground will give enough feedback to avoid any lasting injury: "Gee, I bumped my shoulder on the ground that time, it hurt, next time I'll try to do it in a way that doesn't hurt." To be honest, learning it in a class is going to pretty much be that path anyway with a few minor hints.

    Is it best to go to a teacher right away. Yes, clearly yes. If you're not able to for some short period of time, then my suggestions are things you can do before you are able to find good instruction. I agree with everyone else on the dangers of training capital 'K' Kamae without instruction, that's only going to lead to problems (and probably injury, as Dale pointed out).
     
  17. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hey Stephen,

    Yeah, I teach quite a variety as well, but the beginners always get the standard versions. Others are taught as required, or with experience. I like to know that a new student has previous experience in, say, Aikido or a Japanese Jujutsu system, Hapkido, or something similar, as I will know that they have been taught some form of safe ukemi. But someone who comes in and says they've been learning it by training at home, without instruction? I'm going to not let them even try going to ground until I can ascertain what I need to correct. I'd rather they came in as a "zero" in that regard.

    When it comes to ukemi in the general sense (being able to recieve techniques), how can the home-study student learn to properly recieve techniques if they have no-one there to "give" them the techniques in the first place? Again, I'd prefer a zero there, as I know every step on their path, as I'm the one guiding them.
     
  18. stephen

    stephen Purple Belt

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    If they're able to toss themselves on the ground without hurting themselves and able to roll every which way, they'll be well prepared for training.


    Learning Kamae from a book or practicing techniques with a friend from some home video course would cause difficulties. But, a bit of rolling around is probably okay for everyone. As I said, the *soft* ground will provide good feedback. At the end of the day, the point of the technique is just to get to that place anyhow.

    I'm 100% against self-study and video courses, but I feel this is the one (and only) place where a bit of pre-game work wouldn't hurt. Now, if someone has access to training, I would recommend that they go to training rather than spend time working on their own before. But, if, say, someone is in an area without any good martial arts training and they knew that in 4 months they were moving to an area with training that they wanted to join, I don't think it would hurt to stretch a bit and roll a bit on their own.
     
  19. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Cool. I just think we have a slightly different approach to teaching ukemi, that's all. I'm with you on everything else, though, I think stretching is a very good preparation, but I'd recommend that for basic fitness anyway.
     
  20. stephen

    stephen Purple Belt

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    Ok. Fair enough.

    So, OP: We all agree on the stretching, as for ukemi - make your own decision, as there's a bit of 'vigorous debate' about that. As for the Kamae training, just say 'no'.

    Now that I think of it: How about you email the instructor you plan to train with in the future and ask him what he thinks? That's an answer we can all probably agree on.123
     

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