Principles.

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In another posting I mentioned the importance in Wado karate of focussing on Principles. Here I am going to present another angle to maybe supply a slightly different perspective.

Principles are not techniques; they are the essence that underpins the techniques. These work like sets of universal rules that are found within the Ryu. Don’t get me wrong these are not simple; they work at different levels and in different spheres. An example would be how these Principles relate to movement. There is a hallmark way of Wado movement; something that should be instilled into all levels of practice, from Kihon and beyond. If in a Wado training environment technique is prioritised at the expense of Principles of movement then students are learning their stuff back to front. The technique will only deliver at a superficial level; the backbone of the technique is missing.

This is where I think that learning a huge catalogue of techniques in itself is of limited application, and particularly mixing and matching techniques from other systems; it may work but only to a certain level. To me personally this approach lacks ambition and has a limited shelf life.

The underpinning Principles are not modern inventions, they originate way back in in early days of Japanese Budo and were forged in a very Darwinian way. These were created and adapted at the point of a sword by men who witnessed violence and blood; these things were deadly serious, no delusion, no fantasy, instead sharp reality. Those days are gone but the Principles stretch forward into the future, but they are vulnerable and the threads can easily be broken, we ignore them at our peril. It sounds dramatic, but in a way we are the custodians of a very fragile legacy.

If we look at the life of the first Grandmaster of Wado Ryu, Ohtsuka Hironori, it could be said that he had one foot in the past and one foot in the future. There is a connection between him and the men of the sword who experienced the smell of blood, particularly his great-uncle Ebashi Chojiro who we are lead to believe experienced the reality of warfare probably in the Boshin Senso (but that needs to be confirmed by someone more knowledgeable than me.).  Traditional martial arts supply a direct line into the past and their values come from concepts that underpin Japanese Budo of which Wado is part.

Principle is the key that unlocks multiple opportunities and techniques. This works surprisingly well. The human psycho-physical capability is amazingly sophisticated. I have often come across students asking about the problem of learning techniques on both sides. My reply is that personally I have had no trouble switching from one side to the other. I remember hearing about sleight of hand magicians who have to learn a piece of complex manipulation with one hand and spend hours and hours of laboriously practice (and failure) to master the trick. But if the one-handed trick was to be switched to the other hand then the learning time was dramatically decreased. This is an aspect of body memory and it is not to be underestimated, it is complex, multi-faceted and amazingly fast when compared to a more calculated thought-based approach.

Tim Shaw

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2 thoughts on “Principles.

    Robert Vernooy said:
    06/03/2017 at 9:23 am

    For the most part I agree with you. I only have some reservations regarding the role of the sword. Recent historical research has shown that not the sword but the bow and arrow and (later) guns were the weapons of choice on the Japanese battlefield. The sword seems to have been little more than a side arm. According to Karl Friday the principles practised in de ryuha bugei had a mostly selfcultivational purpose and were not primarily meant for use on the battlefield. (Friday has written an excellent article on this subject, titled “Off the Warpath: Military Science & Budo in the Evolution of Ryuha Bugei.”)

    Liked by 1 person

    timshaw499 responded:
    06/03/2017 at 11:57 am

    I agree with you Robert, things are never as straightforward as we would like. Over 600 years styles of warfare and weapons used developed considerably. In the later centuries there were times of peace when fighting men were criticized for their decadence and allowing their standards to slip. Any actual ‘battlefield’ was a long way from domestic dustups. The self-cultivation and philosophy developed in a way that was interwoven with the physicality. At least that’s my understanding. I’ll certainly look up the article; thank you.

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