Precision is a Fundamental of Taijutsu
What are the Fundamental? They are the principles of taijutsu that we learn from training but especially training on the kihon happo.
Why are the fundamentals important? If I asked each you to write down what you feel is important about taijutsu, because you are solely responsible for passing on the knowledge of Ninjutsu to the nest generation, but you wouldn’t be around to teach them, and you and only you could pass on the important aspects of the art, what would you write down? Would you write down 30 variations of omote gyaku? Would you write down, “Don’t worry about fundamentals.” Would it be the basic details that make your system of strategies, tactics and techniques that work the best from your experience? I will leave the answer to you. But whatever you would have written down, your descendants should take the words seriously because you wrote it down. Don’t be fooled when Hatsumi sensei says, “There is no form in combat.” Don’t believe that he is saying don’t study the proper way of doing taijutsu. I believe he is right that much of combat is formless. Combat happens in hundredths of seconds, and thought and trying to perform the techniques with precision only slows you down. I believe he is attempting to inform you of the difference between training and combat, not saying you don’t have to worry about the fundamentals. On the contrary, because combat happens in hundredths of seconds, your body has to be trained to automatically respond to given situations in a given way, because you have taken the time to put the correct movement and the right response in your body. If the fundamentals and learning them are not important then why are we training? There must be some reason we believe in this system of combat.
There is a proper way to use the fundamentals of taijutsu in combat, but you can’t learn them without studying them. I don’t mean just training, I mean studying them. Training is just doing what your teacher tells you to do and believing what he tells you. Studying taijutsu is asking ‘why’ and looking for a truthful answer. This is what I have done for the past 5-6 years. I have taken a long hard look at what I have been told by my teachers and then I asked ‘why’. If it didn’t make sense to me I tried to stay within the fundamentals, but find something that was more tactically superior. I will explain the difference in strategy, tactics and technique later in this lesson. Don’t believe what you are told unless it works for you or you can prove it. Hatsumi sensei ‘s understanding of the fundamentals is so ingrained in his body that he does things that we can’t see or understand. He is not outside of the fundamentals, he is beyond the fundamentals. We are often amazed that he is in the perfect place and at the perfect distance. Do you believe this happens by accident? I don’t. I believe that his body has done the fundamentals so long and with such perfection that his body does the correct movement all the time. That’s why doing the movements and taijutsu as perfectly as possibly every time you do them is important. I often ask the question of students in police training, “What makes perfect?” The answer I usually get is “Practice.” The correct answer is “Perfect practice.” If you don’t put the proper movement in your body through repetitious training then you can’t expect it to come out when you need it in combat. If proper taijutsu is not in your body you can’t expect it to come out when your mind and awareness are too busy think about proper taijutsu.
Without precision you are less efficient. This is true in anything you do: taijutsu, communication, business, medicine, sports; you are more efficient if you can be more precise. How do you get more precise and accurate with you taijutsu without ‘perfect’ practice? If you don’t load the software on the computer, it can’t come out when you want to use it. Pointing you foot at your opponents spine, keeping your weapons between you and your opponent, proper foot alignment, keeping your shoulders over your hips, breath, focus, understanding combat versus training distance are just some of the many fundamentals of must concentrate on during every training while doing all techniques.
The actual techniques are much less important than the principles and fundamentals that are hidden in each technique. Each technique has something different to teach you. Something that was seen as important enough for our predecessors of taijutsu to think it was worth writing down. You must be precise in your movement and training or you are only training yourself to be poor, mediocre or just good, but you won’t be great. Years ago when I was training with Manaka sensei he said, “If you are not good at yokko aruki (sideways walking) you will never be good at taijutsu.” If you don’t get this one thing, yokko aruki, you will NEVER be good at taijutsu. I took him at his words and began to focus on it during my training and teaching. If you can never be good at taijutsu I would think that is a very important fundamental of taijutsu. I offer to you that the fundamentals of taijutsu are critical to find, know, understand and integrate into your movement if you don’t want to have to think while you are in combat.
Through your work and achievement in the physical principles of taijutsu you will be able to let go of that focus so you can focus on the rhythm and energy of the encounter rather than the mechanics. Don’t be fooled into believing that you don’t have to worry about understanding the principles first and train your body to perform them well before you can get to the next level of training. One in one hundred thousand will be able to the rest of us have to do it the old fashioned way – we have to earn it. There are those that can sit down at a piano and just play it, but most of us have to learn the fundamentals first. Don’t try to circumvent the process, because unlike playing the piano, combat done poorly has a good chance to kill you.
So train as if your life depended on it: your life. Your teacher won’t be there probably when a confrontational situation happens. You need to be responsible for what you are learning. Ask questions if you don’t understand how to make something work or the reason behind what he is telling you to do. It will be too late to go back and get it when you need it. Physical skill is the first step but most of us must have it to be confident enough to move the next, and then the next. Knowing the principles is the stepping-stone to the next understanding of taijutsu. Do them with precision.