"DO" as a separation from practicality and usefulness

Flying Crane

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I'm looking for some input from the people who practice traditional Japanese karate, tho I'll say that practitioners of other traditional Japanese martial arts may have some valuable input as well.

On occasion I see discussions around the "jitsu" vs. "do" methods of Japanese karate. Sometimes I've seen the "do" arts described as carrying a lot of Japanese "cultural baggage", that makes it more concerned with execution of technique and kata in a specific, prescribed way, even when that way is not useful. The picture is painted of the art as more of a cultural physical art, and not one that has much to offer in the way of a useful martial art.

My impression from these comments is that the useful, Jitsu methods are more connected to the earlier Okinawan methods, and the more stylized "do" methods are more representive of how the Japanese adopted and changed the Okinawan methods.

Shotokan in particular is often described in this way.

If the Do methods use a higher level of stylized movement, is it because there is a useful reason behind it?

The thing is, I often see these comments issued by people who do not practice the Japanese arts, and this always gets me to wondering if it is true.

I'm not sure if I'm expressing myself clearly here, but hopefully some knowledgeable people can contribute.

thanks.
 

Bill Mattocks

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I'm just a beginner, but my style (Isshin-Ryu) is a 'do' as I understand it, not a 'jutsu'. I like it the way it is, and I would not want to change it. I'm sure what is meant by 'cultural baggage'. We learn the Japanese terms for things, we practice traditional kata and we bow in and out, that sort of thing. If that's bad, well, it doesn't bother me. I like learning 'traditional' Okinawan karate as it is.
 
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Flying Crane

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Thanks for the comments, Bill.

I often have a hard time getting clear examples of what is meant by "cultural baggage". Sometimes I think the bowing and such may be part of it. I don't feel that kind of thing is a detraction from the usefulness of the art.

Sometimes I think they mean that the physical techniques are done in such a way as to make them more of a physical education art within the Japanese culture. I've seen references to overly deep and wide stances, for example. Maybe the reverse punch with the fist chambered at the hip might be another example, but I'm not sure. "Do it THIS way, and THIS way only, and DON'T QUESTION IT because THIS IS THE WAY IT IS DONE" type of thing. The movement itself perhaps becomes almost "ceremonial"? I'm really not sure, I'm trying to figure out what is meant...

This is what I am trying to understand. I see these comments made, yet they are often not accompanied by concrete examples.

So I thought, why not ask the JK people what they think, and how they might respond to such a comment.

thanks.
 

Bill Mattocks

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I'm not sure how much of that is down to 'do' versus 'jutso' and how much are one instructor versus another. In my dojo, we never have situations where the sensei has to say 'just do it this way because and stop asking questions'. He always knows WHY we do this or that and the application (bunkai) behind it and can demonstrate it. I'm not a kid and I'm not easily fooled, so if he were just making it up to avoid looking dumb, I'd know, I think. I'm sure there are instructors that are less experienced and would give 'just because that's why' answers to questions. I'm really glad I don't have to deal with that, because it would probably bother me a lot.
 

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Here is an article from a Wado-Ryu stylist who is known for his practical approach of japanese karate.
http://www.practical-martial-arts.co.uk/practical_karate/iain_abernethy/ia_jutsu.html

And another one.
http://www.fightingarts.com/reading/article.php?id=312

After WW2 (running a school wasn't a high priority for anyone DURING the war) the okinawans did change their training to reflect more of the japanese style of doing things like issuing ranks and more of a structured progression.

If you look at Gichin Funakoshi (considered by many to be the father of karate, or at least japanese karate) changed his approach from what he learned in Okinawa to reflect the Japanese, he even changed the names of the katas to japanese names. In his autobiography, he talks about altering the kata etc. to make them safe for school children. The dangerous techniques were not shown outright and were hidden away in the kata to be discovered later by a dedicated student. It was then turned into a sport like Judo and was often studied at the same time in schools and was more for physical recreation than self-defense.

Jigaro Kano, founder of Judo took all of the dangerous techniques out of the jujitsu and created a sport. In the beginning, students were taught lots of atemi-waza as part of the package, but go to most schools now and they are only concerned with tournaments and competition and if you were to punch your partner before throwing him you would be in BIG trouble.

Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido took Aikijujitsu and removed the more aggressive parts and atemi-waza and changed it to Aikido to learn how to be in harmony with everyone. Look at his book "Budo" at the pictures and you will see HIM initiating the attack and grabbing his partner to throw them along with hitting vital points before doing so.

Kendo was changed from it's battlefield from of Ken-jutsu (as well as Iai-do and Iai-jutsu) and was lamented by some old school stylists that most of what worked in the sport of kendo would have gotten you killed on the battlefield. Same with iai-do, the forms taught became ways to do them perfectly instead of a quick kill method.

ALL of those arts still have the "jutsu" aspect to them, after all a punch is a punch is a punch. So you are learning self-defense, it is the method of training that really differs and you need to know what emphasis that particular dojo places on the training. For example, Shotokan is taught as a "do" art, there are some schools and instructors that still place a main emphasis on the "jutsu" aspect of their training.
 
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Flying Crane

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I'm not sure how much of that is down to 'do' versus 'jutso' and how much are one instructor versus another.

ALL of those arts still have the "jutsu" aspect to them, after all a punch is a punch is a punch. So you are learning self-defense, it is the method of training that really differs and you need to know what emphasis that particular dojo places on the training. For example, Shotokan is taught as a "do" art, there are some schools and instructors that still place a main emphasis on the "jutsu" aspect of their training.

my suspicion is that these two comments really sort of hit the most accurate portrayal.

I guess I get suspicious when I see entire groups of arts painted with the same brush. I don't think that's a realistic or responsible way of expressing it, and it can become borderline stereotyping. While there may be examples within the group to support the claim, there are also plenty of examples that are exceptions from the claim.
 

punisher73

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Thanks for the comments, Bill.

I often have a hard time getting clear examples of what is meant by "cultural baggage". Sometimes I think the bowing and such may be part of it. I don't feel that kind of thing is a detraction from the usefulness of the art.

Sometimes I think they mean that the physical techniques are done in such a way as to make them more of a physical education art within the Japanese culture. I've seen references to overly deep and wide stances, for example. Maybe the reverse punch with the fist chambered at the hip might be another example, but I'm not sure. "Do it THIS way, and THIS way only, and DON'T QUESTION IT because THIS IS THE WAY IT IS DONE" type of thing. The movement itself perhaps becomes almost "ceremonial"? I'm really not sure, I'm trying to figure out what is meant...

This is what I am trying to understand. I see these comments made, yet they are often not accompanied by concrete examples.

So I thought, why not ask the JK people what they think, and how they might respond to such a comment.

thanks.

Chambering is an EXCELLENT example. Everyone complains that you would get punched in the face if you started your punch at the hip. A fully chambered punch teaches several things, but not usually explained. Here are some of what is taught
1) hikite or returning hand, you are grabbing onto your opponent's clothing or limb and pulling them into the next strike.
2) By utilizing the full punch (starting palm up) you extend the punch and you learn the uppercut, extend it a little further and you have learned the vertical punch (as favored by Isshin Ryu and Tomari Te styles). There are some people that believe that originally the punch was only extended to about 3/4 of the way and the fist way only turned to a 45 degree angle to fit into the solar plexus area, they believe the rest of the way was to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the wrist/forearm area, the other school of that is that the full twist punch is just that a longer range punch fully extended.

Chambering your blocks is next,

1) You always "cross" hands when practicing the "traditional" blocks. The first move is meant as a parry/redirection and the actual block is more of a limb destruction of the incoming limb.

2) Cocking the arm away from the target is the same idea. You have already redirected the attack and are destroying it. In some cases the chambering is a parry in and of itself.

In reference to the bone vs. muscle blocks in karate. Most of these are misrepresented when taught. Look at how Isshinryu teaches their blocks, they use the muscle of the forearm to block with so you have two bones to support the action and no nerves exposed. Both Shorinryu and Gojuryu (the main styles of karate, along with Uechi) utilize that same part, but then will rotate the forearm either outward or inward to further redirect the attack (I think Shimabuku saw the way most taught this as a bone block and altered it, but did understand the parry aspect of it). In this way you aren't absorbing the force on the body edge of your forearms. If you look at most systems, they just keep hitting each other harder and harder to deaden the nerves instead of understanding that parry aspect.

It isn't until more recently that these "jutsu" aspects have been added back into many styles. It used to be shown and that it was just the way it was done without alot of practical applications of the chambering methods or why.
 

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Originally Posted by Bill Mattocks
I'm not sure how much of that is down to 'do' versus 'jutso' and how much are one instructor versus another.
Originally Posted by punisher73
punisher73 said:
ALL of those arts still have the "jutsu" aspect to them, after all a punch is a punch is a punch. So you are learning self-defense, it is the method of training that really differs and you need to know what emphasis that particular dojo places on the training. For example, Shotokan is taught as a "do" art, there are some schools and instructors that still place a main emphasis on the "jutsu" aspect of their training.

my suspicion is that these two comments really sort of hit the most accurate portrayal.
I too agree with Flying Crane, as to the above two posts hitting the mark.
The traditional arts are preserved within the kata, regardless of how the sensei teaches it. Whether 'do' or 'jutso', as long as the kata are practiced as passed down, with every minute detail, the kata will reveal themselves. This, I feel, is where a bit of cross training would come in handy. I am a stickler for staying with one art, with the understanding that a little nudge from outward sources can't hurt. :asian:
 
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Flying Crane

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Chambering is an EXCELLENT example. Everyone complains that you would get punched in the face if you started your punch at the hip. A fully chambered punch teaches several things, but not usually explained. Here are some of what is taught
1) hikite or returning hand, you are grabbing onto your opponent's clothing or limb and pulling them into the next strike.
2) By utilizing the full punch (starting palm up) you extend the punch and you learn the uppercut, extend it a little further and you have learned the vertical punch (as favored by Isshin Ryu and Tomari Te styles). There are some people that believe that originally the punch was only extended to about 3/4 of the way and the fist way only turned to a 45 degree angle to fit into the solar plexus area, they believe the rest of the way was to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the wrist/forearm area, the other school of that is that the full twist punch is just that a longer range punch fully extended.

Chambering your blocks is next,

1) You always "cross" hands when practicing the "traditional" blocks. The first move is meant as a parry/redirection and the actual block is more of a limb destruction of the incoming limb.

2) Cocking the arm away from the target is the same idea. You have already redirected the attack and are destroying it. In some cases the chambering is a parry in and of itself.

In reference to the bone vs. muscle blocks in karate. Most of these are misrepresented when taught. Look at how Isshinryu teaches their blocks, they use the muscle of the forearm to block with so you have two bones to support the action and no nerves exposed. Both Shorinryu and Gojuryu (the main styles of karate, along with Uechi) utilize that same part, but then will rotate the forearm either outward or inward to further redirect the attack (I think Shimabuku saw the way most taught this as a bone block and altered it, but did understand the parry aspect of it). In this way you aren't absorbing the force on the body edge of your forearms. If you look at most systems, they just keep hitting each other harder and harder to deaden the nerves instead of understanding that parry aspect.

It isn't until more recently that these "jutsu" aspects have been added back into many styles. It used to be shown and that it was just the way it was done without alot of practical applications of the chambering methods or why.

see, this really makes my point. I think that many things that might get labeled as cultural baggage are often simply misunderstood and written off as pointless and ineffectual. The reality is that there are some very good reasons for doing it that way, and some really good benefits come from it when one perseveres over the long haul. To me, that's not cultural baggage. Rather, it's building a solid foundation, upon which the house can then be built.
 

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"Jutsu" really shouldn't be used as a term if you are talking about Okinawan karate. It refers to war arts generally practiced by the samurai class in Japan. There is no published evidence that states Okinawan Te inherited any techniques concretely from that direction.

Now if you want to discuss the merits of "Do" and "Jutsu" in the context of Japanese karate, I think that's fair game. And it's true that certain Okinawans like Nagamine forwarded the idea of karate as a do.
 

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In reference to the bone vs. muscle blocks in karate. Most of these are misrepresented when taught. Look at how Isshinryu teaches their blocks, they use the muscle of the forearm to block with so you have two bones to support the action and no nerves exposed. Both Shorinryu and Gojuryu (the main styles of karate, along with Uechi) utilize that same part, but then will rotate the forearm either outward or inward to further redirect the attack (I think Shimabuku saw the way most taught this as a bone block and altered it, but did understand the parry aspect of it).

Interesting. One of my sensei also trained in Shotokan. He knows and shows that indeed, the different-looking upper body block in Shotokan is the same as the upper-body block in Isshin-Ryu, but with a final rotation right at the end. He also shows why that is effective (the Shotokan way), to stretch the opponent out, open the ribs to counter-attack, etc. He teaches that both work fine in self-defense, but since we're Isshin-Ryu, we train the way Master Shimabuku taught. That does not mean the Shotokan way of blocking up is wrong, and if one does it on the street, it will be effective. Just not for our basic exercises, since it's not Isshin-Ryu. I like and respect that. He never tears down or disses other systems, and if he feels that the Isshin-Ryu way is 'better' for one thing or another, he explains why he feels this is so.

Regarding the fists from the obi, our sensei teaches that only beginning students start from fists on hips to do basic exercises. After the first six months, the exercises begin from a natural yoei stance or in self-defense training, from a kamei. We emphasize crossing by stacking fists for beginners (and in some kata), but we are taught that what is important is to cross the center line and why that's important, and we're taught that we would of course not stack fists if engaged in actual self-defense. When we kumite or train self-defense moves, we do not stack fists or hold our fists at the obi. Just when doing basic exercises or kata that calls for it.

Is this 'do' or 'jutsu' or just a good set of instructors? I'm kind of leaning towards the latter. By the way, it's time for me to head off to the dojo. Catch you cats later tonight.
 

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An interesting topic and some really good articles on the subject. My feeling is that almost all MAs begin at the '-do' level and very few progress beyond that to the '-jutsu' stage. I would go even further and suggest there are few instructors with the knowledge to teach karate-jutsu. Yet, if it wasn't for the -jutsu aspect, I certainly wouldn't have continued down the path of karate-do.
I began training Goju Kai, Gogen Yamaguchi's Japanese Goju style. I thought it was the greatest. Our people won many tournaments, kumite and kata, and I thought it was the ultimate. In Australia there was a big bust up in the mid 80s, after Gogen Yamaguchi's death, and Shotokan got a huge boost. I took some time off, then shortly after I returned to training (Goju-ryu, still with a distinctive Japanese flavour), the reality dawned for me that Karate-do alone really wasn't effective and contained about 10 percent of what I now know exists. It is essential training to develop the basics but it is the elementary level. The fact that we are even discussing the carriage position, or strikes etc that don't have a practical application is evidence of the lack of advanced training available to many practitioners. The kata in all styles of karate contain everything that we will ever need to defend ourselves in an unarmed confrontation. There are many people out there who can help guide us in the right direction if we can admit to ourselves that there might be more to the martial arts than what we know, and enlist their help. Unfortunately, the higher up the 'dan road' we progress, the more blinkered we seem to become.
So karate-do without karate-justsu, to me, is like steak without the sizzle or champagne without the bubbles. :asian:
 

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"Jutsu" really shouldn't be used as a term if you are talking about Okinawan karate. It refers to war arts generally practiced by the samurai class in Japan. There is no published evidence that states Okinawan Te inherited any techniques concretely from that direction.

Now if you want to discuss the merits of "Do" and "Jutsu" in the context of Japanese karate, I think that's fair game. And it's true that certain Okinawans like Nagamine forwarded the idea of karate as a do.

Actually "jutsu" 術 just means techniques or skills, not specifically referring to war or samurai. It's the same Chinese character as "shu" as in "wu shu" 武術. You're thinking of "Bu jutsu" 武術, which is how they would describe war arts of samurai. Okinawan martial arts went by several names before they agreed on "karate". Toudi jutsu is one of them. Choki Motobu used "jutsu" in the title of his book "Watashi no karate jutsu".
There is no real, functional distinction today between arts that use "do" and "jutsu". "Do" (which is the same character as Tao) was chosen by the Japanese to describe their modernized sport variations of the war arts because it carried the connotation that the art covers more than just fighting, but also is a lifestyle path which encourages students to exhibit strong moral behavior and be good citizens. In this way, kendo took basic sword techniques from traditional sword styles and was made into a sport, and jujutsu techniques were made into the sport of judo, where young Japanese men could test their courage in the safety of sport competition. Okinawan karate never quite fit in with the traditional Japanese arts. Some people had ideas about making it into a sport the same way they had with kendo and judo, but it never quite worked out. They added "do" to the name to make it look like it fit in with the Japanese budo. But most of the Okinawan karate do styles don't have a formalized sport/competition element, because the different schools could never agree on how to safely compete without leaving out many vital techniques and skills, and the rules would invariable favor one style or school over another. Almost all of the Okinawan styles now use the name "karate do", despite their great differences. As was said previously, the effectiveness and practicality of what is learned depends on the knowledge and skill of the instructor more than anything else. The name is just a label reflective of the cultural environment during the time the different styles were developing.
 

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Actually "jutsu" 術 just means techniques or skills, not specifically referring to war or samurai. It's the same Chinese character as "shu" as in "wu shu" 武術. You're thinking of "Bu jutsu" 武術, which is how they would describe war arts of samurai. Okinawan martial arts went by several names before they agreed on "karate". Toudi jutsu is one of them. Choki Motobu used "jutsu" in the title of his book "Watashi no karate jutsu".

A good distinction to make. I have fallen in the habit of using 'jutsu' to refer to the samurai-derived arts, which leads me into this point you made:

There is no real, functional distinction today between arts that use "do" and "jutsu".

I had understood that the koryu martial arts preferred to keep the jutsu name (even with 'bu' removed) precisely because it has a linkage back to the samurai. Consider Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu as an example.

Is it fair to say the more recent gendai fighting systems are more apt to be termed as a do?
 

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Before my Sensei passed away several years ago he said that "do" came about right after WWII when it was illegal to teach martial arts, so the schools started opening up sports related training (Judo, Aikido types of schools) taking the "jutsu" out of it (so to say) and renamed what they had as a "do". Kendo was orriginally Gikiken, and was VERY rough, no pads, etc, Kano took the "jutsu" out of jujutsu and made Judo, etc. (This is a VERY rough rundown, not 100% dead on, but you get the idea.
 

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A good distinction to make. I have fallen in the habit of using 'jutsu' to refer to the samurai-derived arts, which leads me into this point you made:



I had understood that the koryu martial arts preferred to keep the jutsu name (even with 'bu' removed) precisely because it has a linkage back to the samurai. Consider Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu as an example.

Is it fair to say the more recent gendai fighting systems are more apt to be termed as a do?

Regarding karate, as a generality, I'd say that's pretty accurate. Using "do" is a more recent naming convention. Some schools may have switched to using "jutsu" instead of "do" because of the distinction being discussed in this thread...that "jutsu" implies a purely combative style (which is very "en vogue" nowadays), while "do" carries philosophical or cultural baggage that they don't want to be associated with anymore. But to the original question, about whether styles named with "do" have less combative applicability or have been "watered down" in some way, I would say no. At least in terms of Okinawan karate, regardless of the name the contents would be the same.

Regarding Japanese sword arts, kendo is definately more of a sport with cultural rituals, versus various koryu kenjutsu schools where the tactics and techniques are much more geared toward actual sword combat. You couldn't simply change the name from kendo to kenjutsu. Of course, in one sense, all sword and ancient weapon arts are basically cultural relics, since there is really little practical use for those skills in modern combat or warfare. So I'm not judging one as being better than the other, but there is a pronounced difference in gendai and koryu weapon arts in my opinion.
 

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see, this really makes my point. I think that many things that might get labeled as cultural baggage are often simply misunderstood and written off as pointless and ineffectual. The reality is that there are some very good reasons for doing it that way, and some really good benefits come from it when one perseveres over the long haul. To me, that's not cultural baggage. Rather, it's building a solid foundation, upon which the house can then be built.

I think the label of "cultural baggage" was because the applications where never taught or shown to alot of people. It was just done because "that's the way it's always been done". Another example, would be that students were not allowed to ask what a move was for. It was taught and you practiced it and practiced it without question and you would figure it out on your own.
 

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Interesting. One of my sensei also trained in Shotokan. He knows and shows that indeed, the different-looking upper body block in Shotokan is the same as the upper-body block in Isshin-Ryu, but with a final rotation right at the end. He also shows why that is effective (the Shotokan way), to stretch the opponent out, open the ribs to counter-attack, etc. He teaches that both work fine in self-defense, but since we're Isshin-Ryu, we train the way Master Shimabuku taught. That does not mean the Shotokan way of blocking up is wrong, and if one does it on the street, it will be effective. Just not for our basic exercises, since it's not Isshin-Ryu. I like and respect that. He never tears down or disses other systems, and if he feels that the Isshin-Ryu way is 'better' for one thing or another, he explains why he feels this is so.

Regarding the fists from the obi, our sensei teaches that only beginning students start from fists on hips to do basic exercises. After the first six months, the exercises begin from a natural yoei stance or in self-defense training, from a kamei. We emphasize crossing by stacking fists for beginners (and in some kata), but we are taught that what is important is to cross the center line and why that's important, and we're taught that we would of course not stack fists if engaged in actual self-defense. When we kumite or train self-defense moves, we do not stack fists or hold our fists at the obi. Just when doing basic exercises or kata that calls for it.

Is this 'do' or 'jutsu' or just a good set of instructors? I'm kind of leaning towards the latter. By the way, it's time for me to head off to the dojo. Catch you cats later tonight.

Yep, the hands on the hips (or ribs depending on style) is a refernece point to teach beginners to use proper mechanics. It is also to teach pulling and grabbing your opponent into the next strike or punch, so even at advanced levels you might not start a punch there, but it will end there many times as you pull the person into the strike.

The cup and saucer (as some people call stacking the hands on the hip) is also a combat application that can teach proper rotation and body mechanics, but also serves another purpose as a joint lock. Here is a video clip of Shimabuku performing a move out of Sunsu kata. Here is Shimabuku performing the kata, the hands stacking on the hips is around the 30 second mark.


Here is an application of that move.

But, I do agree with Flying Crane, that if an art is taught properly and things explained than it eliminates most of the "cultural baggage" that people talk about. I also think that to most Americans, if it isn't instant and they dont' understand it than it is baggage. Afterall, in boxing you are taught everything right from the get go and you know what everything is for because there was no need to hide things from enemies or rivals, or unworthy students.
 
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