Find Your Way Home


Posted by admin | Posted in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, Mental | Posted on 09-05-2011

Note:  The ideas presented here are not mine.  I am personally incapable of original thoughts.  As an engineer, my ability lies in taking the ideas of others, turn them upside down, inside out, push it, pull it, smash it, analyze each little piece, put it together again, et al.  Once I have gathered enough perspectives, I combine it with another idea that has undergone the same process, and examine what such a combination yields.  Most of the time, it yields crap.  Sometimes, there will be an idea that may have some merit, as I think this combination does.  I have not disclosed the sources of the ideas that formed the bases for this blog, as I have not yet received direct permission from them to do so.  If you are interested in the sources, please let me know, and upon consent from the original authors, I will privately share them.

Very early in my very short martial arts “life,” my teacher—at the time—talked about suki.  Of the many definitions of suki, the one that captured the basic premise of that evening’s lesson was:

Suki:  chance or opportunity, chink (in one’s armor)

The concept—as I understood it—being taught was that confrontations are typically “turn-based,” that is, the first person strikes, the second person receives, the second person strikes, the first person receives, ad nauseum.  However, in Koryu, the aim is to create suki—opportunities—that ultimately deny the other person’s “turn” to strike, essentially turning the confrontation to the first person strikes, the first person strikes, the first person strikes.  As Koryu, budo taijutsu aims to teach us to think this way.

For the past three years, this has been a dominating thought in my personal training, but I have never been able to develop an adequate analogy that could successfully convey the idea.

I recently read a blog written from a Bujinkan instructor I deeply respect—who has already been the catalyst for other key epiphanies I’ve had—that provided such a clear analogy that I would be foolish to look for a better one.

Tennis versus pool.

Many—if not most—martial arts, especially competitive ones, are much like tennis matches:  both sides are given the same set of conditions as well as the opportunity to react to the opponent’s actions.  In addition to ability, the victor will also likely be influenced by speed and strength.

What we are trying to learn with budo taijutsu, however, is not to become tennis players, but to become pool sharks instead.

When playing pool, it is one person’s turn as long as that person can retain it, or until that person “screws up.”  Pool does depend on ability, but speed and strength are not only irrelevant, they can be used against one.

The objective of pool is to end the game as soon as possible, and if the opponent doesn’t get a turn, the chances of being the victor are considerably improved, although never guaranteed.  There is always a chance—albeit small—that each shot may fail.  As such, not only should the opponent not get a turn, but to minimize the chances of failure, the fewest number shots should be taken.

My interpretation of the purpose of budo taijutsu is that the ultimate objective is always to get home.  Home is where loved ones are and where I’m most comfortable at.  I believe that any action that delays one from getting home is not congruent with the spirit of budo taijutsu.  A martial art that influences one to “stick around” during a confrontation is either ego-based—such as sports or competition-oriented disciplines—or duty-based—such as those taught to military infantry or law enforcement, whose job it is to “stick around.”  Sticking around can get you hurt.  Sticking around can get you arrested.  Sticking around can get you killed.

Just as there is no guaranteed pool shot, there is also no guaranteed budo taijutsu technique.  It is my belief that budo taijutsu teaches us techniques with higher-than-average chances of success, and the purpose of training is to increase the chances, but there will never be any single move that works 100% of the time.  (If there was, why learn anything else but that single move?)  The more moves it takes one to “go home,” the lower the chance to actually “go home.”

Mathematically, three consecutive “99% moves” yields a 3% chance of failure; four such moves yield a 4% chance of failure.  For those that learn better graphically:

Personally, I’m a big believer of the “80-20” rule, which means that my first—not necessarily final—objective is always to reach 80%.  If I apply the “80-20” rule to myself, that means that in order to give myself a minimum of 80% chance of “survival,” I can’t use more than two 90% moves.  If I train very, very, very hard, and am able to guarantee “95% moves,” I’m still limited to 4-5 moves.  Of course, that is assuming that every move has the same “guaranteed” success rate, which is simply not realistic.  (Anyone that claims they can do or even teach a technique with a guaranteed chance of success is simply full of crap; I’m using the charts to help illustrate a point.)  The bigger assumption is that I’m actually even able to do any move with a 90% chance of success.  Hell, in my short life as a martial artist, I doubt I can reliably maintain a 55% average.

For an interesting opinion on “real” self-defense, read Marc MacYoung’s website, specifically the discussion on martial arts as self-defense.

The paragraph that gripped me was:

Our standard for an effective self-defense strategy is that it gets you out of danger in three moves or less (under five seconds is another way of looking at it). If it can’t do that (or doesn’t teach that) then it is a sports style that someone is trying to sell as self-defense.

In my opinion, the first strategy for any confrontation is to not be in one.  However, due to the unpredictable nature of violence, that choice is sometimes taken from us.  Hopefully, that will never happen, but if when it does, the strategy then becomes not only to go home, but to go home taking the “fewest shots” as possible.

What is your reliable chance of success?