I do not generally regard myself as a physical sort of person: I enjoy walking and to some degree swimming; apart from this, the only physical activity I have ever been really absorbed in is the martial arts. I commenced training in 1974 when I spent two and a half years practising the 'Wado-Ryu' style of Karate; ultimately attaining '5th.Kyu' (Blue belt) grade at this style. During this period, in 1975, I also had a six months dabble at 'Judo', and succeeded in being 'double graded' (from white to orange belt, skipping yellow - wow!) in the only grading I undertook at this sport. I wasn't all that keen on Judo - too much heaving and tugging for my liking; neither did I like how many of the techniques were restricted by the rules as, contrary to popular belief, Judo is a sport - not a martial art; and as my interest in the martial arts has always been related to their original concept of fighting - not the sport aspect, the Judo training fell by the wayside.
Tae-Kwon-Do: 1979 - 1984
For various reasons, my Karate training also came to an end in 1977; however in June 1979 I recommenced, practising privately on Sunday nights with two of my friends who are 'black belts' at the Korean martial art of 'Tae-Kwon-Do' (very similar to Karate). We hired a church hall in Goldthorpe for a few hours a week and trained there for over five years - until August 1984.
In May 1980 we also joined an 'Aikido' club and spent around three months learning the basics of this fighting system. We found it very impressive and generally enjoyable, but all the other club members were Judo people (Judokas) and the sessions were constantly drifting into 'Judo' practice - which we did not enjoy: mainly for this reason, we eventually left the club.
Ju-Jitsu: 1982 - 1985
Many years earlier I had read several books on the ancient Japanese martial art of 'Ju-Jitsu', and since, had often fancied having a bash at it. In January 1982 I discovered the existence of a 'Ju-Jitsu' club in Sheffield and immediately enrolled. To describe Jitsu in a few words, it is an amalgam of Karate, Judo and Aikido techniques. Indeed, these latter three martial arts were ultimately developed from Ju-Jitsu (see notes below). I very quickly adapted to this fighting system - it was certainly the one for me. My Ju-Jitsu training continued for just over four years - until April 1985, by which time I had attained 1st Kyu grade (Brown Belt). I had been practising the 'Black Belt' syllabus for a few months when my regular partner had to discontinue training for several months due to an injury. I decided to take the opportunity and have a break myself - at 'Brown Belt' level training gets very intense! Before he had fully recovered, my training partner moved out of the area, and this resulted in me never returning to the club - despite being adamant that this would not happen!
Since that time, I have done no further training in any martial art - or been involved in any other sport for that matter. This has left me relatively unfit, and now I can only dream of performing some of the stuff I used to! - shown below. These photographs were taken on 22 June 1980 in the 'Goldthorpe Church Hall' where I trained privately with a few 'Tae-kwon-Do' black-belt friends. (Oh! if only I were that fit and supple now!):
|The 'Turning' or 'Roundhouse kick' (Mawashi geri): Here, the foot is raised vertically from the floor and brought as close to the hip as possible. It is then swung out to the side and gradually forward in an ever-rising arc (the hips and left leg swivelling 90° to the left at the same time) - striking the opponent by the side of the head.|
|The 'Side kick' (Yoko geri): Here, the foot is raised vertically from the floor and brought as close to the hip as possible. At the same time, the body swivels 90° to the left (assuming a right-foot kick). Towards the end of the 'swivel', the foot is thrust out sideways. The power of the 'thrust' comes largely from the swivelling hip - making this a very powerful kick. The main striking targets are: the knee, the groin, solar plexis or the head.|
The following paragraphs give a brief description of the martial arts in which I have partaken:
|INDEX (Items on this page - below)|
Ju-Jitsu is the 'unarmed combat system' developed by the Japanese Samuri worriors; though some of the individual techniques it employs have been developed over a two thousand year period. It incorporates virtually every type of fighting/defence technique imaginable - punching, striking, kicking, knee/elbow strikes, headbutting, throwing, wrist/arm locks, holding techniques, strangle and various other hold-escapes, and so on - almost an 'if it works - use it' concept. In the nineteenth century, when Japan was emerging from its 'feudal' era under the reign of Emperor Meize, the techniques of Ju-Jitsu were condemned as being dangerous and barbaric, and the practice of Ju-Jitsu was banned - being actually made a criminal offence. The art was almost lost: however, a number of leading masters continued to practice and teach it 'underground' thus keeping it alive. It was ultimately re-introduced in modified forms - forms that could be safely practised, firstly as a physical exercise program, and secondly as a sport. The three best known modified forms are Judo, Karate and Aikido. This being the case, Jitsu is now often referred to as the 'mother art'. By the mid twentieth century, the ban on Ju-Jitsu practice had been lifted, and since, the art has undergone a massive revival - what is more important - unlike most other currently practised 'martial arts', this one remains true to its original concept - it is pure martial art - there is no sport version of this combat system (though one or two breakaway - factions have attempted this); many of its techniques are very dangerous and must be practised with care and restraint. An international organisation, the World Ju-Jitsu Federation, has been set up to organise and promote the practice of Ju-Jitsu around the world. Their international co-ordinator, Professor Robert Clark (9th. Dan) oversees most of the organisations activities and gradings in Britain. (return to index)
The 'World Ju Jitsu Federation' Web-site (Will open in a new window)
The first modified form of Ju-Jitsu to appear was 'Judo', developed by Dr. Jigoro Kano in 1882. His system utilised the safer throwing and holding techniques of Jitsu, whereby contestants could 'win' the contest, firstly by gaining points from successfully throwing their opponent to the ground; then continue to score further points by following their opponent into the recumbent position and either securing them in an inescapable 'hold', or by gaining a 'submission' from a painful arm-lock or strangle hold. (return to index)
In 1921 Gichin Funakoshi merged many 'Ju-Jitsu' techniques with a more basic 'kicking/striking' fighting system from Okinawa, to form the first Japanese Karate style - Shotokan. Subsequently, several of Funakoshi's leading students, also being top exponents of Ju-Jitsu, went on to merge even more its techniques with Shotokan and form some of the other leading Karate styles that exist today. Some examples are Hironori Otsuka, a 'master' of the Yoshinryu style of Ju-Jitsu, who formed the Wadoryu Karate style (the style I practised); Chojiro Tani, who formed the Shukokai style, and Masutatsu Oyama, who developed the Kyokushinkai style. Over the years many other masters have produced their own interpretations of the main techniques, leading to the development of over one hundred different styles that are currently practised in Japan. Even the main styles now have their sub-styles. Exponents of each style will argue the superiority of their version of techniques over the others, however, the main principles of all the various techniques - kicking, punching, striking, stances etc. are the same - the differences being relatively trivial.
The original Shotokan style is based on launching powerful attacks from a solid base and tends to utilise wide rigid stances. In contrast, Shukokai prefers to emphasise on lightning reactions and strikes, consequently using more shallow stances. Wadoryu tends to fall somewhere between these two. (return to index)
In 1942, Morihei Ueshiba, another Ju-Jitsu master, developed and refined many of Jitsu's shoulder/elbow/wrist 'locking' techniques to create the art of Aikido; largely used as a form of physical exercise and sport today. This 'art' is more closely akin to Judo in that it involves more throwing and holding techniques than striking ones. However, unlike Judo, the vast majority of Aikido throws are executed from a multitude of wrist/arm locks. It also incorporates an astonishing array of de-capacitating wrist, elbow and shoulder locking techniques. Demonstrations of Aikido are extremely spectacular; anyone who gets the chance of witnessing such a display and has the remotest interest should not forego the opportunity.
As with most other martial arts, a number of different Aikido styles have evolved: these being developed by several of Ueshiba's leading students. Two of the more common styles are Tomiki and Yoshin. (return to index)
If I say Tae-Kwon-Do is Korean Karate, many of its exponents will be annoyed; because it is not Karate - it is Tae-Kwon-Do. So I'll say this: Tae-Kwon-do is a Korean martial art that closely resembles Japanese Karate. The chief difference being a greater emphasis on kicking techniques - particularly high and leaping kicks (many of the spectacular flying and spinning kicks exhibited by Bruce Lee in his films were of Tae-Kwon-Do origin). This certainly makes Tae-Kwon-Do more spectacular than Karate in demonstrations, though I'm not convinced makes it a more effective self-defence system. As Bruce Lee himself admitted: these 'high' and 'leaping' kicks are great for use in action films, but are not necessarily the best techniques for practical self defence. (return to index)
A common question many people ask is: 'which is the most effective system for self defence?'. From my own experience of practising a number of different systems, I have concluded that all can be used very effectively for defence if developed to a high enough proficiency. One's ability to defend oneself is more related to how proficient they are at the 'art' they practice than which 'art' it is. If pressed further on the point, I would declare that I believe, for the average person, Ju-Jitsu probably provides the easiest and most direct route to practical 'self defence'. (return to index)
Copyright © 1999 Michael Armitage