Monday, August 30, 2010

'A bit sure of yourself'

A comment was posted on my last blog which said that overall it is a good read (thanks) but I'm a bit sure of myself particularly with respect to a comment I made concerning nobody understanding the difference between throwing techniques and takedown techniques. Fair comment. And as I've said before, my work is all the better for the comments I've received, often sceptical, as it pushes me to address these issues. So, thank you anonymous for your comment and the opportunity to address your issues.

The comment regarding the throwing techniques and takedown techniques was intended as an expression of my amazement that I could find no definitive classifications or definitions which facilitated the understanding and study of these techniques. That having been said, I am sure of myself because I put the work into researching, and the time into studying, the subjects I'm covering. As my friends will vouch, I am obsessive in my work, working 12+ hours a day often seven days a week for nearly three years now. My research and analytical abilities have been developed and honed through my professional training and I cannot abide inconsistencies or weak arguments. Particularly in my own arguments, concepts, and theories. I am inextricably drawn to these just as light is to a black hole.

Let me take you on my journey with regards to throwing techniques and takedown techniques. My originally conceived how-to book on the tactics and techniques was going to include chapters on each of the major categories of techniques taught by Jan de Jong jujutsu (aka Tsutsumi Hozan ryu jujutsu): breakfalls (ukemi), bodymovements (taisabaki), unbalancing (kuzushi), joint techniques (kansetsu waza), throwing techniques (nage waza), takedown techniques (taoshi waza), percussion techniques (atemi or tsuki waza and keri waza), and strangulation techniques (shime waza). The grading system provided numerous techniques which were specifically identified as being included in these classes - with the exception of takedown techniques.

The original grading system commenced with shinken shobu no kata. This is not a kata as kata is commonly conceived but is a hybrid form of randori (free exercise or sparring) and kata. It consists of set defences from set attacks. The common features of the defences were not studied until the dan grades when they were specifically identified and studied. The tactics and techniques were analysed by dividing them into phases or elements and the similarities and differences in the tactics and techniques were identified. Any good book on sport biomechanics, e.g. Gerry Carr's Sport Mechanics for Coaches, will explain this analytical approach to teaching and improving sport skills. Research has found that the identification of similarities and differences is the core of all learning. So, modern science lends support to the approach adopted in the Jan de Jong jujutsu dan grades.

De Jong was engaged by the Australian Army (SAS) to assist in developing a close combat system in the 1970s. In an interview, De Jong explains that Major Greg Mawkes MBE (retired) came to him and said the fighting methods he was teaching were good but the troopers were having trouble learning them and it was taking too long to learn them. De Jong explained that this is the same with his students. After seeing the 'army way' of teaching, De Jong then decided to bring the dan grade approach to the front of his gradings and explains that his students benefited tremendously after this approach was adopted.

The mon grades, as they are known, were introduced at the front end of the grading system. They are designed to introduce the students to the basic concepts of Jan de Jong jujutsu before they attempt the more difficult shinken shobu no kata kyu grades. Examples of the basic categories of techniques listed above are demonstrated in each grading with the exception of strangulation techniques and takedown techniques. The former due to ethical reasons, but why are takedown techniques not included in the mon grades? There are some takedown techniques specifically identified in the dan grades which are kansetsu waza although this conceptualisation of these techniques does not go beyond this grading. There was a distinction which was offered by some of the instructors as one dan grading requires the candidate to demonstrate, among other things, five unspecified takedown techniques and throwing techniques against five specified hand grabs. However, when this distinction is applied to other techniques which have been classified as throwing techniques or takedown techniques it suggests they have been misclassified or misrepresented as being either a throw or a takedown.

So, not having a definitive understanding of the difference between throwing techniques and takedown techniques, and consequently not having a definitive guide to choose the techniques to include in my book nor the science to provide behind them, I commenced my journey.

Keith Yates provides a comparison chart in his Warrior Secrets: A Handbook of the Martial Arts in which various 'popular' martial arts are compared based on their technical content. The technical content is initially divided into grappling and striking with throwing techniques and takedown techniques being two separate class of grappling techniques. He compares aikido, boxing, judo, jujutsu, karate, kung fu, taekwondo, and wrestling. Takedown techniques are listed for all but boxing and is the most common class of technique taught by the martial arts according to Yates' chart. Only jujutsu, aikido, and judo are listed as teaching both throwing and takedown techniques. So, I used this as a literary devise to structure my discussion.

I researched texts on judo, aikido, jujutsu, karate, wrestling, and hapkido (derived from jujutsu). I researched texts that are now being published dedicated to throws and takedowns generically or of specific martial arts. The interest in takedown techniques has increased due to the exposure afforded them by their use in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and in the mixed martial arts competitions, so I studied Brazilian jiu-jitsu texts. Based on my professional expereince, I also know that if there is going to be any definitions they will be included in some sort of regulations, so, I studied the rules and regulations of judo, karate, wrestling, and jujutsu competitions.

Surprisingly, a summary of the different conceptions of the difference between throwing techniques and takedown techniques is captured in the responses to this question on a martial arts forum: These responses also capture the confusion which surrounds the subject and the lack of a definitive distinction between the two class of techniques. And when I've written the chapter containing the results of my research, it can be seen that the responses are the different conceptions provided by these martial arts and these 'authoritative' sources.

For the sceptics, if there is no difference or if it's not important, why refer to the two class of techniques anyway?

Kano only included throwing techniques in his classification of judo techniques and the International Judo Federation Referree Rules only refer to throws. The international karate organisations' competition rules only refer to throws and not takedowns. FILA, the international wrestling body responsible for international and Olympic wrestling competition defines a throw but no takedowns. Marc Tedeschi, in his 1,000+ page door stopper Hapkido: Traditions, Philosophy, Technique only includes throwing techniques in the list of techniques taught by hapkido, but then explains when discussing throwing techniques that hapkido teaches all major forms of throwing techniques and takedown techniques but then only illustrates throwing techniques.

One book dedicated to throwing techniques and takedown techniques does include a distinction. It suggests that throwing techniques are designed to end the fight while takedowns are designed to take the fight to the ground. Throws are an end in themselves whereas takedowns are a means to an end. This is a common conception and comes from the emphasis on ground fighting made popular by Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the mixed martial arts competitions. No classification is right or wrong, they are just useful or not, illuminating or confusing as the case may be. The merits of a classification depends on the purposes it serves, and the purpose in this case is the facilitation of the understanding and study of these techniques. There is a large subjective element in this 'ends-based' classification. Is your common garden variety hip throw (o goshi) a throw or a takedown based on this classification? It could be argued that the height of a hip throw is insufficient to injure an opponent and therefore, based on this basis of classification, would be defined as a takedown. Is morote gari (two hand reap) a throw or a takedown? Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and the mixed martial arts refer to this technique as a double-leg takedown and use it to take an opponent to the mat in order to commence their ground fighting. It has been argued that lifting a person and slamming them onto their backs on a surface other than the padded and sprung competition rings is designed to end the fight.

One jujutsu book does include a definitive definition which is reflected in the rules of certain international jujutsu organsations competitions. I was surprised to find clear definitions of these types of techniques in these jujutsu competitions. They uniquely award points for takedown techniques and throwing techniques. In fact, many of them have created a new class of technique, a 'half-throw,' to add to takedowns and 'full-throws.' However, when you analyse each technique in the aforementioned book you'll see the classification is not consistently applied, just as it was not in the Jan de Jong jujutsu gradings. Within the jujutsu competition rules, most provide examples of their full-throws and half-throws which raise questions. For instance, o soto gari, major outer reap is not considered a full-throw but a half-throw. However, based on the description of the technique provided by Toshiro Daigo in Kodokan Judo Throwing Techniques, the most authoritative book on these techniques, o soto gari would be classified as a full-throw.

Prior to this full investigation, I'd developed a classification based on biomechanical principles. Despite one of the posts on the abovementioned forum, a definitive, objective classification or distinction based on biomechanics between these techniques is possible. And this biomechanical classification does facilitate the understanding and study of these techniques.

How does a biomechanical classification facilitate the understanding and study of these techniques? Biomechanics is the study of forces and their effects on living systems. How do you teach and learn martial arts techniques? Through the study of forces. Force is simply defined as a push or a pull. When teaching or learning a technique, when correcting a technique, what are you doing? Push here, pull there; apply force in this direction or that direction; blend in with the opponent's force or resist it. Those who scoff at the contribution that science can make to the study of the martial arts do not realise that they are teaching and learning based on the subject of biomechanics. Not to refer to a body of knowledge that specifically studies the technical essence of what we do is, in my mind, sheer bloody-mindedness. Virtually every other physical activity has benefited from biomechanics, it's about time the martial arts did as well.

I am always open to, and encourage, direction to authoritative sources which challenge my knowledge, concepts, and theories. As far as I'm concerned, I do not want to reinvent the wheel. I want to stand on the shoulders of giants so that I can see further. If my work is made redundant because someone else has done it, at least I could then get on with my life instead of sitting here wading through texts and journals in search of scraps of information to develop new ways of looking at the tactics and techniques of the martial arts. So please, put me out of my misery and direct me to authoritative sources on the subjects I am writing about.

By the way, the work on the first book on the throwing techniques and takedown techniques of ALL martial arts is progressing well. I'm hoping to have a first draft finished in 4-6 weeks. Given Ernest Hemmingway once said that 'all first drafts are shit,' I'm not sure how to feel about the possibility of completing my first draft.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars.

Shoot for the moon, and if you miss you will still be among the stars - the story of my book(s).

I have succumbed to the obvious. My ambitions were, grand; OK, now accepted as too grand. In order to publish something and in order to contribute to the general body of knowledge ... I must explain ...

The goals I set when I first set out to write a how-to book on the tactics and techniques of the jujutsu taught by Jan de Jong were, (a) to contribute to the general body of knowledge, and (b) to preserve for posterity the works of Jan de Jong.

I know the teachings of De Jong had the potential of contributing to the general body of knowledge given the world wide demand for his teachings. My challenge, as far as I was concerned, was associated with my writing abilities in achieving that goal.

The second goal of my originally conceived how-to book was associated with the fact that, if it isn't written, it didn't happen. Even now, you can see the senior instructors of De Jong, all of whom have formed their own schools, are changing his teachings based on their individual insights. That is neither good nor bad, but my goal was to preserve for posterity De Jong's original teachings. To explicitly acknowledge and recognise De Jong's contribution to the general body of knowledge. Not as a footnote, but as the source of these inspirations which have formed the various jujutsu schools in Perth, Western Australia, which are now in demand nationally and internationally.

I got side tracked. My original idea was to put a little science behind the chapters in my originally conceived how-to book. The 'little science' grew to overshadow the how-to instructions so a new book was born. The new book grew to be something that would pale into insignificance the efforts to the martial artists of old who closeted themselves away in caves to divine original insights. My 'cave' is this dodgy little apartment in Subiaco where I spend my waking and non-waking hours, researching and conceptualising, awake and asleep. Enough IS ENOUGH ... I need to have a life. And I have a truck load of information.

So. Book number 1. The difference between throwing techniques and takedown techniques. NOBODY, and I mean nobody, to the best of my knowledge, understands the difference between throwing techniques and takedown techniques. Those that profess to do so do not satisfy the imperative - to facilitate the understanding and study of the tactics and techniques of the marital arts. Guaranteed! In the process of providing an objective differentiation between throwing techniques and takedown techniques I discovered a body of knowledge associated with how we, as human beings, learn, understand, and think. This knowledge has to help anyone who is interested in learning and understanding anything, let alone these techniques.

More on the other books to come later. And there are other books!!!!

I shot for the moon, and by God, I hit the stars. The sceptics and critics ... you have not left the ground ... come join me amongst the stars.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

'The All Or Nothing Law Of Strangulation'

Currently the subject of chapter 12 of my book is strangulation techniques or shime waza. My research has uncovered some fascinating information, particularly from the world of forensic pathology. This blog will share one of the research papers in particular with you along with references to others.

Law enforcement include neck holds or neck restraints (they couldn't very well call them strangulation techniques) within their use of force options. The Canadian Police Research Centre conducted a review of the neck restraint literature. Their report includes the following quote concerning the use of neck restraints by law enforcement:
'once applied, it [the neck restraint] provides more protection to the officer than any other known method of control, and it concludes physical resistance without injury to the subject faster than any other restraint means known.'
'I saw a film of a 125-pound female police officer restrain, takedown,and cuff a 210-pound construction worker using the Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint [(LVNR)].'
'Regardless of any size or strength, the officer can employ LVNR against any subject because its use is target-specific during application.'
Despite their efficacy, some jurisdictions have dropped neck restraints from their use of force options because they have been 'linked' to suspect fatalities. We teach these techniques within the martial arts so I thought it behoves us to know their risks. Risks to our students in training, risks to competitors in combat sports using these techniques, risks for our students using these techniques in security work or in self defence. I've studied many texts and research articles and I thought I'd share an interesting one with readers of my blog entitled, 'Forensic assessment of survived strangulation' published in Forensic Science International (153: 2005)

The research was conducted at the Institute for Forensic Medicine at the University of Berne, Switzerland, by T Plattner, S Bolliger, and U Zollinger. They studied 134 survived strangulation cases between 1987 and 2002 to see if findings and symptoms of survivors could be related to the fierceness of the assault and mode of strangulation. Included in their paper is the following interesting statement:
The exact pathophysiological pathway, which ultimately causes death in strangulation, is not completely known as yet. There is no doubt among forensic pathologists, that obstruction of the blood vessels must be the main factor, while narrowing of the airways most probably plays a minor role. On the other hand, obstruction of cerebral bloodflow cannot be regarded as the sole responsible pathophysiological process. In that case, various degrees of hypoxic cerebral damage depending on the duration of hypoxia would occur. Cases of sustaining neurological impairment or delayed death after strangulation are however rarely reported. A fact that has been called 'the all or nothing law of strangulation' by Jacob. The role of the cardiac reflex by pressure on never structures in the neck (vagal nerve and glomus caroticum) in strangulation is a recurrent subject of controversial discussions among experts.
I have read somewhere else that strangulation is overwhelmingly an attack by men on women. This study confirms that, with the following age and sex distributions: 4 (3%) of the survivors were children and the remainder 130 (97%) were adults; 20 (15%) were male and 114 (85%) were female. In 112 cases (83%) the victim was female and the suspect was male. All male victims were assaulted by males and in two cases both the victim and suspect were female. In 47 (35%) cases the strangulation was inflicted during a rape or rape attempt.

When considering the legal implications of an attempted strangulation, given the legal nature of forensic pathology, they explain:
No one can deny that strangulation is a dangerous form of assault. It would however be wrong to consider any grasp on the neck as life threatening. The threat to the victims life is greater with increasing intensity and duration of the assault. But when exactly does pressure on the neck become a danger to the life of the victim?
This raises an interesting and important legal, moral, and ethical issue. In 'Death from law enforcement neck holds' (The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 1982: 2:2), Donald T Reay and John W Eisele conclude:
Because of the structures involved, neck holds must be considered potentially lethal under any circumstance and used only when there is no other alternative. Use of neck holds must be viewed in the same way as firearms; the potential for a fatal outcome is present each time a neck hold is applied and each time a firearm is drawn from its holster. The neck hold differs in that its fatal consequence can be totally unpredictable. ... No officer should be lulled into the false confidence that squeezing an arm about the neck is a safe and innocuous technique of subduing a suspect. It must be viewed as a potentially fatal tactic and reserved to situations which merit its risk.
If, as Reay and Eisele suggest, there is a risk of a fatal outcome present each time a neck hold is applied and the fatal consequences can be totally unpredictable, what does this say about our duty of care in teaching and using these techniques? There is a flipside to this argument as well. If a neck hold is considered lethal force, then if a neck hold is applied or attempted to be applied to oneself, this could be considered a threat to ones life which entitles lethal force to be used in self defence. With this sort of argument, how could the authorities sanction the use of these techniques in combat sports? It raises, as I said, interesting legal, ethical, and moral issues.

The subject of strangulation techniques/shime-waza/neck holds is far from clear. This blog is just a small fraction of the work I've undertaken in studying this subject and which will make up my chapter 12.

Let me know any thoughts and if you find this work interesting.

John Coles

Friday, August 13, 2010

Injury Science (Chapter 11)

As you may recall, my current book emerged out of my originally conceived how-to book on the tactics and techniques of Jan de Jong jujutsu. The original idea was to put a little science behind each subject in order to facilitate the understanding and study of the tactics and techniques of Jan de Jong jujutsu. The 'little science' that I uncovered, and developed, came to overshadow the how-to instruction and voila, my new book was born.

I'm not the first to attempt this approach. In fact, there are books and articles which are being published devoted to the use of science to facilitate the understanding and study of the tactics and techniques of the martial arts. With regards to percussion techniques (a generic term coined by Donn Draeger to refer to all techniques where the extremities are used as blunt force instruments), the published information definitely does not facilitate my understanding and study of these techniques.

These techniques have been described in terms of physics concepts: momentum (mass (M) x velocity (V)), kinetic energy (1/2MVV), force (M x acceleration), power (force x V). There was also impulse which is the average net force acting over some interval of time which will cause a change in momentum of an object. And the conservation of momentum principle and its application to collisions - elastic and inelastic collisions. All of which did not facilitate my understanding and study of any percussion technique.

In Fighting Science: The Laws of Physics for Martial Artists, Martina Sprage describes three types of impacts: (1) stinging impact which is 'not really related to the physics of power, although it does have a valid strategic purpose'; (2) shattering impact which has 'a lot of kinetic energy' that goes straight through the target' and is the 'most damaging'; and (3) pushing impact which has 'a lot of momentum' and is useful when 'unbalancing an opponent and as a power move.' She then suggests that when focusing on shattering impact or pushing impact you should focus on kinetic energy and momentum respectively. Given both kinetic energy and momentum contain the same variables, how do you focus on one to the exclusion of the other? Increase M, increase both kinetic energy and momentum. Increase V, increase both kinetic energy and momentum, albeit at different rates. How do you focus on shattering impact or pushing impact exclusively?

In Scientific Karatedo, Masayuki Kukan Hisataka refers to physics concepts. As with Sprague, he advises to focus on V due to its logarithmic effect on kinetic energy. Fair enough. If we focus on, and increase, the velocity of our percussion techniques we increase the kinetic energy of the moving extremity - so what? He then goes on to focus the majority of his discussion on momentum. How is that related to kinetic energy? And, as with the kinetic energy question, so what?

In an article entitled 'The Physics of Karate Strikes', Jon Chananie explained the 'collision mechanics of a hand strike to a solid target like a board.' In answering the question 'what makes a "hard strike"?' Chananie discusses the transfer of momentum and kinetic energy. How do you reconcile the two concepts given they have different properties? And when you transfer momentum and/or kinetic energy, what does it do?

There are numerous examples of the use of science which do not facilitate the understanding and study of percussion techniques, however, I'll cut to the chase. I can see the sceptics nodding their head and telling me 'I told you so'; science has little to contribute to the facilitation of the understanding and study of the tactics and techniques of the martial arts. Given my dogged (OK, obsessive) nature, I wasn't about to concede defeat. Nor was I prepared to reproduce the same 'academic' information which does little to facilitate the understanding and study of percussion techniques.

I never formally studied physics. I couldn't reconcile momentum with kinetic energy and its effects on an opponent. In fact, I couldn't reconcile these concepts with impact on an opponent full stop! What these concepts told me was the extremity in motion had a particular property - so what? So I looked at the issue from the other side and asked the question, 'what is an injury and what causes an injury?'.

My research on the Internet and at the Medical Library of the University of Western Australia was initially focused on trauma. Not finding the answers to my questions there, my research shifted to forensic pathology. Interesting, and disturbing in how we humans can inflict oh so many life-taking blunt force trauma injuries on fellow human beings which were graphically illustrated in the text books (this would not be the first time I studied forensic pathology for information on the techniques used in the martial arts). But still I didn't have the answer. I couldn't reconcile the physics concepts of a moving extremity with the injury caused (I'm an accountant and an analyst so I'm big on reconciliations).

Purely by chance, or not given my research endeavours, I stumbled across a relatively new science devoted to injuries called 'injury science.' In 1961, James Gibson promoted the idea that injuries to living organisms can only occur through the exchange of energy. A few years later William Haddon expanded the definition of injury to include the absence of critical elements such as oxygen and heat. Today the definition of injury reflects Gibson's and Haddon's work as the World Health Organisation definition of injury illustrates:
Injuries are caused by acute exposure to physical agents such as mechanical energy, heat, electricity, chemicals, and ionizing radiation interacting with the body in amounts or at rates that exceed the threshold of human tolerance. In some cases (for example, drowning and frostbite), injuries result from the sudden lack of essential agents such as oxygen or heat.
Mechanical energy is kinetic energy. All the other physics concepts used by all the other authors to understand and explain percussion techniques are now of, at the most, academic interest. The concept of kinetic energy is the basic, and possibly the only, concept of interest in facilitating the understanding and study of percussion techniques. And all we are looking at is M and V. Mass and velocity ... and the transfer of this kinetic energy from one body to another.

There is a lot more. My work obviously explores this issue at greater depth. There are a number of elements involved in M and V and the transfer of kinetic energy. I've developed a model based on the concept of kinetic energy which can be used to understand and explain all the different methods of executing percussion techniques and how they are designed to cause injury, or not. A simple model which expands on 1/2MVV. It can be used to understand the different approaches adopted by the different martial arts. It can be used to truly appreciate the combat effectiveness of Jack Dempsey's 'falling step' in his brilliant Championship Fighting: Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defence. Going off point for the moment, Dempsey's book published in 1950 is a revelation. Even though it is to do with boxing you'd swear you were reading a book on Asian martial arts at times. Back on point, this model can be used to answer the naysayers of the wing chun punching methods and their short movements. And more ...

I'm attempting to juggle the competing demands of providing information to keep my 'followers' interested in my blogs, but more importantly my work, and not revealing all my work prior to the publishing of my book. Paradoxically, I don't think that will be too much of a problem given the quantum of material/knowledge I've accumulated and developed which cannot be given justice to in a short(ish) blog. Anyone who has received any of my emails discussing my work and ideas will attest to that.

So, that forms the basis of my now planned chapter eleven. What do you think?

John Coles

PS: I've received some very encouraging emails expressing interest in my work. Thank you. Given the amount of time I've devoted to researching and writing this book, with no income coming in for a number of years, I do go through some 'what the hell am I doing' moments. When I receive emails of support and encouragement, or expressions of interest, I find an answer to my doubts. Thank you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Facilitating the Understanding and Study of Martial Arts Tactics and Techniques

Peter Clarke was a senior instructor of jujutsu and pencak silat at the Jan de Jong Self Defence School. He has since gone on to develop his own style of jujutsu which he calls Tsutsumi Jugo Ryu and which he is teaching nationally and internationally (see Peter was one of my instructors and is the only instructor other than Jan de Jong who I requested to assist teaching in order to learn from. In my opinion he was the best practitioner of my 20-plus-year era at the school. We later became fellow instructors and I now count myself fortunate that I have the opportunity of being able to discuss my ideas with one of the more thoughtful practitioners in terms of theory and practice.

I sent a first draft of my chapter on stances to Peter for his comments. I did so with some degree of concern as I now fully appreciated Ernest Hemingway's dictum, 'all first drafts are shit.' Peter's comments, when we did discuss the chapter, were (a) well researched, and (b) not sure what I was trying to say. I agree.

This book is evolving. Given my professional background I am very aware of the benefits of planning. The courses I've undertaken and the research I've done on writing any book reinforces the benefits of planning when writing a book. A former pupil of mine who did regular private lessons with me for more than half a decade, now friend, marketing professional, former journalist, and published author also discussed and advised on having a plan when writing this book. I now understand; how can I plan when I don't know what I don't know? My research on the subject matter often reveals so much which has hitherto never before been considered in the context of the martial arts let alone in the context of any discipline interested in the practical aspects of interpersonal violence. Each chapter evolves, and with each chapter my book evolves.

I had an answer for Peter when he provided his comments. When researching my chapter on the difference between throwing techniques and takedown techniques I'd come across the work of Attilio Sacripanti. He is, among other things, the Chair of Biomechanics of Sports at the University of Rome Tor Vergata and author of the 2010 published Advances in Judo Biomechanics Research. When providing a very interesting analysis of the different classifications of judo nage waza which have been proposed by various individuals over the past 130 years, he explains that the classification of these techniques is 'for an easier understanding and useful systematic study.' This has become the guiding principle in the writing of my book:

Guiding principle of my book: To facilitate the understanding and study of the tactics and techniques of the martial arts.

If what I'm writing is interesting but does not facilitate the understanding and study of the tactics and techniques of the martial arts - I lose it. Peter was the one who 'motivated' me to find out why classification is important. When discussing the ideas I had on the differences between throwing techniques and takedown techniques, he'd sceptically ask, 'why? Who cares? What does classification do to help the average punter who is only interested in learning how to do the technique?' Obviously not verbatim. I intuitively knew it was important, but Peter's comment caused me to go in search of an answer to why classification facilitates the understanding and study of the tactics and techniques of the martial arts. And an answer I did find. An answer which goes beyond my wildest dreams of facilitating an understanding and study of the tactics and techniques of the martial arts.

I am acutely aware that the blogs todate which have been posted do not contain information which facilitates your understanding and study of the tactics and techniques of the marital arts. Ok, 'Wax On Wax Off' does. I am currently trying to juggle the imperatives of encouraging interest in my work and not revealing too much until my book is actually published. I subscribe to the emotional contract I am attempting to establish with the readers and followers of my blog, so, the next blog will contain information that will be aimed at facilitating your understanding and study of the tactics and techniques of the martial arts. I think I'll publish a post on the relatively new science, Injury Science, and how it facilitates the understanding and study of the martial arts. And how it blows away all previous attempts at explaining striking and kicking techniques in terms of physics.

Until next time.

Friday, August 6, 2010

'Falling off a scooter is as easy as "falling off a log"'

The above photograph sequence was printed in 1960 in the now defunct Weekend Mail, a Western Australian newspaper. The narration accompanying this photograph sequence was:
A motor scooter pillion passenger can fall off a scooter travelling at 30 mph and not hurt himself - if he knows how. One of the most unusual lessons in road safety was given to the members of the WA Lambretta Club last Sunday. Jujutsu teachers Jan de Jong ..., Margaret Kellond [(later Margaret de Jong)] ... (the rider) and Ali Scappelli ... demonstrated to members of the club ... that falling off a scooter was as easy as 'falling off a log.' 'The secret is to fall on the back of your shoulders and execute a monkey roll' explained club president Albert Vansteeg. 'The person must keep his head tucked well down and the knees must be drawn under the chin.' Falling off scooters is not a sport.
'Falling off scooters is not a sport' - an understatement if ever there was one. At least the newspaper had attended to their duty of care. De Jong would never encourage this sort of exercise, however, it is interesting to see how the training or testing of breakfalling techniques (ukemi-waza) was conducted by the 'old school.' While stressing that this was not the smartest thing to do, De Jong would, with a sly grin, tell me how he used to jump out of moving cars and trucks to perform ukemi-waza, specifically rolling techniques of course.

I've already described my youthful foolishness in performing bridgefalls (o-mae-ukemi) over wooden and metal card tables in a previous blog. Landing on the cobblestone streets of Europe was one of the more unpleasant breakfalling experiences. But somersaulting in the execution of breakfalling techniques on the sixth floor of an office block in the Jakarta CBD and seeing kite fighting going on outside the window has to be one of the more surreal breakfalling experiences.

Of course my moment of triumph came when I was undertaking rollerblading lessons. I was able to take to the lessons with some ease given my athletic ability honed by my heavy training schedule. We were being taught how to perform grass-stops where you roll off the hard surface onto the grass and come to a halt without a face-plant. The instructors, two lovely female competitive ice-skaters, often assigned me different exercises than the class because (a) I'd mastered the set exercise, and (b) I'm sure to humiliate me when I fell in order to bring me down to earth. After explaining and demonstrating the grass-stop they asked me to go first. As I rolled off the pavement the front wheels of my rollerblades dug in and I proceeded to be propelled face first into the grass, much to the amusement of said lovely instructors. Instinct took over and I performed a forwards roll (mae-kaiten-ukemi), and not only did I roll to my feet, I rolled to my feet facing the direction from whence I'd come and proceeded to skate backwards. The lovely instructors went from amusement to bemusement in the blink of an eye, much to my amusement.

Until next time.

John Coles
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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Culture-Building - Student Retention

This blog is a follow up to my Leaky Bucket - Student Retention blog in July 2010.

For a reason I'll explain in a future blog, I was researching competitive advantage strategies for my chapter dealing with training methods to prepare a person for combat. You'll have to wait to see how it all fits in. Since the business world has long plundered the martial arts world for concepts and theories to guide them in their competitive world, I thought it about time the martial arts world used their concepts and theories to understand and study our world.

Recall from the abovementioned blog that my strategy in rescuing the Jan de Jong Self Defence School from financial ruin was based on building a strong culture. Richard Koch, in The Financial Times Guide to Strategy: How to Create and Deliver a Useful Strategy, had this to say:
Sometimes a corporation's greatness, or its mediocrity, lies not in what it does but in the way that it does it.
The real force driving performance throughout the corporation's different businesses is the culture, the accumulated learning within parts of the firm (its 'competencies'), and the quality of its people and strength of their motivation.
A number of empirical studies have proved that companies with strong and constructive cultures, that stress teamwork and service to customers, and that create an unusual bond between employees and the firm, have been remarkably successful. Paradoxically, companies of this type actually compound shareholder wealth at a faster rate than those firms that stress profit making and shareholder enhancement as their principal business. For example, Robert Waterman, in his book (called What America Does Right in the US and The Frontiers of Excellence elsewhere) quotes two studies demonstrating this paradox, that companies not focusing on shareholder wealth actually outperform on this very dimension.
It is useful to distinguish between four different types of Competency and Culture-Building Corporate Strategy:
1. Maintenance, nurturing and fine-tuning of successful culture and competencies.
2. Realising the potential of existing culture and competencies, by focusing the firm's efforts on areas that best exploit these, and retrenching on areas that do not.
3. Maintenance and building of central functions where key competencies reside, and effective dissemination of these competencies to existing and new product business.
4. Radical change in culture and competencies; a transformation strategy.
Koch reinforces the strategy I successfully employed in turning around the flagging fortunes of the Jan de Jong Self Defence School in the 90s. For anyone who is an instructor or a principal of a martial arts school - focus on culture for student rention, and growth.

Until next time.

John Coles
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PS: In spite of this and the abovementioned blog, and my business qualifications and experience, my book has nothing to do with the business of managing or running a martial arts school from a management perspective.