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Kneeling Katas and Taiho-Jutsu

Many of the classical JuJutsu ryu, from which Taiho-Jutsu is actually rooted, contain kneeling katas.  At the time they were created, kneeling, on floor or tatami, was common practice, much the same way as we sit on chairs today.  Since situations arose which required self-defense from the kneeling position, katas were developed against both armed and unarmed attackers.  Depending on what was emphasized by any given JuJutsu ryu, that would be the bent of the kata.  As was and is the case with the standing katas, the sequence of each technique was generally evade/block the attack, counter, and bring the attacker to the ground and restrain him/her.  This pattern was the same whether the attacker was standing or kneeling.

I recall, when I was a brown belt, an occasion where I was invited to join a class of Black Belts who were training for advanced rank, and they were being taught kneeling katas.  My sensei was a 4th Dan on his way to 5th.  The soke (founder) taught a kata, and would walk around correcting any errors he saw amongst the students.  When he came to my sensei, he had him attack.  The second my sensei's hand touched soke's gi, soke reacted, and the pain my sensei felt was so intense and brought on so fast, that instinctively, rather than just tap to indicate pain, my sensei hit the soke's shoulder so hard I was shocked.  So was my sensei, who thought he was going to be made into mincemeat.  The point of this story is to illustrate that kneeling katas are not merely outdated, antiquated techniques of no practical value.  When executed properly, they are remarkably effective.


The question now becomes, is there a place for kneeling katas in Taiho-Jutsu?  In the opinion of this writer, the answer is no and yes.  If we're speaking of the Taiho-Jutsu course, it would seem ill advised to include kneeling kata training.  The katas are not the "high percentage" techniques Taiho-Jutsu has as one of its purposes, often using less efficient defenses against specific attacks than Taiho-Jutsu teaches in the course.  Nor are the katas easy to learn, execute, and retain.  In the incident mentioned above, I was a 140 lb. brown belt, fast and flexible.  Yet, it took me quite some time to learn some of the katas.  The reason for my difficulty is that many of these katas require near-perfect balance and timing to be done properly.  If everything does not work together, a student can try all s/he likes, and the attacker will not be moved.  Often, the difference between successful execution and failure may be an ever-so-slight raising of the body immediately before the attacking hand or weapon would find its mark, or a similar slight taisabaki, just enough to remove your body out of the line of attack and off-balance the attacker.     

As for kneeling katas being taught as part of the Kyu/Dan Taiho-Jutsu curriculum, I feel they can be of great value.  They teach balance and body control.  Taisabaki is part of a great many of the techniques, thereby adhering to a core principle of Taiho-Jutsu.  Additionally, nearly every defense ends with a restraining technique, again something essential for Taiho-Jutsu.  However, given the complexity of the learning process, it should be a requirement for Shodan and higher. 


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