Of Sheep & Tigers
By Perry Campbell
Hard versus soft training? Over the years I have heard a lot of discussion
about the merits of soft versus hard training, the latter including both
body conditioning and makiwara training.
At one time I had no use for schools that did not incorporate conditioning
and makiwara into their training. I have now come to see the good in
both methods of training. Both help the student to gain physically and
mentally through the training and philosophy.
What is dangerous, however, are schools and sensei who do not teach
body conditioning (hardening) while at the same time lead the students
to believe they will be able to defend themselves using their martial
art. There is a difference between learning to defend oneself and preparing
to defend oneself.
One can learn the techniques without much impact on one’s body.
But that does not make them prepared to take multiple, or even one, blow
from a strong person who is fully intent on taking off his head. You
might get lucky and not get hit, but if you are hit and you aren’t
prepared for the physical and mental impact you are put at a distinct
It is important to remember that many of the people who pick fights
have a backgound in fighting, be it street fighting or otherwise. They
are used to giving blows and taking blows. I have heard many martial
artists say that body
conditioning is not necessary, or even harmful, because in a real fight
situation, adrenaline will kick in and you won't feel pain. Woe to anyone
who believes this. I can say this from my first experience in Okinawa
when my arms and legs were pulverized in the first class.
The event inspired me not only to change my training methods (back to
hard I should add), but to move to Okinawa two years later. No amount
of adrenaline will keep a person fighting when a conditioned martial
artist attacks his legs or even his arm (it can be extremely painful
This theory is best explained in the analogy “Tigers and Sheep” given
by Tomoyose Ryuko, 9th dan Uechi Ryu (the first student of the founder
of Uechi-Ryu karate, Kanbun Uechi. Ryuko later moved to Japan and taught
there.).(1) He said:
"Sometimes karate training can be called training as a tiger or
training as a sheep. If you train as a tiger -- hard training and body
conditioning -- you can always train with tigers. Other tigers will also
recognize you and you can train in peace with them. They know that when
two tigers really fight, one will die of injuries today and the other
will die of injuries tomorrow. Both will die, so they have nothing to
If you train like a sheep -- no contact and no two man conditioning
-- then you can only train with sheep. A tiger can train with tigers
and he can also train with sheep. He just has to be careful not to hurt
them. A sheep cannot train with tigers. Sheep see tigers as being very
frightening and their conditioning, he says, will cause cancer (the belief
that repeated impacts used to harden the body can also lead to the onset
of cancerous growths). A sheep training with tigers will get eaten up.
Sometimes you see a sheep who sees the truth of tiger training and changes.
In reality this sheep was actually a tiger in sheep's clothing waiting
to come out.
Watch people training. Look at how they act and how they behave. A tiger
can be like a little kitty, but be dangerous even though he is friendly.
Tigers are quiet and watch everything. They listen and watch. They know
who they are and they have nothing to prove. They are at peace.
Sheep, on the other hand, make all kinds of noises and demand to be
heard. They run around and seem to crave attention and say, 'We're baaad'.
They are easily hurt and easily scared. They always group together for
their own protection. When danger approaches they look towards the group
for protection because they cannot defend themselves. They are easy prey
for the tigers. Whether it is one sheep or several, sheep are still sheep."
Whether you train hard (go - with conditioning and Makiwara) or soft
(ju - with no conditioning and makiwara) is a personal choice. Both will
benefit. If you are a sheep your training will undoubtedly have durable
benefits both mental and physical. Just don't be deluded in your beliefs
and think you can really fight a tiger.