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The Case For Systemic Effectiveness
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I'm starting this topic based on a comment in another thread.

Quote:

The effectiveness of what we do in the Bujinkan is its own validation.

What exactly is it that "we do in the Bujinkan" that makes it so effective? Furthermore, what is the definition of "effective"?


Presumably the Bujinkan's claim to effectiveness lies in the fact that the things we do were refined through testing in actual battle across multiple generations, so the things that didn't work died with the people doing them and the things that worked survived to be passed on to us hundreds of years later. Historical testing. Is this correct?


Please correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure that historically the techniques from the 9 schools were taught in very specific ways, meaning that two people who both studied, for example, Gyokko Ryu would have been taught the techniques the same way - and they had to practice them that way until they mastered them at which point they had hopefully learned the lessons that were needed for effectiveness in unscripted, free-form battle. Those techniques benefited from real testing. But that's not what happens in the Bujinkan. If you ask 10 different people (even extremely high ranking ones) to show a given technique from one of the schools, you'll invariably get 10 different versions of it. They'll all resemble each other, but they'll have different angling, different footwork, different timing, etc. These different interpretations of the technique have NOT been tested in actual battle across multiple generations. At best they're a set of modern reconstructions.

Technique aside, people talk a lot about spontaneity, flow and the absence of technique, but the end result of that is really just people who have presumably mastered a common but inconsistently applied set of ideas/principles doing whatever feels right and whatever comes to them in the moment. Those feelings and results though, have not been tested in actual battle across multiple generations.

So whether we're talking about technique or the things that lie beyond technique, it doesn't seem like any of what we do in the Bujinkan these days has actually been tested in that historical sense that might allow us to claim systemic effectiveness.

That's why I ask: what it is that "we do in the Bujinkan" that makes it effective? There are people who practice lots of other styles who are probably very effective but their styles in general are not. What is it about the Bujinkan that sets it apart from those other styles? I can see how individuals can set themselves apart from other individuals, but at this point I don't see a legitimate case for claiming systemic effectiveness given the way things are practiced and interpreted today.

These are honest questions.

Posted on: 2009/4/14 7:09
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Re: The Case For Systemic Effectiveness
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I think they are also good questions, but I think that they do not have the necessary continuity that you imply.

for example - the (hypothetical) world's most effective yarijutsu might not by necessity be the most effective form of combat in the modern age, no matter how faithfully it has been duplicated.

Secondly, the densho from some (I say "some" because I have not seen more than a few) of the Bujinkan curriculum are pretty vague descriptions. See soke's "Unarmed Techniques of the Samurai" book as an example.

To me, this means that faithful duplication of historically successful technique may not (but could be) be useful in a later age, and it may not even be possible in OUR context(the formal koryu work pretty hard at maintainig that continuity I don't want to get into the whole "koryu thing" in this response). Thus the beauty of the Bujinkan way to me is the use of historical kata as an illumination of current questions and problems that arise in modern combat. This is different in my mind from excusing sloppy technique, but I can see how people take it that way.

What I see about BBT that is effective, is what I see modern combatives instructors harping on about as weaknesses in "traditional martial arts". (See Rory Miller or Marc McYoung's written works for example) By which usually sport MA's is what is meant. That is: understand the level of violence you are dealing with and respond in an appropriate way, be AWARE of your surroundings, avoidance and diffusion of violence are far superior to involvement, get off-line of an attack, attack from where your opponent cannot see it, be brutal when necessary, avoid going to ground, escape, minimize your expenditure of energy, and most importantly, "cheat", whenever possible.

Its the combination of all this that I think makes it useful. I look forward to the thought of others more experienced than I.

Chris

Posted on: 2009/4/14 8:57
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Christopher Taylor
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Re: The Case For Systemic Effectiveness
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Chris has already pointed out many of the items I would mention John, thank you Chris. I would also state that while the Bujinkan did come from techniques that were proven on the battlefield, that to presume our effectiveness is solely in that, is mistaken. I think effectiveness must always be measured in the current situation/time. If one uses what is taught by Dr Hatsumi it really does end the fight quickly. If one uses the philosophy he teaches it will avoid many of those fights. Many situations occur because someone lets their ego go out of control, they have a "chip" on their shoulder, or think of themselves as indestructible iron men. To think that way is to make yourself a target. Sport art is based on competition because that is supposed to be fun, at least for the spectators. Also in some of the sports there is a lot of money to be had as in professional boxing. You do personally pay for that big paycheck with damage to your body. That is not what we do in the Bujinkan. No I can not speak for every group and you will find both better and lesser groups teaching within the Bujinkan. I can only mention the feedback I have received from those I've taught who HAD to use it. It was effective, we don't play with our food.

Posted on: 2009/4/14 22:37
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Re: The Case For Systemic Effectiveness
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We have had several memebers "use" the physical aspects of our art to great success. One of the students had a diasability and was able to defend himself. Another escaped a drive-by. These are modern applications, neh?
I actually used a story passed to me by Ed ( I believe)when he related a tale to us about some neighbors on a porch. Instead of escalating the fight, the buyu commented on a sunset. Derailed the fight in the aggressor. I was followed to a parking lot by someone who thought I wronged him on the road. We got out of our cars, I walked up and apologiezed for antagonizing him. He was way out of line, but I was able to de-esculate the situation. I'm comfortable with my taijutsu, but I had to weigh other considerations and a fight would have been the last thing I needed. He accepted the "out" we talked and said good bye. End of conflict. When I was kickboxing, I would have damned the consequences. I have learned a lot of other skills related to the physical aspects of budo and have developed a healthier mindset. That is effectiveness.

Posted on: 2009/4/15 2:05
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Re: The Case For Systemic Effectiveness
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So far a lot of what is being said is anecdotal and based on a few individual accounts. There are also stories of people for whom the art didn't work, but they're not here to tell those stories because after concluding that the art is useless, they quit. I know two such people. So by this anecdotal reasoning, the art is also ineffective - and you can't possibly say that only the voice of the winners counts. So if we allow anecdotal reasoning, then the art is effective and the art is ineffective. That's an obvious contradiction which points to a flaw in the reasoning that was used to reach it. There's no escape from that.

As for using psychology to avoid or diffuse an altercation, that isn't specific to our art. Also, while avoiding combat is obviously the way to go if possible and while some interesting arguments can be made that this avoidance is a higher form of the art, it still does not say anything at all about the effectiveness of the art in actual combat against a highly skilled opponent.

Quote:

for example - the (hypothetical) world's most effective yarijutsu might not by necessity be the most effective form of combat in the modern age, no matter how faithfully it has been duplicated.


This is true. I totally agree. Assuming this was true though, would it make sense for people who studied that yarijutsu to talk about how effective it IS? How effective it WAS is another matter, but nobody talks about how effective the Bujinkan arts WERE.

So far there have been lots valid points made wrt to the fact that the art CAN be effective, but still nothing that adequately justifies blanket claims that the art itself, as generally practiced today, is effective - or even MORE effective than other arts, all of which also have their anecdotes of success and effectiveness.

I'm honestly not trying to stir things up here. I think this is an important issue.

Posted on: 2009/4/15 8:21
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Re: The Case For Systemic Effectiveness
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The Bujinkan arts aren't taught the way most koryu is taught. The bujinkan arts are only as effective as its members. Basically the arts themselves are neither effective or ineffective on their own, it is up to the budoka.

But, the basics are set up to be taught one after the other in order to move into the kata. In practice, most bujinkan dojo lack this aspect, which can creates gaps in effectiveness of their members.

It boils down to how each dojo practices and not the whole of the bujinkan. And, it is up to the individual to practice certain ways to fill any gaps their dojo might have.

Posted on: 2009/4/15 8:51
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Re: The Case For Systemic Effectiveness
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I thnk answering some of these questions starts feeling like trainig with a rope, its gets harder to hang onto it the longer you think about it, and starts screwing up everything else good you are doing... oops - am I in the wrong thread?

Quote:

bujincan wrote: but nobody talks about how effective the Bujinkan arts WERE.


I think we do this all the time...

Quote:
still nothing that adequately justifies blanket claims that the art itself, as generally practiced today, is effective - or even MORE effective than other arts, all of which also have their anecdotes of success and effectiveness.


What is the most effective knife?

Seriously.

OK. Well, other than the glib answer that its the one you happen have in your hand at the moment... It depends, right? What do you want to do with it? Gut a bear, slice sashimi <yum>, butter toast, filipino knife fighting? I've stated the reasons I like BBT, as its useful within the framework I would consider using it. I know people whom I trust that say "it works in this situation". The original UFC, *in a way*, tried to pursue an answer to your question, but it was only within the very certain framework of the octagon.

They needed to throw in some yari, I think.

Chris

Posted on: 2009/4/15 10:19
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Christopher Taylor
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Re: The Case For Systemic Effectiveness
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Rob wrote what I was thinking as I follow this thread. The kihon, waza and attitudes about budo are only as useful and effective as the people practicing this budo.

If we want this budo to be effective, we have to train and observe our own performances carefully to discover the slack that can either put us in danger or present opportunities.

John, see you here on the mat soon?

Posted on: 2009/4/15 10:22
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Re: The Case For Systemic Effectiveness
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We do claim that this art adapts to the individual, do we not? There is no way ANY art can claim it will be effective for all those that train in it, simply because it can not control the effort each individual puts into learning it. Many times I have pointed out that how well a person leans ANYTHING depends on both the quality of their instruction AND the effort they put into that learning. Those become individual responsibilities, only you control what effort you put into your training, and only you select your instructor. We have a LOT of really good instructors in the Bujinkan and not all of them are in Japan. The art itself has within it all the tools, if learned, which will make an individual very effective in defending him/herself. I don't think that is ancedotal. Our personal experiences in such situations reflect how well we have trained and understood what is in the art. It is not an evaluation of the art itself. I do sympathize John with your uncertainty but only you can change that through the training you do and the people you choose to train with. All I can do is wish you good fortune in your process and choices.

Posted on: 2009/4/15 11:17
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Re: The Case For Systemic Effectiveness
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恐れながら、申し上げます。

I really think John brought up a very good point that could lead to some interesting discussion if everyone would just stop being defensive and start doing some objective questioning of their own practice.

For example...Papa-san, you said:

Quote:
The art itself has within it all the tools, if learned, which will make an individual very effective in defending him/herself. I don't think that is ancedotal. Our personal experiences in such situations reflect how well we have trained and understood what is in the art.


No disrespect intended, but when you teach, for example, Kenjutsu I really doubt you are teaching from personal experience in such situations. Unless you have successfully fought and defeated an expert swordsman in mortal combat but I somehow think that is unlikely. Nor do I think you participated in Tairyu Jiai against a practitioner of Katori Shinto Ryu or Kashima Shin Ryu and won.

The same can be said for just about everyone and this applies to weapons as well as hand to hand combat.

Yes some people who train in the Bujinkan have successfully defended themselves... but against whom? Was the attacker a skilled fighter? Was it just one on one or were there multiple opponents? What part of his training was the defender actually able to successfully apply?

In other words, what I think John was getting at when he said:

Quote:
Technique aside, people talk a lot about spontaneity, flow and the absence of technique, but the end result of that is really just people who have presumably mastered a common but inconsistently applied set of ideas/principles doing whatever feels right and whatever comes to them in the moment. Those feelings and results though, have not been tested in actual battle across multiple generations.

....it doesn't seem like any of what we do in the Bujinkan these days has actually been tested in that historical sense that might allow us to claim systemic effectiveness.

....at this point I don't see a legitimate case for claiming systemic effectiveness given the way things are practiced and interpreted today.



is that much of what is seen in the Bujinkan these days seems to be more based on people's assumptions and "interpretations" than something genuinely transmitted or passed down in an authentic manner (i.e. directly from teacher to student) as you would see in a few other Koryuha...

I think his question

Quote:
That's why I ask: what it is that "we do in the Bujinkan" that makes it effective?


is one we all should ponder...not dismiss with the same mumbo-jumbo that brought on the question in the first place.

Again, I really believe this could be a very interesting thread about the practical (and historical - in a sense) aspects of our art.

Posted on: 2009/4/15 15:29
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