Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I have to apologize to JJ- That's US Deputy Marshall JJ to you-  he taught me something very profound once that I have since embellished and internalized so that I no longer know what was my add-on to his thought.  So what follows, especially the good stuff, is JJ's and he deserves the credit. Be safe my friend.

Teaching instructors and leaders is different than teaching troops.  Leaders have to understand well enough to improvise, know the rules well enough to break them.  They need to know the 'why' of a thing pretty deeply.  Troops should know it too, of course, but part of concentrating that time at the instructor/leader level is so that they can pass it on at their discretion.

So, today, teaching basic skills to a leader I had to give him some background.

1) Anything you teach, anything you practice must have a tactical use.  If it is not useful, why are you practicing it?  Case in point- returning a katana to the scabbard quickly, smoothly and without looking is one of the hallmark proofs of extreme skill.  News flash- getting you weapon into the holster fastest has never won a fight.  There is no tactical use for disarming yourself quickly.  To be fair, the ability to secure your weapon without looking allows you to pay attention to potential emerging threats, and that is a good skill.

2) You must be able to perform the skill moving.  Fights (unarmed, guns, knives, swords or clubs) are not static affairs.  They are conducted moving.  You will be moving and so will the threat.  If you have to freeze in order to strike hard or stop in order to shoot accurately, what you have is not a combat skill.  If your opponent must freeze for an instant to give you time for your disarms or locks to work, it is not yet a combat skill.

3) Your skills must work when you are scared.  I can almost guarantee that if you ever need serious close-quarters survival skills, you will be scared.  That affects your mind and your body.  If the techniques you rely on require wide peripheral vision, calm planning, precise hand movements, or even a fairly complicated coordination of hands and feet they very likely won't work.  Levels of fear change with experience and somewhat with internal wiring- if you choose to believe that this doesn't apply to what you do, you are counting on being a mutant. Best of luck to you.

4) It must work whether you can see or not.  Not just because bad things happen in the dark but because you can't waste time looking at the weapons on your belt or checking to see which way your magazines are turned.  Something else, like the threat's hands, may well be in your face.  You won't get the choice that the threat will even be in front of you.  Some things, like shooting, require some vision (country western songs aside) but there is a reason why so much time is spent on low-light and poor visibility shooting. Reason being, that's how most of them happen.  Touch is reliable. Anything you can do by touch, you do by touch.


Kris Wilder said...

I could go on about how correct you are but I'll just go with; Amen.

Joseph said...


Sorry to contact you this way, I can't find an email for you. I am trying to work within my company (BAE Systems...for full disclosure) about developing training for Soldiers. What I'm concerned about is some of the training issues that you have wrote about in this blog. Mainly, how do we teach them to be violence, without mistakenly making them less effective than an untrained individual when the $hit hits the fan...

I'm also concerned about training aspects of video game training which are less tangible...mainly how do we train violence without doing any unnecessary harm to the human underneath.

I'd like to talk to you as far as guidance or even as far as business opportunity if it suites you.

Once again, in full disclosure...right now, the specific training venture I'm working on is mostly a plan in my head, as I attempt to work the levers of my organization and the government to see if my goals are worthwhile.

Vaughn said...


Rory said...

For the record, I'm not actually hard to find. If anyone needs to contact me privately-

Vaughn- is 'ping' a reminder about the e-mail? I haven't forgotten, but I might be embarrassed by the utter lack of depth in what I have to add.

Vaughn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vaughn said...

Nope. The *ping* is me showing my increased interest in a post.

I tend to lurk and not post things of import, but I wanted to give some form of feedback to you. So, I attempted pinging. I can alter my response if you would prefer...

I realize that anything I get from you is wonderful, bonus material. I have no right to expect anything outside of the book I have purchased. I am grateful that you are willing to share some of your thoughts and life with me.

shugyosha said...

A slight point on '1)':

The way I've been taught, you don't sheathe quickly. You do quickly the first, say, third of it because that's the point you're most vulnerable. Once you're past it, you can use standard unsheathing [*], but at the very beginning of sheathing, you're vulnerable, so you try to shorten than moment.

Keep well.

[*]: since you've trained classically: once you have your kissaki sheathed you get the advantages of sayabiki should you have to cut again.

Travis said...

Just a question about skill/practicality and classical arts/ sheathing a blade. Is it possible that it was considered one of the highest levels of skill because it would have been one of the LAST things a professional, kills-people-with-a-sword, swordsman would develop? Ergo, someone who was sinning fights and displaying this ability would have been a high level practioner. (versus people who were losing but could sheath well and would have been show-offs)

I don't know that much about classical practice but like to look at ideas about what training does and how it gets there. The above isn't meant as a challenge or slight to anybody's views on training, it's just an idea and I'm legitimatly asking those who might know more.

Anonymous said...

I apologize if this is a wee bit boring.

In modern influenced iai schools like Muso Shinden-ryu & Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu, fast noto (resheathing) has become quite fashionable.

Older schools of classical bujutsu that haven't been influenced by the All Japan Kendo Federation or All Japan Iaido Federation like Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu, Takeuchi-ryu, Sosuishi-ryu, etc all resheathe rather slowly.

If the job has been done properly, fast resheathing is not a necessity.

S. Delaney

shugyosha said...

Mr. Delaney, it's been a while! We used to meet, sometimes, at MAP [*]. How do you do?

Travis, I might be wrong, but that's probably where the Jo-Ha-Kyu system comes in. The way this expresses itself in Tatsumi --the koryu I practice; I'm going to simplify a lot, be warned-- is that you learn the motions with Jo, you get fluidity with Ha and you achieve the combat mindset with kyu. Moves keep shortening or disappearing the more you go along the line.

Applied to sheating, the first level is rather slow, one thing at a time. The second level uses your own hip movement to give sheating some speed at the very beginning --see my previous post [7]--. And the last level completely forgoes a couple of movements --that might be kinda difficult adrenalized-- and still uses the hips.

So, at a higher level it does become faster. It does not become that much speedier and most of your gain is that you don't stop and act fluidly and forgo some movements --while keeping the idea--. Ergo, at a higher level you are faster and you have more of a battle-ready kata, but move per move you're not much faster than you originally were (sort of, you have learned what movements are vital and which are simply convenient [+]).

And, yes, I agree with Mr. Delaney that some MSR branches play iaido on speed. And that's something, coming from someone on the Sagawa line of iaido --we have a rep for speed--.

Keep well. I hope I didn't ramble too much.

[*] Martial Arts Planet, Koryu section. I practice Tatsumi and you knew me as Ferran.

[+] I _think_ it's in "Violence, blunders and fractured jaws" that Marc MacYoung talks about "the alien", which is an aikido inspired moves that grabs your head and turns it to the floor. The formal aikido move is much longer and guarantees --as much as it can-- that you'll get the guy down... provided you have the time to do all moves. His version --with some aikido friends-- will work 99% of the time... in a much shorter development. That's kyu level.

Travis said...

Thanks for the input on traditional training guys. Been on the road so didn't reply right away but don't want you to think it wasn't appreciated.

Ratman said...

Stuffing your sword back in the scabbard rapidly might keep the shoguns body guards from butchering you for settling an interclan dispute in the shoguns presence. There is always a social dimension to the aftermath of unpleasentness. I remember a Karate bunkai about letting go of a siezed weapon at the end of a form.