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Viewpoint:
Vital Points or Vital Principles?

By Keith Morgan

Many Martial Arts have changed in the twentieth century, particularly the Japanese systems, especially since the end of World War II. I would even suggest that the majority practiced today are closer to "Leisure Arts" than Martial Arts, and for many reasons.

I can only comment from the perspective of Japanese systems, as it is a Japanese Art that I practice, but the principles, hopefully, should reach across the full spectrum of systems practiced today.

The perspective of "Do" rather than "Jutsu" has seen a decline in combat effectiveness of many systems, be it through sporting or spiritual developments. Historically however, it was the military class, or Bushi and Samurai, that practiced the various combat arts, and it was only after their abolition in 1876 that the arts were exposed on a wider scale to the
public and civilians. The criteria for learning, however, was different from that of feudal warriors. The techniques had to be altered, watered down, or abandoned altogether. Many Ryu did in fact die out rather than expose their teachings to non-military practitioners.

Then the West was introduced to these systems, which further altered, changed, "modernized" and generally lowered the standards of tuition and training. This has resulted today in the arts being a world wide multi-million pound (dollar) industry, with the arts being constantly fragmented, re-packaged, and re-marketed to not only a gullible public, but even more gullible practitioners, always looking, I believe, for the easy fix, or that ever elusive "secret" of the arts. There is only one secret in the arts: Practice! Practice! Practice!

The latest craze, (secret?) now is Pressure Point Fighting, or Kyosho Jutsu, or Dim Mak, or whatever label you wish to use. And boy, has this been marketed by some individuals and organizations, to the point of even re-naming certain basics! "Players to the game" I do not understand, but Gensoku, or basic principles, I do. This is what is missing in today's modern practice. Students are too eager to want everything today, the short cut, and there are many "teachers" only too eager to pass on certain dubious knowledge. Students, in fact modern practitioners, are now collectors of techniques, and a clutter of theoretical reasons of why it should work , even if the theory cannot be practiced because it is so dangerous! Would you like to defend yourself on a theory?

Students no longer study the basic principles in their art, the very essence of what makes it work and why. The most important principle that I could teach my students is Zanshin; basically "Total Awareness," although it does have deeper connotations. It could be said that if your zanshin is true and complete you will never get into a fight, be it defensive or offensive.

When it comes to teaching self-defense techniques, then this is surely the greatest of them all. A student can learn a myriad of techniques, yet never have the confidence to execute them; but with zanshin should there be a need? The majority of attackers in the street are looking for victims, not adversaries. So teach students the importance of posture, body language, assertiveness , avoidance , observation , and basic common sense : where would you park your car? How would you park it? Where would you sit on a train or a bus ? How to enter/exit buildings . Where to stand in a lift. How to walk down a sidewalk/pavement. The list is almost endless. Teach your students the three "A" 's :

Awareness
Assessment
(Appropriate) Action

Teach this and instill confidence and not paranoiac fear. As students become more experienced, so principles of Sen (timing) Heiho (tactics) Ma-ai (distancing) Tai-sabaki (body movement) are introduced and explained. Basic Fundamental Principles that have to be utilized before any technique can work , no matter how fanciful your knowledge is of the "effect" of pressure points.

A sound knowledge of awareness is far superior than an academic knowledge of pressure points. This is not to disparage pressure points or their alleged effectiveness. Within my own system higher grades learn the meridian system, In-Yo (Yin/Yang) theory, Five Element Theory, Tsubo location, as well as anatomy and physiology. But this is to enhance their base line techniques, not to replace them. I have seen many believe that a cursory knowledge of where to hold, touch, stroke, brush or hit will have dynamic results. But this is not the case. The physics of the techniques, angles, leverage, and body mechanics have to be understood, applied and mastered first. It is this knowledge that makes a technique work, not pressure point knowledge.

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About the author:

Keith Morgan is a Sixth Dan in Aiki Jiu Jitsu in England and has been practicing the Art for 33 years. He is the first person in Britain to be awarded the rank of Rokudan and the title Renshi simultaneously by the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai, Japan. He also holds a Graduate Fellowship from the Society of Martial Arts, Salford University, England. Keith teaches Aiki Jiu Jitsu full time and is also a fully qualified Shiatsu practitioner, at clinical level.


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