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
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 :
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
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.