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Thread: "Is Sumo a Martial Art?"

  1. #16
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    This conversation has turned in an interesting direction.

    I would like to address two points in the conversation.

    First:

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Reyer
    I practice a classical Japanese sword art, which is of no practical use outside the dojo. And yet I would say (and I think most would agree) that I'm practicing a martial art.
    The classical Japanese sword arts may not have an obvious practical use in self-defense, given today's social environment in which citizens do not carry swords.

    However, in practicing a classical Japanese sword art, one develops a deep and intimate understanding of relationship, distance, maneuvering and intent (and other understandings as well); and all of which have very practical use outside the dojo, not only in terms of self-defense, but in terms of everyday interaction with other people.

    So, in my mind, Josh Reyer not only practices a martial art, he follows a discipline that has real and practical applications to self-defense (stopping the spear) and to all of life's mundane interactions.

    =====

    A slight digression:

    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Gatling
    To wit: kyudo. Archery in traditional Japanese clothes, 2 arrows, very long setup for a shot on a range, using a very longlonglong bow that is clearly not of utility or mobility in anything like a combat or ad hoc situation.
    This has me thinking of the Camp Perry military High Power Rifle matches, in which competitors shoot major caliber rifles at stationary bullseye targets, at known ranges, using firearms which have no practical use outside of formal matches.
    These competitions involve complex rituals which make sense to us now, but which, in 500 years, may seem irrelevant to those practiciing future equivalents to the Camp Perry matches.
    For example, the Range Master, who controls these competitions, has a specific and precise littany of announcements and commands he uses, some of which have already lost their meaning.
    It remains that if one shoots well at a Camp Perry meet, known ranges and rituals and all, he will represent a lethal force on the battlefield: the most reknowned of the modern real-world combat shooters have competed in and excelled at formal shooting matches.

    =====

    Secondly:

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeWilliams
    You just have to witness all the internet posts about judo being "jujutsu with all the dangerous bits taken out" to realise this.
    My son studied Judo for 12 years under Denis Point of Paris, France.

    Sometime around my son's 13th or 14th birthday, Denis asked if he could take my son into the local BJJ/Pankration dojo to which I referred earlier.

    Denis wanted to expose my son to aggression, "dirty-fighting," aggressive personalities, and to all aspects of the guard (both offensive and defensive).

    Denis told me he would not allow my son to go into this dojo unaccompanied by Denis.

    So, for about four years, three nights a week, after an hour and a half of Judo, my son and Denis would go to the BJJ/Pankration dojo for another 2 hours of study.

    Of note, Denis, a man of small stature in his late forties, completely and effortlessly dominated his training partners in the BJJ/Pankration dojo.
    Further, one could see the crowd "part" when Denis would walk about in the dojo.
    They clearly feared and respected Denis.

    After several years, my son wanted to test his Judo in the fiery pit of MMA Pankration, and he asked permission to fight in one of these events.
    Denis gave his permission.

    The BJJ/Pankration instructor and fight promoter said he did not have anyone in the geographic area who could give my son a good fight.
    Therefore, the fight promoter invited and paid a Marcello Alonzo BJJ instructor to fly in from out of state to fight my son.

    To put this in context, the fight had an audience of perhaps 5,000 people, a nine man video crew, MC in tuxedo, smoke machines and strobes, and gorgeous ring girls.

    Both my son and the Marcello Alonzo BJJ instructor fought in Gi's.
    Other than tranistioning in and out of the guard, the fight appeared very technical and very Judo; and, with the exception of the use of the guard by both fighters, it appeared indistinguishable from the Judo ground sparring of my experience.
    In the end, my son improvised a neck crank and prevailed by submission.

    In the next year or so, I will move my youngest son, now 14 years-old, into Ju Jitsu.
    I have some concerns about the relative lack of safety in the Ju Jitsu dojo, relative to the Judo dojo, but my younger son has more talent than my older son, and, my older son will accompany his younger brother for the first few visits.

    To sum up, I see both Judo and Ju Jitsu as relevant and practical on the street for self-defense (and for MMA fighting); and, however, I see the Ju Jitsu training environment as less safe, and, on a dojo by dojo basis, having a less consistent moral content.
    They each have both a martial sports and a martial arts aspect.
    Both have developed their own respective rituals, as one can see at either a Judo tournament or at a MMA Pankration or UFC fight.

    All of the above extends by analogy to the more formal, seemingly archaic and esoteric martial disciplines, such as archery and the sword, as well as the various internal disciplines.

    Your friend in Bend,

    Ken Cox

  2. #17
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    Default Budo no do

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeWilliams View Post
    Of course. I was just pointing out that I could understand why the great unwashed might not consider Sumo a martial art.

    What about the olympic disciplines of javelin, fencing, discus, archery, biathlon... are they martial arts?

    The (lack of) definition of the term "martial art" is very ambiguous. I would wager that to 90% of the world's population it means "asian unarmed fighting system geared to self-defence"

    I've never liked the term anyway - not that it affects me, I only do "combat sports".
    Sorry, I didn't realize you really didn't know. But this is so seldom taught in the US perhaps I shouldn't be surprised.

    The great unwashed are not the target of budo. I am. Perhaps you are.

    The 'do' in judo / aikido / etc. is written 道 ’michi' and literally means 'path, road, way'.

    The explicit thought is that these arts explicitly mean 柔道 ’way of flexbility', 剣道 'way of the sword', etc., and 柔道 is pronounced juudou (long u, long o).

    These arts were intentionally designed to be entire guidelines and literally 'schools of thought' that embody entire philosophies of life. The study of judo was not meant to be a brief study of wrestling techniques while young but rather as a way of life; my primary judo instructor is in his late 70's and still practices, apologizes for his failing body but not his indomitable spirit and incredible skills. His instructor went to the Kodokan almost daily until he was in his mid-80's, and was still teaching the last day he went.

    Kano shinhan, the founder of judo, taught that judo must be taught through lecture, example, study, reading, etc., and wrote volumes of books' worth of letters and speeches on morality, child education, health and exercise, you name. In Japan serious judoka participate in lectures, write research papers, are expected to study kata seriously, and be balanced in their approach to judo and life.

    I suggest you read Mind Over Muscle: Writings from the Founder of Judo by Jigoro Kano, Yukimitsu Kano, and Naoki Murata, the edited writings of Kano shihan on certain key issues. Murata Naoki sensei is the curator of the Kodokan Museum and their library, a judo 7th dan, and a very nice guy. He's captured the core thoughts of Kano shihan in a slim volume.

    For some writings on the 'way of the sword' I suggest 'Budo Mind and Body: Training Secrets of the Japanese Martial Arts' or 'Arts Of Strength, Arts Of Serenity: Martial Arts Training For Mental, Physical, And Spiritual Health', both by Nicklaus Suino, who studied for years in Japan.

    The thoughts behind other Japanese budo, with the notable exception of 小林寺拳法 Shorinji Kempo, do not have as well developed full philosophies available in English, but they are there in Japanese to varying degrees.

    There is simply no counterpart in the Olympics sports you cite - javelin, fencing, discus, archery, biathlon... are they martial arts? No. If you are an Olympic fencer, your coach has morals (or not...) but the fencing training and execution are not core to those morals or teachings. AFAIK there is no philosophy in pistol shooting, and I did tons of it. There are pistol shooters that have philosophies, but it is incidental or unrelated to shooting.

    I think you'll find that most dojo in the West, perhaps particularly in France and the US, simply don't teach the full range of the art; it is also pretty rare even in Japan.

    Regards,
    Lance Gatling ガトリング
    Tokyo 東京

    Long as we're making up titles, call me 'The Duke of Earl'

  3. #18
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    I read an article recently, I don't remember where, that interpreted the symbol for the syllable BU in the word phrase BUDO as "stop the spear."

    This puts me in mind of the teachings of the Marine Corps in the early 1960's, in which the Corps instructed us to think of our mission not as killing or maiming our adversary, but as removing our adversary's will to fight.

    Our teachers told us that thinking in terms of removing our adversary's will to fight expanded our options to include such things as bribery, negotiation, reconciliation, subtrefuge, misrepresentation, extortion, alliance, denial of access/resources, redirection, avoidance, isolation, etc.; as well as killing or maiming our adversary.

    One can "stop the spear" in many ways.

    Your friend in Bend,

    Ken Cox

  4. #19
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    Default Kano on judo as budo

    Here are some thoughts from Kano shihan in a 1936 letter to Gunji Koizumi, the head of the Budokwai in London, on including judo in the 1940 Tokyo Olympics (eventually canceled by the govt).

    "I have been asked by people of various sections as to the wisdom and the possibility of Judo being introduced at the Olympic Games. My view on the matter, at present, is rather passive. If it be the desire of other member countries, I have no objection. But I do not feel inclined to take any initiative. For one thing, Judo in reality is not a mere sport or game. I regard it as a principle of life, art and science. In fact, it is a means for personal cultural attainment. Only one of the forms of Judo training, the so-called randori can be classed as a form of sport... [In addition, the] Olympic Games are so strongly flavoured with nationalism that it is possible to be influenced by it and to develop Contest Judo as a retrograde form as Jujitsu was before the Kodokan was founded. Judo should be as free as art and science from external influences -- political, national, racial, financial or any other organised interest. And all things connected with it should be directed to its ultimate object, the benefit of humanity."

    Kano, Jigoro. "Olympic Games and Japan," Dai Nippon, 1936, p. 199.

    Now, say that with a straight face 3 times about some track and field event, and ask yourself, which one is budo?

    In fact, I've been told several times by senior kendoka that they're not interested in having kendo become an Olympic event because they see the ultimate affects and Japanese loss of control (because once it becomes an Olympic sport, Japan has only one vote out of a couple of hundred) on judo as detrimental and undesirable.

    As do many judoka.
    Lance Gatling ガトリング
    Tokyo 東京

    Long as we're making up titles, call me 'The Duke of Earl'

  5. #20
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    This is taking an interesting turn...

    The original question was "is sumo a martial-art", not "is sumo a budo". That Sumo is budo is not in question, I think.

    There are a huge number of martial arts out there that are not budo (incl. by definition all non-Japanese MA). Likewise there are budo that (no longer) have martial applicability, e.g. Kyudo and, for argument's sake, Sumo. So if a pursuit only has to have martial origins to be classed as a martial art, rather than martial applicability, where does that leave the examples I cited? Many, many modern sports have their origins in martial skills or combatives. Can they still be classed as a martial art if they are now solely practised for sporting purposes?

    I'm playing devil's advocate here, but it's an interesting question. I believe sumo to be a martial art, just as I believe western boxing and greco-roman wrestling to be martial arts - because, as a martial artist I can see the combative utility shining through. If I asked the question to my mum, she would give a different answer.

    EDIT to say: I'm really only keeping this going because it would be boring if we all just said "of course sumo is a martial art". Jon and others have tried to steer it in a technical direction, and I'd welcome more of that. My own knowledge of sumo technique is purely as an occasional spectator, and limited to drawing parallels with what I know from judo & wrestling.

    PS (to Ken): By Ju-Jitsu do you mean BJJ/MMA? Because I'm surprised at you finding the training to be more dangerous than Judo - I have found the opposite. Congrats to your son on the win - it takes a lot of guts and determination to fight pro- or semi-pro MMA.
    Last edited by MikeWilliams; 5th April 2008 at 09:51.
    Cheers,

    Mike
    No-Kan-Do

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeWilliams
    Many, many modern sports have their origins in martial skills or combatives. Can they still be classed as a martial art if they are now solely practised for sporting purposes?
    Would Mike expand on this a little?
    Does he mean sports like High School, Collegiate and Olympic wrestling?
    If so, I see wrestling as a sublimation of a combative discipline, but a combative discipline nonetheless.
    I have seen more than one High School or Collegiate wrestler come to the Judo dojo and pick it up like he had done it for years.
    The wrestlers do as well in the one BJJ dojo I have attended with my son.

    Speaking of BJJ:

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeWilliams
    By Ju-Jitsu do you mean BJJ/MMA? Because I'm surprised at you finding the training to be more dangerous than Judo - I have found the opposite.
    We have two Ju Jitsu schools in Bend: one a traditional Japanese school and the other a BJJ school that prepares fighters for MMA competition under Pankration rules.

    I have not attended the traditional Japanese school, by understand it by reputation as having a safe culture.

    What do I mean by safe culture?

    Well, let me try a contrast.

    The BJJ dojo, in THIS community, attracts a rough clientele and the teacher does little to smooth them out.
    The police have visited this dojo at least once and put teacher and students publicly on notice as a source of too many violent events in our community.

    My son's Judo teacher took my son into this dojo, I think, as a life lesson in contrasts.
    My son experienced a lot of dirty, nasty sparring in this dojo.
    As I said earlier, my son's Judo teacher accompanied my son, I think, to protect him.

    I intend to introduce my younger son to both Ju Jitsu schools.
    My older son has advised me not to let my younger son attend the BJJ school without my older son accompanying him, at least at first.
    I would not let my younger son attend this dojo at all, except my younger son simply has a talent for scrapping and he sees a bloody nose and a split lip as fun.
    I can handle a bloody nose or a split lip, but not a broken elbow or wrist.
    We'll see how it goes and probably end up in the traditional Japanese school.
    Still, a little controlled exposure to the underbelly of the martial arts has its merits.

    Please do not interpret the above as a comment about BJJ in general, but, rather, an observation regarding a specific school in my community.

    But returning to Sumo, I see combatives as combatives, whether in the athletic arena or on the battlefield.
    I would not want to get in a life and death fight with either a Sumo or Collegiate wrestler, however sports-oriented their combatives.

    Your friend in Bend,

    Ken Cox

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    Thumbs down And what about the talk of making amateur sumo an Olympic event?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Gatling View Post
    In fact, I've been told several times by senior kendoka that they're not interested in having kendo become an Olympic event because they see the ultimate affects and Japanese loss of control (because once it becomes an Olympic sport, Japan has only one vote out of a couple of hundred) on judo as detrimental and undesirable.

    As do many judoka.
    While Chinese wushu is chasing the dream of Olympic status, I hope Japanese kendo/Korean kumdo see the error in this pursuit. Traditional martial arts most definitely do not need to be steered/molded/changed/distorted by the Olympic committee's priorities. I read somewhere that amateur sumo was being considered as an Olympic event. Is this really true? Some things are like oil & vinegar. Sumo & the Olympics are even more incompatible. Aside from the obvious problems this could raise, how are a panel of politically-motivated, rules & regulation stiffs going to encapsulate something as deeply ritualistic as sumo into the Olympic format? What has taken over 1000 years in-the-making must never be watered-down or simplified, to satisfy potential commercial advertisement agendas. Kendo & sumo are doing just fine without the Olympics.

    Good evening All, Jon Palombi

  8. #23
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    It should be noted that international amateur sumo has been going on for quite some time, and is not quite as deeply ritualistic as Ozumo. And really, it's hard to further simplify the very simple rules of sumo. I imagine they'd have to codify the shinitai/ikitai rule, though (if ama-zumo hasn't already). I'm not really interested in amateur sumo, except in as much as the college athletes later join Ozumo, so amateur sumo becoming an Olympic sport doesn't bother me one way or the other. It makes no difference to Ozumo, which has been professional since the late Edo Period. It might even improve the Japanese talent pool by encouraging an interest in sumo at the high school and college levels.
    Josh Reyer

    Swa sceal man don, žonne he ęt guše gengan ženceš longsumne lof, na ymb his lif cearaš. - The Beowulf Poet

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