View Full Version : Striking and traditional vs modern...

Neil Hawkins
26th December 2000, 10:16
On a side note: I wondered how Koryu arts fair in the striking ranges alone..like all jujutsu I know that the hold escapes and pins-throws-locks are there, but I wondered how they compared in pure striking tactics and movement.Granted i did not take a koryu jujutsu/ryu art, but I was very disappointed over the striking skills taught in jujutsu when i studied..it was the guys with the karate backgrounds and jujutsu techniques that were the most effective. Jujutsu I found was very static in that grabs and attacks did not teach flow, adaptability, and principles. I have recently read some traditional jujutsu books and they impressed me much more. Why do you think these skills have been lost in modern jujutsu systems?

Micheal (Rolling Elbow) asked this in another thread, I thought it probably deserved it's own thread so here it is...

It must be remembered that traditionally Japan did not have much need for striking, most fights involved weapons and the development of unarmed fighting started from grappling in armour where strikes were almost useless. There were some strikes, usually aimed at specific targets, like joints or the throat. By the 1600's armour was not used as often and so some styles used strikes imported from China. Yoshin Ryu was allegedly one of the first, but others used strikes as well, most aimed at vital points such as those used in traditional medicine, so they used accuracy rather than power.

Most traditional styles utilise flowing circular motions similar to aikido, however the movement is not as pronounced and often can be shortcut to such an extent that it can be mistaken for linear action. Much of the sabaki and un-balancing was considered to be 'secret' by the style and so was not emphasised in kata or practice. Which is one of the reasons why some modern styles do not have them.

Striking was not a strong part of Japanese martial arts until karate was brought over from Okinawa in the 1920's, some styles began to incorporate it but many found it easy enough to defend against and did not need to add it to their curriculumn. Even in Okinawan karate striking was more about accuracy than power, despite their use of makiwara and other toughening exercises similar to those used in China. The Japanese introduced breaking boards and so on in the 50's I believe.

Many modern styles of jujutsu do not have ties to traditional styles and have been developed from judo, hapkido and karate and so lack in a central thread or principle that bind the seperate parts together. Whilst this is fine in an action/reaction scenario, it does not always give the depth required to counter un-practiced scenarios. They try to overcome this weakness by inserting karate style sparring and more recently BJJ style ground fighting. This is why their motion is more linear and uses blocks and strikes rather than sabaki to un-balance the opponent for a throw or lock.

At least that's how I see it, what do the rest of you think? :)



Jeff Cook
26th December 2000, 13:53

I agree with what you have to say about this subject. I would like to reinforce that Shinto (Shindo) Yoshin jujitsu was very "karate-like" before the advent of karate on the main Japanese islands, according to my sources and my SYJJ instructor (who trained in Japan).

Jeff Cook

Rolling Elbow
26th December 2000, 16:11
I had figured that armoured combat had something to do with the lack of strikes in jujutsu earlier on. As for the modern approach, I definitely agree that it is lacking..why people will pick and choose based on what they feel is more effective and what can be taught quickly is beyond me. These modern schools often will not understand economy of motion or balance worth a damn..

Something you said did interest me however.., the incorporation of chinese striking concepts to some koryu in the 1600's? Would this be along the lines of attacking the limbs, slapping or redirecting techniques, basic trapping etc..? In my opinion (and due to my inexperience and skill level in my own art) shifting and soft parrying alone can prove hard at times against pure strikers. Besides, as karate may have been deemed too easy to defend against..., do koryu systems rely heavily on foot work and proper distancing and make it a condition of all combat scenarios in order to compensate for striking "weaknesses" (if you will)? Essentially, what I am interested here, is the striking arsenal contained in classical systems.

I am also trying to get an idea of how "agressive" a practitioner might be in a real combat situation or against a chinese stylist or western boxer. When strikers do not commit with full body weight, it is harder to take balance or get inside quick snappy jabs. Due to this factor, I have develloped this idea that Koryu and other higher principle arts may not always be the wisest base art to start from as they demand greater confidence on the part of the practitioner. Like in aikido, you cannot be afraid to enter into the arch or circle of the opponent to neutralize his attack..if someone prefers to stay on the outside range and is not as willing to enter in, are these skills not harder to pull off without hand skills and striking?

Kind of reminds me of the old taiji-quan saying " to enter is to be born, to retreat is to die"..puts an aweful lot of pressure on the practitioner to enter and jam the attack :)

My appologies if I have gone all over the board with this one, I am just really interested in Japanese-Chinese combat principles and how striking concepts fit into both, how they relate, or how they differ.


27th December 2000, 09:47
You might try looking into Tenshin Shinyo Ryu jujutsu. Most of judo's atemiwaza and atemi no kata come from that school.

Many (or most) of the modern jujutsu forms are really going back and attempting to reapply atemi to this or that form, which, if you learn anything concerning judo, or even Kodenkan (Danzan) ryu jujutsu, many are putting them "back" without knowing where exactly to put them. Most modern jujutsu I've been involved with is mostly an attempt at judo, but with a sense of "true" self-defense, as opposed to budo. Here, then, pulling the hair, may be a way of kuzushi, but many don't really get past the stereotypical judo one thinks he may be evolving, when it has been there all the time.

Tenshin Shinyo and kito ryu are good koryu schools to study for your project (for lack of a better word).

I do not doubt Neil for a second concerning what he knows, but you did ask or at least comment on modern jujutsu, and Kodenkan jujutsu is really the only one which has depth to it as the older schools do. If you can, though, try starting a search of judo's oldest kata, from ko shiki no kata (orignally done in armor, "Tai" as in judo posture) to kime no kata (lots of atemi waza no kata), etc. From this, you may find what you found missing before.

Well, it's a thought, and if I am wrong here, Neil will correct it.:)


27th December 2000, 09:52
BTW: I forgot your question concerning crosstraining. Basically, stay at arms' distance and you will get hit, but taking one, and parry the second can get you to the inside and there, in my experience, they don't have much. The tai jutsu practioners usually win these, striking or no.


Rolling Elbow
27th December 2000, 18:25

It is not as much a matter that I am missing anything in my training because I feel the Bujinkan gives me the skills I need and then some.., I was just very much interested in Koryu and how they apply to their combat mentality to the tactics that they are likely to face today.I have heard some Koryu people say that it is more about cultivating the art side of things rather than the combat side alone..that is what got me thinking.

I have seen and "researched" (i'll use that term loosely) some of the classical judo waza and found that they did offer up techniques that people consider to be "jujutsu" in essence. Good stuff all around the board.., just trying to see what type of striking skills that are develloped among Koryu practitioners.

Neil Hawkins
28th December 2000, 00:53
It's hard to discuss this using such broad terms, I was being very general before, and I can only comment on what I have been taught or what I have seen.

There are some judo practicioners that I know that have never done any striking arts at all, but I would back them heavily in the ring against many karateka. The same goes for some modern jujutsuans and traditional jujutsuans. There are other people I know that I would never back, despite their long association with various forms of training. I know of some ninjutsu practicioners who are very capable and others that are laughable. It comes down to the individual rather than the style per se.

Mark and Jeff both make valid points, there is definitely a very practical array of strikes in many styles both modern and traditional, if you haven't seen them yet, keep looking!

I have never considered striking to be the be all and end all, you need a mix of responses. If that means you must cross train well fine, but my preference would always be to find a style or art that provided that range.

My main problem with striking techniques is that there is no escalation, you either don't hit or you hit hard enough to knock him down. With locks and throws, you have the ability to increase the preassure to an appropriate amount, you then still have the option of striking.

It's one weapon in your arsenal and used appropriately a very valuable one, but as a sole response or attack it is often lacking.

The introduction of striking to Japan in the 1600's is attributed to Ch'en Yuan-pin, who discussed Chinese fighting arts with three ronin named Fukuno Hichiroemon, Isogai Jirozaemon and Miura Yojiemon. Chen was a potter and had travelled extensively through China and the Ryukan's before arriving in Japan and so it is thought that he helped spread striking to Okinawa and Japan, but there are some historical arguements that dispute this.

Anyway the striking was, to my knowledge, aimed at deflective blocking, and vital point attack. It was always used in conjunction with sabaki and other trapping or off-balancing techniques.

'Pure strikers' as you call them are a very modern adaptation, you only need to look at Goju ryu to see how much trapping, locking, takedowns and sabaki were used in Okinawa. I would compare the jujutsu striking to that, more than what we see as modern karate. Even in the west, many fighters used a mix of boxing and wrestling on the street and even in the ring until rules were laid down. What we see today in karate is often an adaptation of the style developed for competition training, rather than the original combat form.

However you are attacked, if you restrict yourself to the same techniques he uses and the attacker is better than you at that thing, he will triumph. Break the cycle and and respond in an unexpected way, that gives you the advantage again.



Rolling Elbow
28th December 2000, 22:36
It is information like this that makes E-Budo worthwile revisiting..you pretty much answered my question and I agree with most of the points you made.

I personally, am not a fan of modern jujutsu/karate systems.

Thanks Again

29th December 2000, 10:25
Well, Neil, when you knows your stuff, you knows your stuff.:)

Most striking, at least from what I've studied as far as judo/jujutsu ryu, is another direction of kuzushi. In the koryu of jujutsu, I don't think, and please correct me, that atemi had any "finishing" use, but simply another manner of breaking the attacker's balance, then finishing with your nage, joint lock, weapon, or whatever. But then, atemi is accomplished by throwing uke through the floor.;)

At least, that is what I seem to get from its practical use. As to the rest, the master is at work so I will respectfully back off.:D


Fredrik Blom
29th December 2000, 11:43
For a nice look at some striking/kicking in a koryu, take a look at Yagyu Shingan Ryu. I first got a book (in Japanese, bought it for the pictures until I learn to read :-) about this ryu and was somewhat baffeled by the pictures, not being able to figure out what it was supposed to be. Later I got a video with a demo of the ryu, and it was amazing. Very awkward (from my limited karate-experience point of view) but seemingly workable kicks and punches (combined with some of the coolest nage waza I've seen :) ). The fun thing about it was that the explanation given for the strikes was that it originates from using a knife to stab and slash, but without the knife it becomes punches (now, I don't know how the kicks fits in there :) )
Take a look at this ryu if You get a chance. I don't know much about it apart from this, but it seemed quite heavy on the punching part (and kick), more so than most other koryu I've seen (which really doesn't say much though, take it for what it is, a laymans opinions).

The video I've got is (something like) "3rd Aiki News Friendship Demonstrations". Nice series, to bad they are out of "print"...

Happy New Year to You all, btw!


George Kohler
29th December 2000, 19:52
Originally posted by MarkF
Most striking, at least from what I've studied as far as judo/jujutsu ryu, is another direction of kuzushi. In the koryu of jujutsu, I don't think, and please correct me, that atemi had any "finishing" use, but simply another manner of breaking the attacker's balance, then finishing with your nage, joint lock, weapon, or whatever. But then, atemi is accomplished by throwing uke through the floor.;)

Hi Mark,

There are some ryuha that does use Atemi as a "finishing" technique. While it is true that it is not used as often as the others, but there are some.

Neil Hawkins
30th December 2000, 00:25
Now we're starting to get some interesting discussion, good!

Mark, you are right, my observations are that striking was most often used to unbalance, create an opening, 'break' a lock or whatever and as Rico mentioned kicking techniques do come into play, though I have never seen higher than the waist. Our style utilises the 'stop' kick extensively, to create the pause needed to enter and apply a lock or throw. I have not seen any karate style kicks in traditional jujutsu but as I've stated I think most high kicks are relatively modern adaptations.

George is also right we do often finish with atemi, but, again in my experience, they are not applied in the manner that karate uses them today, one punch finish, etc. We first apply a lock or takedown, then once the body is positioned so that the target is fairly stable a strike is made.

Think of the classic finish to the ogoshi, where the guy is lying on his side at your feet, you squat to drive your knees into his floating ribs and neck, pull his arm back to turn the shoulders forward, he cannot move, his head is against the ground and by a nature of the knee in the neck and the forward roll of the shoulders his jaw is exposed, the meridian that you know brings instant unconciousness is facing right at you just behind and below the point of the chin, you strike it, the head is held in place so you don't need a lot of power you can target precisely and bang, it's lights out.

Much easier than trying to hit a moving target that is trying to hit you back! ;)

Anyway, I would be interested in hearing if other styles do 'slug it out', George are the styles you've seen finishing from an free-standing position or do they lock or trap first?



George Kohler
30th December 2000, 01:16
Originally posted by Neil Hawkins
George are the styles you've seen finishing from an free-standing position or do they lock or trap first?



Hi Neil,

Hope you had a great Christmas.

Most that I've seen is from locked/trapped position. I have seen a Hontai Yoshin Ryu technique where the opponent was thrown, and the defender then does a back fist strike to the opponent's face. So, I guess it can also be done after a throw.

Paul Steadman
30th December 2000, 12:27
Hi All,

All of the koryu jujutsu (and some iai-jutsu and kenjutsu) that I've seen or had the opportunity to be allowed to participate in have and utilise atemi-waza, an it looks nothing like the tsuki-waza, uchi-waza and keri-waza in Karate-do! In some ryu kuzushi is synonimous with atemi.

I have been lucky (or unlucky) enough to have been on the recieving end of jutsu atemi and kazushi from such notable Japanese sensei as Soke Inoue Tsuyoshi Munetoshi of Hontai Yoshin Ryu, Kenji Shimazu-Sensei of Yagyu Shingan Ryu and Yokota Satoshi Sensei of Yoshin Ryu Hyosui-ha (aka Yokota-ha). I have also seen atemi performed by Sekiguchi Kome Sensei of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iaijutsu (not only with the kashira of the katana, but with the fist as well)!

All of the above arts pre-date Karate-do and the 1920's by quite a few years the story of Gen Gin-Ping (J) is only a leagend that has not been substantiated and does not stand up to scrutiny.

In koryu Jujutsu atemi is utilised prior to, during, and after applying a joint-lock, take-down or throw. I can't stand it when martial artists tell me that Jui-jitsu is a soft art that does not require strength or power, and does not use punches or kicks as it utilises the aggressors strength and momentum back against the aggressor! One karate instructor I knew was teaching his students defences against Jujutsu grabs, "...this is what you do when a Jujutsu person grabs you on the collar...!" He explained that Jujutsu doesn't have any strikes and relies on the collar-sleeve position (Judo's kumi-kata) and only has throw and grappling!


Paul Steadman

Joseph Svinth
31st December 2000, 07:05
Sources for Ch'en and jujutsu include Lindsay and Kano, "Jiu-Jutsu, The Old Samurai Art of Fighting Without Weapons," *Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan*, 16:2 (1915), 202-217 (it can be read online at http://judoinfo.com/kano6.htm ) and T. Shidachi, "'Ju-jitsu,' the Ancient Art of Self-Defence by Sleight of Body," a paper delivered to the Japan Society of London on April 29, 1892, and reprinted in RW Smith, *A Complete Guide to Judo* (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, 1958).

Sources for Ch'en's involvement in Okinawan pottery include Keiko Fukuda, "Folk Pottery of Okinawa," in *Of Andagi and Sanshin: Okinawan Culture in Hawai’i*, Ruth Adaniya, Alice Njus, and Margaret Yamate, editors (Honolulu: Hui O Laulima, 1988) 41-44.

Pure strikers are not all that modern. English boxing, for example, dates to at least the 1680s, which means it is at least as old as documented karate and jujutsu styles. (I know, hip throws were allowed in English boxing until the advent of London Prize Rules, but the prizefighters apparently fought with closed fist because he or she who dropped the coins held in the fist was the loser.)

Hellenistic boxing is of course much older, and so, in all probability, is Hausa boxing.

Anyway, the purpose of fighting is not always pragmatic self-preservation in a combative environment, but sometimes nothing more than recreational violence (think Irish faction fighting) or fighting to first blood in a scenario involving honor and masculinity. (Think Iberian and gaucho knife fighting, and German Schlaeger fencing.) Neither antiquity nor modernity tend to affect such motivations; they are instead in the eye of the agonists.

Funakoshi was never above inventing tradition when it served him, so the fact that mid-20th century Okinawans attribute something to the 17th century does not guarantee that it happened as he believed. Funakoshi's source of much historical information (and misinformation) was apparently Fuyu Iha, a leading Okinawan historian of the early 20th century. This suggests that Fuyu's work needs to be translated into a western language, and then his sources backtracked. Probably someone at the University of Ryukyus or at Vienna is capable of doing this, but the question is, are they? (I would guess not; sport history is not, in general, terribly important to academics.)

31st December 2000, 09:25
Neil and George,
I should review my posts before I publish them.:) I only meant, that as a standing entry, atemi is rarely used to do enough damage as to end thing, but is used, such as a blow to the brachial nerve in the shoulder (my favorite), take down the opponent, and of course, atemi can finish, and in the manner you say.

In kime no kata the end is accomplished with a defensive blow, while avoiding the strike or catching an arm in which a strike may disable an attacker immediately.

Even in many goshin jutsu tecniques, strikes are used to finish, or are used to set up the finish, such as kansetsuwaza, and then punching in a downward motion (it had better be downward because if you are punching upward, you are the one who is finished.


Neil Hawkins
1st January 2001, 09:02
Thanks Joe, most of my sources these days are Kronos, you've already done all the hard work! There are many, many books that relate the Gampin stories, including Draeger, Turnbull and Shortt, but in each case there is the disclaimer that it is not necessarily accepted history.

Like the history of Okinawan Karate, we don't have too much in the way of verification today. Yoshin Ryu still (too my knowledge, anyway) claim Genpin as their inspiration and I believe that the dispute is not that Genpin didn't exist, but that he could not have met the three ronin or influenced the styles as claimed. The ronin did not live in the same area and were different ages, so they may not have met at all, let alone studied Gempin's fighting system.

I think we all agree that the atemi used in traditional jujutsu was reasonably effective, and I would say that it is still effective today.

How important is having the atemi as an integral part of the system? I would say that it is critical, you must be able to strike at any time, and use the strike to aid in the application of your technique. I don't think it is possible to recreate this by adding karate to rudimentary judo.


2nd January 2001, 16:24
Hi guys,

Shindo Yoshin ryu was founded by Matsuoka Katsunosuke and based on Yoshin ryu, Tenjin Shinyo ryu, Jikishinkage ryu and Hokushin Itto ryu. It contains a very sophisticated syllabus of atemi and kyusho within its mokuroku. Dynamically very different from karate, SYR is quite effective.

As a 20 yr student of karate, and 15 yr student of SYR I am very familiar with the strengths and pitfalls of both systems. SYR atemi is more difficult to apply when compared to karate but I believe ultimately more practical when learned and taught correctly.

My SYR Sensei, Takamura Yukio was one of the most devestating strikers I have ever trained with including some excellent boxers, Thai fighters and world class kickboxers . His headbutts were... well.... legendary. A simply incredibly adept and sophisticated technician. He could apply crushing ate waza from out of no where.

One of the maxims spoken often by Takamura Yukiyoshi was "every technique begins and ends with atemi" Sort of a humourous paraphrase of one of Funakoshi's maxims.

Some of you may remember the excellent interview with him that appeared in Aikido Journal last year.

BTW Joe Svinth, I always marvel at your excellent historical perspective. Tell Neil Y. to stay out of trouble and not consume too much single malt. :)


[Edited by Toby Threadgill on 01-02-2001 at 11:30 AM]

Joseph Svinth
3rd January 2001, 09:14
Re Ch'en, note too that even the old guys said that they had their doubts about the veracity of the tale, noting that nobody really knew what was going on in Japan 300 years ago. So, while the tale is documented in English back to the beginning, the question is when, where, and why it first appeared in Japanese.

As for Neil Y., gotta catch him first, usually he's out imbibing without me.

19th January 2001, 06:59
Joseph Svinth wrote:


Re Ch'en, note too that even the old guys said that they had their doubts about the veracity of the tale, noting that nobody really knew what was going on in Japan 300 years ago. So, while the tale is documented in English back to the beginning, the question is when, where, and why it first appeared in Japanese.

*end quote*

I believe the first published account of Chen Yuan'yun (J. Chin Gen'in, 1587--1671) --- whose name is sometimes mistakenly romanized as Ch'en Yuan-pin (J. Chin Gempei) --- appears in fascicle 10 of the *Honcho bugei shoden* (Brief accounts of our kingdom's martial arts, 1716) by Hinatsu Shigetaka. His teachings also are mentioned in initiation documents (densho) handed down within the Kitoryu line of jujutsu (and perhaps in other lineages as well).

Hinatsu's *Honcho bugei shoden* represented the first real attempt to compile a comprehensive and historically accurate accounts of the lives and exploits of famous Japanese martial artists. Living in an age of peace when the thought of engaging in life-or-death battles already seemed remote, Hinatsu hoped that his accounts of martial valor would inspire his contemporaries, so that they might emulate the warrior ideals of their forebears. Repeatedly reprinted and copied by subsequent authors, Hinatsu's work formed the basis for the general public's understanding of Japanese martial arts down to recent times. Hinatsu's accounts of archery and of swordsmanship have been translated by John M. Rogers as "Arts of War in Times of Peace" (in the journal: Monumenta Nipponica, vols. 45 and 46, 1990 and 1991). Hinatsu's introduction to fascicle 10 begins:


A secret text on boxing (ken) says: Nowadays it is known as "yawara" (i.e., written with the kanji for jujutsu). In the *Wubei zhi* (J. Bubishi) it is called boxing (quan, J. ken). In ancient times it was called "shubaku." It began in Japan during the current age (i.e., Tokugawa period) when Chen Yuan'yun came to our kingdom and stayed at Kokushoji temple in the Azabu district of Edo (i.e., modern Tokyo). Three ronin named Fukuno Shichiroemon, Isogai Jiro Zaemon, and Miura Yojiemon came to the temple where he was staying. Speaking to Yuan'yun they said: "We have heard that in Great Ming (i.e., China) there are techniques for grappling. We do not know such techniques, but we wish to learn them." These three people listened to his teachings, devised their own innovations, and later attained maturity in their practice. Yawara began in this way, and from these three men it spread throughout the land.

*end quote*

Almost as soon as the *Honcho bugei shoden* was published, it's account of Chen Yuan'yun was attacked by Izawa Banryu in works such as his *Bushi kun* (Lessons for warriors), etc. It is important to note, however, that the controversy centered NOT on the question of whether or not Chen Yuan'yun taught unarmed martial arts. Of that, there is no doubt. Izawa and subsequent Japanese critics have complained that Hinatsu was mistaken to suggest that all of Japanese jujutsu began with Chen Yuan'yun. On this question, one has to agree with Izawa. Even Kitoryu jujutsu documents emphasize that Fukuno Shichiroemon was an expert in sumo wrestling and that he merely incorporated a few elements learned from Chen Yuan'yun.

A detailed account of Chen Yuan'yun's life can be found in a book titled *Chin Gen'in no kenkyu* (Researches on Chen Yuan'yun) by Komatsubara To (family name first; Tokyo: Yuzankaku, 1962). I do not own a copy of this book. According to a footnote in another work which cites it, Chen Yuan'yun came to Nagasaki in 1619. From there he made his way to Kyoto where he acquired a reputation for his poetry (Japanese love Chinese poetry) and his pottery and his boxing. Around 1625 he moved to Kokushoji temple in Edo. That is where he taught Chinese martial arts to Fukuno and the others. Eventually he was summoned to be of service to the Owari branch of the Tokugawa family in Nagoya. In this capacity he probably had relations with members of the Owari branch of the Yagyu family. His grave can still be found in Nagoya. Komatsubara concludes that Chen Yuan'yun must have taught a variety of Shaolin boxing (as if that makes anything clearer).